Next up in our line of profiles for the Chargers’ undrafted free agents is former Arkansas defensive tackle T.J. Smith.
Smith is a native of Moultrie, Georgia and attended Colquitt County High School where he starred as a defensive end for the school’s 2014 State Championship team that went undefeated at 15-0. He finished his senior season with 46 tackles, 15 tackles-for-loss, and four sacks. He chose to attend Arkansas as a three-star defensive end prospect by ESPN and Rivals over other schools like Missouri, Wake Forest, and North Carolina.
After redshirting in 2015 and playing sparingly in 2016, Smith started all 12 games as a sophomore where he collected 25 tackles, four for loss, and two sacks. In his final two seasons, Smith started 22 of 24 possible games and finished with 46 total tackles, 7.5 tackles-for-loss, and four sacks with a forced fumble in that span.
T.J. Smith is a DT prospect in the 2020 draft class out of Arkansas.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 27, 2020
He posted an elite #RAS with okay size, elite speed, great explosiveness, great agility at the DT position.https://t.co/HNwk8LPUdx pic.twitter.com/hBIuGJx4Sr
Above is the Relative Athletic Score, or RAS, of Smith. He posted excellent numbers across the board but posted poor scores in height and weight. For those of you who don’t know, Kent Platte, or @MathBomb, is a phenomenal resource who keeps track of players in every draft class and puts their athletic profiles in context against the rest of players in history at the same position. A 10.0 is the highest score possible and anything over 8.0 is considered “elite.” Smith’s score of 9.37 is certainly in the elite category, highlighted by a 4.95 forty time and a 9’4 broad jump.
Smith paired with fellow defensive tackle McTelvin Agim to create a formidable duo along the interior of Arkansas’ defensive line. In their game against Texas A&M, Smith and Agim both met at the quarterback for a sack on the very first play from scrimmage or the Aggies. The Razorbacks played a stout game against A&M’s run game, not allowing many runs to go for more than a handful of yards at a time, and even then they were hard-earned two or three-yards gains.
You can tell that Smith has heavy and active hands at the point of attack. He doesn’t explode off the line like his teammate Agim but he knows how to set up offensive linemen to make up for the underwhelming get-off. His play was also a little inconsistent throughout the year in terms of his strength when handling double-teams in the A gap. Sometimes he was immovable, other times he allowed himself to get washed. He may have to put some weight on to last at the professional level, but there’s also a chance he carves out a career like Damion Square, who plays very well for a guy who is also under 300 pounds.
While the Chargers aren’t terribly deep at the defensive tackle spot, the majority of the snaps will be taken by Linval Joseph, Justin Jones, and Jerry Tillery. 2019 seventh-round pick Cortez Broughton will also provide depth and practice squad member P.J. Johnson could also see a final spot on the roster. Smith will have to show he’s got the versatility needed to be valuable. He lined up at both 1- and 3-technique, but his lack of production in college might be his undoing.