Northern Iowa has produced some pretty solid NFL talent. David Johnson, running back for the Houston Texans, is the most recent notable player to play in the NFL. Brad Meester, long time interior offensive lineman for the Jacksonville Jaguars, hailed from Northern Iowa. Even Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner played his college ball for the Panthers. This year, they might have another potential star going into the 2021 NFL Draft.
Elerson Smith stands at 6’7” and 245 pounds. He was a two star recruit coming out of high school. He only received one offer, which was from Northern Iowa. Smith has been one of the most impactful defensive players in the FCS. Smith had a slow start in his time with the Panthers but in 2018 he really started to warm up. 2019 was the year where he really exploded. Last season he racked up 63 total tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 14 total sacks, 14 total hurries, and five forced fumbles. That my readers is an impressive stat line.
The Good About Smith:
The most impressive and noticeable thing you see about Elerson Smith is this guy’s length. He is going to have one of the best wingspans in the NFL Draft. He is a big man and it seems he knows how to use his size really well. When Smith lines up in a 7 tech or a 9 tech he is the most explosive in my opinion. When he lines up a at these spots he is incredibly explosive. He drives back any offensive linemen that he goes up against.
Smith has a great rip move that when he executes well is hard to stop. He also executes push and pull very well. When Smith can get under the pads of his opponent he can really wreck their gameplan. He is athletic and does really well at stunts. When he switches gaps he usually explodes through and ruins some poor guard’s day. He is a student of the game and you can tell by the way he positions himself, that he has a good idea of how most plays are going to go.
The Bad About Smith:
Smith could use more weight to add to his frame. While he plays well at 245, it is easy to see where more weight could come in handy. There are times where he gets stood up by an offensive lineman and he loses his leg drive which takes him completely out of a play. Smith could use a larger arsenal of moves. He uses push and pull, along with a rip move, and that is about it. He tries to use a spin move, but he is not quick enough to really utilize it well. A lot of the time he lines up in a 5 tech or a 4 tech and he honestly is not as effective lining up like this.
Due to his length he really struggles with change of direction on run plays, specifically read options. There are times where he gets into the backfield for a read play, and still gets burnt. He gives a great deal of effort to try and reach run plays on the outside but because of his lack of being able to change direction he whiffs or does not affect the play. Against seasoned offensive linemen he struggles with separation.
Ultimately Smith has a lot of upside and a lot of reasons why teams should take a chance on him. He is athletic, explosive, has incredible length, and a lot of promise. He has the production to show for it as well. It is clear this guy showed up prepared every week. Unless he can put on some more weight then I think he would fit best in a 4-3 defense where he can consistently rush off of the edge and not have to worry as much about the interior of the line. As of now I have Smith going in the 3rd Round of the 2021 NFL Draft. He will likely be a development project for an NFL team who will start him out being a rotation guy. He has the traits to establish himself as a solid player over time. This kid is worth taking a risk on.