The Baltimore Ravens perimeter pass rush is an area that the front office needs to address with the departure of Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue, and Jihad Ward in free agency. While reinforcements could come in the form of a veteran signing, that likely won’t come until after it would no longer impact the compensatory pick formula.
This year’s class of incoming edge rushers lacks a clear alpha but is filled with a plethora of betas with alpha or at least steady difference-making potential. The Ravens have been linked to several edge defenders with their first and second-round picks but they could still find talent at the position later on day two or early on day three.
One such player that falls into that third-round to early fourth-round category is Jordan Smith of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The former Blazer is one of the more underrated pass rushers in the draft who isn’t getting talked about enough but could prove to be a steal where he is currently being projected to come off the board.
He was a highly sought-after recruit coming out of high school and began his collegiate career at the University of Florida. After redshirting as a true freshman, he was suspended indefinitely in 2017 due to an off-the-field legal issue that involved credit card fraud.
Smith was forced to go the junior college route, After a standout season at Butler Community College in 2018 where he recorded 77 tackles, 22.5 for loss, with 11 sacks in 12 games, he signed with UAB.
He hit the ground running in his first season with the Blazers and earned second-team All-Conference USA honors after posting a team-leading 17.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks in 13 games. In a shortened eight-game season last year, Smith was able to lead the team in both categories again with 4.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss and recorded his lone career interception as well.
At 6-foot-6, Smith is often the same height or sometimes even taller than many of the blockers that he lines up across from but at 255 pounds with a long muscular frame, he is much lighter on his feet, more agile and a superior athlete than them as well.
His freakish length is complemented by his outstanding flexibility, both of which he uses to quickly turn the corner and get around the edge to generate pressure and make plays in the backfield.
Smith was invited to and attended the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl. He had a strong week of practice in both individual and team drills with the way he rushed the passer and defended the run.
Jordan Smith from UAB having a great day, just blew up a run to the right side. pic.twitter.com/obyPR3Xp8y— Daniel Kitchen (@Sports__Kitchen) January 27, 2021
Despite his tall stature, one of his best outside moves is the dip and rip that he pairs with an elite get-off to quickly beat offensive tackles who either lunge or aren’t quick enough to recover once they’re beaten off the line of scrimmage.
UAB’s Jordan Smith with a VICIOUS ghost on Dan Moore. Sack. pic.twitter.com/cnZdyb7nsB— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) January 28, 2021
He also has a nice slap-chop move to get around an edge as well and an effective swim move that he uses to penetrate inside. On the play below, Smith gets the best of Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood who was the 2020 recipient of the Outland Trophy and is expected to be a first or second-round pick.
As a run defender, he uses his length to separate from blockers and wrap up ball carriers on plays to his side or between the tackles and on plays to the opposite side of the line. His long strides, burst, and high motor allow him to make stops with great backside pursuit.
Again, UAB’s Jordan Smith can MOOOOOOVE! pic.twitter.com/DSsQYc3MTj— Spencer N. Schultz (@ravens4dummies) February 27, 2021
He sometimes commits too early on zone-read runs before a clear exchange is made but he hustles to the actual ball carrier nevertheless even after initially guessing wrong. Smith would see plenty of zone-read and read-option plays in practice if he’s drafted by the Ravens, going up against the best dual-threat quarterback in the league, so it’s an easily correctable habit that he could be significantly better at by the end of training camp.
Smith is just as comfortable and explosive standing up in a two-point stance as he is with his hand in the dirt in a three-point stance. He’ll need to add a little more muscle to his frame to hold up on the edge at the next level but he’s both athletic and long enough to play as a defensive end in a 4-3 or as RUSH outside linebacker in a 3-4 hybrid scheme like the one that the Ravens run.
He’s a bit of a developmental prospect but could still contribute right away as a situational pass rusher and is definitely worth a middle-round selection even if the Ravens have already addressed the edge defender position in one of the earlier rounds.