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Ryan Smith, North Carolina Central, CB: 2016 NFL Draft Profile

A basketball player that turned to football late in his high school career, Ryan Smith is shooting up the draft board and could go as high as the third round.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Smith

College: North Carolina Central

Position: Cornerback

Height/Weight: 5-11/189

College Stats: 263 tackles, seven tackles for loss, eight fumble recoveries, seven interceptions, 14 kickoff returns.

One of the most interesting prospects in the entire NFL Draft, Smith barely gave football a passing glance at first. The Maryland native thought all along that his future college calling was in basketball. A decision to play football changed everything for Smith. The first year player stepped on the field and earned First-Team County 4A All-League and Maryland Big School All-State Honorable Mention honors.

Then came offers from the FCS level with North Carolina Central leading the way. Smith chose the Eagles and redshirted his first year with the program. From then on, Smith made 42 of a possible 46 starts, missing one game in his senior season and coming in as a reserve three times. Smith made 50+ tackles in each of his four seasons, making the transition from safety to cornerback in the process.


Smith has speed to burn with a 4.45 40 yard dash and has a knack for anticipating what route will unfold. He is a very fluid player that looks comfortable and very rarely out of control. Smith does an excellent job of using his hands legally to keep the receiver uncomfortable.

He is willing to help in the running game and gets the man on the ground no matter how ugly it looks sometimes. Smith is a perfect player to fit into a zone heavy scheme, but can play man coverage as well. He has an added dimension with his willingness to contribute on special teams in coverage and returning the ball. In only 14 total returns, he took one to the house and had a 28.1 yards per return average. Once he hits a crease, he is gone. May be a day one return man for the team that drafts him.


Playing both cornerback and safety after a short but excellent college career, Smith has to work one occasional technique issues. He is a bit small for the new NFL cornerbacks that seem to be 6-0 or taller. He has a need to make plays for the defense and can get caught on play fakes and double moves. His speed can normally make up for those issues, but he has not faced the consistent speed that the NFL brings.

Where will Smith get drafted?

Smith is one of those players that could turn into a great player with the right team. He has abilities that cannot be taught, while his deficiencies are things that can be fixed. Smith would fit in best with a team that has a track record of developing talent in the secondary.

My prediction is that Smith will get drafted by the the Carolina Panthers with the #93 pick of the third round.