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.