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Za'Darius Smith | Defensive End

Team: Kentucky Wildcats
Ht / Wt:  6'6' / 263

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TFY Draft Insider's Tony Pauline noted Kentucky DE Za'Darius Smith was the "big winner at Kentucky's pro day."
The 6-foot-4 5/8, 274-pounder (11 percent body fat) clocked a 4.69 second 40, a big improvement over his combine time. "He was super impressive in both linebacker and defensive line drills, looking smooth and athletic," noted Pauline. The San Diego Chargers worked Smith out last week, and the prospect has an upcoming workout scheduled with the Carolina Panthers. Mar 15 - 8:23 PM

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NFLDraftScout.com's Frank Cooney believes Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith "should be considered a project who needs time and tutoring before a team expects him to show a return on investment in the NFL."

Incredibly, Smith didn't start playing football until 2010. He spent two years at East Mississippi Community College before turning himself into a coveted JUCO prospect. "Smith is certainly willing, with a motor that is revved to red-line all the time, but despite excellent physical ability he is not a natural and has a lot to learn," Cooney wrote. "Even considering he started football late, Smith is taking a long time to learn the game." The 6-foot-4 5/8, 270-pound pass rusher posted 61 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups last year. "I do think I can get up to 290 and I'll be able to hold that weight very good," Smith said at the combine, mentioning that scouts think he needs to add muscle. "Just being able to get up to 275 after playing at 260 last year, I feel comfortable at it."
Source: CBS Sports
Mar 15 - 5:54 PM

NFL Media analyst Bucky Brooks believes Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith has "flashed the quickness, burst and athleticism that scouts covet in nickel edge defenders."

"Smith opened a few eyes last week with his impressive MVP performance at the East-West Shrine Game and he is certainly building upon that momentum with his play in Mobile. The 6-foot-4 5/8, 270-pound pass rusher has flashed the quickness, burst and athleticism that scouts covet in nickel edge defenders," Brooks wrote. The Wildcat prospect has all the tools you could ask for, including an ideal frame, good athleticism, and strong hand use. He was the East-West Shrine Game No. 2 prospect, according to Josh Norris. Brooks writes that, with Smith "dominating his peers on the all-star circuit, the Kentucky standout's stock is poised to soar in pre-draft meetings in a few weeks."
Source: NFL.com
Jan 23 - 3:28 PM

Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith "was the [East-West Shrine Game's] most disruptive defender, using his combination of burst off the snap and long arms to slip past offensive tackles and harass the quarterback," wrote CBS Sports' Rob Rang.

"Smith doesn't possess the explosiveness as his former teammate and projected first round pick "Bud" Dupree, but he showed a quick first step and balance, a spin move and an effective bull rush in this game and forced an interception," Rang wrote. "For his efforts, he was named the Defensive Player of the Game." The 6-foot-6, 263-pounder has all the tools you could ask for, including an ideal frame, good athleticism, and strong hand use. He was the event's No. 2 prospect, according to Josh Norris. "Honestly, Smith did not do much [in practice] to impress onlookers this week," Norris observed. "He will not wow with athleticism, however, Smith will win with technique and power. Few use their hands as consistently on first contact and to generate momentum on counter moves. In this deep EDGE class, look from Smith to land on the third day unless he surprises at the Combine."
Source: CBS Sports
Jan 18 - 5:57 PM

NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah praised Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith's "explosiveness" off the snap.

"There were a handful of times Wednesday when he embarrassed the tackle trying to block him with that quickness," added College Football 24/7 writer Mike Huguenin. "One selling point with Smith, in a weird way, is his inexperience: He has played just five seasons of football (one in high school, two in junior college and two at Kentucky), and with his athleticism, he certainly has an upside once he polishes the rough edges. The question, of course, is whether those rough edges can be smoothed. Smith had 10.5 sacks, 13.5 tackles for loss and 119 tackles in his two seasons with the Wildcats." The 6-foot-6, 263-pounder has all the tools you could ask for, including an ideal frame, good athleticism, and strong hand use.
Source: NFL.com
Jan 17 - 4:29 PM

CBS Sports' Dane Brugler notes that Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith "has heavy hands and knows how to use his length, projecting him as a base end."

"A basketball player growing up, Smith didn't play football until his senior year in high school, followed by a few years at the JUCO level and then the SEC where he starred at Kentucky. He has heavy hands and knows how to use his length, projecting him as a base end," Brugler wrote. Smith played in all 12 games with 61 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 7.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups for the Wildcats. The 6-foot-6, 263-pounder ranked top 20 in the SEC in sacks, with 7.5 tackles for loss. Smith, a JUCO transfer, uses his hands well to shed at the point of attack.
Source: CBS Sports
Jan 9 - 2:02 PM

Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith has accepted an invitation to play in the East West Shrine game.

More good news for the all star event. In other years Smith would have been in the Senior Bowl, and he still might earn an invitation. However, the edge rushing class in 2015 might be one of the best in some time. Smith, a JUCO transfer, uses his hands well to shed at the point of attack.
Tue, Dec 9, 2014 12:15:00 PM

Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith stood out with "terrific effort in pursuit" on Saturday against Mississippi State, wrote CBS Sports' Rob Rang.

"Smith doesn't possess [Bud Dupree's] explosive burst but he's a well-built 6-foot-5, 264 pounds with long arms and heavy hands to fight through blocks," Rang wrote. "His power and awareness helped him seal the edge and keep [MSU QB Dak] Prescott from running wild, as he'd often done in 2014." Smith entered this game with only three tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks on the year, but he's impressed analysts with his non-stop motor and heady play.
Source: CBS Sports
Sun, Oct 26, 2014 05:36:00 PM

Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith is an "aggressive edge rusher with some burst and the motor needed to compete at a high level," according to CBS Sports' Dane Brugler.

"Although his 2014 stats are mediocre (3 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks), the tape shows an aggressive edge rusher with some burst and the motor needed to compete at a high level. Smith rarely loses sight of the ball with proper eye use to quickly locate and track, using feisty swat and swim moves to defeat blockers," Brugler wrote. The Wildcats prospect and former JUCO transfer, recorded 59 tackles, with 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, in his first try against SEC competition last year.
Source: CBS Sports
Thu, Oct 23, 2014 02:53:00 PM

Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith’s "performance against LSU will raise red flags in the scouting world," writes TFY Draft Insider's Tony Pauline.

Smith had Kentucky's only sack of the night, but it wasn't all good news. "Smith was exploited all night not just by the Tigers highly rated left tackle La’el Collins but also any tight end or fullback he faced," Pauline wrote. "Scouts have had concerns about Smith’s overall athleticism, a weakness exploited by LSU on Saturday." That outing will dampen Smith's ascending stock. ESPN Insider's Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl wrote earlier this month that they were thinking about raising their preseason late-fourth, early fifth-round grade due to Smith's improved play. The JUCO transfer collected 59 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, in his first try against SEC competition last year.
Tue, Oct 21, 2014 05:52:00 PM

ESPN Insider's Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl are rethinking their "late-fourth, early fifth-round" preseason grade on Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith.

"The Florida tape has us rethinking that grade already," the pair wrote. "He's shown improvement in two key areas starting with his instincts. He did a great job of locating the ball against the run and tracking the quarterback without losing contain as a pass-rusher against the Gators. The other aspect of his game is he appears to have made strides in his explosiveness. While he's never going to be an elite speed rusher coming off the edge, he looked quicker working inside and did a better job of transferring speed to power rushing the passer when he lined up inside. Add in his ability to get off blocks and the arrow is pointing up." The JUCO transfer collected 59 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks, in his first try against SEC competition last year, and he's poised to easily surpass those numbers in 2014. TFY Draft Insider's Tony Pauline allocated the senior a preseason Round 4 grade.
Wed, Oct 1, 2014 12:03:00 AM

TFY Draft Insider's Tony Pauline writes that Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith "impressed a lot of scouts last season."

The JUCO transfer collected 59 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in his first try against SEC competition last year. "Smith impressed a lot of scouts last season, his first at UK, and seriously considered entering the draft before making the right decision by returning for his senior season," Pauline wrote. "He’s a long athlete who flashes pass rush skill though I worry about his speed and overall athleticism." Pauline gives the senior a Round 4 grade.
Tue, Sep 2, 2014 07:33:00 PM

Kentucky senior DE Za'Darius Smith is "bigger and stronger this year after spending time in Kentucky's strength and conditioning program," reports CBS Sports' Rob Rang.

The JUCO transfer laughed off the jump in competition last year, collecting 59 tackles, including 6.5 tackles for loss and six sacks in his first try against SEC competition. If the spring game is any indication -- sack, tackle for loss and an interception -- he's ready for bigger things in 2014. "He lacks the top-notch burst most teams prefer at the RDE position but does a nice job of getting left tackles to lean to their outside and then countering back inside with power," Rang wrote. "Smith utilizes heavy hands and good core strength to generate consistent pressure but is more of a complementary rusher, rather than a featured threat, at this time. He doesn't change directions or accelerate fluidly enough to make the transition to linebacker and needs to protect his legs better from cut blocks."
Source: CBS Sports
Sun, Aug 17, 2014 12:24:00 AM

Kentucky junior DE Za'Darius Smith will return for his senior season.

Smith started the season on fire, opening with 4.5 sacks in the first three games of the season, but those numbers tailed off to six to end the year. He was beating offensive tackles with an outside rip, something future opponents picked up on. The JUCO transfer can attempt to improve his game with one more season.
Wed, Dec 18, 2013 10:54:00 AM