Ryan Smith brings versatility to Bucs secondary
The Bucs had great success a year ago in drafting a small-school standout in guard Ali Marpet, and GM Jason Licht went back to the same path in drafting cornerback Ryan Smith from Div. I-AA North Carolina Central in the fourth round.
"He has a lot of versatility as far as what he can help a football team do," NCCU coach Jerry Mack said Saturday. "He came in at safety, played well for us at cornerback, and if you need him to go in and cover a third receiver and play nickel, he can do that. He can also help you from a special-teams perspective. You're getting a quality athlete who can do a lot of things to help you win games."
Smith played safety and corner at NCCU, arriving on campus at 155 pounds and leaving at 187, developing into enough of a prospect to be the school's first draft pick since 2007, when the Bucs took defensive end Greg Peterson in the seventh round.
"He's going to put in the extra time to work on his craft. He's going to study the film and make sure he takes care of his body," Mack said. "He's going to come to Tampa Bay with a level of professionalism that probably exceeds a lot of his peers because he's been doing it for so long."
Smith handled kickoff returns for NCCU this year, with a 100-yard return for a touchdown and an average of 28 yards per return. He was timed at 4.47 seconds in the 40 at the combine, and Mack said his first contributions could be in the return game.
"It's not only his top-end speed," Mack said. "He's a guy who can break some tackles and he's strong enough physically to run through people. He can help them tremendously."
The Bucs should have four new cornerbacks in 2016, with first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves and free-agent additions Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson already on board. Likely only keeping five or six corners, that leaves room for veterans Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks in an overhauled secondary.