Alabama OT Andre Smith (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
As the 2009 NFL Draft approaches, the editorial staff at Buffalo Rumblings will begin profiling draft prospects that may end up being potential targets of the Buffalo Bills. We're back on the offensive side of the ball this morning, profiling Alabama OT Andre Smith.
When your star left tackle is whining like Jay Cutler - leading to days upon days of trade speculation - each day, offensive tackle prospects look more appealing. If Jason Peters ends up being traded by the Buffalo Bills, the team will be forced to look at replacing him via the draft - and Alabama's Andre Smith tops their list.
We've already talked some about Smith in these parts - in fact, the majority of the Rumblings community is so fed up with Peters that they'd prefer Smith at left tackle in 2009. In order to get a better handle on Smith the player, I was able to procure a couple of game tapes, take some notes, and talk with a couple of scouts about the draft's most controversial player (to date). We've also enlisted the help of outsidethesidelines, one of a team of writers over at SB Nation's Alabama blog, Roll Bama Roll. Here's all you need to know about Andre Smith.
Andre Smith - Offensive Tackle, Alabama
6'4", 325 pounds, 5.28-second 40 yard dash
Strengths: Physical, dominant run-blocker... Ideal bulk, with long arms to keep defenders in check... Very fluid athlete that anchors well and will never be overpowered... Great use of hands... Quick feet and good mobility... Absolutely destroys defenders at the second level... Has the "mean streak" that separates the great from the good... Solid football IQ... Durable... Plenty of experience against top competition... Considerable amount of upside, with the potential to be elite - and soon.
Weaknesses: Doesn't move particularly well laterally; as a result, he occasionally struggles with speed rushers... Inconsistent in footwork and overall technique... Reportedly has struggled to keep his weight in check... Tended to let himself skate by on talent alone in college; full effort was not always present... Character issues have arisen after being suspended for Alabama's 2008 bowl game and leaving the '09 Scouting Combine prematurely.
NFL Comparison: Jason Peters, Buffalo Bills
There are moments when you watch this kid play that Smith's resemblance to Peters is uncanny. Their playing styles are similar - dominant in the run game, very much above average in the pass game, marvelous athletes for men their size. Both are 6'4", which is considered shorter than the ideal tackle specimen, but make up for it with long arms. Smith generally pays at around 340 pounds, which is Peters' listed weight. Even down to their reportedly eccentric personalities, these players are eerily similar. The difference? Smith has never held out in Buffalo, and he'd enter the 2009 season with a clean slate. His bridges remain char-free; the same certainly can't be said for Peters.
Our interview with Roll Bama Roll appears after the jump. Topics include Smith's eccentric behavior at the Combine, his bowl game suspension, and general observations on his playing abilities from those who watched him play on a weekly basis.
Rumblings: What do you make of Andre's perceived weight/character/Combine fiasco issues? Did he ever have any issues besides the bowl game suspension while at 'Bama?
Roll Bama Roll: I honestly do not know what to make of Andre's Combine fiasco, and the bowl game suspension for that matter. Prior to the announcement of the Sugar Bowl suspension, no one had uttered the first bad word about Andre since he had arrived at Alabama in the summer of 2006. He was almost universally regarded as a high-character kid, with good academics to boot, coming out of Birmingham's Huffman High, and again nothing bad was ever said about him during his entire time at Alabama. When the Sugar Bowl suspension hit, and then followed by his aforementioned weight / character / Combine fiasco, I think it just took everyone by surprise and no one really knows what to make of it. My gut instinct is that Andre is the good kid he has always been regarded as all along, but someone who is still pretty young and who just happened to make a couple of bad decisions. I think the likely scenario was that he's generally a good kid, but he got in a bit of trouble prior to the Sugar Bowl, and then kind of zoned out for a month or so after that, and by that point it was too late to make up all of the lost conditioning work, thus leading to the Combine fiasco. That said, though, again, it's just my gut instinct, and only Andre really knows what happened.
Rumblings: Is there any weakness to Smith's game? What would you consider his greatest asset?
Roll Bama Roll: The biggest weakness to Smith's game is his ability to handle speed rushers off the edge, but even so, that's not much of a weakness. He struggled with that as a true freshman, but he progressively got better over time as he lost weight and his conditioning improved. By the 2008 season it was essentially a non-issue. We left him isolated on an island almost all the time this past season, and regardless of the caliber of players he was facing (and he was facing some very good ones in the SEC), they could never do anything with him. In particular, LSU really tried to beat him with a combination of Tyson Jackson and Rahim Alem - the former a sure-fire first round draft pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, and the latter the SEC's league leader in sacks - and neither ever laid a finger on John Parker Wilson.
As for his assets, it's hard to say which one would be considered his greatest. He has a lot of positive attributes and it's hard to narrow it down. Much is required of an offensive lineman of his caliber, and he can do it all. If pressed, though, I would say his greatest asset is his combination of size, power, and athleticism in the running game. He's a mauling blocker with great size and strength, but he's also very athletic to boot. Andre lived on the second level in the running game like no other lineman in college football this past year, so I'd probably say that is his greatest strength.
Rumblings: Coming out of the SEC, Smith has obviously faced some very good competition, including great speed rushers, but questions remain about his ability to play the left side in the NFL. Do you think he's a good enough pass blocker to hold his own against the NFL's best speed rushers?
Roll Bama Roll: I do think Smith is a good enough of a pass blocker to play left tackle, provided he plays in good physical shape. In a physical sense, I don't think there are any real questions that Andre has the raw ability needed to be a star left tackle. If he shows up in good shape, he's going to be a dominant player after he acclimates himself to the transition from the college game to the professional game. The real question with him, I think, is how does he perform if he doesn't arrive in good shape and his conditioning continues to be a concern. If that's the case, he's going to struggle to play left tackle (and should be inside at guard), and I think that's where the real risk of drafting him is. Even so, I don't see him being a major risk. He is a good kid who isn't going to have any serious off-field problems, and as I said earlier, with his unique combination of size, power, and athleticism in the running game, he should be able to be one of the best guards in the league, even if conditioning issues keep him from playing tackle. And to that end, despite all of the negative talk about him being a risky pick the past couple of months, I still feel he's probably one of the safer picks in the draft.