Evaluating the Redskins draft picks: James Smith-Williams has a tough road to a roster spot
What Smith-Williams needs to improve
The biggest issue with Smith-Williams is his durability. Or in this case, his lack thereof.
During his college career, Smith-Williams played five seasons at NC State. In all but one of them, he played in six or fewer games. He simply has a tendency to get nicked up and wasn’t able to finish games frequently after that happened.
That’s certainly a concern for Smith-Williams. The old cliche is that availability is the best ability in the NFL. And it’s true. If Smith-Williams can’t get on the field, he’s not going to make an impact for the team, especially considering the talent the squad already has on the defensive line.
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Given Smith-Williams’ lengthy injury history, it’s fair to wonder just how much of his athletic ability may be sapped from him if he gets banged up again. Considering that his athleticism is one of his best overall traits, that’s something the Redskins should worry about. Because if he loses it, he’ll be a marginal player at best. And that’s one of the reasons that an NFC National Scout told NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein that his team wouldn’t consider drafting a guy like Smith-Williams.
"“He can’t stay on the field. There is no way we draft a guy like that. If we like a player with his injury history, we’ll target him as a free agent, but that’s it.”"
The other issue with Smith-Williams is that his production in college was merely modest. Sure, he had the one 11-game season saw him post 36 tackles, nine tackles for loss, and six sacks. During the other 18 games he played in during his five-year career, he notched just two total sacks. So, that 2018 season needs to be examined closely, as it was either an outlier or an indicator of what Smith-Williams can produce while fully healthy.
Durability aside, Smith-Williams isn’t exactly a strong edge setter against the run. He relies more on his burst off the line to penetrate the backfield and tends to be better suited to stop the run on the interior. That’s not a major problem, but if he can’t prove strong enough to contain runners on outside plays, it may be hard for him to see the field in obvious running situations.