There is less than a month before the 2023 NFL Draft. On Wednesday, we learned that the Kansas City Chiefs used another top-30 visit on one of the highest-profile prospects they’ve met with yet: South Carolina cornerback Cam Smith.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the visit occurred on Wednesday.
Potential first round CB Cam Smith of South Carolina kicks off a busy next few weeks starting with a trip to the defending Super Bowl champion #Chiefs today, source says.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) March 29, 2023
What is a top-30 visit?
Though the term implies that the visits are for the most coveted draft prospects, NFL teams are simply allowed a total of 30 in-person visits with draft prospects at their facilities.
The Chiefs have often preferred to use these visits for prospects who are likely to be available on Day 3 or as undrafted free agents — over whom they have more control in selecting than the draft’s top players. Cornerbacks Joshua Williams and Jaylen Watson — who helped the Chiefs win a Super Bowl as rookies — had top-30 visits in Kansas City before the 2022 Draft.
Here’s what to know about Smith:
Smith is a South Carolina native, staying home and committing to the University of South Carolina as a four-star recruit invited to the U.S. Army All-American bowl. After two years with limited playing time, Smith broke onto the scene in 2021 as a redshirt sophomore; he earned second-team All-SEC, an honor he was given again in 2022.
Cam Smith's closest athletic comp is Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie. Similar in size and explosiveness, both have the same quickness though DRC was a bit faster. #RAS— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 20, 2023
Smith skipped agility testing at both Combine and Pro Day.https://t.co/0doYOOBDpY pic.twitter.com/cGdwt9fOJv
Smith measured in at 6’0” and 180 lbs. at the NFL Combine. He combined that with average arm length and hand size based on historical data for cornerback prospects. He ran an official time of 4.43 seconds in the 40-yard dash, but his 10-yard split of 1.49 seconds was even more impressive.
He also showed explosiveness with a 38-inch vertical leap and a broad jump of over 11 feet. The broad jump was the third-best result of any defensive back at the combine.
South Carolina used Smith as an outside cornerback for the most part, but he did spend 21% of his snaps in the slot over his last two seasons in college.
The #Chiefs had a Top 30 visit with South Carolina CB Cam Smith today, per @RapSheet— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) March 30, 2023
At 6' and 180 pounds, Smith is a cover CB. Has smooth feet that combine w/ good anticipation of route breaks to blanket receivers running in or back to the QB pic.twitter.com/tXzRpd5kVD
Smith is a true cover cornerback — someone that looks very comfortable individually covering a receiver at all levels of the field. His footwork is all-around smooth, whether it’s coming out of press or following receivers in and out of their routes.
However, that clean footwork is elevated by great anticipation; Smith constantly cuts off receivers’ in-breaking or back-breaking routes, sometimes before the receiver even makes the break himself. That tells me Smith understands route concepts very well — and he also watches plenty of tape on his upcoming opponents.
Smith looks like he gets handsy in his coverage, placing hands on WR's hips to help propel himself, but he doesn't get too grabby.— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) March 30, 2023
I like seeing college CBs understand how to use their hands cleanly pic.twitter.com/otdMpKfAlY
Smith is very active with his hands throughout coverage, which is why he was tied for having the second-most penalties called on him among FBS cornerbacks last season.
However, I see an understanding of how to use his hands to keep himself in a good position without being overly grabby or aggressive. He avoids tugging at the jersey, instead placing his hands on an opposing receiver’s hips to either propel himself or subtly slow down his route. It may need to get cleaned up a bit, but I’d rather work on toning that down than try to teach a player how to utilize their hands in coverage.
When Smith was pressing on the outside, I thought his man turns were very effortless and fundamentally sound.— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) March 30, 2023
He's smoother than he is fast, but a 4.43 40 combined with his technique off the snap allows him to keep up vertically pic.twitter.com/PS1RBYkn77
In press-man coverage, I was impressed with how easily Smith came out of his backpedal and turn to run with the receiver vertically. He has a sound man turn, facing the receiver before smoothly flipping back toward the ball and locating it as he boxes out the receiver toward the sideline.
While Smith will be more known for his coverage skills than anything else, he has examples to show he's a willing tackler pic.twitter.com/NMantQ4cFW— Ron Kopp Jr. (@Ron_Kopp) March 30, 2023
While Smith looks to be a true cover cornerback, he is willing to come up and tackle on tape. His top-tier acceleration allows him to get downhill quickly, and he doesn’t shy away from delivering a hit or selling out and diving to take a ball carrier down.
How he fits with the Chiefs
Smith is projected to be selected anywhere from late on Day 1 to somewhere in the second round; The Athletic’s consensus board was updated on March 14, and Smith came in as the 16th-overall prospect. If Kansas City was to select him, he’d come in and immediately take the third cornerback spot, starting in Nickel defenses when either L’Jarius Sneed or Trent McDuffie moves into the slot.
He would upgrade the Chiefs’ man coverage ability, giving them more freedom to be aggressive on pass downs with blitzes and single-high coverages. He may be lighter than McDuffie, but Smith is taller and longer — which may make him a better matchup for bigger receivers than McDuffie is, especially at the catch point.
The bottom line
If Smith becomes a draft pick for Kansas City, he would elevate the entire secondary’s ability in coverage — but would also give the Chiefs incredible depth at cornerback; Jaylen Watson and Joshua Williams would be the team’s fourth and fifth cornerbacks. That would give the Chiefs two players with starting experience as depth in the system.