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April 18, 2014 at 6:01 PM

Counting down the Top 25 Seahawks draft picks of all time — No. 20: LB Malcolm Smith

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We’ll return to a player of a more recent era as we continue our countdown of the Top 25 draft picks in Seahawks history with current linebacker and reigning Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith (above in a Mike Siegel photo).

LINEBACKER MALCOLM SMITH

WHEN DRAFTED: 2011, 7th round, 242nd overall

COLLEGE: USC

SEAHAWKS CAREER: 2011-present.

WHY HE’S ON THE LIST: Here’s another one you could debate should be rated higher. Can’t do much better with a seventh-round pick than find a Super Bowl MVP, probably.

But as Smith himself will tell you, he still has some room to grow as a full-time player, having officially made just 11 starts in his three-year career, eight last season when he was something of a jack-of-all-trades at linebacker, starting when either K.J. Wright or Bobby Wagner was injured or Bruce Irvin suspended.

This year, he hopes to earn hiss own starting job, and the road to one could come wide open if the Seahawks indeed decide to play Irvin more at the LEO spot this season.

Simply what Smith has done so far, though, qualifies him as a blazing success as a late-round pick — recall that he was the team’s last of nine picks in a 2011 draft that will go down in team history as one of its best, a choice the Seahawks got as a compensatory selection for losses in free agency the year before.

Smith had had a solid, if not quite standout, career at USC, battling some injuries as well as a throat condition that caused him to lose a lot of weight. Smith, remember, wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, a snub that he said prior to the Super Bowl still stings.

Coach Pete Carroll, though, had recruited Smith to USC and coached him for three years (as well as coaching his older brother, Steve) and that connection was vital to Smith becoming a Seahawk.

It’s interesting to review what Carroll and GM John Schneider said on draft day about the selection of Smith.

Here’s what Schneider said:

“Malcolm Smith, Pete knows him better than myself, and he’s a real fast guy, a will linebacker, a run and hit guy, so we were looking to get faster there.”

And here are two comments from Carroll from Draft Day 2011:

“Malcolm is one of the best athletes at his position in the draft. Malcolm had a very up and down career, he was banged up, he was sick a couple he missed a bunch of games, but when he finally got right and you saw him play against UCLA and Notre Dame in the biggest games of his college career, he played lights out.  He is a running, hitting guy that has great instincts, he has great athleticism, this is a 4.4 linebacker, and you rarely get a guy like that.  I’ve known Malcolm since he was a young kid coming up through Steve [Smith] and the family and all of that, and I trusted that our information on this is right on the mark about what he can become.”

And:

“Malcolm is at 228 or 230 right now, and he ran a 4-whatever, and he looked like a defensive back in his workout drills.  He has tremendous cover skills and an ability to blitz, and he’s a penetrating, run-through type of guy.  He gets to 235 or 238, he’ll be just fine.  I’m not worried about that, we want him to play with the speed that he has and the suddenness that he brings.  Also, he is a guy that can match up on backs and can cover anybody.  He was a running back in high school, and he plays with that kind of agility; he’s not built like a linebacker, he’s built like a skilled athlete.  So, in nickel situation, he’ll be able to match up with anybody that we see.  Hopefully, we’ll be able to develop him more.  He’s played in our system, so we know that he can do those things, and that’s why to us he is maybe more valuable (to us) than he is to anybody else.”

So far, pretty on the money.

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