Very Late Bloomer In The Fourth Round

May 2nd, 2016
ryan smith

Bucs fourth-round pick Ryan Smith

Yes, some fans are crying because the Bucs drafted a small-school cornerback in the fourth round and want to make him a safety.

It’s another gamble by general manager Jason Licht, architect of the grand slam.

But there’s a reason Smith went the route of little known North Carolina Central. In addition to playing only one year of high school football, following a focus on basketball, Smith was very small.

Per the Herald Sun, he was built more like a softball player entering college.

Smith arrived in Durham a 150-pound safety. He moved to cornerback and leaves as an All-MEAC selection and the school’s career leader in solo tackles (168) and kickoff return average (28.1). His senior season and impressive body of work after earned Smith an invite to last February’s NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

While performing in front of scouts, coaches and general managers of all 32 NFL teams, Smith put up good numbers. He clocked in at 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash, posted a 36-inch vertical jump, a 122-inch broad jump and did 18 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. That created enough of a buzz that scouts representing 20 NFL teams came to Durham for his Pro-Day.

Smith seems to be the classic late bloomer. He has a man’s body now at 5-11, 189 pounds. He even was a record-setting kick returner in college, though Dirk Koetter seemed lukewarm on Smith performing that task on Sundays.

Regardless, the Bucs have an athletic prospect at safety. Now go coach him up.

49 Responses to “Very Late Bloomer In The Fourth Round”

  1. Miko Says:

    any more Smiths we can sign….The Smithaneers lol

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    This pick doesn’t bother me one bit…..this is the type of player that can end up being a steal…..many other teams will simply pass because of the small school or they didn’t want to develop a safety or were simply comparing him to other CBs…..
    I’m sure our scouting staff spent plenty of time on Smith….and don’t be a bit surprised if he doesn’t return a few kicks.
    Many forget special teams as a big part of the game and I am certain that we have improved our ST greatly in FA and with this draft.

  3. Lord Cornelius Says:

    I like this guy. Especially after they said they like him at S. S was a need just as much as DT if not moreso.

    I’d have said our needs in order were:


    We got 3 of the best at their position for DE/CB/K. Still got a S / OT / FB / OLB.

    Basically WR / DT were areas I’d have liked to seen improved that we missed out on. We traded off mid -tier guys at those position for the best college kicker. I guess we’ll all see how that works out.

    If we hit on just a couple of these late rounders we can go all in on DE/DT/WR positions next year.

    I really believe in Noah Spence though. Between him / smith / ayers / gholston this is the most confident I’ve ever been about our DEs in a while. A healthy smith = borderline 10 sack guy. Ayers = 9.5 sacks last year. Spence = best DE in the draft. Not too shabby.

  4. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    His value is in his versatilty,two years cb two years safety. Set a school rec wit 168 solo tackle. Young man not scead.

  5. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    Between those Lord I feel confident we now have some “Huntsmen”.

  6. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    Koetter was luke warm on him returning kicks because Kenny Bell is better.

  7. Erik with Clean Athletics Says:

    I honestly love this dude and I think he will end up being an integral part of our D for years to come…

  8. tmaxcon Says:


    you maybe right but until Kenny Bell proves he can catch a single pass in a preseason game he does not count… Bucs need weapons that are proven and consistent too many people are putting too much stock in hope with some of these players.

    I like this kid and would not be surprised if he beat out Conte.

  9. Pickgrin Says:

    Good positioning, solid tackling and good ball skills are the most important attributes for today’s safetys. The days of intimidating punishers in the defensive backfield are over due to King Goodell’s castration of big hitters in the name of “safety for the players” which in reality is fear of having to pay for more concussion lawsuits if the NFL doesn’t make an attempt to look like they are “doing something”.

    John Lynch and Steve Atwater would not likely be able to play at a pro bowl level in today’s NFL. Licht and the Bucs are at the head of the curve drafting a player like this to play safety – unlike Dom who signed a dinosaur of a player like Goldson to a huge FA contract to be an Intimidating safety in a league that no longer tolerates such strategy.

  10. pick6 Says:

    sounds similar to ali marpet’s story – undersized, low-fanfare high school player who basically outgrew his athletic conference during his college career. on the one hand, that’s encouraging. on the other hand, how often do you get to be right about picks like that? the huge step up in opponent quality stacks the deck against small-school picks like that, especially in terms of being day 1 starters like marpet. the hits on these small-school picks are so infrequent that they practically get etched into legend

  11. pick6 Says:

    (not panning the pick, i have no reason to doubt the current bucs scouts when it comes to college talent. just talking about general trends)

  12. Joe Says:

    Koetter was luke warm on him returning kicks because Kenny Bell is better.

    Would be nice to see some evidence that Bell can return kicks.

  13. Dick Butkiss Says:

    All I know is Vitale is going to be one hell of a player in the backfield. Has great hands and very quick for a big man.

  14. "That guy" Says:

    Watching the tape, this kid is a ball hawk. He knows we’re the receiver is even though he watches the QB almost the entire play.

  15. BuccaneEric75 Says:

    It would be nice if we had evidence that Bell can do anything.

  16. rayjay1122 Says:

    Hayes will make our DL better as a whole. I think WR is really the one area where we are thin if injuries creep in again. Maybe someone will get picked up for depth at WR off someones practice squad or preseason cuts from a team who is deep at WR. Secondary will be improved and like I said, I really think Hayes will get the most out of the DL. Kicking and punting should be improved as well as the OL. Rushing attack will be solid and Winston will be better. I smell playoffs if not this season for sure the next.

  17. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Mean no disrespect joe.

    Side Bar: Bears just released G/C Matt Slauson (30).
    Dude would be a great two way interior player for us.

  18. Guzzie Says:

    Kenny Bell looked great in college, and unless you a freak 1st round type WR, most take a couple of years to develop, look at Jacksonvilles WRs, there players didn’t blossom till the 2nd year, Bell is our rookie WR this year, Humphries is the WR we should see a jump in production, he’s our no. 3 WR, Bell has a leg up on a rookie though, he has knowledge of the playbook, I think we are on verge of having a solid WR corps

  19. Mike Johnson Says:

    Many of these kids from small school programs often pan out because of one reason…THEY ARE HUNGRY! Often you get a big school talent and he thinks..he’s a prima Donna. Only to find the NFl is quite another level of hard work. I’m willing to bet Ryan Smith not only makes the ballclub but he sticks also!

  20. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    • LT – Donovan Smith | Kevin Pamphile
    • LG -J.R. Sweezy | Matt Slauson
    • C – Joe Hawley | Evan Smith
    • RG – Ali Marpet | Caleb Benenoch
    • RT – Demar Dotson | Gosder Cherilus

    2015: PFF had Matt Slauson as its No. 18 guard out of 82 last year. Top-10 in pass protection (1 sack allowed/16 starts). Turned 30 in February. Matt Slauson Slauson has “the best pass blocking efficiency amongst guards, having allowed just four hurries on 326 drop backs.

    2014: Pectoral injury

    2013: Matt Slauson graded out as the 6th best guard in the league.

  21. Guzzie Says:

    Ryan Smith is the new age safety, with concentration on speed and versatility, meaning he can cover a TE slot or outside WR, big hitting safeties, like Miles Killebrew or Mark Barron, are becoming outside LBs

  22. Jerseybuc Says:

    Trust the scouts on this one. We are very slow at safety and have been for years so would be nice to have some backend speed for a change.

  23. salish_seamonster Says:

    This one’s not really a gamble. Dude played S and CB in college. He’s got skills and he put out good tape. If he doesn’t make it as a S, then he’ll be a CB. Seems like another solid pick.

  24. Buc1987 Says:

    Leave Kenny Bell alone.

  25. Love and Warrick Dunn Says:

    AfroPuff needs at least preseason before we quit on him. Still hoping he can be the slot speed guy this team needs.

  26. Howard Cosell Says:

    …you’re lucky he even performed for you bast*rds!

  27. Rrsrq Says:

    I am hoping Smith turns out to be Tanard Jackson 2.0 minus the weed. The knock on Vonn Bell whom the Bucs passed on was he avoided contact at times, obviously, Mr. Smith does not represented by leading the team in tackles (just hope that means he was caught on and then had to make the tackle. I’m on board with the draft, cause I have to be and I’m a Bucs fan. Let’s shock the world

  28. mike Says:

    @luvmybucs… I’d love to sign Slausson, but he will sign where he can start.

  29. Wausa Says:

    The NFL is a big step no matter where you played in college.
    A guy that can tackle, has explosion and speed is what you want at safety.

    There are two old WR’s available and I’d like to see one end up on our roster(Anquan Boldin or Roddy White).

    Most likely it’s a one or at most two year deplplayer

  30. Nole on Sat.-Bucc on Sun. Says:

    When he said my entire family is depending on me, my thoughts were this young man is making this team.

  31. Trubucfan22 Says:

    I wonder if Mike smith or Koetter or licht, prefer to have smaller CBs, or if it is just a coincidence that all of our CBs (except banks) are short guys. I don’t mind it. I’d rather have a short guy who can cover, over a tall guy who can’t keep up with the quicker WRs. Just some food for thought.

  32. Howard Cosell Says:

    Howard notices that the whole aura of this team and the fans is much more positive than it has been in previous years. Just goes to show that fans can see right through BS team-building propaganda. Howard guesses that’s why the Lightning command so much respect as an organization and the Bucs have been a local joke from the firing of Gruden up until the hiring of Licht. To bad so many coaching careers were thrown under the bus from 2009 until 2014. Not saying Schiano and Lovie were ever top shelf, but they were set up to fail from square one. It was a crime of omission.

    Anyhow. It all appears to be good now. Howard is very confident. The team seems to have substance both in coaching/FO and players. Unlike their previous counterparts Licht and Koetter do not appear to be in over their heads. Heck, even a Glazer is patrolling the sidelines at practice.

    Go Bucs!

  33. Trubucfan22 Says:

    Smith won’t be expected to contribute on defense for a year or 2. There is no way in 1 season he has mastered playing safety. He is a raw talent, worth developing behind conte and mcdougald.

  34. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    Wow. This guy filling in for dog is pretty much ignorant about the Bucs. You would at least figure he’d have information in front of him…like about the Bucs trade in the first round and what they did with the 4th rounder they got in it.

    Show a little incentive, dude.

    Thankfully, JBF will set him right at 5.

  35. unbelievable Says:

    LOL @ 87

  36. BuccaneerBonzai Says:


    Never say never.

    No one knew Kwon would pick things up so quickly either. And Smith has two years experience at safety…along with his two years at cornerback.

    Equal experience.

  37. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    tmaxcon Says

    you maybe right but until Kenny Bell proves he can catch a single pass in a preseason game he does not count…”

    You are right, of course. Props when props are earned. I support that 100%.

    But he didn’t really have many opportunities last year.

  38. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    Joe Says
    “Would be nice to see some evidence that Bell can return kicks.”

    There is college footage. But you’ll get your proof this year.

  39. Rrsrq Says:

    Michael Strahan came from a small HBCU school (Texas Southern) as well, we should be so lucky this guy has that hunger…

  40. Destinjohnny Says:

    Jason is a above average talent evaluator
    But I think he is lacking on overall team vision
    V jack goes down we have nothing
    Say u draft rankins 1 spence 2 then if u want to trade up get Jaren reed
    Or get shaq 1 spence 2 then even the dt from South Carolina state 3
    Our d line then would be so violent sorta like how Carolina’s is now
    They didn’t worry about losing Norman due to the front 7
    Best d line draft in 10 years and we draft 1 lineman wow

  41. SCBucsFan Says:

    There’s a 17 minute long interview of him on youtube after he got drafted. He seems like a good kid and he definitely seems like he has the kind of attitude attitude Licht likes.

  42. Trubucfan22 Says:

    I didnt say never. But it is a long shot for him to contribute right away.

    Kwon has played linebacker his entire life. he was simply over looked being a smaller linebacker. Too many teams want the big nasty linebackers who can only run stuff or only pass rush. Not many teams value a good smaller quicker coverage type linebacker. Luckily the bucs have never had a problem with drafting undersized cover linebackers.

  43. Kevin Says:

    I cant wait for this team to.come out and start evolving so everyone can stop yheyre whinning. Yes I get it I have been through the losing since the sb with you but these coaches are going to make these players live up to theyre full potential.

    And on the kicker….its our 3rd round pick. Everyone crying about using a second. Nobody would have cried this much had they taken VH with the 9th….but instead licht turned it into an extra pick. He earned that pick hes our gm and he can do what he wants with it. We needed a better kicker and we got one. This is going to be a fun season of football with more to come after

  44. Kevin Says:

    Our d line will be better with hayes as the coach not including spence or ayers.

  45. Buc1987 Says:

    Kevin…stop whining?

    But this is JBF.

    What else is there to do?

  46. gotbbucs Says:

    Somebody already mentioned it, Tanard Jackson comes to my mind when I see this guy, minus the problems.

  47. DemBoyzFromDaBay727 Says:

    I admit I wasn’t a big fan of the pick at first considering all the other big names on the board at the time, and this was before I found out they were converting him to safety. I do not doubt Licht and his scouts until they gave me reason not to.

    They like going out and finding hidden talent from all the small school’s that other teams wouldn’t bother to scout. I’m starting to like this pick more and more. Maybe he’s our starting safety 2 years from now. I hope so. Because we did pass on alot of talented “starting caliber” players for him. No pressure, I’m just sayin. Lol.

  48. DemBoyzFromDaBay727 Says:


    LOL most of these ppl wouldn’t have anything to say if that was the case. JBF would probably only have about 25 followers then…lol

  49. DemBoyzFromDaBay727 Says:


    As JBF mentioned, it’s funny the bucs went out and got all 6″5″ receivers to go along with a 6″5″ TE and labeled themselves the “DUNKANEERS” and told everyone “this is how you win in the league now,” “taller receivers over smaller DB’s.” And then they go out and get a trio of 5″10″ CB’s…LOL.