Michael Conroy / Associated Press
Alabama OT Andre Smith left the scouting combine without notifying officials, raising questions among NFL teams.


As part of a 10-day series previewing the 2009 NFL Draft, NFL.com takes a look at key strategic decisions facing NFL teams.

NFL Network's Charley Casserly and Brian Baldinger discuss the draft status of Andre Smith. No player has been more scrutinized since the end of the college football season than the Alabama offensive tackle, who has made a number of questionable decisions over the past two months. In the end, how do Casserly and Baldinger ultimately evaluate a player such as Smith? Read their take and then enter the discussion below.


Casserly: Do your homework


Here's the thing you do: You're talking to everyone you know at Alabama to get as much background information as you can on the kid. Then I think you want to work the guy out two times. He had a school workout, then you put him through an individual workout to see if he's retained or improved his conditioning level. See if he's been working.

If he hasn't been working during that period, it's a real
red flag for you. If he has, it's a positive.

During the interview process, you want to get a feel on how important football is to him and who he has been getting advice from on these decisions. Is he being pulled on from a lot of different directions? Because that's scary now. Is he a young guy who just can't make a decision on what to do? The positive on Smith is it seems there aren't any issues off the field character-wise. You might just be dealing with a kid who is immature and doesn't get it completely.

Really, in talking with scouts, it doesn't seem like there are a lot of surprises here. The guy has played every snap, but he's never been a great worker -- there are issues there. His body has never been pretty anyways, so it's not like when he took his shirt off for his workout, that was a surprise to anybody. Maybe surprised that he took his shirt off, not at what his body looked like.

The reason why you take a guy off the board is because there are legitimate character questions, which there aren't here. You certainly can lower a guy because of work habits and competitiveness, there's no question. That's the decision you have to make with Smith. Those are the things I would do to line up this decision.
 

Baldinger: Watch the tape


This is how you evaluate Smith: You watch him play left tackle at Alabama. You just concentrate on Andre Smith, the player. Any 21-year-old kid can make mistakes. This type of stuff doesn't bother me at all.

Smith dominated the Southeastern Conference. If you watch him against LSU in Baton Rouge, he didn't hear a snap count from his QB the entire day. There are tackles in the NFL who have been there for years who can't look at the ball and look at their man and move when the ball moves. Smith can do that.

You can see he's intense, he's interested, he finishes and he's never on the ground. He caves in the entire side of the line on almost every run. Smith is a great football player, and he's ready to play tomorrow in the NFL.

Once you know a guy's character is OK, I dismiss it. The mistakes, the agent stuff, whatever happened at the combine, I don't worry about that.

To me -- and I don't make a lot of comparisons -- Smith reminds me of Tarik Glenn. Maybe Smith's best position is right tackle. Maybe it's guard. Some of the great tackles played guard their first year. I think Smith can play left tackle tomorrow for a whole lot of teams in this league.

Most left tackles are drafted high because they're good pass blockers. It's a passing league. The problem is most are lowsy run blockers. This guy is a very talented run blocker, and it's a lost art. He moves people.

If you take this kid off your draft board because of this kind of thing, you're crazy. To me, Andre Smith is a top-10 pick in this draft. Maybe a top-five pick.


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