Every year in the NFL, a few undrafted free agents emerge as serious playmakers. For the Dallas Cowboys, that player could be Keith Smith, an outside linebacker from San Jose State who has all of the talent to develop into a contributor.
Despite going undrafted, Smith is a promising young linebacker with plenty of athleticism, instincts and relentlessness. Unfortunately, raw ability and a lack of polish as a three-down player will force him to spend some time learning from afar. That, however, doesn’t mean that his future with the Cowboys isn’t bright.
All you’d have to do is put on Smith’s tape from San Jose State to understand the type of impact he can have for a defense. Using his superb athleticism and awareness, the 6’1’’, 230-pound linebacker quickly flows to the football and makes big hits for his size. While his reads in coverage and pass-rushing ability definitely need some work, Smith has the mental makeup and physical tools to get the job done.
As of right now, he’s currently third on the weak-side linebacker depth chart behind Kyle Wilber and fellow rookie Will Smith. That, however, is exactly where a player like Smith needs to be right now. Considering his lack of polish, he’s best served to spend his the first part of his rookie season either contributing on special teams or developing on the practice squad. Seeing any sort of significant snaps early on wouldn’t be in the Cowboys’ best interests.
However, Smith offers plenty of long-term intrigue. Especially with the Dallas linebacker unit in shambles, the former Spartan could easily earn a starting role in the next couple of years. He’s a reliable tackler who plays with a contagious tenacity, something the Cowboys need more of moving forward. To top it off, his skill set and experience would allow him to fill in at any one of the team’s three linebacker spots.
It might be awhile before Smith is ready to contribute, but the long-term potential he brings to the table should certainly have the Cowboys excited. Especially for an undrafted rookie, Smith’s upside is through the roof.
Keep an eye out during training camp and the preseason as Smith looks to earn a roster spot in Dallas.