04/30/2012 - The Vikings are counting on safety Harrison Smith becoming a team leader eventually. Smith, the 29th overall pick, was a two-time team captain at Notre Dame. "Going to Notre Dame and being a captain, you're already on a big stage," Smith said. "And then once you're the captain you're getting scrutinized, win or lose. You know there's ups and downs along the road. So I have dealt with being a leader of a team that's gone through things. Knowing how to deal with guys and helping younger guys, interact with the coaches. Being the guy in between the players and the coaches. I think it's just given me a whole lot of experience you can't really find in any other role." General manager Rick Spielman joked that the team was close to its quota on Notre Dame players. Smith makes it four along with center John Sullivan and tight ends Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson. The Fighting Irish brotherhood was quick to bond with Smith on draft day. "Yeah, John Sullivan texted me right away," Smith said. "Rudy (Kyle Rudolph) texted me right away. I still haven't talked to Carlson but I'm sure I will soon. So you know, once you go to a school like that and play together there is a close bond there. We are all excited to play together again." - The Sports Xchange
Smith was a highly regarded recruit, choosing Notre Dame over Tennessee, Stanford and Auburn. After redshirting in 2007, he soon earned his way onto the field at both linebacker and safety in 2008 as a true freshman (9 starts), recording 57 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, and 7 pass break-ups. Smith started all 12 games in 2009 as a sophomore at both linebacker and safety, finishing with 69 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 4 pass break-ups and 1 forced fumble.
He had his most productive season in 2010 as a junior (13 starts), finishing second on the team with 91 tackles and led the Irish with 7 interceptions (fourth in the FBS) and 7 pass break-ups. Smith returned in 2011 as a senior captain with 13 starts, recording 90 tackles, 3.0 tackles for loss, 1 forced fumble and a career-best 10 pass break-ups, but didn't record a pick-off.
Smith is a hybrid linebacker/safety prospect with the build, straight-line speed and natural power to turn heads ... downhill defender whose shortcomings athletically are exposed in coverage. He is a much better player facing the action, struggling with his back to the ball. Smith is a frustrating prospect because he shows flashes with his natural skill and playmaking ability, but is too inconsistent against both the run and pass.
Smith is rough around the edges and is far from starting in the NFL because of his limitations in coverage and mental mistakes, but he should excel on special teams coverage with his closing and hitting ability ... an in-the-box safety prospect who will impress physically, but shouldn't be drafted in the top-75 picks on draft weekend.
Strengths: Looks the part with prototypical size and strength for a strong safety ... long arms with a filled-out frame. Extremely strong with natural power to make punishing hits. Physical striker who enjoys contact. Fills the run lanes hard and is a downhill athlete with an aggressive nature at the point of attack. Plays fast and closes in a flash with conviction and determination ... fast in pursuit. Makes plays at all levels of the field and has strong hands to make shoe-string tackles. Read/reacts quickly and does a nice job interpreting the eyes of the quarterback. Big-time competitor and leader, never giving up on plays ... goes hard at full speed. Very active pre-snap and shows natural awareness. Played both linebacker and safety in college with 47 career starts, showing steady improvement over his time in South Bend. Very productive at Notre Dame, leaving as the only player in school history to register more than 200 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 15 pass break-ups over his career ... finished with 307 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss and 28 pass break-ups.
Weaknesses: An upright athlete who lacks ideal body flexibility and natural explosion to hold up in coverage or space. Has tight hips and struggles to turn and quickly change directions ... plays stiff. Needs to be a more technically-sound tackler, often going for the knockout hit or forced fumble instead of wrapping up ... hits too high and loses leverage, allowing ballcarriers to pick up extra yards. Plays overaggressive and moves too fast for his eyes ... missed tackles in space and over runs plays. Has streaky instincts and doesn't see things as quick as he needs to. Still has a lot of developing to do. Needs to play under control and disciplined ... too many unnecessary facemask penalties on his record. Has poor footwork and feel in man coverage and is too hands-on when left on an island ... will attract pass interference penalties. Still made too many mistakes as a senior and didn't register an interception in 2011 after seven pick-offs in 2010.
NFL Comparison: Craig Steltz, Chicago Bears
-- Dane Brugler