A three-year starter at Auburn, Smith arrived on campus with lofty expectations and showed steady improvement each season. He especially blossomed the last two seasons under the watchful eye of veteran offensive line coach Herb Hand, who arrived at Auburn in 2016.
Following Auburn’s win over Alabama, Hand tweeted: “I’ve had the privilege to coach some great players in my career…Braden Smith is at the top of that list.”
Smith helped pave the way for RB Kerryon Johnson to lead the SEC in rushing (120.0 yards per game) in 2017 and on most run plays, defenses simply needed to locate No. 71 because the run was usually going behind him. He looks the part and checks the necessary NFL boxes with his athleticism, strength and intelligence to stay between ball and defender.
A four-star offensive guard recruit out of high school, Smith was a two-way starter at Olathe South and the highest recruited player to ever come out of the program – also won the Kansas state championship in the shot put and discus. He received offers from all the major programs like Alabama, Ohio State and Notre Dame, but he whittled his list down to TCU (where his sister, Megan, competes in track and field), Auburn and Texas A&M, ultimately choosing the Tigers on signing day.
Smith spent his true freshman season as a reserve, earning his first career start (right tackle) in the bowl game against Wisconsin. He became a starter as a sophomore in 2015, primarily at right guard while also filling in at right tackle. Smith returned to right guard as a junior in 2016 and again started all 13 games, earning Second Team All-SEC honors.
Smith returned for his senior season and started all 14 games, seeing action at both right guard and right tackle. He was awarded with First Team All-SEC and several All-American honors in 2017 and won the Jacobs Blocking Trophy as the SEC’s top offensive lineman.
Physically impressive frame with essential body thickness. Core strength to anchor at shallow depth. Balanced feet, both in space and when locked up. Flexible lower body to drop and roll his hips at contact. Clean puller to seal or stick defenders in space. Stubborn hands to punch, reload and fire again. Reliable – when the offense needs one yard, they often ran behind the right guard. Consistent knee bend in pass protection. Quick to recover after a jab to his chest. Never content, staying busy and searching for a body to lay a lick. No stranger to the weight room. Humble up-bringing and not a “me” player – “he has really come a long way from a leadership standpoint.” – Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn. Four-year SEC Academic honor roll and graduated with a degree in education (Summer 2017). Athletic bloodlines – father (David) played football and ran track at Kansas. Versatile experience with starts at both guard and tackle. – Dane Brugler 1/2/2018
Active hands, but placement lacks refinement, often landing outside his target. Needs to better protect his breast plate. Occasionally forgets his feet at the point of attack, which hurt his ability to sustain. Low pad level rushers will give him trouble. Stout and rarely gives up ground, but not a bully who will simply overwhelm the point of attack. Has steadily improved his playing demeanor, but would benefit with a little more killer instinct to his game. – Dane Brugler 1/2/2018
COMPARES TO: David DeCastro, Pittsburgh Steelers – From a physical standpoint, these two players are very similar with their power at the point of attack and ability to hold up as both a run blocker and pass protector. DeCastro has developed into a Pro Bowler so this is high praise, but Smith has that type of potential if he improves his technique.
IN OUR VIEW: Smith needs to improve his hand tactics and leverage to better sustain the point of attack, but he projects as a NFL starter with his balanced lower body powerful upper body. He is best at guard, but his experience outside at tackle is welcomed versatility to help on the edges if needed.