One of the more amusing stories to come out of the 49ers 2008 NFL Draft (aside from pepper sprayed draft picks, because who doesn't enjoy pepper spray stories) would be the fact that Reggie Smith was woken up by 49ers scout Todd Brunner on Sunday as the 49ers 3rd round draft pick. I think it's refreshing that the young man was busy getting sleep, rather than on the edge of his seat hoping to be drafted early on Day 2.
While discussions have centered on the Day 1 picks, Reggie Smith is an interesting pick for a variety of reasons. While it's true that Walt Harris is growing a little long in the tooth, I think the Smith pick was clearly a best available player pick. There were some quality talents that could fill holes in the 49ers, but the 49ers stuck to their best available draft board. The biggest question mark about Smith is whether he'll settle in as a cornerback or a safety in the NFL. Mark Roman is the current starting free safety and Dashon Goldson seems to be a guy who could be groomed into the future at that position. The addition of Smith should afford the 49ers some youthful depth. Since Smith will require some time to adjust to the NFL in terms of defense, it's probably a good fit. He can learn from Harris and Nate Clements, two very solid corners.
I'm hoping to get a more specific scouting report from an Oklahoma blogger, but for now I've done some poking around. He seems like a hard-hitter. The boys at New Era Scouting refer to him as more agile than fast and in regards to his instincts and recognition:
Shaky at times in man coverage, but is very good in zone. Reads and reacts well. Comes up to the ball and makes plays. Sees the run well and doesn't bite on play action. Has a natural feel for situations and the game. Very instinctive.
he has been referred to as a better option in the Cover 2, but considering he's fresh out of school and so malleable, I'm sure we can do good things with him. One question that requires greater football knowledge than I have is whether a guy who would make a good cover 2 corner would fit in better as a safety, or does one have no bearing on the other?
For the purposes of now though, I'm a little more interested in his special teams abilities. He's not a blazing speedster but according to New Era Scouting, "Is a long strider. Uses his body and strength to make up for lack of elite speed." That would remind me of more of a distance runner type guy, meaning if he could hit a hole on a kick or punt return, he could be off to the races. Obviously Allen Rossum is going to get the first crack at returning. However, considering he's turning 33 this season, I can't imagine he's long for this world as a return man. I'd fully expect Smith to get a crack at returning in the preseason. While Maurice Hicks was solid in the return game, I'd love to see a young guy like Reggie Smith step up and take control of that job.