Aldon Smith & fit with Pats

March, 18, 2011
3/18/11
12:45
PM ET
The big draft buzz this week came on Thursday at Missouri's Pro Day, where quarterback Blaine Gabbert took center stage. Every NFL team was present, including the Patriots, although New England's interest wasn't Gabbert.

The Patriots were getting a closer look at some of the other talent, with tight ends coach Brian Ferentz -- who also has a background in offensive line play -- on hand for the workout.

For those focused on the Patriots and improving the pass rush, Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith is squarely on the radar. This report from former St. Louis Rams Vice President of Player Personnel Tony Softli, now working for ESPN 101 in St. Louis, shed some light on Smith's workout.

"Smith is a young player with a huge upside," Softli writes. "He is a straight-liner off the edge with first-step quickness and the ability to turn speed into power, tilt tackles to create separation and burst to close on the quarterback. In my opinion, he is best suited for a 4-3 front as a pass rusher. Smith will need to improve the ability to stack at the point of attack against the run consistently. I feel he lacks the awareness to align as a 3-4 outside linebacker, attack from a two-point stance or drop off and play in space. He just might not be wired right for that position. I like his explosion, athletic movement, and first-step quickness. Keep in mind he is only 21 years old."

Softli writes in a style that mirrors what might be on an NFL scouting report, which comes from his own background in the profession. He is a great resource at this time of year for those with a passion for the draft and a desire to learn more about the prospects.

As for my opinion, when it comes to the Patriots and Smith, I think this is a draft where the team has the luxury to place less of an emphasis on the whole 3-4 and 4-3 debate given the high total of snaps they play in sub packages (57 percent).

They need a pass-rusher who can help on third down, where they ranked 32nd in the NFL last season.

Smith is certainly one to monitor.

Mike Reiss

ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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