Aldon Smith, DE, Missouri Tigers
40-Time: (NFL Scouting Combine Time Feb. 23 - Mar. 1 to be added)
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Aldon Smith is an extremely athletic defender with great agility and quickness. He relies heavily on his swim and swat moves to get defenders out of his way, and he uses both with great effectiveness. He explodes off the snap and gets good penetration into the backfield. At Missouri, he moved to the inside of the defensive line on occasion and was able to get a great step on guards, often blowing right by them after a quick swat at their shoulder pads.
He has long arms that allow him to bat down passes, too. Smith plays with a very high motor that he keeps running all game long. This is always an advantage no matter the position, as being in better condition than the man across the line is a major and instant benefit. This should help Smith particularly later in games as bigger or poorly conditioned offensive linemen begin to tire. Another aspect of Smith's game that is particularly impressive is his ability to wrap up when making the tackle.
Smith has not been asked to drop back into coverage much and has been used primarily as a pass rusher against the Big 12's spread offenses. If he converts to outside linebacker, he'll play in coverage more, so this could be a bit of a transition. He could struggle to hold up against the run against bigger defenders, so adding bulk will be a focus, too. He has the athleticism and upside to be an effective defender against the run playing the edge in a 4-3 alignment or from the outside linebacker spot in a 3-4 alignment if he can add a little bulk to his frame.
There is also the question of experience. Smith was a redshirt sophomore in 2010 and while he is overflowing with raw athletic ability, he will have to work to become a more well-rounded player. Had he stayed through his junior or senior season, he could have possibly worked his way into the top ten of the draft, so some may view him as a developmental project with lots of upside.
Smith is a player that could play defensive end in a 4-3 alignment or outside linebacker in a 3-4 alignment. He's an excellent pass rusher with his hand on the ground (or off of it for that matter), but would probably be asked to add bulk if he is drafted to play defensive end in a 4-3 scheme. He followed a fantastic freshman season in which he recorded 60 tackles and 11 sacks with a sophomore campaign in which he missed three games and was slowed somewhat by a leg injury, but finished with 48 tackles and six sacks. He even returned an interception 58 yards against Oklahoma in the Tigers' upset of the top-ranked Sooners.
Potential NFL Team, Round
Smith best projects as a mid-first round pick. The Washington Redskins (10th pick) and Houston Texans (11th pick) are likely the first teams that could look at Smith. The Minnesota Vikings with the 12th pick could look at him as an end prospect to line up opposite Jared Allen if Ray Edwards leaves via free agency, while St. Louis could look for a complement to Chris Long with the 14th pick. Jacksonville is also a possibility as they build their front seven..
One of the best possible spots for Smith could be New England Patriots, who picks 17th in the first round. Rounding out the middle of the first, the San Diego Chargers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers could consider Smith as an outside linebacker and defensive end, respectively. Should he fall into the bottom of the round, Smith could find himself bound for the Kansas City Chiefs or New Orleans Saints, who hold the 21st and 24th picks in the draft. Finally, teams like the Atlanta Falcons, New England (with their second first round pick at #28) Chicago Bears and the New York Jets could be interested in Smith's pass rushing services as well.
Danny Hobrock, a sports journalist covering NCAA Football and MLB is the editor of our college football content. His work for Xtra Point Football has garnered national attention and is critically acclaimed. You may email Danny directly @ [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @ DannyHobrock
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