>> Georgia safety is a target for the Patriots in the NFL Draft: a possible Devin McCourty replacement?
Georgia security Christopher Smith has the adaptability and strong ‘football IQ’ needed to be successful in the New England Patriots defensive backfield.
The New England Patriots have some big shoes to fill after longtime team leader Devin McCourty announced his retirement.
In addition to having a difficult time matching Devin McCourty safety play, the club also has a difficult time identifying a prospective team captain who can lead both on and off the field. After all, the 12-time team captain was renowned as one of the Patriots’ top play-callers during games, frequently tasked with the responsibility of ensuring that his teammates were in position.
For a seasoned professional, these duties might seem a little onerous, but for a novice, they can be completely overwhelming. …at least most novices. One player in particular seems to meet the bill. Although there aren’t many candidates for the position in the 2023 NFL Draft class, New England would be smart to look into Georgia safety Christopher Smith II as a potential McCourty replacement.
Smith played a variety of positions for the National Champions, primarily as free safety in Kirby Smart’s defense. He has, however, also had success aligning at the nickel and in the box. He even demonstrated his special teams expertise during the Bulldogs’ SEC Championship triumph against LSU by blocking a field goal and returning it for a touchdown.
Smith is mostly renowned for his excellent football IQ, which is demonstrated by his unconventional but heads-up 95-yard touchdown. He is already being compared to the recently retiring McCourty due to his ability to comprehend coverage strategies and interact with teammates. His similarity to the Patriots great is only heightened by his excellent field awareness, superior ball skills, and reputation as a leader in the locker room.
Smith does have some questions, though. Having weighed 192 pounds and standing 5-11 at the NFL Scouting Combine, some have questioned if the former Bulldog has the stature to play a significant role in a professional-level secondary. Smith also performed poorly in the Combine, clocking a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash and a 2.91 in the Relative Athletic Score. In fact, it is thought that the main reason for his last season’s 11 missed tackles was his speed.
Even so, New England has never been one to readily adopt the “groupthink” of draft analysts. Smith is a significant asset to a Patriots team that takes pride in playing analytical football because of his capacity to recognize and analyze opposition offenses. The Pats might be able to acquire a rotational player with the potential to be much more in the ensuing years if Smith is still available in the mid-rounds.
The Patriots‘ current depth chart at safety currently includes Kyle Dugger, Adrian Phillips, Jabrill Peppers, and Joshuah Bledsoe. If selected, Smith or any other rookie at the position would join them.