KANSAS CITY MO - NOVEMBER 27: Quarterback Jordan Webb #2 of the Kansas Jayhawks is sacked by Aldon Smith #85 of the Missouri Tigers during the game on November 27 2010 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Aldon Smith Selected At No. 7 Overall By San Francisco 49ers

New head coach Jim Harbaugh surprisingly goes defensive with his first selection as the Niners head coach

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Aldon Smith Selected At No. 7 Overall By San Francisco 49ers

With the first true surprise in terms of prospect selected, the San Francisco 49ers have selected Aldon Smith with the No. 7 overall choice in the draft — four full choices above the top mock drafts. In the end, it shows just how high teams regarded the pass rushing potential of Smith even though some critics determined his “tweener” status and lack of experience might knock him down some draft boards.

It’s an interesting choice for the 49ers with Blaine Gabbert and several other players on the board. Most believed the team would go with a cornerback if Patrick Peterson were available or quarterback given the Alex Smith conundrum the team has lived under in recent seasons. With new head coach Jim Harbaugh in place and reputation as a quarterback’s coach, apparently the team believes they can address the position in later rounds or with a veteran after the labor situation is resolved.

The 49ers are getting one of the premiere defensive players in the draft, however, and so this instantly makes the team’s secondary better. Smith also will get paid a bit more given the higher draft position and he certainly has to be pleased to be targeted this early. Last year’s sack leader Justin Smith is an older defensive end and recent draft choices like Manny Lawson and Ahmad Brooks have failed to become the pass rusher that the team hoped for.

Smith should instantly be expected to contribute to that sack total by providing a strong edge rushing presence, although I wouldn’t expect the Niners to be finished addressing their defensive front.


NFL Draft 2011: Aldon Smith Likely Heading To Houston Texans

The rumors have been growing that the Houston Texans are closing in on Missouri linebacker/defensive end Aldon Smith for the last several days. With the final words coming in from sportswriters on the morning of the first round of the NFL Draft, it seems those predictions are bound to come true.

Early projections had Smith’s “tweener” status knocking him to the bottom half of the first round. Others cited his lack of experience or bulk as other reasons why he might fall, yet the incredible athleticism and pass-rushing prowess has kept Smith near the top even amid any criticism.

Top draft analysts have Smith landing with Houston, especially given the status and tendencies of new Texans defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. As Rick Gosselin writes, “The Texans are switching to a 3-4 defensive scheme, and Smith can play anywhere in it. He has the frame to bulk up to play end or the speed and athleticism to play linebacker. The NFL’s 30th-ranked defense needs help.”

Mel Kiper believes the same and comments, “Smith represents a ton of upside for a defense that really needs to add some pass-rushing help opposite the great Mario Williams.” Nearly everyone compares Smith to DeMarcus Ware in terms of upside, so this seems a can’t-miss selection in the draft. Then again, we’ve all learned that anything is possible.


Stock Rising For Aldon Smith In NFL Mock Drafts

As the NFL enters the final stretch before this weekend’s NFL Draft, prospects like Missouri’s Aldon Smith are wondering just how well they will fare after months of speculation. Fortunately for the talented defensive end/linebacker, the stock seems to be rising as teams fall in love with his pass rushing potential.

If mock drafts are to be believed, Smith is now projecting at the higher levels of the teens after several weeks placing him to the Jaguars at No. 16 or the Chargers at No. 18. Instead, the Houston Texans are a popular landing spot for Smith given Wade Phillips arrival as defensive coordinator and his work with DeMarcus Ware — a player to which Smith is commonly compared.

In the most recent SB Nation NFL Mock Draft, Brian Galliford writes, “Smith doesn’t project perfectly as a rush linebacker, but in Wade Phillips’ one-gap scheme, he’d have a lot of opportunities to blitz and get after the QB.” The same belief persists at Walter Football: “It’s never too early to draft a potential double-digit sack artist. Pass-rushing defensive ends often go earlier than projected.”

Even stronger evidence is found with three of four mock drafts at NFL.com projecting Smith to the Texans, with only Pat Kirwan believing the Texans will go elsewhere — with Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt. At this point, it looks like Smith’s potential wins out over those who believed he could use another in school to boost his stock, and it seems the Texans will be the ones to delight in the decision.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith Could Be Trade Up Candidate

The top of the NFL draft can be shaken when a team choosing lower in the first round has its sights set on a particular player. Usually it’s someone with a higher ceiling for potential than others, and that’s exactly what some draft writers are seeing with Aldon Smith, the talented defensive end/linebacker out of Missouri.

Smith’s draft stock has been well-chronicled here, moving around the teens and commonly linked with choices like No. 16 to the Jaguars or No. 18 to the Chargers. The Texans at No. 11 have been the highest team drafting Smith in common mock drafts, but the National Football Post’s Wes Bunting has Smith possibly going one choice higher — albeit in a trade.

Executing a trade for the Detroit Lions, Bunting believes the Redskins need to move down combined with the Lions need for a pass rusher could create an interesting situation:

The Redskins desperately need to get out of this pick and acquire more selections to fill more needs later in the draft. The hard part will be finding a trade partner. I love the pressure the Lions generate up front, but I think they’re one more legit pass rusher away on the outside from developing into one of the league’s best. Smith is a gifted athlete who can play up and down, inside or out and at only 21 years old the kid has the skill set and passion to mature into one of the league’s best. However, in order for the Lions to get him I think they might need to leapfrog the Vikings and Texans.

The oft-quoted scouting report on Aldon Smith was that he would be a surefire Top 10 player in next year’s draft with another year of experience at the college level. However, it seems that potential might be enough to make him one a year earlier.


2011 NFL Mock Draft Sends Aldon Smith To AFC West

Brian Galliford's latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft for SB Nation finds Aldon Smith's stock falling just a bit to the San Diego Chargers, providing an interesting twist for a team sorely in need of a pass rusher. The talented Missouri defensive end has also been profiled as an outside linebacker -- given that "tweener" status -- and teams have some projecting to do when considering a player like Smith.

Yet Smith's talent also has him profiled as a possible Top 10 choice by Mel Kiper and the reason is that pass rushers simply don't last in a draft. Given the Chargers recent spate of injuries and draft flops, Smith fits quite well if he's still available at the Chargers first round slot at No. 18.

Galliford writes, "The Chargers have had bad luck with pass rushers of late, what with Shawne Merriman's injuries and ultimate departure, and the ineffectiveness of first-round pick Larry English. Smith is a Top 10 talent, and too good to last beyond this point."

Still the Chargers are not that far off. Kevin Burnett had six sacks as an interior linebacker and Shaun Phillips had 11. English is still full of potential, so the addition of Smith and any development of a young player could add a significant boost to the pass rush and return San Diego to the top of the division. The days of Shawne Merriman are now clearly behind the team, and A.J. Smith is looking to establish his new dominant defensive player.


Mel Kiper's 2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith To The Jaguars

Another few weeks, another mock draft emerges from ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper. This time around, Aldon Smith heads to the Jacksonville Jaguars at the No. 16 position in the first round. The talented Missouri defensive end also projects to play outside linebacker by some scouts, giving the bonus and curse of being labeled a tweener by some and versatile by others.

The knock on Smith is that he's a raw project and that usually means some time without on-field results, but that's not how Kiper sees things. He writes:

Another guy I'm sticking with from the previous mock, Smith offers a raw talent package with a lot of upside. He's a player who could easily have been a top-10 pick in 2012 had he stuck around Missouri for another year of development. The Jags went for veterans to spackle over the holes at defensive end last year, but it's time to develop some edge talent to go with what is a really promising defensive interior. Smith is an ideal developmental option who can still help in 2011.

The addition of young defensive tackle Tyson Alualu marked the Jags draft class last year and the results were very promising. Adding Smith bolsters a line and gives the Jags some fierce talent up front against some incredible quarterbacks in the AFC South.


Aldon Smith Continually Compared To Cowboys' DeMarcus Ware

The National Football Post’s Greg Gabriel recently highlighted two defensive linemen who should be selected in the first round in late April’s NFL Draft, and the reports read quite positive on both players: Corey Liuget and Aldon Smith. In particular, Missouri’s Smith is compared to DeMarcus Ware for his pass rushing skills and sheer athleticism in getting around offensive linemen.

He is best as a pass rusher and comes off the ball very quickly with an explosive first step. He stays low and he has a knack for slithering through blockers to find his way to the quarterback. He has quick hands and good hand use and does a good job keeping blockers off his body. While his sack numbers were down from 2009 this season he still had a lot of pressures and hits.

Gabriel also explains that Smith saw a lot of double teams last year, which kept him from racking up the stats of fellow draft prospects like Ryan Kerrigan. He still lacks some experience and will also add bulk over the long-term but Gabriel’s in-depth report shows more and more reasons why Smith should be selected fairly early — most likely between 11 and 18 — in the NFL Draft.


2011 NFL Draft: Aldon Smith May Need To Make 3-4 Defense Leap

SB Nation's latest mock draft from Brian Galliford is up, and that means some movement up and down the predicted draft board for local prospects like Aldon Smith. The Missouri defensive standout has been linked to not only several teams and draft slots, but several positions as well -- leading some to question whether he will fall as a tweener or rise because of his versatility.

According to Galliford, the Texans are the team to grab Smith's defensive prowess and athleticism at the No. 11 position. With a new defensive coordinator coming over from the Cowboys in Wade Phillips, Galliford sees the connection to Smith as his primary rushing weapon: "Some question whether or not Smith is capable of playing 3-4 outside linebacker. In Wade Phillips' one-gap system, his natural athleticism and pass rushing ability would be at the forefront."

Smith would essentially become Phillips new DeMarcus Ware to play with on the field and torment opposing quarterbacks through a myriad of schemes meant to disrupt the passing game and offensive timing. Certainly, Smith's agility and speed translate well into that role, although some question his experience and wish he would have played for another year at the college level. Yet teams won't usually wait on such strong potential in a pass rusher, so such a high reach is a definite possibility in the draft.


Aldon Smith's Tweener Status Lowers Draft Stock, Says Todd McShay

In Todd McShay’s latest column, he comments on the draft prospects and rumors buzzing around two of Missouri’s prime draft assets: quarterback Blaine Gabbert and DE/OLB Aldon Smith. When speaking of the talented pass rusher, McShay specifically praises Smith’s athleticism and pass rushing moves. But there are some issues still remaining that will keep Smith from being a predicted Top 10 player:

Smith has a somewhat lean frame but doesn’t appear to have the lateral agility or fluid hips teams look for in 3-4 outside linebackers. But with room to add some bulk and his pass-rush ability Smith is well-equipped to play end in a 4-3 scheme. He has also shown on film the ability to slide inside and provide an interior pass rush.

In other words, as good as Smith can look against competition in college and as great as he can workout, there simply has to be a place for him on the field at the NFL level. That tweener status can really hurt a player’s draft stock because any team picking at a top spot, or even in the first round, really can’t afford for a player not to have a very understood role coming into the team.

Consider what happens when a team doesn’t know what to do with the player they’ve chosen. Last year’s usage of C.J. Spiller for the Buffalo Bills provides one example of a team choosing the athletic player that had no specific role awaiting him. The good news for the Bills is that offensive role players like that can learn. But the defensive side is another issue entirely, and it’s one that Aldon Smith might suffer from as teams try to figure out how exactly to utilize his incredible skill set.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith Headed To Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers might be the perfect landing spot for someone like Missouri's Aldon Smith. That's the thought process behind the latest mock draft from SB Nation, and it's a choice that makes sense -- assuming, at least, that Smith falls that far. To date, Smith comes off of the board around the 16th choice, so if he's around at 20, that could become a steal.

Someone knows what they are doing in Tampa Bay. That much is abundantly clear. The young front office anchored by Mark Dominik and a coaching staff led by Raheem Morris have outperformed the expectations of most with 10 wins in 2010 after a dismal three-win season the year before. Their gunslinger of a quarterback, Josh Freeman, clearly blossomed in his first full season, the lines are young and the talent at the skill positions is obvious.

Some needs are still present, but a pick like Smith makes sense. Thus you have the following from SB Nation's Brian Galliford, "The Bucs desperately need an end, and here, they'd get to pick between raw upside (Smith) and consistent production (Ryan Kerrigan). Smith seems like a better fit all around for the young, improving and vastly underrated Buccaneers."

Last year, the Bucs focused on the interior of the defensive line, taking Gerald McCoy early and Brian Price from UCLA a bit later. Neither one freed up the pass rushers, but d-linemen take some time, so expect some improvement in sacks simply from the evolution of both players. Adding an athlete like Smith also brings another player off the edge to take advantage of one-on-one match-ups. If Smith is available, it's a pick that makes sense.


Mel Kiper Says Aldon Smith Is Top 10 Pick In 2012

Aldon Smith is a top 10 draft choice, according to Mel Kiper. The only problem with that is Aldon Smith declared for the 2011 NFL Draft. No matter, really, since Smith is still expected to be chosen in the draft's top 20 choices in seemingly every mock released. Kiper's own recent mock -- version 3.0 -- has Smith headed to Jacksonville with the No. 16 overall selection:

Smith offers a raw talent package with a lot of upside. He's a player who could easily have been a top-10 pick in 2012 had he stuck around Missouri for another year of development. The Jags went for veterans to spackle over the holes at defensive end last year, but it's time to develop some edge talent to go with what is a really promising defensive interior.

Kiper notes that his continued development and experience at Missouri would have caught up to the sheer potential everyone always raves about when discussing Smith. But every year, there are several guys climbing draft boards at the last second due to teams getting excited about the possibilities over the guys who've proven themselves on the field. Case in point: look at Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan who is consistently rated lower than Smith because teams might fall in love with the potential over the player who's reached a ceiling (albeit a very impressive one with Kerrigan).

Whether Smith came out this year or waited another year, the reality is that Smith is as good a candidate as any to go higher than most mock drafts are having him. Listen for the buzz heading into the final week of the draft and see just how high the potential of Aldon Smith climbs.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith Heading To St. Louis Rams?

SB Nation has posted their latest 2011 NFL Mock Draft and that means Aldon Smith has a new projected home, albeit one not far from his college days at Missouri: the St. Louis Rams. Those familiar with the Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo will remember that he was hired as the defensive coordinator for the Super Bowl winning New York Giants, so it’s no surprise if he looks at bolster his pass rush on draft day.

That’s exactly what Aldon Smith is supposed to add, and a cornerstone like former top pick Chris Long would benefit from another athletic presence on the opposing side. Currently, offensive coordinators can focus on Long’s side and scheme him out of the game. Smith’s instincts and versatility would give Spagnuolo another weapon to keep offenses off balance.

Brian Galliford believes Smith could end up in St. Louis simply because the top receivers — the Rams most pressing need — would already be taken. With the recent injury to Julio Jones, perhaps the Rams will have the chance to choose between both, but Smith might win out either way with his talent mix.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith Finding Familiar First-Round Territory

Missouri’s incredibly athletic defensive end and linebacker prospect Aldon Smith continues to find his home near the very center of the NFL draft’s first round — at least according to the mocks that continue to roll in from sportswriters. With a constant position moving through the teens, Smith’s draft stock is becoming fairly predictable.

Mark Ingram is the most entrenched player in the middle of the first round of most mocks — consistently heading to the Dolphins at No. 15. Outside of that, Smith is a constant favorite to head to teams choosing from 11 to 19, whether the Texans grab him early or the Giants snag him late. Recently, the Jacksonville Jaguars at No. 16 have been the favorites.

Mel Kiper recently tabbed Smith for the Jags pick in his latest mock and now Don Banks does the same in Sports Illustrated’s recent release:

The Jaguars are looking to jack up their pass rush quotient (once again) and this is about the neighborhood in which most think Smith will come off the board. He has the size and speed to get to the quarterback, but as an underclassman might need a little time to hone his craft and bulk up his body in the NFL.

The Jags certainly would benefit from another pass rusher to team alongside last year’s selection of Tyson Alualu, who has the flexibility to move both inside and outside. Smith would match that versatility as a guy who can drop back or set up along the line.


2011 NFL Draft: Mel Kiper's Latest Mock Has Aldon Smith Headed to Jacksonville

With the addition of top 10 selection Tyson Alualu last season, the Jags took care of the interior portion of their defensive line. The season before that, they addressed the offensive line with two first rounders in Eben Britton and Eugene Monroe. According to Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft, the Jacksonville should continue to address the lines with yet another first-round pick.

This time, Kiper has Missouri OLB/DE Aldon Smith falling to No. 18 in the draft to the Jaguars as their help off of the edge. The age and injury concerns of Aaron Kampman certainly make this pick a possibility, yet it seems there are more questions at other skill positions. Then again, it’s an early mock draft so we’ll see this change most likely. Kiper notes:

Jacksonville addressed the interior of its defensive line in last year’s draft and sought out bandages at defensive end. With Smith, the Jags get a raw talent with the size to add sacks from that position. Smith is a guy who would be a potential lock for the top 10 if he stuck around for his senior year, so if the Jags soak up some of the developmental work, they could have a player long term.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Chargers Possible Home For Aldon Smith With Pass Rush Need

With the latest two-round mock from Greg Cox over at WalterFootball.com available, he has super-athletic LB/DE Aldon Smith from Missouri taking up residence in sunny San Diego with the 17th pick. The reason? Larry English has yet to fill the hole vacated by Shawne Merriman’s pass rush decline. Without a force off the edge, the Chargers lose their defensive bite.

I was not a fan of the move to trade up so boldly to select running back Ryan Mathews last year because I felt it sent the message that the team was one player away from a deep playoff run. This is the sort of arrogant decision that has earned general manager A.J. Smith the nickname “lord of no rings”.

Contract situations with their star receiver and left tackle helped them (once again) start slowly and this time the deficit was too much to overcome. Their season was a success on the stat sheet and the talent definitely has plenty of talent.

If there is a hole it has to be the spot Larry English, a 2009 first-rounder, was supposed to fill when Shawne Merriman departed. It seems like wherever I project Aldon Smith there are going to be fans who bemoan him as a potential bust because of his freakish athletic ability, but he is certainly worth being taken in the teens.


2011 NFL Mock Draft: Aldon Smith "Next DeMarcus Ware"?

Wade Phillips certainly enjoyed employing the talents of dominating pass rusher DeMarcus Ware in his tenure with the Dallas Cowboys. Now the new Texans defensive coordinator might be getting Ware 2.0 if the team drafts Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith at No. 11 in the upcoming NFL Draft.

That’s the conjecture at least coming out of the latest SB Nation Mock Draft, where the rising stock of Smith now sits just outside the Top 10:

When Wade Phillips was with Dallas, he coached the league’s best outside linebacker in DeMarcus Ware, a former No. 11 overall pick that nobody saw coming and many questioned. Smith is in the same mold – a raw, freakishly athletic player that Phillips would love for his 3-4 defense.


2011 NFL Draft: Aldon Smith Fits Kansas City Chiefs Perfectly

Many Mizzou fans would probably be ecstatic to see their college defensive titan staying close by and that’s exactly what several media outlets are suggesting as more and more NFL mock drafts come out with each passing week. Of course, we’re still a few months away from the actual event and even a month off from the combine, but in the digital news cycle, it’s never too early to dream.

The Sports Jury’s latest mock is the latest one unveiled that has Smith headed to the Chiefs with the 21st overall selection in the first round. It’s clear that linebacker is a need spot with the Chiefs, although less so than last year. Derrick Johnson stepped up quite well this off-season, Jovan Belcher came into his own and then there’s some guy named Tamba Hali.

However, that doesn’t dismiss the inexperience of Andy Studebaker, the aging Mike Vrabel and the need for more athleticism and depth all around. The Chiefs still need another pass rusher in their defensive arsenal to take the pressure off of Hali and go to the next level on defense. Smith would fit all of those needs as a probable 3-4 linebacker.

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