COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 07: LSU Tigers defensive tackle Maason Smith (0) battles at the line with Missouri Tigers offensive lineman Xavier Delgado (72) during a SEC conference game between the Louisiana State  Tigers and the Missouri Tigers held on Saturday Oct 07, 2023 at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia MO. (Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
COLUMBIA, MO - OCTOBER 07: LSU Tigers defensive tackle Maason Smith (0) battles at the line with Missouri Tigers offensive lineman Xavier Delgado (72) during a SEC conference game between the Louisiana State Tigers and the Missouri Tigers held on Saturday Oct 07, 2023 at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium in Columbia MO. (Photo by Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Maason Smith Has Difficulty Beating Blocks

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COLUMBIA, MO – OCTOBER 07: LSU Tigers defensive tackle Maason Smith (0) flexes after batting down a pass in the fourth quarter of an SEC football game between the LSU Tigers and Missouri Tigers on Oct 7, 2023 at Memorial Stadium in Columbia, MO. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

LSU defensive tackle Maason Smith is someone who has been in the ‘first-round discussion,’ which forced me to study him.

It’s crunch time with the 2024 NFL Draft right around the corner and I can’t leave any stone unturned.

However, after watching Smith, I wish I would have left this one alone. I don’t mean that as disrespect toward Smith, but I don’t know what other draft platforms are watching for them to put a first-round grade on this LSU defensive lineman.

NBC Sports Chicago, CBS, Pro Football Network, Draftwire, Fox Sports, Pro Football Focus, Bleacher Report, and the Sporting News (among others) have tagged Smith with a first-round grade since last September (nflmockdraftdatabase.com).

Smith has good size (as shown) and gives good effort, but that’s where it ends for me. Watching Smith reminded me of what Bill Parcells used to call this type, “JAG,” which stands for ‘Just Another Guy.’

Sorry, don’t mean to be mean, but this is the evaluating business.

Stiff as a board

This is the big issue for this big man.

HE LACKS BEND

Smith is rigid and it shows when the ball is snapped and he takes on blockers. It’s like he is standing up from sitting down in a chair. Sure, he has natural raw weight room strength and long arms, but he is anything but explosive (or flexible) at the point of attack.

He can get some push, but it’s not enough to be taken seriously even at the college level in these five games.

Per Pro Football Focus, Smith was involved in 345 pass rush reps producing three sacks, two quarterback hits, and 18 hurries in 2023. That means he wasn’t even getting to the quarterback much.

Now, we are going to ratchet that up to a higher level of competition.

Other limitations

  • Average football speed
  • No short-area burst in the pocket
  • Tends to stay within the confines of the line of scrimmage
  • Vanilla pass rusher

Run defense

Smith is a big body that occupies space.

In 12 games this past season, this LSU defensive tackle logged 28 tackles (9 solo).

What does that mean?

He’s not a playmaker in the run-stopping department.

Smith is a limited-area prospect who has a whale of a time disengaging from blockers to get himself in position.

Other red flags 🚩

Smith missed most of 2022 after tearing his ACL during this celebration in LSU’s season opener against FSU.

Per a report from CBS, Smith had been ‘dealing with minor injuries during the fall camp,’ leading up to the 2023 season.

That same report revealed, “Smith was handed a one-game suspension by the NCAA after it determined Smith received an improper benefit stemming from a pre-NIL autograph signing in 2021, according to multiple reports.”

#0 Maason Smith 6-foot-5, 306 pounds

Daniel Kelly’s 2024 NFL Draft Grade: Fifth-Round (I wouldn’t select him)

Projected by 19.6% of the NFL Draft Community to be a first-round pick as of March 30, 2024 (nflmockdraftdatabase.com)

2023 game film reviewed: Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Missouri, and Mississippi State (click to view games watched to form this evaluation)

Smith Combine Results

2024 NFL Draft Scouting Report

Big wide body with limited upside. Strong. Square brick stout frame. Moved around on the defensive line, but mostly played inside. Might be suited best for nose tackle in a 3-4. Lacks pop and explosiveness at the initial point of attack as a pass rusher. Plays at a high pad level. Active hands, but tends to become consumed by blocks. Gets bogged down easily. Does flash swim move that sometimes frees him up to beat blockers but lacks what it takes to close the deal. Produces light pressure. Tends to draw a lot of double teams (I charted 29 in pass-rush situations). Can lose balance due to rigidity. Fights in the run game but has a hard time getting freed up. Trouble making quick adjustments. Try hard in his immediate area when he is at the right place at the right time.

Final words

Smith has a low ceiling in the NFL.

Daniel Kelly is a former NFL Scout with the New York Jets. He was hired on the regime which featured Bill Parcells, Bill Belichick, Scott Pioli, Mike Tannenbaum, and Dick Haley. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief for First Round Mock, contributes at Yardbarker, and has written for Sports Illustrated Lions, Jets, and 49ers, as well as a featured guest on ESPN Radio and Fox Sports Radio. For more information about him visit his website at whateverittakesbook.com. Follow on Twitter @firstroundmock.

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