Entering the 2013 season, every Florida Atlantic opponent knew who to avoid in the Owl secondary. That player was eventual San Francisco 49er Keith Reaser. In avoiding Reaser, most teams chose to target the opposite side of the field and junior D'Joun Smith. Fast forward one year and seven interceptions later and D'Joun's senior season starts to look just like Reaser's.
An early pro prospect, Smith saw a drastically smaller amount of targets throughout the Owl's 3-9 campaign. One major difference between the two defensive backs though was that D'Joun only missed one game due to injury and was able to fully participate in this year's Senior Bowl and NFL Combine. Smith participated (and outperformed much of his competition) in the Senior Bowl practices and finished in the top ten of all defensive backs in both the 40-yard dash and bench press at the Combine.
Smith brings a mixed bag of positives that only a player rooted in a constantly evolving defensive situation can bring. While the Owl front seven had its fair share of miscommunications and mistakes, D'Joun was left to clean up their errors. An excellent open-field tackler, Smith excelled at adjusting to broken plays this past season. This may not be a skill at the top of every scouts list, but when "does he give up on any plays?" comes up in an evaluation, D'Joun will surely have the box checked. Also, Smith was an above-average kick returner for the Owls and any team looking to get younger at this position should look no further than "Mr. 35-yard return" himself.
D'Joun proved time and time again over the last few years that he can play above his height. While he experienced standout performances against teams like Tulane (three picks in one half) and South Florida (a thunderous pick-six that nearly set off the cannon in Tampa), he was out-shined and exposed against better competition. With his lack of relative "size", NFL teams will look to see Smith make up for it with strong moves close to the line of scrimmage. The impressive Combine showing should help in this regard, but with a lack of tangible film displaying a dominance over lesser competition at the line, scouts can only hope D'Joun will adjust after a full NFL training camp.
Cornerback seems to be a glaring position of need for many teams heading into this year's draft. From the Titans to the Cowboys to the hometown Dolphins, there are multiple organizations looking into a quick fix to their secondary woes. Unfortunately for D'Joun, the trend for this position appears to be inching towards taller DBs, rather than the undersized variation that is represented here. Regardless, Smith has proven that he belongs at the NFL Combine with his current measurables and should continue Florida Atlantic's streak of sending players to the next level. Look for D'Joun to hear his name called sometime between the middle of second round and the beginning of the fifth.