On Wednesday I focused on Colin Kapernick, or as I call him CK-7, and what projections mean for players making the jump from college to the NFL. That article focused on two different scouting reports; one from Sideline Scouting and the other from NFL Draft Breakdown.
Today, I am going to reverse course and focus on the 49ers 1st round selection of Aldon Smith. Using scouting reports from these two sites, and attempting to decipher exactly how these projections will aide in what to look for in Aldon Smith moving forward.
Quarterback projections are easily the trickiest of any position in football. Sometimes, scouts completely miss on certain players as indicated by the selection of Ryan Leaf as the 2nd overall pick and the fact that Tom Brady fell all the way to the 6th round.
Defensive Ends and Outside Linebackers are a different story. Taking into account the maturity process that is needed coming from college to the NFL, I have decided to look a little at the OLB position in the 1st round over the last few seasons. Starting with the 2005 draft and moving up to the 2009 draft. I believe that it is a little too early to project the success of players draft at that position in 2010.
2005 Draft: Demarcus Ware, Shawne Merriman and Derek Johnson
2006 Draft: A.J Hawk, Ernie Sims, Kamerion Wimbley and Manny Lawson
2007 Draft: Anthony Spencer
2008 Draft: Vernon Gholsten and Keith Rivers
2009 Draft: Brian Cushing, Robert Ayers and Clay Matthews
Some of the very best pass rushers that are currently in the NFL are on this list, while there is, as always, some busts. Demarcus Ware and Clay Matthews are who pop out on the list. But, Anthony Spencer, Brian Cushing and Kamerion Wimbley have been solid contributers for the respective teams.
You have to assume that Vernon Gholsten and Robert Ayers are pretty much the only true busts on this list. That means that ten of the twelve outside linebackers taken in the 1st round of the draft between 2005-2009 have to be considered solid players. Some, Wimbley, needed to switch teams in order to reach his full potential. Others, Merriman, have completely dropped off in terms of their contributions.
You are also looking at a number of solid players such as Derek Johnson, Manny Lawson and A.J Hawk. While they probably will never be considered elite, they are starter quality OLBs in the NFL.
Now, let me put it all together and show you scouting reports of Aldon Smith and write a little more about them.
Positives: Good agility... Very solid pass rusher... Explosive... Great first step... Good snap instincts... Good bend on the corner... Good length and long arms... Will affect passing lanes when he cannot reach the quarterback... Gets after the quarterback... Can collapse the pocket... Good arsenal of moves... Very solid swim move... Can be used on defensive line stunts... Solid against the run... Makes plays in the backfield... Good change of direction agility... Good tackler... Good mobility... Gets to the ball carrier... Stays active... Solid drops in coverage... Plays well in space... Closes quickly... Hard worker... Relentless... Good motor... Has the frame to add 8-10 pounds... Schematic versatility, ran a 4.78-40 at the combine, can be disruptive as a 4-3 DE or stand up as 3-4 OLB... As redshirt freshman in 2009, Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year and Freshman All-American, All-Big 12 second team... Has a lot of potential, has only been playing football since he was a junior in high school.
Negatives: Lacks strength and bulk... Does not appear to have much Summary
Aldon Smith opted to declare after a difficult and somewhat disappointing redshirt sophomore season. The long and lean pass rusher suffered a fractured fibula, which kept him out of a few games and forced him to play through pain. That said, the toughness he showed should earn him plaudits from NFL decision-makers, who'll also appreciate his 35 3/8" vines for arms, strong hands, and good 1st step. While he hasn't proven that he can consistently bend the edge as a pass rusher, Smith has shown the ability to beat offensive tackles both inside and out, and he does plenty of damage when he kicks inside on passing downs.
Add in his unrefined but promising coverage skills, and you have a potential Justin Tuck-type player who can do everything at a very high but perhaps not elite level. In addition, Smith is athletic enough to make the transition to 3-4 outside linebacker, which will lead to him being in high demand on draft day. With a fairly good offseason, he's solidified his status as a mid-1st round pick. His floor likely is going 20th overall to the Buccaneers, who won't be able to pass on such an intriguing prospect.
man-muscle yet... Pass rush tendencies will become predictable... Can sometimes be washed out against the run... Would be a project as a 3-4 outside linebacker... A fractured fibula sidelined him for three games in 2010.
Explosiveness and the ability to shed blockers are two major signs that point to whether or not a 3-4 OLB will succeed in the NFL. This report gives Aldon Smith high marks in regards to those two important areas. I like the fact that they think that Smith can be moved around a lot in the schemes that the 49ers will deploy in 2011. In certain situations he can line up on the defensive line, and in other situations as an outside linebacker. That is extremely important and means that Smith won't just be a two down player.
Surprisingly, it says that he is pretty solid against the run, which is another important factor for a player that you want to be playing regularly in the front seven. That is pretty much the same idea we got on the reports of Manny Lawson coming out of college. That could be good or bad because Lawson hasn't turned into the premiere pass rusher the 49ers were looking for him to be.
In terms of his strength, Smith is still extremely young; three years removed from his High School Prom. Smith has the frame to add weight this off-season and I am sure that his conditioning program will take that into account.
Aldon Smith opted to declare after a difficult and somewhat disappointing redshirt sophomore season. The long and lean pass rusher suffered a fractured fibula, which kept him out of a few games and forced him to play through pain. That said, the toughness he showed should earn him plaudits from NFL decision-makers, who'll also appreciate his 35 3/8" vines for arms, strong hands, and good 1st step. While he hasn't proven that he can consistently bend the edge as a pass rusher, Smith has shown the ability to beat offensive tackles both inside and out, and he does plenty of damage when he kicks inside on passing downs. Add in his unrefined but promising coverage skills, and you have a potential Justin Tuck-type player who can do everything at a very high but perhaps not elite level.
In addition, Smith is athletic enough to make the transition to 3-4 outside linebacker, which will lead to him being in high demand on draft day. With a fairly good offseason, he's solidified his status as a mid-1st round pick. His floor likely is going 20th overall to the Buccaneers, who won't be able to pass on such an intriguing prospect.
Though not the most impressive run defender, one can envision Smith very soon becoming a stout enforcer at defensive end. Smith possesses exceptional length and strong hands, which he uses to ragdoll tight ends and smaller offensive linemen.
He rather effortlessly sheds blocks and spots the ball-carrier in time to make the play. However, Smith struggles when he plays too high, allowing offensive linemen to get under his pads. He's then unable to extend his arms and gain leverage; he'll struggle to disengage and lose sight of the ball-carrier. While a fairly significant deficiency at this time, he should be able to refine his technique and add some more bulk to his frame. With development, he could turn from a small liability to a major asset against the run game
Obviously, this is where Smith will earn his keep in the NFL. Because of his length and violent hands, Smith is able to deliver a strong jolt on initial contact and swipe opposing linemen off his frame. Those skills make him effective lining up at both end and defensive tackle: his inside move gives offensive tackles fits and guards can't handle his explosive upfield burst.
The team that drafts him will be able to deploy him at a number of spots, allowing the defensive coordinator to get all of his best pass rushers on the field. One area in which Smith isn't exceptional is his ability to bend the edge on his way to the quarterback. He has a very good first step but doesn't showcase the type of flexibility that one usually sees from elite pass rushers. However, his ability to beat offensive tackles with inside moves will keep them off balance and somewhat negate the issue. Adding more moves to his pass rush repertoire would help alleviate the issue as well.
Many elite pass rushers possess exceptionally wide wingspans: a quality Smith certainly possesses. Also, because he declared after his redshirt sophomore season, Smith has a good deal of untapped upside.
His production as a redshirt freshman showed that he can be a consistently disruptive force when healthy, and he could replicate that production at the next level. In addition, some added bulk could help him improve as a run defender. With some more development, he could become one of the best better DE/OLBs in the league, perhaps just a rung below the players who are truly elite.
The term "violent hands" really impresses me. We see this with Demarcus Ware and Clay Matthews, who are two elite pass rushers. I watching game film of Aldon Smith, he reminds me of those two; at least in terms of this. This allows him to keep the blockers off balance and quickly beat them at the spot.
Smith's extremely large wingspan is also another facet of his build that impresses me. This works well with those "violent hands", and pus the blocker at an immediate disadvantage.
Getting all the best pass rushers on the field at the same time is something that I am sure that Vic Fangio wants to do. Smith's ability to play end is extremely important. This would enable the 49ers to have Justin Smith, Aldon Smith, Ahmad Brooks and Parys Haralson on the field at the same time. Most teams don't have enough solid blockers to make up for that number of pass rusher on the field at a given time.
I am worried about his injuries and believe that the 49ers have to make sure that it doesn't effect Smith moving forward. In understanding this, I believe that they did their due dilligence in regards to. If Smith gets the right coaching, which I believe he will, and is able to add to his frame; I honestly believe that Smith will have 10 sack potential.
Sure, he is a little bit of a project, but that is acceptable at this point. Look for Smith to make an immediate impact in the pass rushing aspect of the game, but he most likely won't be starting from the get go. Instead, the 49ers will put him in on obvious pass rushing situations and give him the ability to do what he does best without worrying about other nuances of the game.