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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.