As Aldon Smith starts to attract more and more attention in the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, he's starting to crop up on some Atlanta Falcons mock drafts, most notably D. Orlando Ledbetter at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution. Given that, it seems like an excellent time to start taking a closer look at Smith.
NFL.com's Gil Brandt believes that based on talent alone, Smith should be a first round pick, one likely going in the 11-20 range. As he notes, the depth of the defensive end class in this draft could end up sending a couple of deserving guys tumbling, so it's certainly within the realm of possibility that Smith will make it all the way to 27.
So what's to like about him?
The first coherent word out of a scout's mouth when talking about Aldon Smith is likely to be "wingspan." He's got an 84-inch set of wings, making him like a large, quarterback-sacking bird of prey of some kind. If only the proper name would come to me!
But besides his wingspan, Smith's claim to fame is his athleticism and his insane junior season. In 2009 for Missouri, the 6"4", 260+ pounder racked up 11.5 sacks. He did so by virtue of exploding after the snap and basically blowing by guys, though he's strong enough to make your average offensive tackle shuffle. That sheer explosiveness is what makes scouts drool over him in the end, as he looks lightning fast for a DE in both drills and on game tape.
In 2010 he wasn't quite as productive, losing his last three games to a leg injury and finishing up with a total of 6 sacks. Though that was a bit of a disappointment, it's done little to dent his draft stock, and if he makes it through 32 teams without hearing his name come the first day of the draft, I will eat my shoes.
Would the Falcons take him? He'd have to be there first, but as a defensive end with pass-rushing chops, he'd seem to fit the bill perfectly. We should hear in the next couple of weeks if the Falcons are linked to him in any definitive way, but let's just say I wouldn't be surprised if Thomas Dimitroff was doing more than a little homework on Aldon Smith about now.