Harrison Smith

Harrison Smith a liability against the run?

Minnesota Vikings 1st-round pick Harrison Smith was drafted for his coverage ability, but the free safety will be asked to step up against the run on occasion. And in his NFL debut, it looked like a may be a liability in that area.

According to Pro Football Focus, Smith was lined up within eight yards of the line of scrimmage on six run plays on Sunday against the Jaguars. And in those six plays, he was 0-for-2 on tackle attempts.

Smith did make two other tackles against the run, but only in situations where he was the last line of the defense (meaning he was lined up deeper than eight yards, presumably in anticipation of a potential pass play).

Obviously this is just one game and a very small sample size, but it’s a disappointing start for Smith. To be a three-down player at this level he’ll need to improve in this area.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Rookie Notes, Vikings Leave a comment

Vikings relying on Harrison Smith

The Minnesota Vikings aren’t wasting any time making 1st-round pick Harrison Smith a focal point of their defensive strategy. Said Leslie Frazier: “We’re counting on him to be the starter. That’s why we drafted him where we did.” Smith started at free safety on Friday and was impressive in his 28 snaps, recording two tackles and knocking down a pass.

It sounds as though the Vikings are relying on Smith more for his coverage skills than his ability to get into the backfield. According to Smith, “The coaches have kind of been saying, ‘If we call your number on a blitz and you don’t make a play, we’re probably not going to send you again.'”

That may be an oversimplification by Smith, but it makes sense. The Vikings secondary has struggled immensly in recent years, and in the NFC North they can use all the help they can get. While it’d be nice to get some pressure on Rodgers, Stafford and Cutler, Smith is probably most valuable dropping back in coverage in an effort to aid the Vikings somewhat suspect cornerbacks.

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Rookie Notes, Vikings 1 Comment

Draft Grades: Minnesota Vikings

When reports surfaced that the Minnesota Vikings were interested in Morris Claiborne with the 3rd pick, I was worried about the future of the franchise. Fortunately for Vikings fans, Rick Spielman got it right, and put together a reasonably solid draft class.

Matt Kalil was absolutely the right choice, and the fact that they picked up some extra draft picks from Cleveland was just icing on the cake. He’ll anchor their offensive line for the next decade, hopefully protecting Christian Ponder’s blind side.

I hate when rebuilding teams trade up in the draft, and the issue is compounded when they then reach for a specific position of need, which is exactly what the Vikings did by moving up to select Harrison Smith. I like Smith, but he’s not a 1st-round talent. He has the ability to start, but he won’t be a difference maker at the next level. I think Smith needs to play strong safety to be effective, but it sounds like the Vikings will be using him at free safety.

Josh Robinson was nice pick in the 3rd round and should compete for a starting job immediatelly. His impressive showing at the combine made him slightly overrated, but his speed should allow him to be a valuable cover corner against some of the league’s faster receivers. He’s a solid second option at cornerback.

I like the selection of Jarius Wright in the 4th round. He was one of the best deep threats still on the board and should be able to contribute in that capacity from day one.

Rhett Ellison is a fullback/tight end ‘tweener but I’m not sure how he fits in Minnesota. The Vikings already have Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson at tight end and recently signed fullback Jerome Felton. Ellison may have to fight just to stay on the roster.

Greg Childs was a great sleeper pickup in the late 4th round. If healthy, he could have been a 2nd-round selection, but injuries concerns caused him to plummet down draft boards. He has more upside than Wright, but is definitely a bigger risk.

Robert Blanton played cornerback at Notre Dame but is simply too slow to play the position at the next level, and may even be too slow to play safety. But he’ll be given an opportunity to win the starting strong safety job, and may actually be the favorite heading into camp.

Blair Walsh is a talented kicker but is coming off a terrible season. There was no reason his name should have been called before the late 7th round at the earliest. I don’t like his chances of beating out Ryan Longwell for the starting job, but he could catch on elsewhere if he can put his 2011 season behind him.

Audie Cole was a great 7th-round pick. He has the ability to provide some depth at inside or weak-side linebacker and I like his chances of making the final roster cuts.

Trevor Guyton may have been my favorite 7th-round pick of the draft. I had a late 4th-round grade on Guyton and I think he could be a quality backup at right defensive end or as a three-technique tackle. He has a potential to be one of the better steals of the draft.

While I don’t agree with every move the Vikings made, this was still a solid draft class. Rick Spielman did a nice job finding good value at all points of the draft and may have come away with at least three immediate starters (Kalil, Smith, Blanton).

Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Draft Grades - 2012, Vikings 3 Comments

Harrison Smith scouting report

Harrison Smith S Notre Dame #22
Ht: 6’2″Wt: 213  
Strengths:
Prototypical size and strength for a strong safety. Smart, patient player; does a nice job staying in his space and not biting on fakes or over-pursuing. Some experience blitzing off the edge; gets a nice jump and is quick enough to evade blockers in the backfield. Consistently takes the correct angles in pursuit and is a real asset in run support. Keeps his eyes in the backfield and is quick to adjust; adept at reading the quarterback’s eyes. Adequate straight-line speed.
Weaknesses:
Limited ball skills; 7 interceptions as junior were misleading, many a result of being in right place at right time. More fast than quick. Limited athleticism; doesn’t have the change-of-direction ability necessary to stick with more athletic tight ends and running backs in coverage; also gets juked out of potential tackles too often; simply lacks the quick feet and smooth hips to stay with pure athletes in the open field.
Comments:
Smith is an intriguing prospect who should make an immediate impact on special teams and may have a future as a starter at strong safety. When moving forward (playing the run) he looks like a legitimate top-50 pick, and is clearly an asset when playing in tight spaces. When asked to make plays on the move however, such as in coverage, his limited athleticism starts to slow him down. In the right system he can be a quality starter, but his skill set won’t interest every team.
Videos:
2011 vs Stanford 
Posted on by Ryan McCrystal in Scouting Reports - 2012 2 Comments