Underrated: Donovan Smith

June 29th, 2022

Not enough credit.

Joe is confident this will trigger several folks.

For reasons Joe just cannot wrap his head around, it seems left tackle Donovan Smith is the most disliked Bucs player. And in Joe’s eyes, that is just damn sad.

Joe is convinced many of the Donovan Smith haters made up their minds because the PFF tribe hated Smith in college, labeling him as a near worthless player. And no matter how well Smith has played after seven years of starting nearly every game isn’t changing their minds.

As if the PFF tribe had a clue how to grade offensive linemen.

(Trust Joe on this, the reactions from general managers at NFL events when Joe brings up the tribe’s offensive line grades range from uncontrollable laughter to hot fits of rage that would peel paint off walls.)

Well, Conor Orr of SI.com decided to select the most underrated player from each NFL team, and Orr is of the mind Smith fits that label.

Smith has gotten better as a player each year, allowed just one sack in 2021 and never accrued more than five holding penalties (he had three last year). While right tackle Tristan Wirfs gets most of the accolades, Smith has been a quiet and steady presence for the Buccaneers since making the All-Rookie team as a second-round pick out of Penn State in 2015. While the Buccaneers prefer to run up the gut most frequently and may prefer Wirfs in gotta-have-it third down situations, it’s interesting that the Bucs have had more success running between the left guard and tackle and the left tackle and end, than the opposite side. Smith nets the Buccaneers roughly a yard per play. As an aside, we obviously can’t put Mike Evans here, but according to NFL GSIS statistics, he makes the Buccaneers a full 1.14 yards better per play just by virtue of stepping on the field. Smith isn’t far behind, though, and he compiled one of the best pass-blocking grades in the NFL a year ago, per Pro Football Focus’s rankings.

Joe admits Smith hasn’t been perfect. Not everyone can be Tristan Wirfs. And it seems when Smith does have bad games or a bad play here or there, it is spectacularly bad. Those images linger for many fans.

It also may be the nature of the beast. A left tackle often faces excellent edge rushers. So mistakes will often look worse because they end up in sacks.

As well as the Bucs’ offensive line keeps Tom Brady’s jersey clean, you cannot tell Joe that the starting left tackle is bad. Otherwise, Brady wouldn’t be upright and completing so many passes. He’s the least-sacked QB of the last two seasons.

22 Responses to “Underrated: Donovan Smith”

  1. Beeej Says:

    He’s better than most

  2. Aceofaerospace Says:

    Off topic: congratulations Joe. Kyle Brandt just mentioned joebucsfan on Good Morning Football.

  3. PSL Bob Says:

    The question is who would you replace him with? The answer is no one. The dude’s a stud, and he should get as much credit for the Buc’s recent success as anyone on that o-line.

  4. Mark A Swygert Says:

    People tend to stick with their first impressions, even when there becomes ample evidence they were wrong. I think a lot of his improvement the last few years is that he is a better “fit” in the Arians system than in Koetter’s. Helps when you have a QB who makes quick decisions and quick releases too. OMG, DID YOU SEE JW GO UNDER THAT BUS???

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I think the knock on D Smith early was that he was lazy….didn’t put forth full effort….but if you watch him play…..his style of play makes it look effortless….he is so naturally talented he makes it look easy…..his stats don’t lie….D Smith is a good LT…..

  6. Joe Says:

    Off topic: congratulations Joe. Kyle Brandt just mentioned joebucsfan on Good Morning Football.


  7. Joe Says:

    I think a lot of his improvement the last few years is that he is a better “fit” in the Arians system than in Koetter’s.

    Harold Goodwin > George Warhop.

  8. Irishmist Says:

    It will be interesting to see what the run statistics to the left look like this year now that Ali Marpet is gone.

  9. spicoli Says:

    Joe after McLaurin’s deal was announced this morning. The Bucs got the better end of the market with they gave Godwin to re-sign. Can’t say that until we see when Godwin returns. Perhaps he took less because of his (unknown) recovery timeline? –Joe

  10. SufferingSince76 Says:

    Smith no longer deserves the bulk of the criticism he receives. I was one who thought he was lazy on a lot of plays in the past. He’s solid now. Brady expects that and Smith has delivered.

  11. K2 Says:

    Smith is very solid!

  12. Robert Says:

    what suffering said. I agree, Smith has stepped up. TB does make the entire OL better though.

  13. SOEbuc Says:

    What I didn’t like about Smith was his $40 million contracts to have the most penalties on an annual bases. He got better purely when Brady came to town because he is also the GOAT at communicating with oline. I’m also wondering what he will look like without Marpet at LG. Hope the best for him and the Bucs this year, he was just average at best for years getting top tier dollars. GO BUCS!

  14. Eckwood Says:

    Good Player but absolutely got destroyed against the Rams he was so scared after getting beat the first few times.

  15. SOEbuc Says:

    …Then again, I think of all his coaches and QBs in the decade of doom, but he was certainly not worth the $80-$90 million he’s taken from the Bucs throughout his career.

  16. mark2001 Says:

    Have to love when a coach brings in a group of superior players and coaches, it is called “the system” half the time.

    One of the more insightful football comments I heard years ago, is when a guy was talking about Tom Landry’s “flex defense” and how some said it was such a great system. He said with the players Landry had…. Randy White, Too tall Jones, Bob Lilly, and such… they could have run any sound defense and been successful.

    Good coaching… good players. That fit into a system of some kind. That is the key to NFL success. Systems come and go.

  17. eric Says:

    My guy Love Donovan

  18. Allbuccedup Says:

    Underrated and overpaid!

  19. Goatfarmer Says:

    The few abject cretins who hate D Smith fancy themselves better at evaluating o-line play than the professionals who manage, coach, and play in the NFL. Of course they know better – they claim to watch the games. None of the coaches watch the games or watch film, now, do they.

    I wish the Bucs would listen to the DSmith haters, they are so much wiser than the pros.

  20. Barack's Crack Pipe Says:

    SufferingSince76 Says:
    “Smith no longer deserves the bulk of the criticism he receives.”

    For the last couple of seasons, I agree. He’s been displaying much better effort. Where he used to give up quickly on plays after getting juked badly, he’s been staying with pass rusher to at least try to disrupt his path, or give his QB a cut-back pick. I’ve seen him regularly getting to the second level and chasing plays. He used to rarely give that effort.

    I know it’s probably a lot easier to stay motivated blocking for Brady than it was for saucer-eyes Jameis, so it’ll be interesting how he trends after Tommy moves on. I hope he keeps this up.

    I don’t like him, but I call it like I see it. I won’t even hold that Rams game against him. There was a lot more wrong with that game than his performance, especially with Wirfs out and Wells hobbled.

  21. Stone crab sam Says:

    Watch Donovan smith tackle db Marcus peters in 2019 while playing the rams. It’s one of the hardest hits I’ve ever seen. No question smith can be very intense indeed.

  22. Buczilla Says:

    PFF is a modern equivalent of snake oil salesman and there are suckers in every era. Smith has gotten more consistent and he’s a good player well worth where he was picked.