There may not be a better group of football minds than the guys at Pro Football Focus. They are consistently some of the quickest to break down NFL players, and give some of the most in-depth breakdowns you will find anywhere. They were high on players like Andrew Whitworth and Geno Atkins before anyone in the national media took notice of them.They just released there Trending in the AFC North piece, in which they broke down each AFC North teams’ most improved player and their biggest drop-off player. They rated RT Andre Smith as the Bengals’ most improved player. His rating jumped from a -18.0 rating in 2010(bad), to a +0.2 in 2011(above average).
While Smith may never live up to his draft status, he took a giant leap forward this year with his play on the field. The Bengals lowest-rated offensive player in 2010, Smith earned his grade on just 288 snaps–largely the result of giving up a steady supply of pressure. Looking like a different player (in performance terms), Smith only gave up three sacks, though you’d want to see his number of penalties (eight) reduced.
Smith clearly showed signs of improvement this year in what was essentially his first full season after missing 9+ games in his first two seasons. He also has yet to have a full NFL offseason, as offseason surgeries and last year’s NFL lockout have prevented those. Now Smith should have a full offseason and training camp, and he should be expected to continue to make significant strides.