Aldon Smith was the No. 7 player taken in the 2011 draft. (Photo by Ross Taylor)
The San Francisco 49ers drafted a Mizzou player, but it wasn’t Blaine Gabbert. Instead, the 49ers selected Aldon Smith with the No. 7 pick. Smith is expected to play outside linebacker in the NFL.
While Smith set the Mizzou sack record in 2009 as a defensive end, most teams saw the 6-foot-5 former Tiger as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. New coach Jim Harbaugh has yet to decide whether to run a 4-3 or a 3-4, but taking Smith may be a window into the team’s future strategy.
Smith suffered a broken leg in Mizzou’s nail-biter victory over San Diego State last September, missing three games before returning for the Tigers’ win over Oklahoma. Smith had a 58-yard interception return in that game.
UPDATE: here’s some of what Harbaugh, who confirmed Smith will play linebacker (despite the first quote), had to say about the newest addition to his team via the San Jose Mercury News:
Excited about adding a Missouri Tiger on our football team, another one on our defensive line to go along with Justin Smith.
I’m really impressed with him as a person. He’s an All-American young man. Has great wiring, many blessings from mom, dad and God, and we just feel like he’s going to be someone who’s obviously going to add to our football team and make us a better football team.
The other thing I’m really excited about is his wingspan. It’s Dwyane Wade-like. Almost eight-feet in wingspan. Not eight feet, it’s plus-eight inches from his height.
And, on Smith’s transition to linebacker:
There’s definitely a learning curve. You know, you’re talking about playing predominantly in a three-point stance… but there were times he was on his feet and we could see it. So it’s not a blind projection. But there will be a learning curve. There will be our times in our defense where he’ll play in his three-point stance, in the nickel when you go to the defensive end position or even an inside shade on the defensive line.
He’s got quite a bit of versatility.