Tide's Smith heads to NFL
 
By Tim Gayle • January 4, 2009
 
Andre Smith has de­cided to enter the Na­tional Football League draft in April.

While the news isn't surprising, Smith made it official on Saturday, issuing a statement through a law firm that has offices in Montgom­ery and his hometown of Birmingham.

A statement released from H. Lewis Gillis of the Mont­gomery law firm of Thom­as, Means, Gillis & Seay said Smith decided to enter the NFL draft after "much prayer and after counseling with his parents and his coach."

"I value deeply the opportunity I've had to play for such a presti­gious program," Smith said, "and to have the support of such a prolif­ic coach in Nick Saban. After much considera­tion, I am proud to an­nounce my intent to be­come eligible for the next National Football League draft. Alabama football will always hold a special place in my heart."

Smith is considered by most analysts as the second overall pick. The Detroit Lions, who have the first pick after an 0-16 season, are expected to draft a quarterback but may select Smith. If the Lions choose Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, as many analysts predict, the St. Louis Rams are expected to use the second pick on Smith. If he is taken with the second pick, it would represent the highest draft selection in Alaba­ma football history. For­mer linebacker Corneli­us Bennett also was selected second overall in the 1987 draft. For­mer quarterback Harry Gilmer and former left tackle Chris Samuels were selected third in 1948 and 2000, respec­tively.

Smith started all 38 games he participated in at left tackle for Alabama, stepping into a starting role in the 2006 season opener as a true freshman and missing just two games in his career, both coming this year.

He suffered a sprained knee ligament in the 2008 season opener against Clemson and sat out the Tulane game the following week. After starting the next 10 games for Alabama, he was suspended from the Sugar Bowl on Monday and sent home from New Orleans for a violation of team rules.

Smith won the Jacobs Trophy awarded to the Southeastern Conference's top blocker in 2007 and was a 2008 consensus All-American selection, a Lombardi Award finalist and winner of the Outland Trophy.

"There are a lot more guys who get the reputation than actually live up to the billing," Alabama coach Nick Saban said when Smith accepted the Outland Trophy in Orlando in early December. "He started as a freshman and has improved every year. I don't see them all, and I'm not saying he is better than anybody else, but it's hard for me to think there is any other offensive lineman who has played any better than him this season."

Most NFL analysts feel the same. Smith is the No. 1 player on Scout's "Top 32" listing the projected NFL first-round draft picks, but Drew Boylhart of The Huddle Report believes Smith is a tad overrated and was protected this season by the presence of left guard Mike Johnson on pass plays.

Boylhart notes that "once Andre gets his hands on you while he is blocking, you might as well forget about completing what you started," but points out the 330-pound Smith is too heavy to play left tackle at the professional level and adds, "he is overpowering his opponents, which has resulted in a lot of bad habits, especially in pass blocking."