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Chargers 2021 Draft Profile: DE Elerson Smith

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The Chargers helped build up their depth at edge rusher late last month when they signed former Packers and Giants outside linebacker, Kyler Fackrell. That puts the team’s depth at the position now up to five bodies along with 2020 UDFAs, Joe Gaziano and Jessie Lemonier.

In my opinion, the team needs to invest even more at the position. The need isn’t up there with left tackle and cornerback, but at the latest the Bolts should use one of their two third-round picks on another quarterback chaser. If for whatever reason they decide to pass on edge through the first two days, there’s luckily a number of exciting sleepers who should be available later on.

Enter Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith, a lengthy, explosive athlete who ate up the competition at the FCS level over his last two seasons. As of now, Smith should likely find himself off the board sometime on day three due to his lack of starting experience and competition level.

Despite those concerns, there’s plenty to love about Smith on the surface. At his pro day, the former two-star recruit measured in at 6’6 and 252 pounds with plenty of room to put on additional mass. He also just about jumped out of the building when he leaped to a 41.5 inches in the vertical a 10’7” in the broad. His 7.11 in the three-cone was also solid, but you usually like to see that number close to or under 7.00 for someone of his weight.

Smith was joined by his college teammate at this year’s Senior Bowl, offensive tackle prospect Spencer Brown, where both made themselves some decent money after displaying the skills that made them earn invites in the first place after neither played a snap of football in 2020.

In one-on-one drills, Smith displayed his excellent first step off the line of scrimmage, making several of the opposing lineman look like rushing bulls as he ole’d them en route to the quarterback. However, his lack of mass in his lower-body — something most scouts are dinging him for — did show up occasionally when he wasn’t able to shuck off blockers who managed to beat him with their hands inside.

Smith saw his first game action for the Panthers as a redshirt sophomore in 2018. In 13 games, while playing in a rotational role, he accumulated 10.5 tackles-for-loss and 7.5 sacks amid 19 total tackles. As a first-time starter in 2019, Smith exploded for 21.5 tackles-for-loss and 14 sacks while leading the nation with five forced fumbles across 15 starts.

According to Chad Reuter of NFL.com, Smith may need a “redshirt” year at the next level to give him more time to develop physically while he upgrades his pass-rush package to include more diversity, including developing more setups for counter moves. If Brandon Staley truly believes that this is a “developmental” league, meaning he believes the NFL is full of talent that yet to be unlocked, then he should have no problem risking it on a potential player like Smith, especially at such an important position to the defense.