Smith, who had to serve a nine-game suspension to begin last season for what amounted to general malfeasance or “for violating the NFL policy and program for substances of abuse and the league’s personal conduct policy,” was virtually unstoppable ... when he was on the field.
He entered last season with 42 sacks in 43 games, an NFL-record 0.98 sacks per game. But after a quick start upon his reinstatement, two sacks in his second game, he was shut out the rest of the way.
So it should be no surprise, then, that Smith was left off an ESPN Insider/Pro Football Focus list of the top 10 projected pass-rushers for 2015, right?
It's only June but Smith has looked spry in organized team activities workouts. He is suspension-free, purportedly sober and playing for a new contract after restructuring his to become essentially an incentive-driven deal.
Plus, he will be looked upon to be even more of a leader for a defense that will be without six players who started at least eight games last year in defensive linemen Ray McDonald (waived), Justin Smith (retired), linebackers Chris Borland (retired) and Dan Skuta (free agency to Jacksonville) and cornerbacks Perrish Cox (free agency to Tennessee) and Chris Culliver (free agency to Washington), let alone five-time All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis, who was limited to just six games last year due to a toe injury and retired.
And inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman is attempting to regain his pre-left knee injury form.
So yes, there will be a lot on Aldon Smith’s plate this season, and not only as a pass-rusher.
Should he still be considered a top-10 candidate here, or is he better off staying under the radar at this point of the offseason?