After meeting both Kadarius Toney and Aaron Robinson at the Senior Bowl, coach Joe Judge and general manager Dave Gettleman dipped back into the familiar well when they made their fourth-round selection in Northern Iowa’s Elerson Smith.
Playing at FCS Northern Iowa, Smith did not see the field much in his first two seasons before playing sparingly as a reserve in 2018 (which he said he used to help him prepare for his breakout season). Having started his career at 215 pounds when he arrived before going to 240 in 2019, Smith exploded in a starting role that season for 14 sacks, 14 QB hurries, 21.5 Tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and two blocked kicks and 64 total tackles on the way to being named a First-Team AFCA All-American for his efforts. He nearly transferred after that season to gain more national exposure, but decided not to when most FBS conferences postponed their 2020 seasons. When the FCS moved to the spring, Smith “opted out” to prepare for the draft.
Having further filled out his 6-foot-6 frame with another 20 pounds to go from 240 to 260 in that time with no recent game film on him, Smith knew he needed to make the most of the opportunity that week in Mobile gave him.
“I just wanted to show teams that I could play with the new weight and to show them I was working hard on my body and my game and that I am able to contribute to an NFL team at this point. It was an important week because I didn’t have the film like everyone else had from the 2020 season.”
“I just tried to go with the flow and understand that it is what it was and I had no control over the season being canceled. So, I just wanted to make sure that I was making the most out of my days and continuing to work toward the Senior Bowl and our Pro Day.”
With such an impressive frame and incredible athleticism to boot (registering an astounding 41.5 inches in the vertical jump to go along with 10-feet-7-inches in the broad, and completed 26 reps on the bench at his 2021 Pro Day), Smith plays an aggressive and hard-nosed style of football that Judge and Gettleman love.
“I like to work moves together. I love a good bull rush. I think my get-off is what starts all my pass rush moves. I love driving offensive linemen off the jump, get their feet moving and really get them scared of my length and my get-off. From there, depending on what the offensive line is giving me, it’s going to be a bull rush or I’m going to take the edge or coming underneath. I love pass rushing, though. I have a lot of fun doing it.”
As for what the scouts think of Smith, The Draft Network had the following to say about him:
Elerson Smith plays with good athleticism with regards to his agility on the edge. He has excellent length and projects with more value as an edge defender. He has good agility as a rusher but struggles against the run. He doesn’t have the frame or play strength to hold up in the NFL trenches, which is why he is best suited as an EDGE defender. All in all, he has upside as a pass rusher in subpackages, but will need to get stronger and tougher to be an every-down NFL player.
Meanwhile, Daniel Jeremiah tweeted out his support of Smith almost a month ago while comparing him to Radiers EDGE Maxx Crosby.
I really like Northern Iowa edge rusher Elerson Smith. This is my comp pic.twitter.com/WnEkQJkeMp— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 6, 2021
Now joining with fellow rookie EDGE Azeez Ojulari (as well as returning starters Lorenzo Carter and Oshane Ximines), Smith proclaimed his excitement to get to know his new teammates and get to work.
“I’m excited to work with them. I’m excited to get better with them and try to make the pass rush better as a whole unit. I don’t know much about Azeez, but I’m sure he’s a great player and I’m excited to get to know him and get after it and get to work with him, too.”