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Is Garrison Smith the year’s most surprising breakout candidate?

SB Nation’s Stephen White seems to think so.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Atlanta Falcons Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Breakout candidates for the Falcons this year are numerous and varied, but you tend to see the same names being trotted out again and again. It’s Takkarist McKinley, Austin Hooper, maybe Grady Jarrett, or De’Vondre Campbell. Ho hum, right? I want a bold breakout candidate.

Thankfully, former NFLer and current SB Nation analyst is here to shake things up in a major way. His breakout pick is none other than current fifth defensive tackle candidate Garrison Smith, of all people.

Why? I’ll let White tell you why:

At 6’1 and listed at a hair under 300 pounds, Smith isn’t the most physically imposing defensive tackle you will ever see, but man, the guy does a great job of staying low and holding his ground when he plays the run. What he doesn’t have in size, he makes up for with effort as he is constantly working to try to get to the play.

Not only does he more than hold his own against the run, but Smith is also able to generate a pass rush on early downs. His lateral quickness for a man his size is impressive, and he knows how to work to an edge to try to get to the quarterback. I thought he did a good job of using his hands to try to escape off of blocks, as well.

This seems absurd on its face at first blush, and I’ll cop to finding this one far-fetched even with his rationale. Smith’s talent aside—and White is a savvy judge of that, by the way—he hasn’t looked like a lock for much of anything since the Falcons brought in Deadrin Senat in the draft and signed Terrell McClain in free agency, giving them a quality-on-paper four man rotation at the position. Smith has outplayed everyone else contending for a fifth defensive tackle spot this summer, but the four men in front of him seem pretty locked in.

The best reason to believe in a Smith breakout would be if Deadrin Senat wasn’t ready for major snaps, Terrell McClain looked mediocre in his action (which is possible), and Jack Crawford didn’t provide much or didn’t look fully healthy (less likely). Smith could carve out some playing time at the expense of Senat and McClain on run downs if he looks as good as he has thus far in preseason, but it’ll likely take him time to get there. I can’t ever see him being more than a rotational piece, and that’s if a few things break his way.

Be sure to read the full piece for more detail, but suffice to say Garrison Smith would be a legitimately surprising breakout player. Right now, I’m just hopeful he’ll stick on the final roster.