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2018 NFL Draft Prospect: Ito Smith

On December 27th, Southern Miss will face off with Florida State in the Independence Bowl. Ito Smith has compiled a massive 5,864 yards from scrimmage for the Golden Eagles, while mostly beating up on the light competition of Conference USA. It should be illuminating to see what he can do against a solid ACC defense.

Florida State is 6-6 but has faced the 10th-most-difficult schedule, according to Bill Connelly’s Strength of Schedule based on S&P+. Southern Miss is 8-4 but has faced the 129th-most-difficult schedule out of 130 (only Arkansas St. has had an easier road in 2017).

CONSISTENT THREE-DOWN PERFORMER

Entering 2017, Smith had put up back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons with over 40 receptions per year, despite splitting time as a sophomore with Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard.

After Richard’s departure, Smith became a true workhorse as a junior, rushing 265 times for 1.459 yards and adding another 459 yards through the air. He capped the season with a 138-yard rushing performance and three TDs in the Sun Belt Bowl against Louisiana-Lafayette.

ELITE CAREER PRODUCTION

Year G Att Yds Avg TD Rec Yds Avg TD
2014 11 136 536 3.9 2 8 76 9.5 0
2015 14 171 1,128 6.6 10 49 515 10.5 3
2016 13 265 1,459 5.5 17 43 459 10.7 2
2017 12 232 1,321 5.7 13 36 370 10.3 2

With one more game to go, Smith is threatening a second consecutive year of 1,400 rushing yards and 400 receiving yards. He currently sits at 5,864 career yards from scrimmage and 49 TDs, which is already the 17th-most career yards from scrimmage all time.

Since 2000, Smith is one of just six players to have amassed both 4,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards receiving.1 Only Donnell Pumphrey has matched Smith’s production with greater efficiency.

Most significant are Smith’s 136 career receptions. Among players who have averaged at least five yards per carry and 10 yards per reception, only D.J. Foster and Charles Sims have caught more passes since 2000.

NFL DRAFT PROSPECTS

Smith is listed at 5-foot-9 and 195 pounds, and I’ll be very keen to see if that playing weight is legit when the combine comes around. Highlight reel jukes and jump cuts suggest his elusiveness will translate to the next level. Smith will likely win with vision and agility, but not speed, so his playing size will matter. If he can play at around 200 pounds, he could project as a Theo Riddick-type pass catcher. If he’s really closer to 185, Smith will struggle to earn opportunities.

NFL Draft Scout rates Smith as the No. 25th back in this class and estimates a forty time of 4.50 seconds. I would be surprised if he runs much better than the high 4.5 range, but we will learn more about his athleticism in March. Unless he bombs the combine, the reps he’s put on tape as a receiver will earn him a shot as a third-down RB with upside.

  1. The other five are Lance Dunbar, Mewelde Moore, Donnell Pumphrey, Elijah McGuire, and Larry Rose.  (back)

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