Auburn guard Braden Smith received some All-America notice as a junior, then was a first-team All-American as a senior. But his college press clippings don’t seem to translate all that well for the NFL.
Smith is seen as a mid-round selection in the 2018 NFL draft, and respected NFL.com draft analyst Mike Mayock doesn’t have Smith as one of the top five interior linemen available in the draft. Mayock does have Georgia’s Isaiah Wynn as one of the five – and Wynn spent more time at tackle than guard with the Bulldogs.
NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein says Smith “plays robotic and top-heavy at times.” And an AFC scout told Zierlein that Smith is “really strong, but he’s not a consistent block finisher because defenders can pull him off-balance.”
Smith indeed is “really strong.” He has posted a squat of 565 pounds and has benched 495 pounds.
Smith (6 feet 6, 303 pounds) was a four-star prospect in the 2014 recruiting class, from Olathe (Kan.) South, in the Kansas City suburbs. He was considered one of the top-three guards in that recruiting cycle and was a backup lineman for Auburn as a true freshman, including serving as a blocking tight end at times. He then became a three-year starter at guard.
During spring practice in 2017, Auburn coaches toyed with the idea of using Smith at tackle. But development by some younger tackles enabled him to remain at guard.
Smith can be a dominating run blocker, and Zierlein touts Smith’s “athletic build, natural bend and power.” But Zierlein thinks there is a definite ceiling to his abilities.
“Smith is a grinder whose play could vary greatly based upon the matchup across from him,” Zierlein wrote. “He has size and power, but the holes in his game are unlikely to be patched up with coaching. He can become an average to solid starter.”
Smith seems set to become the first Auburn guard drafted since Ben Grubbs went in the first round in 2007. In all, Smith will be just the sixth Auburn offensive lineman selected in the ensuing 11 drafts.
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