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According to Pro Football Focus (subscription), Indianapolis Colts starting right tackle Braden Smith is among their dark horse candidates to be the highest graded player at his respective position in 2020:
T BRADEN SMITH, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
Heading into his third season out of Auburn, Smith is an integral part of a Colts’ offensive line that enters the 2020 season as PFF’s top unit in the NFL. He improved his overall grade from 72.2 as a rookie in 2018 to 79.8 this past season (12th among all qualifying tackles) thanks to a big bump in his run-blocking grade. It rose over 15 points to 86.3 in 2019, and he helped pave the way for a Colts’ run game that led the league in expected points added (EPA) per play on runs to the right of the center. If Smith can make a similar jump in pass protection next season, we could be looking at him as a surprise atop our tackle grades.
The former 2018 second round pick out of Auburn—who was initially projected as a guard at the next level, has become one of the best young right tackles in the entire NFL.
While Smith has yet to make a Pro Bowl or All-Pro appearance, he very well could in 2020.
Per PFF, Smith was their 12th highest graded tackle overall (6th among all RT’s) this past season with a +79.8 grade overall—including a +86.4 run blocking grade. He allowed 7.0 sacks and 46 total QB pressures—while committing just 5 total penalties in all 16 starts.
At 6’6”, 315 pounds, Smith’s a tremendous athlete—as his RAS [Relative Athletic Score] of 9.71 out of 10.0 was the highest among all guards at the 2018 NFL Draft—even above his Colts teammate, physical freak Quenton Nelson.
It was the pair of rookies’ arrival in 2018 that really helped the Colts become one of the best offensive lines in football over the past two seasons.
If Smith can continue to develop as a pass blocker (where he’s currently good but not great), he could quickly become one of the game’s truly elite starting tackles.