Name: OLB Aldon Smith
Size: 6'4, 263 lbs
Expected Round: 1st
3 Cone: 7.19s
40 Time: 4.74s
Career Stats: Click Here (2 seasons starting at 4-3 RDE)
Strengths: Great wing span to make tackles. Great initial burst off the line. Great job of playing contain, while shedding blockers to reach the ball carrier. Long arms to stave off blockers and still make the tackle. Seems to find the shortest and quickest route to the ball carrier. Able to stunt, bull rush, swim move, and squeeze to get into the backfield. Very solid tackler. Guards have no chance of blocking him. Shows potential ability to drop into coverage in the flat. Stole Nate Solder's cookies as a freshman.
Weaknesses: Looks "lumbering" [my word] when asked to change direction. Coming off a leg injury. Can misread running plays and get out of position, which makes me believe he'll be susceptible to play action pass plays. Red shirt sophomore who lacks experience. Very little experience dropping into coverage. Struggles to square up against elite tackles with a hand on the ground (which is a weakness for a 4-3 DE, but might not be too much of a problem for a 3-4 OLB). Needs to improve lower body strength. Did not appear overly athletic at the combine.
Why and Why Not the Patriots after the jump, and my final verdict!
Why the Patriots?: Smith has some great potential as an OLB in the NFL. Unlike the other young player reviewed today, this Smith from Mizzou looks more polished, while also possessing plenty of upside. He's a dynamic and athletic player who can be utilized in all of the Patriots' defensive schemes. He'll be a terror as a pass rusher and a run stuffer and, with more experience, could develop into one of the better coverage OLB in the league. He looks like he can handle basic zone coverage in the flats, which adds value.
Why Not the Patriots?: Red shirt sophomore. Belichick: "I’d say for the most part the most important thing that a player has is his three or four years of production and performance at a college playing football." He likes maturity and experience with his players and Smith does not have the experience of a typical Belichick first round prospect. He could have used another year or two in college to increase his agility because he wasn't too impressive doing drills at the combine.
Verdict: I have mixed feelings towards Smith. On one hand, I see the potential and I can see him developing into a Terrell Suggs type player in the NFL. He has the skills to be a dominant pass rusher and run stuffer. On the other hand, I see a player who isn't impressive when asked to show his agility, and who is slowly fluid. He seems to go at a slower pace to ensure fluidity and I just don't feel comfortable with that give and take. If he can bring his speed up to match his fluidity, the sky is the limit. For now, he's a tremendous project prospect. Add in the fact that he's a red shirt sophomore, I'll have to say "no."
I do think that he could be a good fit with the Patriots, but drafting him just goes against the Patriots' MO. Of course, I guess that means it wouldn't be a surprise if they drafted him. An unpolished red-shirt sophomore, with questionable agility while transitioning to a position that requires agility? Screams no, but his game tape says yes. Up in the air prospect, but I'm leaning towards no.