Ever since the 49ers made Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith the No. 7 overall selection in the 2011 NFL Draft, 49ers general manger Trent Baalke has praised Smith’s versatility and athleticism.
Thursday was no different.
Of the 10 players dissected at Baalke’s film review of the 49ers 2011 draft class, Smith was one of two players discussed heavily in the two-hour organized media activity.
For each draft pick, Baalke broke down a couple of plays to highlight the strengths of each player’s talents. For Smith, Baalke showed various plays with the 6-foot-4, 263-pounder lining up at different spots on the defensive line. Before each play, Baalke had to locate Smith on the line first.
Besides the ability to line up inside and outside on the defensive line, Smith has experience playing on his feet in a two-point stance as well. Baalke liked that versatility, but was truly enamored with Smith’s physical gifts.
One of the more impressive highlights showed Smith simply out-classing one of the draft’s top tackle prospects with his combination of size and speed. Lined up against New England Patriots first-round pick Nate Solder in a Missouri-Colorado Big-12 conference matchup, Smith used his burst and arm length to beat the No. 17 overall pick off the line with a fast swim move that would surely leave Michael Phelps impressed.
Smith finished the play by using his 36-inch arms to sack the Colorado quarterback in the backfield.
“You don’t make those plays if you don’t have 36-inch arm length,” Baalke said.
The general manager did his best to dispel the notion that bigger linebackers can’t succeed at outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense. He named players like Willie McGinest and Adalius Thomas who have excelled at the position with larger frames.
“It all depends on the athlete,” Baalke said.
Baalke also pointed out that Smith would be asked to drop into coverage on a limited basis. He was drafted to rush the passer.
“We’re not asking (outside linebackers) to run man-for-man with wide receivers, we’re asking them to occupy a zone,” Baalke said.
The team expects Smith to fit nicely into their criteria for outside linebackers which is to rush the passer and set the edge of the defense. But Baalke noted that Smith needs to work on his pad level to be most effective in the NFL.
Smith’s long arms, strong hands and numerous pass rushing moves give Baalke the confidence that he can accomplish the expectations the 49ers have for him.
In this video, you can watch the 49ers general manager describe what he liked most about the Missouri defensive end, who will play outside linebacker for the 49ers.
Monday on Goal Posts, we’ll discuss Baalke’s comments on second-round draft pick Colin Kaepernick.
Tags: Aldon Smith, Trent Baalke
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