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49ers make statement with Aldon Smith

4/28/2011

RENTON, Wash. -- First the Arizona Cardinals and then the San Francisco 49ers made bold statements regarding the 2011 college quarterback class, and Missouri's Blaine Gabbert in particular.

SmithSmithDespite obvious, glaring, insert-your-adjective needs at quarterback, both teams drafted for defense instead.

The Cardinals' selection of LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson at No. 5 overall fit with predraft expectations; Peterson was seen as arguably the most talented player in the draft.

The 49ers' selection of Missouri pass-rusher Aldon Smith at No. 7 came as more of a surprise, and as an indication San Francisco felt better about landing a quarterback later and/or through other means than the team would have felt selecting Gabbert this early.

Robert Quinn was the pass-rusher I had penciled in for the 49ers at No. 7. Smith was also rated highly, and he comes without some of the concerns that threatened to drag down Quinn's stock (specifically a one-year suspension and the benign brain tumor doctors discovered in 2007).

The buzz on Gabbert before the draft turned out to be overrated. Gabbert wasn't even the second quarterback drafted; Jake Locker went to Tennessee at No. 8.

Like the Cardinals, the 49ers' success in this draft hinges, at least in part, on how well the quarterbacks they did not select wind up faring.

Is Gabbert the next Aaron Rodgers? The 49ers had better hope not.