The Georgia Bulldogs’ secondary was decimated by the NFL Draft this spring. However, in landing Tykee Smith from the transfer portal, they secured a safety who could be one of the best at the position in the 2022 NFL Draft. Versatile, intelligent, and with a physicality that belies his diminutive stature, Smith’s scouting report breaks down why he’s held in such high regard around the nation.
Tykee Smith NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Georgia
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 5’10”
- Weight: 198 pounds
Tykee Smith Scouting Report
Smith’s scouting report can be broken down into three main components — versatility, intelligence, and physicality.
During his time at West Virginia, he played the STAR role. That role comprises him playing in the box, covering in the slot, and some split-field safety. He’ll reprise that role at Georgia, where he may also play elements of the linebacker position. As a result of this role, Smith brings versatility that will be valuable at the next level.
When you play a role that combines multiple alignments, it is crucial to have football intelligence. Thankfully, Smith has it in spades. His high school coaches have raved about his attention to detail in preparation. This is evident when studying his game tape. The Georgia safety demonstrates an excellent ability to read the game. Fakes and trickery don’t easily sway Smith. Furthermore, he shows an impressive ability to take a measured approach to the game rather than rushing in like a bull in a china shop.
An outstanding tackler who is adept in coverage and against the run
Smith is routinely in a position to impact the game, whether against the run or in coverage. Smith is equally skilled in both facets of the game. He regularly makes plays on the ball in coverage despite his diminutive stature. Furthermore, the junior safety is sticky in coverage, showcasing impressive change-of-direction ability to mirror and recover as required. Against the run, his tackling ability and intelligence ensure he consistently makes the play.
Smith’s tackling ability is outstanding. He displays impressive technique combined with a physicality that belies his size. He routinely wraps up when making a tackle. Therefore, examples of him missing tackles or allowing a player to escape his grasp were a rarity in his film. For a smaller defensive back, he doesn’t shy away from contact. Furthermore, he displays an impressive ability to shed blocks on his way to the ball carrier.
Areas for improvement
It’s potentially harsh to describe this as an area for improvement, but Smith’s usage at West Virginia does leave questions from an NFL Draft perspective. Although he has demonstrated versatility, he hasn’t been used as a single-high safety. As a result, it is impossible to determine how successful he can be in that utilization.
Furthermore, it’s problematic to ascertain his range. Smith appears to have some impressive play speed, but he can’t be described as exceptional or elite in that regard.
Although Smith has demonstrated coverage ability and physicality beyond his size, that could prove to be an issue for the NFL. There were several examples of him being manhandled and put to the ground on his tape.
Overall, however, Smith should be considered one of the best safety prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft class. If he transitions his outstanding play from West Virginia to Georgia, he will further elevate his stock. Currently, I would envision him being a second-round selection.
Tykee Smith Player Profile
Smith’s path to the NFL Draft has taken him literally from the bottom, right to the apex of college football. Born and raised in Philadelphia, he grew up in a place referred to as “Da Bottom,” where you were lucky to make it to see the age of 18. While playing high school football for Imhotep Institute Charter, the versatile young athlete saw close friends succumb to local issues with lawlessness.
Football represented a way out for Smith, and he excelled as a versatile weapon all over the gridiron. He racked up 971 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns during his career while averaging 9.5 yards per carry. Smith also snagged 11 receptions for 261 yards and 5 touchdowns. Furthermore, he contributed on special teams, putting his athletic ability to good use as a kick returner.
Despite the offensive success, Smith was recruited as a safety. He’d amassed 63 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, and 5 interceptions by the time his high school career came to an end. His play earned him USA Today Pennsylvania All-American honors in 2017 while helping his team to an 11-3 record and state runner-up in 2018.
Smith’s college football future had already been secured before that successful senior season. Although he was a three-star recruit, the versatile playmaker from Pennsylvania attracted almost 20 offers. In-state Temple University was the first to offer, while Penn State entertained the ninth-best player in the area (but never extended an offer). The second offer came from West Virginia, and their eagerness and constant contact throughout the process led Smith to commit in an emotional video where he honored his fallen friend.
Smith also spoke about the environment and fit in their defense during an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I just like the environment there. It felt like home pretty much right away. I also think their defensive scheme fits my style of play.”
He wasn’t wrong. After making his debut against James Madison, Smith made eight starts while appearing in 12 games as a true freshman for WVU. His impact was both immediate and impressive. Within four games, the young safety had corraled 11 tackles and 2 pass breakups, earning him a start in his fifth game against Texas.
Smith secured his first collegiate interception one game later, taking a 15-yard pick to the house against Iowa State. He’d add a second in the season finale against TCU to put a bow on a phenomenal freshman campaign. Tallying 53 tackles, 1 sack, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions, and 4 pass breakups, Smith earned FWAA Freshman All-American honors and an All-Big 12 honorable mention.
The WVU safety would return to terrorize TCU in his sophomore season. Smith earned Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week honors in a mid-November win over the Horned Frogs. Showcasing everything that epitomizes his exceptional ability, Smith racked up a career-high 9 tackles that included a tackle for loss while snagging career interception No. 4.
An award-winning season takes the safety to the SEC
The performance capped off a 2020 season where he asserted himself as one of the best defensive backs in the nation. Smith totaled 61 tackles, 2 interceptions, 8 tackles for loss, and 5 pass breakups from nine starts. He received many accolades across multiple media outlets, with All-American and All-Big 12 recognition and a placing as a semifinalist for the prestigious Jim Thorpe Award.
Smith had helped West Virginia to be the top passing defense in the nation in 2020. However, another element in that success — defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator Jahmile Addae — headed down the country road to Athens, Georgia, following the season. In March, Smith announced he would also be leaving the program. Unsurprisingly, in early April, he announced he was reuniting with Addae at Georgia.
Having already established himself as one of the best players in the Big 12, the move presents an excellent opportunity for Smith. He gets to showcase his talents in arguably the biggest conference in college football. Furthermore, he does so at a program with two defensive backs selected in the first round of the NFL Draft in the last two years.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is an NFL Draft Analyst for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.