Blaine Gabbert? Prince Amukamara? Robert Quinn?
How about none of the above.
With the first draft pick of the Jim Harbaugh era, the 49ers made a pick few (no one?) projected as they grabbed Missouri’s Aldon Smith with the No. 7 overall selection.
Smith, 21, played defensive end in college, but will transition to outside linebacker in San Francisco, which has been seeking an explosive pass-rusher to employ in its 3-4 defense for years. Since switching to a 3-4 in 2005, the Niners haven’t had an outside linebacker post more than eight sacks in a season.
Of course, they’re hoping the 6-foot-4, 263-pound Smith, who left Missouri after his sophomore season, is the long-awaited answer.
Smith set a school record with 11.5 sacks as a freshman and set a Big 12 freshman record with 19 tackles for loss. He missed three games as a sophomore with a broken right fibula and wasn’t fully healthy when he returned. He still finished with 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss in 10 games.
In his GM Jr. Draft Guide, Sporting News draft analyst and former NFL scout Russ Lande terms Smith one of the best athletes in the draft.
“He is a tall and muscular DE who looks thin, but has elite athleticism and has shown the ability to be a dynamic pass-rusher and big play-maker,” Lande wrote. “He really showed excellent toughness battling through a bad leg injury in 2010 … came back and battled on, playing on basically one leg and was still very disruptive and productive.”