As one of the most decorated and dominating offensive linemen in the entire country the past three years, it was almost a no-brainer that Andre Smith would declare for the NFL and fore go his senior year at Alabama. The Outland Trophy winner entered the weekend as one of the top 3 offensive tackles in the draft, and a potential top 15 pick overall. But instead of cementing his place among the best prospects available, Smith is raising some serious question marks about his intelligence, weight issues, and overall commitment to the game. Red flags such as these are devastating for an offensive linemen expecting to become a top pick come April. So should the San Diego Chargers use this as an opportunity to draft a player previously thought to be out of reach, or would the team be better off going in another direction?
There's no denying that Andre Smith has the tools to become a dominating tackle in the NFL, particularity in a power running offense where he'd do his best work as a blocker. Smith, a massive tackle at 332lbs, has remarkable quickness for his size, and could player either right or left tackle. Smith can be a punishing blocker when he wants to be and will serve up q pancake or two during games. He's never missed a game due to injury and has been projected as high as the second overall pick.
But with the good, comes the bad;
Andre Smith was suspended for the Sugar Bowl, his final game as a collegiate player, for improper dealings with an agent. Smith described the suspension was due to a "bad decision" on his part. Since he isn't a senior, he obviously could play in the Senior Bowl, so the NFL Scouting Combine is the first chance NFL Scouts have had to check Smith out. Smith showed up at the Combine this weekend but choose not to participate in workouts. After a press conference where he didn't come off particularly impressive, Smith decided to leave Indianapolis completely, explaining that he'd only been "down at API for like three weeks, four weeks at the most."
The decision not to participate, he explained, was due to the fact that he had only recently signed with an agent. Without an agent, players can't enroll in pre-draft training facilities and programs. Andre Smith seemed relieved to be sitting at 332lbs, down from 345lbs, but for all intents and purposed he felt he was not in top shape, and that working out at the combine could could a misrepresentation of his true athleticism.
Smith took it upon himself to schedule a 6am flight out of Indy, and flew back home to Alabama. Not only would Smith not compete in drills or workouts, he would also not be available for meetings with NFL teams. The news of Smith's premature departure sent shockwaves throughout the NFL community, but an explanation would eventually follow:
"I got done in Indianapolis what I thought I should have, but I realize there was more to it now. It was important for me to get back to my trainer and that's what I did. All I was thinking about was what it would take to get to the next level."
"If I had the chance to do it all over, I wouldn't have handled it the way I did. I should have told my group leader that I was leaving, and I didn't. I didn't mean to ruffle any feathers or step on any toes. I didn't mean to grandstand anyone at the combine. That was not my intention at all, and I apologize for my mistake."
So weighting both sides of the argument, do you think the San Diego Chargers should strongly consider Andre Smith if he were available at pick number 16, or should the team take the next best tackle? If the Chargers were dead-set on taking an offensive tackle in the first round, would they be better off reaching for a guy with a low first/early second round grade, or should they roll the dice on the player many considered to be the next Orlando Pace? Give your take in the comments below, I'm eager to know what you'd do as GM:
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Labels: NFL Draft 2009
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