We're going to go through each pick and take a look at what the best and worst case scenario is for each of them. I think it's best to find a good balance of the "big picture," and how much we should be expecting in year one. As fans of a team in the NFC West, a division notoriously up for grabs at the moment, it's really hard to temper expectations and keep our emotions in check. When the playoffs are a game or two away, it's easy to get frustrated when this team has growing pains, let's stay the course though, folks. The 49ers are obviously in a good position to win the division as early as 2011, but let's not turn on these draft picks if they don't perform.
On the plus side, I have a good feeling about most of this draft class, and despite the fact that it is a head-scratcher when taking it all in at face value, I actually like it more than recent drafts, if that's at all possible. I mean, last year we got some of the bigger name guys who fell in NaVorro Bowman and Taylor Mays, and the jury is very much out on those guys. So now instead of drafting players like Johnny Patrick, Brandon Burton and Davon House when they fell, the team went with some lesser known guys they felt really good about?
Will it pay off? It will hinge on a couple guys, starting with Aldon Smith, the team's first round selection and the seventh overall pick in the draft. Make the jump and we'll talk about the best and worst case scenarios.
Best Case Scenario: Aldon Smith is complete, impact linebacker in year one
There's no room for interpretation regarding what the 49ers want out of Aldon Smith: they see the starting outside linebacker to build around. They want him to be a pass-rusher who can stand and cover, they want double-digit sacks every year he's in the league. His job is to make things easier on the rest of the team by hounding the quarterback, as simple as that.
He has a learning curve, basically he was a defensive lineman in college and he needs to learn how to be a standing weakside linebacker. Smith already possesses great hips and athleticism, he needs to only learn how to cover, and also how to develop his pass-rushing moves and adapt them to using them while standing. Beyond that, he's just got to improve his overall game to get ready for the next level.
If he can do all of that from day one, which is a distinct possibility, it is the best case scenario no matter how you look at it. Defensive rookie of the year would be nice on top of that. There's so much there to work with, and there really is no other way to look at that as a best case scenario, short of something totally impossible happening, think blockbuster trade involving him as a pawn.
Let's say a best-case scenario is double digit sacks and maybe a pick or two, yeah?
Worst Case Scenario: Aldon Smith stalls in his development in coverage, only sees the field as a pass-rusher, and is ineffective
Now, if he doesn't develop coverage skills from the get-go, that's not necessarily the end of all things to come. If he can get pressure on the quarterback, then Smith will be doing most of his job. Right now the 49ers have Manny Lawson, a guy who is great in coverage, but he's not special as a pass rusher. I think that's a lot more maddening at times than a guy who fails with regularity to put any kind of pressure on a quarterback.
But the worst case scenario is simple ... what if Smith is ineffective at both? It wouldn't be the first time a hyped first rounder just fails to transition to the next level. It's possible, and at the seventh overall pick, there's a ton of pressure on him to perform. My gut tells me that he has all the tools we want in a pass-rusher, with his wingspan and pass-rush moves, but my gut has been wrong before.