Andre Smith and Austin Proehl became the second and third Tar Heels to be selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. Smith went to the Panthers in the seventh round, while Proehl was taken 21 picks later by the Bills.
Obviously, being a seventh round pick isn’t the same as a first or second, so they’re certainly up against it in terms of roster spots and playing time. However, if teams are willing to spend a pick on them, it shows that they will get a chance.
Here are some reasons to keep an eye on Smith and Proehl as they make their journeys into the professional ranks.
He’s pretty relentless
There’s a reason why any highlight videos you find of Smith are full of tackles and hard hits. Yes, he’s a linebacker and that’s his job, but he does it pretty well. He’s got a pretty good reaction time, and he generally follows through and completes tackles. Smith managed to finish sixth on the 2017 UNC team in tackles despite the fact that he only played two games and missed the entire rest of the season.
Smith is relatively small for his position, and that may be a hindrance to him ever getting to the level of a regular starter in the NFL. That being said, he’s got decent speed, and was especially effective in the run game for UNC. There’s no reason he couldn’t at least be a good special teams player for a team.
Proehl was another Tar Heel that missed most of the season, and the impact of his absence was felt even more than Smith. After he went out, there was really no one receiver that the Tar Heels could consistently trust.
It’s not a total coincidence that the offense had a mediocre season after he went out. He was someone that you were confident about throwing the ball to on third down. When he was back for the final two games of the season, the offense got better. That wasn’t all down to him, but just having him on the field provided an option that UNC otherwise lacked. It’s a small sample size, but Proehl caught over 65% of the passes thrown to him in 2017.
If Proehl does end up playing in the NFL, you will undoubtedly hear him get tagged with the “sneaky fast” or “sneaky athletic” monikers for...reasons. That being said, he is semi-quick and fairly athletic. Bottom line is, if you throw him the ball, he probably won’t mess up, and that can be valuable.