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UDFA Scouting Edition: Kendall Smith Had an Impressive '22 Season | Washington Commanders


By Adam Aniba


Washington's defensive backfield is loaded with talent and potential at safety. The group features starters Kam Curl (SS) and Derek Forrest (FS) with reserves Percy Butler and Jeremy Reaves. Their 2nd round pick Jartavius "Quan" Martin (FULL Scouting Report) also has a background playing safety.


Although it'll be an uphill battle for the other safeties recently signed to make the roster, Del Rio could elect to keep 5 safeties, opening the door for another Illinois defensive back in undrafted safety Kendall Smith. The safety has the physical tools and attributes to kecompeteep for a roster spot.


Kendall Smith

6'1" 211 lbs | DB | Illinois

Undrafted FA WSH

Career (57 games) 71 TAK (44 solo), 1 FF, 5 INTs & 11 PD

2022 (13 games) 40 TAK (27 solo), 5 INT, & 10 PD

Background

Smith grew up in Bolingbrook, IL and played wide receiver for Bolingbrook HS. In 2016 he was an Illinois High School Football Coaches Association All-State Honorable Mention. Smith was ranked as a 3-star recruit by ESPN, in addition to the #9 recruit in Illinois and#118 wide receiver in nation by ESPN.


The Bolingbrook High School receiver received offers from Bowling Green, C.Michigan, Miami (OH) and Illinois. Smith ultimately committed to play for the Fighting Illini


As a freshman in '17 Smith played in 12 games, mostly on special teams (1 tackle), but saw snaps at receiver as well.


In '18 Smith was moved to safety, but similar to his freshman season, the majority of his snaps came on special teams (10 tackles and 1 FF). He recorded his first career forced fumble vs Western Illinois (9/8/18).


In 2019 Smith redshirted, but was active in 2 games. He continued to be a valued member on special teams unit in '20, but made his first start at safety vs Northwestern (12/12/20). He finished the season with 7 tackles and 1 pass breakup.

In '21 Smith continued to play primarily on special teams, but started in the season finale vs Northwestern (11/27/21).


2022 would be the season Smith finally saw consistent snaps on defense. After playing in all 13 games with 8 starts at free safety, he recorded career highs in every category with 39 tackles, 5 interceptions, and 5 pass breakups.

He finished the season ranked 11th in the nation and tied for 2nd in the Big Ten in interceptions (5 ints). His best performances of the season came against Michigan (11/19/22) and Mississippi State (1/2/23), in which he recorded a career-high 6 tackles in both matchups


His highlight moment of the season occured vs Minnesota (10/15/22 ) when he read an inside fade, jumped the route and made a late game interception.


Smith had to sit behind safety Kirby Joseph for consecutive seasons and although he wasn't a consistent starter until '22, the 6th year senior was named All-Big-Ten Honorable Mention last season.


PROS

  • Background as receiver is evident with impressive hands & ball skills

  • Performed well when used in single high coverage

  • Excelled on the special teams kick coverage unit

  • DIsplays impressive change of direction and understanding of angles

  • Strong defensive back (23 bench reps 225 lbs) and displayed the willingness and ability in run support

CONS

  • Lack of production prior to '22 is a concern

  • Needs to be more decisive when playing closer to the line

  • Tends to get too deep in his drops

  • Limited career snaps at defensive back

  • Although displays decent speed, can struggle to recover if out of position

Smith had the following to say during the Illinois pro day, after recording 4.59 second 40-yard dash time and put up 23 reps on the bench press (225 lbs).

“I think I got good tape man, I show I can take the ball away,” Smith said. “I show I can come down and make tackles in space. I played special teams for five years, so that shouldn’t be a question if I can do that or not.”

Projection

Smith was apart of a dominating Illinois defensive backfield that included 1st rounder Devon Witherspoon (SEA), 3rd Sydney Brown (PHI) and Commanders 2nd round selection Quan Martin.


Smith is new to the position and will require patience as he continues to learn the nuances of playing free safety.


Del Rio's defensive backfield, once thought of as a weakness is now a strength. Smith instantly offers upside on special teams, but likely only makes to the final 53-man roster if an injury occurs in training camp. Regardless, Smith could be a valuable addition to the practice squad and high ceiling developmental player to watch during camp.


*Games Watched-10/8/22 vs Iowa, 10/15 vs Minnesota, 11/12 vs Purdue, 11/19 vs Michigan, 11/26 vs Northwestern & 1/2 vs Miss State

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