Preston Smith had a productive start to his career at Mississippi State from 2011-13, but it was his play as a senior in 2014 that elevated him into the second round of this year’s NFL draft.
Smith was taken 38thth overall by the Washington Redskins in Friday night’s second round, making him the 10th Mississippi State defender selected since 2010 and the fourth defensive linemen taken during that time. (The other three were Josh Boyd, Fletcher Cox and Pernell McPhee, all of whom have maintained careers in the NFL.)
He shot up draft boards at the beginning of his senior season last fall, earning three consecutive SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week honors to open the season, something no other player in SEC history had ever done (not even last year’s top draft pick Jadeveon Clowney). In that time he logged two interceptions, two blocked kicks, two sacks and a forced fumble, and Mississippi State fed off those game-changing plays to begin the year 9-0, earning its first No. 1 ranking in school history as a result.
Smith closed the year with 48 tackles (15 for loss), 9 sacks and two forced fumbles, and by season’s end he was in the running to be a first-round selection.
The Redskins passed on defensive lineman Leonard Williams in the first round when they took offensive lineman Brandon Scherff, but they feel they found value in the second round with Smith as an edge pass rusher for their 3-4 scheme.