Athlete Profile: Andre Smith

2009 has not been kind to Andre Smith.

His year got off to a rotten start, as he was suspended from the University of Alabama’s embarrassing Sugar Bowl loss to Utah. This incident caused questions about his character to surface, and the offensive tackle who had at one point been thought of as a potential no. 1 overall pick was suddenly on the defensive.

He didn’t help his cause any by showing up to the NFL scouting combine out of shape, then refusing to take part in drills before leaving the combine altogether without informing anyone. In just two months, Smith had gone from the draft’s hottest prospect to its most dangerous, as projections began to put Smith somewhere late in the first round.

Since then, however, teams appear to be warming back up to the mercurial lineman. They are remembering how dominant Smith was on the field last season, playing a huge role in the Crimson Tide’s surprise run to the top of the polls. They are remembering his unreal size-quickness combination, that the 6’4”, 332-pounder mauled defenders in the running game and was an impenetrable wall in keeping quarterback John Parker Wilson upright in the passing game.

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Top 5 Potential First Round Busts

Growing up, we were all told that if we studied hard enough, we’d ace tests, understand our homework and get good grades in school.

What’s funny is that same philosophy can be applied to NFL teams when they scout the draft, yet they’re not guaranteed to succeed in the end. Teams pour countless of hours into scouting the draft and yet they still wind up failing by selecting players that turn out to be busts.

Pundits will brag that it’s easy to spot potential first round busts, yet teams continue to draft flops every April. The teams that usually do well (Steelers, Patriots, Colts, etc.), are the ones that can spot players that fit their specific offensive or defensive schemes. They limit the risk of taking a bust because they can scout prospects that fit specific roles within their overall team philosophies.

But for the teams that are still enamored with drafting the best player available regardless of scheme, or the ones that draft for need and ignore everything else, I’ve ranked the top 5 potential first round busts in this year’s NFL draft. Granted, it’s easy to list all of a player’s weaknesses and label them as a potential bust, but I tried to compile the five prospects that demonstrate specific concerns for pro teams.

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Alabama’s Andre Smith could fall out of top 15

Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith has done little right after being suspended for the 2009 Sugar Bowl by his former head coach Nick Saban for violating team rules.

Along with Baylor’s Jason Smith and Virginia’s Eugene Monroe, Andre Smith was supposed to be one of the top tackles taken in April’s draft. But things went horrible wrong for Smith at the NFL Scouting Combine in late February as he measured 6’4” and 332 pounds (which is weight more suitable for a guard than a tackle), flat out admitted that he wasn’t in good shape and then mysteriously disappeared without working out.

Several media outlets claimed that Smith’s interviews with prospective teams went “horribly” prior to his disappearance from the combine (which turned out to be a communication problem between him and his agent according to Smith) and some claim that he didn’t perform well at his Pro Day on Wednesday.

Where Smith could fall on draft day is anyone’s guess. Given his talent alone, he could easily be a top 5 pick. But due to his roller coaster of an offseason, he could also drop into the bottom half of the first round.

49ers beat writer Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee believes that San Fran won’t pass on Smith at No. 10, because they sorely need a right tackle and he also believes that head coach Mike Singletary could have a good influence on the young offensive lineman.

But you can’t teach heart and desire and although Smith had an outstanding career at Alabama, he has done nothing to warrant being a top 10 pick in this year’s draft. In fact, if he is selected in the top 10, then maybe the scouting combine means even less than we all thought.

Offseason Blueprint: Jacksonville Jaguars

Notable Free Agents: Mike Peterson, LB; Brad Meester, C; Khalif Barnes, OT; Reggie Williams, WR; Chris Naeole, G; Joe Zelenka, TE.

Projected 2009 Cap Space: $15,500,000

Draft Order: 8

Top Needs: OL, CB, LB, WR, RB.

Offseason Outlook: Let the cleansing process begin. The Jaguars have already released long-time veteran running back Fred Taylor, 2008 free agent bust Jerry Porter and disappointing cornerback Drayton Florence. There’s also little to no chance the team makes a play to re-sign middle linebacker Mike Patterson, who was at odds with head coach Jack Del Rio for the better part of the ‘08 season.

The team also made Gene Smith in charge of personnel decisions and Del Rio is expected to take over the defensive playcalls next year, which should turn out to be two sound moves.

In terms of personnel, the team needs to address the offensive line first and foremost and then go from there. The O-line was ransacked with injuries last season, not to mention heartbreak when Richard Collier suffered 14 gunshot wounds in early September, which left him paralyzed from the waist down.

The Jags don’t have to reinvent the wheel because they’re already got the makings of a competitive team. But they need to regroup and rebuild through the draft and a good start would be to get their hands on one of the top offensive tackle prospects that will be available in the top 10.

Even though his talent is unquestioned, Alabama offensive tackle Andre Smith is proving with each passing day that he may be too much of a risk to be taken with the No. 8 overall pick. But Virginia’s Eugene Monrore, Baylor’s Jason Smith or Ole Miss’s Michael Oher could be available and could replace Khalif Barnes at left tackle, who is expected to depart via free agency.

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Alabama tackle Andre Smith goes missing at combine

In one of the more bizarre stories of the week, Alabama offensive tackle prospect Andre Smith disappeared on Saturday morning at the NFL scouting combine. explains:

Andre SmithOutland trophy winner Alabama T Andre Smith was missing at the NFL Scouting Combine Saturday morning.

There are conflicting reports from Smith and his agent about where he was, and why he didn’t show on Saturday. He has recently been located. Either way, this is the story dominating talk in Indy after Smith also admitted that he was out of shape Friday. Smith has a stellar on-field resume, but the Combine couldn’t be going worse. This will hurt his chances of being a top-two tackle in the draft.

Smith’s week is like watching a bad movie. You want to turn away, but you just have to see the ending at this point. Heading into the Sugar Bowl, he was regarded as the top offensive tackle in the draft. Then he got suspended for the game, checked into the combine overweight (he flat out admitted to being out of shape) and then doesn’t show up on one of the workout days. Now he’ll be lucky to be selected in the top 15.

What a weird, weird story.

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