If I were to put money down on the one prospect who could make that big rise up draft boards following his week at the NFL Combine, I would place it on Missouri standout Aldon Smith. Smith is currently ranked at the NFP’s number one defensive end prospect and has the kind of physical skill set and versatility that makes his game very intriguing at the next level.
When watching him on tape the first thing you notice is how long of a prospect this guy is. At 6-5, 260-pounds Smith has the frame to continue to add more bulk. However, it’s his immense length that is oddly noticeable on tape that initially stands out the most. I can’t wait to see what he measures in at, but if his arms are under 35-inches I’ll come away shocked. Nevertheless, for a guy with his length he’s very coordinated and compact using a sudden club–both right and left armed- in order to side step blockers and accelerate toward the quarterback. He displays impressive bend when asked to drop his pad level down around the corner and looks comfortable changing directions on his counter before quickly closing on the play. He also exhibits impressive range when working in pursuit and looks like a pterodactyl when he opens up that wingspan and wraps on his man as a tackler.
However, not only is he a gifted pass rusher off the edge with his hand on the ground, but the guy is athletic enough in my view to be a good fit in a 3-4 scheme as well. He’s a natural athlete when asked to stand-up, looks coordinated in space re-directing and shouldn’t have any problem using his length to set the edge and fend off blocks when run at. Now, despite being so long, he does get upright at times at the point and can get hung easily by blockers. But, I think that’s an area where he could quickly develop and mature into a solid three down OLB in a 3-4 scheme.
Finally, the one part of his game that has me even more intrigued is the ease in which he rushes the passer from the inside. Smith fires off the ball quickly inside, threatening gaps off the snap as a three technique. He also possesses the natural feel and length to cleanly rip off a compact club, change directions and side step a blocker in tight quarters. Smith possesses a little Justin Tuck to his game in the way he’s able to be productive both inside and out as a pass rusher and honestly I think the guy could end up being a real match-up nightmare in any 4-3 scheme.
As for the Combine, I fully expect Smith to prove he’s one of the top athletes in attendance at his position, exhibiting an impressive initial get off burst, good straight-line speed and natural change of direction skills for his size. Plus, when you add in the fact how long he is –one of the main common dominators for big time pass rushers in the NFL- and pair that with his versatility, he could definitely end up making a run at a top-ten pick.
He does need to check out 100% clean medically, which could be a tougher task than most think after breaking a non-weight bearing bone in his leg earlier in the year. But, if he does, I expect the Redskins, Cowboys, Titans and even the 49ers to take a hard look at his talents early in round one.
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