The 49ers seventh pick in the draft was not a stunner selection if you had them picking a player out of Missouri. Problem is you probably had quarterback Blaine Gabbert penciled in as the selection and not defensive lineman Aldon Smith. Even though I was against the 49ers picking a quarterback that high I thought general manager Trent Baalke and coach Jim Harbaugh would go with Gabbert. It is a good thing the 49ers brass decided against selecting a quarterback but was Smith the best defensive player they could have drafted?
All along I thought the 49ers had cornerback Patrick Peterson as their top priority and while this may have been true Peterson was at the top of the list of many teams including the Cardinals who selected him at the fifth spot. Smith is a good fit for the 49ers with his ability to get after quarterbacks with an outside rush which likely means he will play outside linebacker in the 49ers 3-4 defense instead of defensive end where he played in college. An added pass rusher will take pressure off of the secondary but the 49ers still need to address the cornerback position in the draft.
Two words to describe Smith are young and tough. At 21 years old Smith will be somewhat of a project and not a quick fix solution but with defensive coordinator Vic Fangio and learning from fellow linebacker Patrick Willis Smith should develop into a great pass rushing linebacker. I have to admit I did not have much knowledge of Smith when he was selected. After the pick I scrambled to look up his stats and profile to get a better reading of Smith. But with Harbaugh’s great eye for college talent you have to give Harbaugh the benefit of the doubt that Smith will turn out to be a Pro Bowl linebacker.
Smith broke his right fibula in the middle of last season and instead of sitting out the usual four to eight weeks to let the broken bone heal he was back three games later.
“That struck a chord with me,” Harbaugh said. “I know bones usually take 4-to-6 weeks to heal. There’s a toughness aspect there that I was impressed with.”
Smith played many games with a limp but that did not slow him down.
At first I hesitated in getting excited about the 49ers drafting Smith but looking back at the outside linebackers the 49ers had last year, Manny Lawson, Ahmad Brooks, Travis LaBoy, Parys Haraslon, none of them had more than five sacks last season. Smith had 17 sacks the last two seasons at Missouri. In 2009 Smith broke Missouri’s single-season sack record with 11.5 sacks, a record previously held by new teammate Justin Smith. Smith has speed to get around offensive linemen whether through the outside or inside pass rush and the power to make sure tackles.
The conventional wisdom with the 49ers selecting at #7 was that they would select a defensive end with Robert Quinn and Nick Fairley still available. Quinn went to the Rams with Fairley joining the Lions. Smith was valuable in Baalke and Harbaugh’s eyes because not only of his athletic ability but because of his great character. There will be a lot of pressure on Smith to excel in the NFL not only because he was selected seventh overall but because he is Harbaugh’s first draft pick as an NFL head coach.
Aldon Smith’s reaction to being drafted by the 49ers:
“I had no idea. Amazing, amazing, amazing. I visited them … went to dinner with them. It was a good visit.”