The Kentucky Wildcats quietly have one of the best pass-rushers in the nation right now, and though he still he another year of college eligibility left, defensive end Za’Darius Smith is already beginning to catch the eye of NFL scouts and draftniks.
UK has never been viewed as a quick path to the NFL, but once Mark Stoops left Florida State to come here, that changed in an instant.
Just look at his track record at getting his players to the NFL, and you’ll see the his specialty is getting talented pass-rushers to the NFL quicker than anywhere else.
He had three DEs from last year’s FSU defense get drafted this past April, and scout and NFL draftniks are beginning to take notice of his latest protegé.
Dan Kadar of Mocking the Draft, a popular NFL Draft site, just released his updated DE rankings, and he already thinks Smith is the second-best DE prospect behind only Jadeveon Clowney:
We may have found the 2014 NFL Draft version of Ziggy Ansah. He’s in Kentucky of all places. Of course, that would be junior Za’Darius Smith. If you’ve listened to any of the MtD podcasts, you should have seen this coming. Smith was unrated entering the season coming out of junior college. But the lanky pass rusher has all of the skills to rise into the first round of the draft. He looks good for now. It will be exciting to see how Smith progresses the rest of the season.
That’s extremely high praise, but if you’ve watched Smith play (not many people are exactly flooding their living rooms to watch UK football right now), you’d see that level of talent and potential is there.
Barring any injuries or other setbacks, it’s hard to see smith being projected as anything lower than a second-rounder in next May’s NFL Draft if he does declare.