John Smith Scouting Report | Holy Cross DB | 2023 NFL Draft
Before John Smith became a three-time All-Patriot League Defensive Back at Holy Cross University, he was a zero-star Athlete prospect from Park Vista Community High School in Lake Worth, Florida.
Smith was a two-way standout during his high school career at Park Vista, seeing playing time at Quarterback, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Linebacker, Cornerback, and Safety.
During the offseason before Smith’s senior year, he received six Division I scholarship offers from the following schools: Northern Illinois, Valdosta State, Fordham, Bethune-Cookman, Army, and Holy Cross. On July 2nd, 2017, Smith committed to Holy Cross, allowing him to play his senior year without any distractions that come with the recruiting process. As a senior, Smith collected 1,258 all-purpose yards and 20 total touchdowns, earning All-State Honorable Mention recognition from FloridaHSFootball.com.
Although Smith was dominant on the offensive side of the ball during his senior season, he permanently moved to Defensive Back as a true freshman at Holy Cross. In his true freshman season in 2018, Smith played in 11 games and made four starts at cornerback. Smith finished his first collegiate season with 33 tackles, one interception, and three pass breakups.
As a sophomore, Smith developed into one of the best young defensive players in the Patriot League. Starting in all 13 games, which included a start in the first round of the FCS Playoffs, Smith accumulated 52 tackles, three interceptions, and six pass breakups. Smith finished the season fourth in interceptions and fifth in pass breakups in the Patriot League and received Second Team All-Patriot League honors from Phil Steele.
In a shortened season due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, Holy Cross went 3-0 in Patriot League play and clinched a spot in the FCS Playoffs for the second-straight season. Starting in all four games, Smith recorded 14 tackles, one tackle for loss, three interceptions, and four pass breakups, earning First Team All-Patriot League recognition for the first time in his career. Smith was also given MVP honors for his performance in the Patriot League Championship Game against Bucknell, where he tallied four tackles, one interception, and two pass breakups.
Behind the best statistical season of his collegiate career, Smith helped lead Holy Cross to a 10-3 record and a third-straight Patriot League title in 2021. As a senior, Smith totaled 37 tackles, two tackles for loss, one sack, five interceptions, and 11 pass breakups, and earned First Team All-Patriot League honors for the second year in a row. For his performance on the season, Smith received All-New England and All-Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) honors and won the Davitt Award as the Holy Cross’ top defensive back.
Smith returned to Holy Cross as a fifth-year senior in 2022, serving as a key contributor on the 17th-ranked defense in FCS. In the Crusaders’ first 12-win season in program history, Smith led the team to its fourth-straight Patriot League title and second FCS Playoff Quarterfinals appearance since 1983. Smith put together another All-League-caliber season, accumulating 39 tackles, three tackles for loss, one interception, 12 pass breakups, one forced fumble, and one blocked kick. After the season, Smith received First Team All-Patriot League honors for the third time in his career and played at the 2023 Hula Bowl.
Overall, Smith recorded 175 tackles, six tackles for loss, one sack, 13 interceptions, 33 pass breakups, and one forced fumble in five seasons at Holy Cross.
At 6-foot-0, 190 pounds, John Smith is an all-around defensive back with impressive length, valuable position versatility, great instincts in man and zone coverage, high-level reactionary quickness, proficient toughness, and reliable ball skills.
Although Smith possesses decent size for the defensive back position, he uses long arms and proficient play strength to gain an advantage off the ball or at the top of the route. Smith’s length allows him to keep his man within reach and knock receivers off their route while in phase. Plus, Smith can compete with larger receivers at the catch point given his notable arm length. However, due to his average height, Smith can sometimes get boxed out and beaten to the highest point on contested catches.
Smith is accustomed to playing multiple positions throughout the secondary. During his time at Holy Cross, Smith lined up at the outside corner, nickel, and strong safety, and was effective wherever he was positioned on the field. From a physical standpoint, Smith is best suited for the nickel spot at the next level but still possesses the man and zone coverage ability to be a reliable depth piece as an outside corner.
Despite being an outside corner for most of his college career, Smith’s role changed as a fifth-year senior, as he saw more playing time in the slot. Smith’s transition to the nickel spot was seamless, enabling Smith to utilize his quick trigger, toughness, and tackling ability to make an impact closer to the line of scrimmage.
Smith has a sudden burst to close and operates with considerable play speed, which allows him to cover the flat efficiently and assist in run support. Smith’s high contact courage and solid tackling ability help him limit explosive plays on underneath concepts and yards after the catch. Smith’s form tackling is somewhat inconsistent, as he has a bad habit of trying to run through the ball carrier rather than wrapping up and securing the tackle.
Throughout his five seasons at Holy Cross, Smith displayed strong ball skills and was productive at creating turnovers and incompletions at all three levels. Smith boasts soft hands and sharp instincts to put him in advantageous positions to capitalize on poor ball placement. Smith is physical at the catch point and flashes great technique when playing through the hands.
Smith is not a complete prospect by any means, but his skill set could be valuable for an NFL franchise needing a physical cover corner in the slot. Smith also brings tons of special teams experience to the table, which could help him carve out a niche in his first few years in the league. As a three-time all-conference performer with few holes in his game, Smith has a real chance of being the first Holy Cross defensive back to be selected in the NFL Draft. If not, he will surely receive an opportunity to make an impact as an undrafted free agent.
Mid 6th-Priority Undrafted Free Agent