(Eds: Adds quotes, details.) The San Francisco 49ers figured they were in for a long term project when they selected Missouri defensive end Aldon Smith with the No. 6 pick in the 2011 draft.
They're happy to have been proven wrong.
At the time of the draft the team viewed Smith as an outside linebacker in defensive coordinator Vic Fangio's 3-4 scheme, despite the fact the 20-year-old played solely with his hand in the dirt in his two college seasons.
''He was never standing up at Missouri. And as a matter of fact, he played about half the time, or I would say at least 40 percent of the time, he was a defensive tackle for Missouri,'' Fangio said. ''So, he always had his hand down. So, you never were able to see that on film. You had to just project that.''
With Parys Haralson and Ahmad Brooks entrenched at the two outside linebacker spots last season, the team was able to bring Smith along slowly. In practice, he learned the nuances of playing in coverage and run support, but on ...