|Height:||6’4 1/4"||Weight:||263 lbs|
|All-Star Game:||n/a||Team Captain:||No|
Mid 1st Round
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.
Smith occasionally was asked to drop on zone blitzes, which he looked comfortable doing. Though he’d get too high in his backpedal, his quick feet enabled him to get good depth. He’s already adept as reading the quarterback’s eyes and should be able to smoothly make the transition to playing 3-4 outside linebacker. The college defensive end also possesses the footspeed to make plays in pursuit. In 2010, he did use some discretion in deciding whether to chase plays that were a long distance away, likely because of the pain he experienced playing on an injured leg. When he did pursue plays, he’d often chase down the ball-carrier but have to head over to the sideline because of the pain. As a result, he should be able to exhibit greater effort when he returns to the field fully healthy.
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.
Smith’s exceptionally long arms enable him to be a very good tackler. He consistently wraps up ball-carriers and can use his length to bring down shifty backs in space. On occasion, he’s managed to blow up zone read plays by bear-hugging both the quarterback and RB.
Size, Speed, Strength & Agility
At 6’4 1/4”, 263 lbs., Smith already possesses good size, and he has room to add more bulk to his frame. He plays with decent overall strength, but there is plenty of room for improvement, which should happen as he physically matures. He’s more agile than the typical defensive end prospect, easily avoiding cut blocks and managing to cleanly change direction when the play reverses course.
Instincts and Awareness
For a relatively inexperienced prospect, Smith is very instinctive. In addition to looking comfortable reading the QB’s eyes, he quickly spots the back on running plays. He doesn’t get out of position when asked to cover backs coming out of the backfield and doesn’t overpursue when chasing plays.
Smith showcases the ability to sidestep offensive linemen on the way to the backfield. The leg injury did temporarily sap some of athletic ability, but he still showed enough fluidity to make the transitions to 3-4 outside linebacker. One would like to see him bend more, both in coverage and when rushing off the edge, but it’s possible that good coaching could correct the issue.
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.
Smith won a number of awards after his impressive ’09 season, including Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year and 2nd team All-Big 12. Unfortunately, Smith’s injury-marred 2010 season kept him from having a lot of success on the award circuit. He was forced to sit out three games after fracturing his fibula. When he returned from the injury, Smith lacked his typically impressive explosiveness; as a result, he only notched 1.5 sacks in the team’s final seven games. While he generated plenty of pressure on the quarterback and made some plays, including a 58 yard interception return against Oklahoma, he couldn’t come close to matching his ’09 production.
2010: 48 tackles (35 solo), 4.5 sacks, and 10 tackles for loss (10 games).
2009: 64 tackles (44 solo), 11.5 sacks, and 19 tackles for loss (13 games).
Real Estate major at Missouri.
Awards & Honors
2009: 1st team Freshman All-American. Big 12 Defensive Newcomer of the Year (AP). Big 12 Defensive Freshman of the Year (coaches). 2nd team All-Big 12 (AP). Honorable Mention All-Big 12 (coaches). Team Freshman and Team Defensive Lineman of the Year.
Prospect Video Clips
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