Dawuane Smoot finished his senior season as a bright spot on Illinois and will now try to bring that to the struggling Jaguars. Achieving relevance on a team that finished 2-7 in conference play is hard, but Smoot and fellow DE Carroll Phillips, who combined for 14 sacks and 35 tackles for loss, did just that.
The 6-foot-3, 264-pound Illini defensive end is projected to go in the middle rounds of the draft, so his name will likely come off the board on Saturday. If your team’s eyeing Smoot, or just drafted him, here’s how you can get to know him.
Who is Dawuane Smoot? 5 things to know
Smoot was the best part of an Illinois program that was completely irrelevant while he was there.
The Illini went a combined 8-16 in Smoot’s two seasons as a full-time starter. His coach, Bill Cubit, got the axe after Smoot’s junior year. In came Lovie Smith, and Illinois experienced an expected downward slide in production in 2016. Defense is Smith’s strength, but even that side of the ball experienced a significant fall, going from 19th in Defensive S&P+ to 59th.
His future as an NFL player is clearly as a pass-rusher.
Smoot only had 5 sacks as a senior, down from 8 as a junior. That’s not an outstanding number, but Smoot’s strengths lie in his ability to get after opposing quarterbacks. His 43 quarterback pressures were tops among Big Ten players, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF spotlights his “rip move” as particularly deadly.
Scouts say he doesn’t have elite athleticism or strength. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s what keeps him from being a hot prospect or a “sleeper.”
This is the knock on Smith. He’s got the size, but doesn’t have the athleticism of of a top-of-the-line defensive end prospect. Pro Football focus says “He’s not an elite athlete, though, and therein lies the issue. Smoot loves to win either via the rip or the bull, and both require high-end athleticism to execute at the NFL level.”
Smoot didn’t make the big jump scouts were hoping he’d make in his final season, but NFL teams will reportedly like that he trained with Smith, a former NFL head coach.
“He had a better year (in 2015). I think you have to take last year’s tape into account when you study him. He was lighter this year, which took some of his power away, I thought. He was coached by Lovie and that will give him a head-start,” one NFC scout told NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein.
Like many college defensive ends, it’s possible he ends up playing there or at linebacker in the NFL.
This isn’t a huge shocker, because NFL teams can often mold a player to a different position once he gets to camp. Smoot has solid size, but he isn’t gigantic enough that a pro team couldn’t change him into more of stand-up player instead of a hand-down defensive end. No matter what he does, Smoot’s primary role will be as a pass-rusher.