Preston Smith was projected as a 3rd to 4th round pick early in the year, but Mississippi State's star defensive end now has a chance to vault himself into the first round.
The 6-6, 270-pounder has been impressive in this week's Senior Bowl practices, a big reason for the quick rise in stock. Several draft experts and members of the media have taken notice of his performance and voiced their praise on Twitter.
But the talk of first round consideration didn't just start during Senior Bowl practices. It was hinted at back in December that Smith could potentially climb into the first round.
NFL.com's Daniel Jeremiah projected Smith as a first round pick at #32 last week in his mock draft.
All the focus the last few weeks from Mississippi State fans has been on Benardrick McKinney, and understandably so. He is almost guaranteed to go in the first round and was projected to go at #14 in that same mock draft from NFL.com
But it looks like scouts are quickly falling in love with Preston Smith and his ability to get after the quarterback. His versatility to play any position on the d-line makes him a wanted man for any team out there with a 3-4 scheme.
The numbers speak for themselves: 48 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, 9 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries, 2 int's, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 blocked kicks
Preston might have improved his draft stock in one season more than anybody else in the country.
It's safe to say at this point that he is guaranteed not to slide out of the second or third round, and with a strong showing at the NFL Combine, he may just join McKinney and give Mississippi State two first round draft picks.
Here are a few tweets from this week's Senior Bowl practices:
Preston Smith impressive start with inside run. Put La'el on his back
— John Owning (@johnowning) January 20, 2015
Quick impressions from Sr Bowl practice. Lotta Sims' passes are sailing high. MSU DE Preston Smith looks good in 1-on-1s
— Mike Herndon (@TheMikeHerndon) January 20, 2015
Preston Smith is impressing me in terms of his ability to bend the edge.
— Ethan Hammerman (@Ethanhamm) January 20, 2015
Guy that won Weigh In was Miss State's Preston Smith. 6'4 3/4 270 LBs w/ 10 5/8" Hand & 34" Arms. Ideal size base 4-3 End on strong side
— NFL_DRAFT_Bites (@NFLDraftBites) January 20, 2015