Is Minnesota Vikings safety Harrison Smith still an elite-caliber player?
The Minnesota Vikings selected Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame with the 29th overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. This pick in that draft was acquired by the Vikings via trade with the Baltimore Ravens and it was a franchise-altering transaction to the betterment of Minnesota.
The Vikings traded, what would turn out to be, linebacker Courtney Upshaw and offensive guard Gino Gradkowski to Baltimore. Neither man plays in the NFL anymore while Smith has trotted to five consecutive Pro Bowls. The advantage in this trade clearly went to Minnesota.
Smith, however, is aging as he will be 32-years-old this February. This should not indicate his decline is necessarily imminent, but it will probably happen sometime between now and the perhaps the 2024 NFL season.
Notable former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu began a performance descent around the age of 31 while former Ravens safety Ed Reed began his descent closer to age 35.
One little-talked-about facet of Smith’s game is the way he has been able to remain a violent football player in a non-violent era.
15 years ago, vicious hits, everywhere on the body, were championed by fans and pundits. The aforementioned Polamalu and Reed were celebrated for these hits.
Now, savage blows to offensive players have been legislated out of the game. Smith, however, still maintains a knack for delivering impactful hits and he manages to mostly avoid penalties. It’s truly a balancing act and some players are incapable of this ability to mask violence.
Heck, Smith’s nickname is “Hitman”. On the whole, Smith remains an elite NFL safety today and there is plenty of evidence to explain why.