Brandon Smith has an exceptional amount of athletic traits, but how quickly can the fourth-round pick put everything together for the Carolina Panthers?
There is no denying the physical attributes Brandon Smith brings to the table. Trading up for the Penn State product was something the Carolina Panthers thought was a risk worth taking at No. 120 overall in the 2022 NFL Draft – a move that comes with a significant amount of intrigue in the short and long term.
Considering the measurables Smith is blessed with, it’s a wonder why he wasn’t more dominant during his time in college. There were plenty of memorable highlights from the linebacker, but the player’s consistency was an issue at times and something that needs to improve at the next level.
The Panthers value high athletic traits in their recruits. It’s been a core part of their recruitment ethos since head coach Matt Rhule took charge and was a method that also received the backing of general manager Scott Fitterer upon entering the fray.
Smith has all that and then some.
His testing at the NFL Scouting Combine was nothing short of exceptional. If the defender can harness this into productivity on the field, then the Panthers will have a tremendous player on their hands.
Learning the linebacker position and its demands in the NFL will be the first stepping stone for Smith. But the Panthers used the recent rookie minicamp to get a broader perspective on what he could bring while developing other key areas.
Carolina Panthers plan to use Brandon Smith across the second level in 2022
Rhule stated that Carolina hopes to utilize Smith in a multitude of ways across the second level. His explosiveness should also be a tremendous asset on special teams to further enhance his initial influence.
"“We think he’s a guy who can be one of those chess-piece types of players. A linebacker, who can also rush. Fast, athletic. Still a young player. We’ll play him at all three linebacker positions. Part of this weekend was looking at him and (Amare) Barno, seeing how they fit in with us. And we’ll start (Smith) off at linebacker and let him learn that. It’s probably one of the hardest positions to learn, and then see what else he can do.”"
Whether Smith can become the team’s long-term successor to Luke Kuechly is up for debate. It will be a work in progress initially, but there is nothing to suggest he cannot pick things up quickly and put his skills to good use on a rotational basis right out of the gate.
This was a low-risk, high-reward selection by the Panthers. If Smith had more in the way of college consistency, then there is every chance he would have been a top-50 pick.
Finding these diamonds is something Fitterer has become renowned for across the league. However, what comes next will be out of his hands.
It comes down to the player and the coaches to set and achieve realistic and ambitious objectives.
There isn’t a great deal of pressure for Smith to make an immediate impact. Although that could potentially change depending on what happens with Damien Wilson following his recent arrest.
From an athletic point of view, everything is there for Smith.
But now is the time for him to start turning these intangibles into something much more.