Examining the Career of Harrison Smith

After being drafted by the Minnesota Vikings with the 29th overall pick in 2012, Harrison “Hitman” Smith has put together a fantastic career at Safety.

Perennially ranked as one of the top players at his position, Smith has built up a reputation as one of the NFL’s hardest-hitting defenders while also playing well above average in coverage. After wrapping up his 10th season in the National Football League, I thought now would be a great time to look back at a wonderful career and compare it to some of the best safeties in recent history.

A Decade of Dominance

Harrison Smith was drafted at the end of the first round in 2012 and joined a team dealing with a serious knee injury sustained by star running back Adrian Peterson in Week 16 of the 2011 season. After excelling in training camp, Smith was named the starting safety for the 2012 Season and hasn’t looked back.

Throughout 10 seasons, he has dominantly stuffed the stat sheet every week. His performance has led to him residing in 4th place in franchise history in solo tackles with 640, led only by linebackers and defensive lineman. He also sits at 11th all-time in tackles for loss with 42, with Vikings legend Antoine Winfield being the only defensive back ahead of him on the list with 45. He is tied for 12th all-time in forced fumbles with 8. Smith is also tied for 6th place in career interceptions with 29. He is the only player in Vikings history to reside in the Top-12 of all 4 of those categories. He is only three tackles for loss and two forced fumbles away from the Top-10 in each of them.

He also sits alone atop the franchise leaderboard for interception touchdowns, despite playing for the same franchise as legendary ballhawks Paul Krause and Bobby Bryant, who had 53 and 52 career interceptions, respectively. Smith was named to his first Pro Bowl in his 4th season in 2015, and his first All-Pro selection was in 2017. After a decade in the league, Smith has amassed 6 Pro Bowls and one selection each to the 1st and 2nd Team All-Pro.

Oct 14, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings free safety Harrison Smith (22) reacts during the third quarter against the Arizona Cardinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame Bound?

At this point of his career, I think it’s fair to start to ask the question of whether or not Harrison is worthy of Hall of Fame admission. And to be honest, the numbers are looking pretty favorable for his case.

Only four safeties drafted since 1990 have been elected to the Hall of Fame: John Lynch, Brian Dawkins, Troy Polamalu, and Ed Reed. In comparing the first 10 years as a starter of those players’ careers against Harrison Smith, his case for Hall of Fame admission is actually quite strong. Among those players, Smith ranks 1st in total and solo tackles, 2nd in tackles for loss, and 2nd in sacks.

He technically has the most QB Hits as well, although I suspect that Brian Dawkins and possibly Lynch would be ahead of him if QB Hits had been tracked their entire careers. If you take out the complete statistical outlier that is Ed Reed in coverage, Smith compares extremely favorably to the other 3 in the major coverage stats as well.

* QB Hits were not recorded until 2006.

If there is a “knock” on Harrison Smith’s Hall of Fame resume, it is his relative lack of All-Pro selections, and the obvious lack of a Super Bowl Ring, of which Reed, Polamalu, and Lynch all have at least one. If Smith stays with the Vikings and can be a key contributor to a Super Bowl victory, I believe that a Hall of Fame Induction would be all but guaranteed.

Looking to the Future

After signing a 3-year contract extension last season, Smith is currently under contract with the Vikings until 2025. It will be interesting to see what decisions the new regime decides to make regarding the future of Smith and other prominent but aging Vikings players.

Although releasing Smith post-June 1st would create a small amount of cap relief, the contract gets much easier to walk away from after the 2022 season. Due to this, as well as Smith’s prominent role in the locker room and comments from ownership seemingly indicating that a full-blown rebuild is not around the corner, I expect Smith to remain a Viking through at least the 2022 season. With Smith turning 33 at the beginning of February, I understand the concerns around paying top-dollar to an aging safety. Although, Reed, Lynch, and Dawkins all played past that, and more importantly, they continued to play well.

Regardless of what happens this off-season, Harrison Smith has had a terrific career so far in Minnesota, and I am extremely excited to see what his future holds for him.

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