The 2015 NFL Draft will take place next Thursday night and the futures of many collegiate athletes will be on the line. Tears will be shed, lives will be changed, and NFL fans expectations will soar or sink based on the decisions made.
Our Kentucky Wildcats will likely have at least two guys to have their name called on Thursday and Friday respectively. This draft profile will be of another fan favorite Za'Darius Smith, or Big Z, as the Big Blue Nation knows him.
Kentucky had Za'Darius Smith for two years and high very high expectations for Smith as a game changer. While Smith may have fallen short of those lofty expectations, he was still a heck of a player who will be missed on the defensive line in 2015.
Smith is a solid NFL prospect and will have the opportunity to be a breakout rookie, much like former UK players Avery Williamson, Danny Trevathan, and Wesley Woodyard. He has physical attributes that make most men envious with his superhero-esque frame at 6'4" and 274 pounds of menacing grown man.
He will be a defensive lineman in the NFL and one New York Giants correspondent likes Smith as a possible Jason Pierre-Paul project. His measurable at the combine were solid, not spectacular. He ran the 40 in 4.83, had a vertical leap of 29 inches and 9 feet 4 inch broad jump.
We know Big Blue Nation loved watching Za'Darius line up for 24 Saturdays, hopefully that translates to many more Sundays. Knowing what we do about Smith, below is a rundown of the analytics of Big Z.
Pro Frame, Elite Length, Versatility On The Line, Great Hands, Character, Sound Technique
Smith is a reliable tackler who has no problem mixing it up with any offensive linemen that get in his way. He as a great eye for the ball and rarely takes himself out of a play.
Smith is also versatile on the line in that he can line up on either end or inside as a 3-tech tackle. Smith is also a team-first player who plays with passion and fire.
Smith has power to spare and when he gets his hands extended he usually wins. Smith has great hand technique and his efforts off the ball are there on every snap.
Stiff Frame, Average Speed, Pad Levels Too High, Lack of Agility
Za'Darius is powerful and large but only average speed; only freaks like Bud Dupree can have the size and speed. Smith sometimes lacks the explosion needed to beat someone off the edge, many times this translates into Smith getting his pad levels too high, and losing all leverage he has with the offensive player.
Smith also has trouble corralling his large frame once it gets going. While his pursuit angles are sound, NFL running backs will likely be able to easily out maneuver him on the edge. NFL.com grades him out at a 5.43, which translates to backup with a chance to be a starter.
Where will he be drafted?
Za'Darius Smith is projected to go in either the third or fourth round of the draft. He did make some movement up the board after his performance in the East-West Shrine game where he was named defensive MVP.
Za'Darius could turn into a very solid NFL player with a long career, he has the foundation for growth, and many forget that he did not start playing football until he was a senior in High School. Smith had a passion for basketball growing up and it was not until just a few years ago he decided to give football a shot.