Pros: Smith is great at splitting blocks (even double-teams) with speed, upper-body strength, and violent hand use. Will get sideways quickly in a gap to exploit motion. Doesn't just come straight on at all times; he's developed a repertoire of inside moves that allow him to execute loops and stunts and take advantage of slower-blocking linemen. Redirects very well against the run no matter how quickly he's rushing the passer; Smith has an excellent sense of looking for gaps and then looking for the ball -- he doesn't often lose his target.
Good, but not great, sideline to sideline speed for his size (6-foot-4, 258 pounds), but he'll take a play to the edge every time. Persistent player from snap to whistle. Adjusts well to motion -- he's so used to teams motioning extra blockers to deal with him, he has developed an innate understanding of how to get around double teams off the snap. When he jumps inside to five-tech, he's even more dynamic off the snap -- his hand use allows him to get around guards and centers with alarming quickness. Great inside fake to outside (and vice versa); Smith gets offensive linemen off their bases with misdirection as well as any collegiate pass rusher I've seen in recent years.
Cons: More a pure pass-rusher than a truly elite run defender; Smith will likely be an outside linebacker in name only at the next level. He's a guy off the edge in four- or five-man fronts; the question is whether he can deal with tackles with better technique who outweigh him by 60 pounds. More inclined to stunt inside or push off the blocker than do the traditional "dip-and-rip" -- his outside rush will need some development. Plays with good base strength at his current level, but there may be an adjustment when he's taking on "bigger/stronger/faster." Decent when dropping back in coverage, but it's not a strength.
What he brings to the team: On a surface level, Aldon Smith brings a very scary comparison to mind -- Arkansas' Jamaal Anderson, another elite college speed-rusher with limited experience and a skill set that saw him even more effective when he moved or lined up inside. Anderson washed out with the Atlanta Falcons, but what separates Smith from the Andersons and Jarvis Mosses of the world (Moss was another first-round bust) is his intriguing array of quick moves to gain the speed advantage. Add in his ability to use his hands to fend off blockers, and his upper-body strength, and it's clear that smith has the tools that will keep him from washing out of the NFL, as long as he's in the right system.
It's a good pick, but a curious one. Picking an end with Blaine Gabbert still on the board will have people wondering, but the 49ers are clearly making a commitment to the pass rush. Smith can make tracks in different fronts, but this is a bit of a reach pick no matter how much you like the player.
The rest of the top-10 picks
• 1. Cam Newton -- Carolina Panthers
• 2. Von Miller -- Denver Broncos
• 3. Marcell Dareus -- Buffalo Bills
• 4. A.J. Green -- Cincinnati Bengals
• 5. Patrick Peterson -- Arizona Cardinals
• 6. Julio Jones -- Atlanta Falcons
• 8. Jake Locker -- Tennessee Titans
• 9. Tyron Smith -- Dallas Cowboys
• 10. Blaine Gabbert -- Jacksonville Jaguars