SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers figured they were in for a long term project when they selected Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith with the No. 6 pick in the 2011 draft.
They're happy to have been proven wrong.
At the time of the draft the team viewed Smith as an outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's 3-4 scheme, despite the fact the 20-year-old played solely with his hand in the dirt in his two college seasons.
With Parys Haralson and Ahmad Brooks entrenched at the two outside linebacker spots last season, the team was able to bring Smith along slowly. In practice, he learned playing in coverage and run support, but on game days he was sent on the field in passing situations to rush the quarterback as a defensive end.
This season he's been unleashed.