Mississippi State's Preston Smith – who will convert from defensive end to outside linebacker with the Redskins – feels he has the versatility to make the switch.
Preston Smith had an inkling that the Washington Redskins had an interest in him.
Check out these photos of Mississippi State linebacker Preston Smith, the Redskins' 38th-overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.
After visiting with the team during the NFL Scouting Combine in February, Smith – a star pass rusher at Mississippi State – said he felt the Redskins were impressed with what he brought to the table.
Turns out he was right.
The Redskins on Friday made Smith their second pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, selecting him 38th overall in the second round.
"It's a great feeling to get this process done this week," Smith said in a conference call with the local media Friday evening. "Now to be part of a new organization, it's relieving."
Smith starred as a defensive end at Mississippi State, becoming a first-team All-SEC selection in 2014 after recording career highs in tackles (48), tackles for loss (15) and sacks (9). The 6-foot-5, 271-pound monster also blocked two kicks a year ago.
A 2015 Senior Bowl participant, Smith opened some eyes at the Combine in Indianapolis, where he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.74 seconds and logged a 121-inch broad jump.
Smith said those who believed his size would be an issue at the professional level might've changed their minds after seeing him at the combine.
"I think it helped me a lot because a lot of people can believe I can move the way I move at my size from the film, and on the film they thought I was slower, I think," he said. "I think the combine was a great chance to go out there and mark myself and show them that I'm faster than what they say I am and think I move."
Smith will likely be counted on to shed just a few pounds with the Redskins, where he'll be converted to an outside linebacker in the team's 3-4 defensive scheme.
Smith – a Mountain, Ga., native – said he's more than ready to make the change.
"I feel like it will go well because we had a lot of different looks for our defense in my college playing stand-up outside to doing a lot of drops and doing a lot of different defensive looks," Smith said. "I feel like it will be a great transition because it's something I'm used to, something I'm familiar with, and it would be nothing new to me. It won't be hard for me to adjust."
In fact, Smith believes his versatility is his best quality. He might've looked "slow" on film at Mississippi State because of his team's defensive approach.
"The system I play in is not a downhill system where I just come off the ball and rush the passer every play," he explained. "You know, in the SEC, you've got to be smart about how you play. We play a lot of zone read teams so you can't just rush up the field. You've got to sit on the line of scrimmage and play the zone read or play your assignment."
Smith said "if you rush up the field, they can rush it up your gap and rush for about 50 yards a carry" in the SEC.
"I guess me being a read player instead of a react then read player, I had to slow my cutting and fire off the ball like I need to, so they feel like my get-off wasn't as quick as it needed to be," Smith said. "But on third down I proved to them that I had a lot of get-off that they were looking for, they just wanted to see it on first and second down which is kind of hard with the types of looks we got in our league."
Smith – who said he grew up a fan of former Redskins running back Clinton Portis – said he's excited to get going with his new team.
So excited, in fact, that he "can't even remember" getting the call from the team on Friday's draft night.
"My mind went blank as soon as they said, 'We're with the Redskins,' and I just got excited," Smith said with a laugh. "Everything before and kind of after that, I kind of forgot just that quick."