By Matt Waldman
Football is simple. It’s a game of running, hitting, throwing, and catching.
And in this simple worldview of the game, Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith are incredibly similar football players. Both are big, strong athletes with the job of protecting the edge of a defense while threatening the edge of the offense.
Both are 6-foot-4 and within a two-liter Coke’s heft of 270 pounds. Both were defensive ends sporting arm lengths of 32⅝ inches.
Both were seniors at Kentucky. And both possess the highest percentile skill in their roles to earn a shot at the top level of football.
But football is also complex. At the highest level of the game the smallest things make the greatest difference. And within the layers of complexity that is also football, Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith are incredibly different football players.
One is a future 3-4 outside linebacker. The other is a power 4-3 defensive end.
An edge defender’s hands do the talking on the field, which means neither speaks alike. One has the vocabulary of Bamm-Bamm Rubble; the other is entertaining a book deal with a campus speaking tour from Random House.
One is a physical freak of nature. Few human beings in the world weigh 269 pounds, run a 4.56-second 40-yard dash, sport a 42-inch vertical jump, and are capable of a 138-inch broad jump – which, by the way, is one of the three best performances at the NFL Combine in 15 years.
The other didn’t have a single eye-popping workout result. Compared to the freak, his body has a sign that reads “no outlet.” But this maxed-out athlete is a football player’s football player.
I’m telling you this because I originally researched this article to write about Bud Dupree’s massive potential as a destructive force on the edge. What I found is that I couldn’t take my eyes off Za’Darius Smith.
The NFL will want Dupree for what he could do. It will want Smith for what he can do.