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Kendall Smith was a key contributor in a spectacular secondary

Hogs Haven takes a look at 2023 UDFAs that could contribute to the Commanders

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: JAN 02 ReliaQuest Bowl Photo by Chris Leduc/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Kendall Smith, S
School: Illinois | Conference: BIG-10
College Experience: Senior | Age: 24
Height / Weight: 6’1” / 205 lbs

Player Comp: Kenny Robinson

College Statistics

Defense & Fumbles Table
Tackles Def Int Fumbles
Year School Conf Class Pos G Solo Ast Tot Loss Sk Int Yds Avg TD PD FR Yds TD FF
2017 Illinois Big Ten FR WR 1 0 1 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2018 Illinois Big Ten SO DB 6 6 4 10 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 1
2020 Illinois Big Ten SR DB 3 3 4 7 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 1 0 0
2021 Illinois Big Ten SR DB 7 8 5 13 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0 0 0
*2022 Illinois Big Ten SR DB 13 26 13 39 0.0 0.0 5 41 8.2 0 5 0 0 0 0
Career Illinois 43 27 70 0.0 0.0 5 41 8.2 0 6 0 0 0 1
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 5/3/2023.

Player Overview

Smith came to the University of Illinois originally as a wide receiver, playing in 12 games - primarily on special teams - as a freshman in 2017. He transitioned to safety his sophomore season, and then ended up redshirting during his junior year. He played largely as a special teamer the next two years, and contemplated entering the transfer portal before his senior season, stuck behind several starters in arguably the best secondary in college football.

Ultimately, Smith decided to stay at Illinois for his senior season, and that move paid off, starting 8 games a safety, and earning an All Big Ten honorable mention built on a 5 interception season, where Smith played among several defensive backs who would end up being high selections in the 2023 draft.

Smith labored behind many excellent DBs in his time at Illinois but, when give the chance as a senior, he rose to the occasion. Does he have a future in the NFL as a safety? That’s hard to say at this point, but it’s probably reasonable to assume that he hasn’t hit his defensive ceiling yet.

From his Draft Network profile:

Expectations for Smith? It’s interesting. On one hand, he feels like a high-floor pick on day three thanks to his special teams work and how that’s developed his open-field tackling efforts and the ability to claim a roster spot. But for all the questions of his age, it is also worth acknowledging that you may get developmental upside. I’d bet on Smith on day three to be a special teams contributor and try to develop him into a coverage player who could challenge to take significant snaps someday.


  • Has the capacity to contribute instantly on special teams.
  • A strong asset in run support.
  • Seems best situated to play single high free safety.
  • Built for the role.
  • Skilled at tracking the ball in space.


  • Relatively old, without a ton of defensive playing experience.
  • Could have better range.
  • Still fairly raw

Let’s See His Work

How He Could Fit

Looking at Bill’s latest depth chart, there aren’t many spots where it looks like Smith could readily be shoehorned in. The current team is - easily - the deepest I can ever remember it being at safety. And even the depth is high quality. The tandem of Kam Curl and Darrick Forrest has the capacity to be one of the best safety duos in the game in 2023, and with Percy Butler and All-Pro Jeremy Reaves backing them up, there isn’t much wiggle room.

That would seem to indicate that, at least in the near term, Smith’s ceiling is probably being stashed away on the practice squad (or IR) until a vacancy potentially opens up in the unit in 2024.

But what if - and here’s a slightly crazy idea - they either attempt to convert Smith back to WR or, more reasonably, use the special teamer slot occupied by Cams Sims last year, and Marcus Kemp currently, to keep Smith on the 53-man roster?

Washington has lots of intriguing undrafted free agents in camp this year, and it’s going to be very interesting to see them battle it out.


Do you think Kendall Smith will make Washington’s 53-man roster?

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