After a standout career at Fresno State, many regarded Smith as one of the top safety prospects in this year's draft. However, a sports hernia injury limited him during his senior season, and offseason surgery prevented him from working out at the NFL Scouting combine.
After grabbing 13 interceptions in his sophomore and junior seasons, Smith grabbed just one in his senior year. He's already made several highlight-reel picks in Bengals training camp. If you didn't already see it, Smith made about as good of an interception as you'll see during Monday's practice:
Here's the unbelievable Derron Smith one-handed interception. Whole defense congratulated him https://t.co/Mv8HnehtBI— Brennen Warner (@BrennenWarner) August 10, 2015
As Smith told ESPN, making that kind of grab is something he expects of himself whenever a ball is thrown in his area.
"I’ve always had decent leaping ability, so any ball within my area, I feel like can jump up and get a hand on it. Once I got up there and got my hand on it, I was just trying to bring it down."
If you've followed Smith's career dating back to high school, you'd already know that wasn't the first time he's made a crazy interception:
My favorite Derron Smith interception. https://t.co/mqmAUyFKa7— Joe Goodberry (@JoeGoodberry) May 8, 2015
If you saw Brennen Warners's highlights from Saturday's mock game, you'd have seen Smith made a great play when he intercepted AJ McCarron and took it to the house:
As good as Smith has been in camp, a spot on the 53-man roster was anything but assured for him coming into training camp. George Iloka and Reggie Nelson are locked in as the starters. The coaches are also high on former third-round pick Shawn Williams, and his spot on the roster looks to be secure heading into this third NFL season.
Then there's veteran Shiloh Keo at that fourth safety spot. Keo was the Texans' fifth-round pick in 2011 and played every game in 2012 and 2013 while also starting 11 games in '13. He was also a special teams captain and the kind of guy the coaching staff loves.
Depending on how the rest of the roster shapes out, the Bengals have a decision on whether to keep four or five safeties. If they keep five, it's an easy choice having Keo and Smith as the fourth and fifth safeties. If they only keep four though, that means Smith has to beat out the veteran Keo for a spot on the final roster.
While it's becoming harder to see the Bengals actually waiving Smith during final cuts, his spot on the final roster is anything but secure heading into the first preseason game.
That said, as long as he keeps performing the way he has in the first two weeks of training camp, there's no doubt he'll be on the final roster in September.