Bears News: Getting to Know: Terell Smith
Kirby Lee - USA Today Sports

Bears News: Getting to Know: Terell Smith

by - Senior Writer -

Any time you get to the later rounds of the NFL Draft, or anything on day three for that matter, it is no longer about team needs and more about the best player available. The best player or not, you can still address your team's needs while adding the best player available.

That is something Ryan Poles has done very well within his first two seasons as the Bears GM, which continued with this year's 2023 draft. With their final selection in Round five of the draft, the Bears added more depth to their secondary room by plucking Terell Smith from the University of Minnesota.

The former Golden Gopher may have been selected 165th overall, but don't let that fool you, as he is a great player. The 6-1, 215-pound Smith is huge for a CB and brings a certain toughness to the table that a lot of the Bears corners don't have, which is also something you need in the current landscape of the NFL.

Smith is a seasoned veteran in the NCAA ranks, has five years of experience with the Golden Gophers, and is one of the more experienced players in this year's draft class. Despite his time with Minnesota, he only played in 37 games, meaning it took him a bit to carve out his role with the Gophers.

Once he became a regular player, the proof was in his play on the field, as Smith was a legitimate threat to PJ Fleck and his defense. Over five seasons for the Golden Gophers, Smith registered 109 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, four interceptions, and 16 pass breakups. Looking back at last season, Smith earned Honorable Big 10 honors after putting up 38 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions, and five pass breakups.

Smith started 11 games as a true freshman in 2018, but injuries and inconsistent play limited him to 13 contests over three seasons from 2019-21. But he persevered, ultimately regaining his starting position last year. When asked about what he brings to the table, Smith had this to say to the media following his selection.

"I would say as a player, I bring physicality," Smith said. "I'm a physical corner. I'm going to set the tone. I'm going to do my job, and I'm going to be disciplined. Off the field, I'm just a mature young man. I'm very disciplined on and off the field. You're just getting a high-character guy."

Despite his great size, you would never guess based on his 4.41 40-time, as he has the size to match up with the bigger WRs in this league and their speed. Smith is an ascending cornerback with an outstanding combination of size, speed, and toughness. Smith’s technique and game film improved from 2021 to 2022, which the Bears hope will continue into the NFL.

He stays low and patient in his backpedal. Smith has above-average footwork for a cornerback his size, which allows him to mirror the release and stay connected to the deep route. He’s experienced in playing all forms of coverage, but he’s best from press and off-man.

Smith is a reliable tackler with a playing disposition that matches expectations for NFL run support. The on-ball production is a little light, but the traits and talent are in place for a starting role at outside cornerback in the future or a transition to safety. Along with his size, speed, and physicality, there are other parts of his game that the Bears love, including his anticipation.

He anticipates breaks from the off-man and does a great job racing into the passing lane to make the play. His top-end speed allows him to keep pace in the vertical passing game, and his physicality helps him pounce on the ball carrier to limit additional yards after the catch. Smith also knows how to play the run and will be a valuable asset for getting after the ball carrier.

Some of the flaws that Smith must address is his overall production as a DB. For the physical traits and the overall size he brings with him, the production would be slightly better. Perhaps you will see it in a different defensive scheme, but he has allowed interceptions to get away.

He will have to work on defending some of the elite route runners in the NFL. He tends to have an issue being turned around in coverage on clever routes, which leaves him vulnerable to allowing potential big plays. That didn't happen often, but when it does, he does get exposed.

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