The Pittsburgh Steelers selections of Northern Illinois edge rusher Sutton Smith and Alabama defensive lineman Isaiah Buggs represent two late-round value picks who figure to be limited to reserve roles and special teams play in 2019, assuming they even make the final roster to begin with.
When reading the scouting reports written about them ahead of the draft, the experts seem to see two players who could have some potential in the right system, with both prospects expedited to see in a change to the position they were used to playing in college.
Sutton Smith, OLB, Northern Illinois
“Undersized, edge-based antagonist for a variety of tackles, quarterbacks and offensive coordinators on his schedule. Smith lacks functional size and struggled in matchups against Senior Bowl tackles so his gaudy college sack total is less likely to carry as much weight with NFL teams. He has the demeanor to fit right into special teams work while his quickness, aggression and hand usage could land him a backup inside linebacker role with the potential to be utilized as a sub-package blitzer.”
Highly productive small-schooler who posted 26.5 tackles for a loss and 15 sacks in 2018.
Elite testing time (6.75 seconds) in the three-cone drill, which measures agility and body control. Also turned in a very good 4.69-second 40-yard dash.
Was unstoppable in college with his motor and nonstop style as a pass-rusher.
Will likely see a position change in the NFL and has the body type and athleticism to move to linebacker and play on special teams.
Attacks the play with a plan and is able to get through his pass-rush moves.
Undersized for the NFL at 6’0”, 233 pounds and only 30¾-inch arm length.
Was shut down by pro-level talent at the Senior Bowl.
Has no experience in coverage and must learn to better handle duties in space.
Change of direction is bad with poor ability to adjust on the go.
Sutton Smith was a top-tier producer for Northern Illinois, leading many fans to pay attention to his predraft process. Unfortunately, Smith doesn’t have the size or athleticism to make a splash as an impact pass-rusher once he gets to the NFL. A move to linebacker and a lot of reps on special teams are in his future with a potential rotational role as a pass-rusher.
GRADE: 5.35 (ROUND 6 — BACKUP CALIBER) PRO COMPARISON: Skai Moore
Kyle Crabbs, The Draft Network:
“Sutton Smith’s NFL project can go one of two ways: Smith can be used as a pass rush specialist and special teams ace, or he can convert to linebacker and utilize his short area quickness, effective hand counters and football instincts on the second level. Smith has the functional athleticism to play in space and often rushed off the edge from a stand-up position. His ceiling is a starting off-ball linebacker with quality pass rush contributions.”
Joe Marino, The Draft Network:
“There’s quite a bit of guesswork when it comes to projecting Smith to the next level. He was a dynamic edge defender at Northern Illinois, racking up rare tackle for loss and sack numbers across the last two seasons. With that said, his physical profile falls too far below NFL thresholds to play on the edge so a move to off-ball linebacker is required. Obviously, special teams will be a big part of what Smith will need to do well at the next level, but his motor, hand usage and short area burst could make him an effective sub-package player that performs a single duty in an attacking role.”
With pick 175 in the 2019 NFL Draft, the #Steelers select Sutton Smith, LB, Northern Illinois.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 27, 2019
Sutton Smith posted a Good #RAS with Poor size, Poor speed, Okay explosiveness, Great agility at the LB position. pic.twitter.com/MZbzXRQ2u7
Sutton Smith would not be denied on third down: he had the highest pass rush productivity mark in the MAC and generated 28 quarterback pressures on third down this season. pic.twitter.com/vpujZKwyFG— PFF College (@PFF_College) February 25, 2019
With the 175th pick in the 2019 #NFLDraft – the Pittsburgh Steelers select Northern Illinois edge defender Sutton Smith! pic.twitter.com/hI7kyRQrES— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 27, 2019
After 2 years of INSANE production at Northern Illinois, can Sutton Smith continue to produce in the NFL? pic.twitter.com/t4Trhn9HjY— PFF College (@PFF_College) March 4, 2019
Isaiah Buggs, DL, Alabama
“Base end in college who will be moving to defensive tackle on a full-time basis in the pros. Buggs has the body type, play strength and quickness to make a full-time transition inside as a one- or two-gapper, but he needs to play with more consistent resolve. He has some talent to win quickly as a rusher, but his testing numbers in quickness and explosiveness have been very poor and will likely cause him to drop.”
An ideal fit for teams running 3-4 defenses with his experience at 5-technique, but also projects well to an inside tackle position in a four-man front.
A breakout senior season saw him notch 9.5 sacks and be much more disruptive in the backfield and when chasing down quarterbacks.
His quickness and strength are NFL-caliber; he gets out of his stance quickly and can make an inside or outside move off his blocker and gain ground past the line of scrimmage. Offers a solid bull rush or anchor.
Has quick, light feet that allow him to set up blockers and counter with a spin or swim move.
Still has some development potential, which is rare for Alabama prospects, who are generally well coached and developed.
31¼-inch arms, and it shows when he tries to keep blockers off his frame or shed the hands of offensive linemen.
Started his college career at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College and has limited experience against top-tier blockers, despite his two years in the SEC.
May have benefited from a defense that is loaded with future NFL starters. Saw his production skyrocket after Quinnen Williams became a full-time starter and offenses had to focus extra blockers on Williams to stop him.
His combine performance will hurt his stock after he posted a 5.15-second 40-yard dash, a 24½-inch vertical jump and 8.01-second three-cone drill.
Scouts relayed information to us that coaches at Alabama were not high on Buggs and didn’t vouch for his work ethic.
Isaiah Buggs has moments in which he looks like a top 50 selection, but concerns over his conditioning and effort are evident when watching his tape. A move inside to defensive tackle could limit his wear and tear, but he’s best suited immediately for a rotational role on the inside with a starter track if developed.
GRADE: 5.90 (ROUND 3-4 — FUTURE STARTER) PRO COMPARISON: Maliek Collins
Kyle Crabbs, The Draft Network:
“Isaiah Buggs projects well as a rotational defender up front for a physical team that likes to reset the LOS with power and occupy blockers. Buggs is lacking in the traditional length to stack up blocks but he shows excellent anchor skills and some nifty power counters to uncover as needed and bring some versatility. Buggs’ ceiling may not be more than an average starter, but I’d love his contributions in a depth/rotational role.”
Joe Marino, The Draft Network:
“After two seasons in the JUCO ranks, Buggs was a two-year starter for Alabama. He found his way in 2017 before a standout senior season that included 13.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. Primarily playing on the edge for Alabama, Buggs will transition to the interior defensive line at the next level. His power and compact frame makes him an appealing option but his lack of length and mobility tempers his projection. More concerning, however, is his lack of consistency with his effort on a snap-to-snap basis. There are some restrictions present but Buggs has a chance to be a sound rotational player.”
With pick 192 in the 2019 NFL Draft, the #Steelers select Isaiah Buggs, DT, Alabama.— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 27, 2019
Isaiah Buggs posted a V.Poor #RAS with Good size, Poor speed, V.Poor explosiveness, V.Poor agility at the DT position. pic.twitter.com/BgXKUG9yjj
New Steelers DI Isaiah Buggs had 35 QB pressures & 30 defensive stops last season with Alabama. pic.twitter.com/Z0r6ZXg3tO— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 28, 2019
With the 192nd pick of the 2019 #NFLDraft – the Pittsburgh Steelers select Alabama DI Isaiah Buggs! pic.twitter.com/UwNUjSOveU— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) April 27, 2019