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Smith for Pick Nine in '09!

A few days ago, I wrote about the idea of Andre Smith in a Packer uniform. Some people liked it, others were more concerned about him being able to fit into a jersey, much less how he fits in with the offense. I myself didn't reveal my feelings on the matter.

I will personally reserve judgement for a later date. Until then, I hope that Andre can follow the footsteps of his idol [Homer Simpson] and discover the gym.

About 40% of readers were torn between caution and optimism, and rightfully so. Remember, the dude looks like this:

But now, I am going to work my way through the rolling hills of Andre's midsection and search for the big, strong, passionate football player that I fell in love with before. Other people might paint a portrait of an immature, lazy slob who scuttled the two most important job interviews anyone could ever have in this business. But I don't care about that; the idea of Andre Smith available at the ninth pick melts my heart like butter on a biscuit, like so many others that Andre has eaten. That's right, ladies and gentlemen. I am officially on the Andre Smith bandwagon, and I'm gonna get you on it, too.

I read Pat Kirwan's Mock Draft 3.0, and I was ecstatic to see him project Andre Smith falling to the Packers at number nine. Don't get me wrong, I have concerns about Smith's maturity and work ethic. I think that, of the top ten draft prospects, only Matthew Stafford is at risk of being a bigger bust (especially if Detroit drafts him). But before you sling your insults and revoke my status as Head APC Writer in New Jersey, let me lay out my rationale.

Step One: The Needs

Whenver my team is going into a draft, I look at what positions are in the worst shape and need the most attention. When the Bucks were nearing the NBA Draft last summer, here were my top five needs:

  1. Small forward
  2. Small forward
  3. Small forward
  4. Backup shooting guard
  5. Small forward

Unfortunately, the NBA Draft only has two rounds, but the Bucks wisely followed my draft advice and took two small forwards: West Virginia's Joe Alexander and UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. It's worked out wonderfully for the Bucks, except for the whole "season-ending injuries to the team's two best players" thing. But Joe and LRMaM are already solid contributors and figure to help the team for a long time.

When it comes to Green Bay, they are in much better shape than the Bradley Center's finest. We have a young franchise QB, a solid recieving corps, solid interior offensive linemen, good young linebackers, a dynamic safety, and above-average players at almost all of the other positions. That said, the top three needs going into the draft (according to moi) are as follows:

  1. Outside linebacker (3-4)
  2. Offensive tackle
  3. Defensive end

Obviously, the 3-4 transition can't be done without an injection of youth at the critical positions. Thompson is going to take at least two OLB's and probably a DE or two in April. But what to do about number two?

Once you stop giggling about my ever-so-clever scatalogical reference, I'll lay it out for you like I did on Thursday. There are four tackles that are worthy of drafting in the top half of the first round: Jason Smith, Eugene Monroe, Michael Oher, and Andre Smith. Given that at least one or two of them should still be on the board at the ninth pick, there's a good chance that one of them will be picked at number nine.

But, wait a minute, isn't outside linebacker a bigger need? In my expert judgement, absolutely. After all, one comes before two. But lets take a look at what's out there and then see where we stand.

Step Two: The Prospects

After figuring out where the team needs to look, we can figure out who the team needs to look at. Here is my list of the best players at the relevant positions:

  1. Aaron Curry (OLB)
  2. Brian Orakpo (OLB/DE)
  3. Jason Smith (OT)
  4. Andre Smith (OT)
  5. Eugene Monroe (OT)
  6. Aaron Maybin (OLB/DE)
  7. Everette Brown (OLB/DE)
  8. Michael Oher (OT)

Here's where the debate starts up. Aaron Curry is easily a top-5 pick, even getting some consideration at number 1. Brian Orakpo is the best pass-rusher in the draft. Although they would be great fits, they're probably going to be gone by Green Bay's pick. Jason Smith looks like this year's Jake Long; a rookie that can plug into your starting lineup and simply perform at a high level. Because of that, we can assume that he'll be gone, too.

If any of the aforementioned three are still available at number nine, then I say take them without hesitation. However, odds are that none of them will stay on the board long enough to merit serious consideration. Which brings us to my number 4 guy, Andre Smith.

Yes, he made a stupid decision to get himself suspended for the Sugar Bowl. And yes, he made a stupid decision to come to the combine unprepared. And yes, he made a stupid decision to leave the combine without saying a word to anyone. And yes, he made a stupid decision to take up the local buffet's "all-you-can-eat for $7.99" offer before his Pro Day.

Okay, okay, I'll admit that he seems like a huge risk. Everyone recognizes that, and most chastise him for it. But keep in mind, he's not going to be responsible for cutting your grass, paying your bills, or managing your hedge fund. He's going to be protecting Aaron Rodgers and opening holes for Ryan Grant. And, at that, he is truly gifted. As Pat Kirwan writes in his article defending Smith as a top-10 pick;

The offensive line coach counterpoint to all of the negatives comes from one well-respected NFL line coach who put it best: "Smith looks bad at everything he does except run and pass block." When it comes to being a powerful road-grading tackle, he has what the other tackles lack: the lower-body strength to win on the field.

Face it, Smith has the leg strength, the quickness, the long arms, and the motor that you need to build a dynamic offensive tackle. Of the four tackles on the board, Smith is the only one that I have no problem matching up against the NFL's best defenders. I'd rather have him against Jared Allen than anyone else on this list. He's strong, he's quick, he's nasty, and he needs to be in a Green Bay jersey.

If I were Ted Thompson, I would take a look at these:

This one is over 7 minutes, but serves as pretty good game film for Smith (pardon the crappy music; I just found it.)

Yes, Monroe, Oher, and the other Smith look like they will be good players. But they don't look like the kind of player that Andre Smith can be.

Step Three: Profit?

If Smith falls and if Thompson decides to take him at the ninth spot, I have a feeling I will be one of the few Packer fans happy about the decision. Even then, I won't be filled with joy like I was when Aaron Rodgers was drafted.

Why? Because Smith is going to be a tough project. He's going to need to be reeled in, mentored, and knocked down a notch if he gets unruly. The team needs to be hard on him at the beginning, and they need to be hard on him often. If during position drills he completely blows the defender away, but his technique wasn't right, he needs to be called out. If the team is lifting weights and he's not doing enough, someone needs to get on him. He needs to be held to the highest standards possible from day one.

That said, I think that he needs a lot of positive reinforcement. He absolutely can not get any of that "lead by example" crap that Brett Favre preached when Aaron Rodgers was brought in. He needs the few veterans the team has to help him out at every turn. Thankfully, the two guys that can help him the most are in his unit: Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. With those two in his ear, with a dash of Donald Driver here and there, he should get both the guidance and support a rookie needs to succeed in the NFL.

Finally, I do not think that he should enter the season as a starter unless a) either Clifton or Tauscher are too injured, b) Tauscher is not on the team, or c) he performs so well in training camp that it would be a crime not to start him. This is to give him some perspective; he won't view the starting job as something that belongs to him, but rather something he has to earn. This will keep whatever ego he has in check and hopefully get his work ethic improved.

I realize that I am contradicting myself as a sports fan. I have historically been against drafting players with character issues, regardless of their promise. In supporting Andre Smith, I am a huge hypocrite. Fortunately, Smith's transgressions haven't been criminal, they've only been dumb. That's been his only saving grace thus far. But I truly believe that, if the team handles him the right way and keeps him on the straight and narrow, he can turn into one of the most dominant offensive lineman in league history.

You can't pass up that kind of opportunity...can you?