T.J. Smith came to the University of Arkansas as a three-star recruit out of Colquitt Country High School, though he played his first three years of prep ball at North Stanley High in New London, North Carolina.
As a senior at Colquitt, Smith helped lead his team to an undefeated 15-0 season and a state championship at the 6A level. He posted 46 total tackles, 15 tackles for loss, and four sacks on the year.
After redshirting his first year on campus, Smith then saw playing time in five games in 2016. He parlayed that campaign in a starting job as a redshirts sophomore, getting the nod in all 12 games during the 2017 season. He finished with 26 stops, four TFLs, and a pair of sacks.
Over his final two seasons, Smith started 22 of his teams 24 games, totaling 46 tackles, seven TFLs, and four sacks.
Years with team: 1
“T.J. Smith signed a 2 year, $1,485,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including an average annual salary of $742,500. In 2021, Smith will earn a base salary of $660,000, while carrying a cap hit of $660,000.” - Spotrac.com
With only one year in Los Angeles that was spent on the practice squad, there’s not a ton to discuss with Smith in this section. At his size, his best fit in the defense is as an interior defender at either 4i in base fronts.
Smith started 34 total games in college, including 22 of his last 24 over the course of his junior and senior seasons. I always like to include experience at the college level for these young guys as a plus since it shows they played a notable amount of football prior to the NFL.
Coming out college, Smith actually posted one of the best athletic profiles among his fellow tackles. At 290 pounds, he rans a sub-5.0 40, jumped 30.5 inches in the vertical, and benched 225 pounds 29 times.
T.J. Smith is a DT prospect in the 2020 draft class out of Arkansas.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 11, 2020
He posted an elite #RAS with poor size, elite speed, great explosiveness, great agility at the DT position. https://t.co/HNwk8LPUdx pic.twitter.com/NDzpgfQiQd
Smith was signed by the Chargers in the same UDFA class as fellow defensive tackle Breiden Fehoko. Seeing as Fehoko spent time on the active roster during a pair of games in 2020 and Smith did not, the latter should be considered behind the former, which means his path to anything but the practice squad will be rather difficult. Plus, with the addition of two more tackles in the 2021 UDFA haul, the chance of even making the PS will be even more difficult then it was a year ago.
Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2020?
Going off what I discussed just above, Smith has a tough path no matter what his goals are. There’s likely a zero percent chance he sees the active roster while also having plenty of competition to land a spot on the practice squad.