Now that the 2011 NFL Draft is all wrapped up, we can start to try and assess which players will step up for their respective team early on. While most NFL Draft picks will take some time to get used to the speed of the NFL, it’s likely that at least a handful of draft picks will find their footing right away. The right combination of technical precision and athleticism can get a player right in the thick of things for any team. For the San Francisco 49ers, the best recent example of that would have to be Patrick Willis.
Over the past week, Mel Kiper took a look at each day of the NFL draft and put together a rundown of the players he thought could make a significant impact in their rookie seasons.
The impact: It’s a different position, but this pick reminds me a little of the Raiders’ taking Rolando McClain at No. 7 in last year’s draft. Although McClain might have been available a little later, the Raiders knew they had a guy they could use right away. So even as a slight reach, when you get immediate help, it offsets any ounce of lost-pick value. Smith goes to a team that could use him right away at outside linebacker, and although his football ability needs refining, he’s physically ready to make plays at a position of need.
The hurdle: Smith is gifted athletically, but his game has a lot of growth left. Jim Harbaugh clearly sees him as a fit, but Smith won’t be asked simply to pin his ears back and rush the passer; he’ll also need to read the NFL game.
49ers 2011 draft pick Aldon Smith is a guy who will get a solid chance to make an early contribution. The 49ers had a rotation of four players at their two outside linebacker positions: Manny Lawson, Parys Haralson, Ahmad Brooks, and Travis LaBoy. Lawson and LaBoy are free agents and I have to image the addition of Smith means at least LaBoy will walk.
Aldon Smith has a sizable learning curve as he makes the switch from defensive end to outside linebacker. However, his athleticism and what appears to be a solid coaching stuff under Jim Harbaugh would seem to set him up for some level of success. He has a lot to prove but he’ll be given every opportunity to succeed.