Kendall Smith, S
School: Illinois | Conference: BIG-10
College Experience: Senior | Age: 24
Height / Weight: 6’1” / 205 lbs
Player Comp: Kenny Robinson
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
Illinois DB and former WR Kendall Smith showing the range on this interception. Quietly has four interceptions so far this season.— Ian Cummings (@IC_Draft) October 15, 2022
Kendall Smith goes up and gets it. Second Illinois interception of the day and Mississippi St is still scoreless as new defensive coordinator Aaron Henry has this team ready to play today. pic.twitter.com/cPKE0142qL— Illinois Football Focus (@IlliniFB) January 2, 2023
Bolingbrook / Illinois Safety Kendall Smith @Kendallsmith_23 @BHSRaiders @Pascavage406 pic.twitter.com/B1CNZQXuaB— John Ivlow (@CoachJohnnyi) April 24, 2022
Right place at the right time for Illinois senior safety Kendall Smith— Pro Football Network (@PFN365) October 1, 2022
CFB Live Blog: https://t.co/LXPH5p1LDM
Kendall Smith is a FS prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 5.20 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 469 out of 974 FS from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/zBNyfFAO2a pic.twitter.com/rwpHslv9Vu— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 13, 2023
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?
This poll is closed