Aldon Smith, looks like you have some mentoring to do.
The 6’2’’, 245-pound former member of the Fighting Irish isn’t fully commensurate with the 49ers dominant quarterback killer (6’4’’, 258 pounds). However, Fleming offers adequate abilities as a pass-rusher, utilizing his 33-inch arms.
He compiled 14.5 sacks in his four-year college career, in addition to 32 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, nine deflected passes and two interceptions.
As opposed to Smith, Fleming started all four years as a true 3-4 OLB, whereas the incumbent 49ers starter converted from the defensive end position after just two years at Missouri.
In terms of relative draft “needs”—that is indeed a relative term—the 49ers sought depth at various areas in their 4th-ranked total defense in 2011. Outside linebacker was certainly one of them.
Fleming provides solid value at pressuring the quarterback—a necessary asset compounded by the NFL-elite QBs on the 2012 schedule—and setting the edge against the run. He’ll resemble Ahmad Brooks in those regards. Neutralizing plays on the outside is Fleming’s primary strength.
Furthermore, he is capable in zone, but not man-coverage schemes, and lacks natural athleticism and lateral agility.
With all that said, expect the 49ers coaching staff to utilize him in much the same way as Aldon Smith, that being exclusively as a pass-rusher on third downs. If coincidence means anything, both Smith and Fleming recorded 14.5 sacks in their career and each less than four during their final collegiate campaign.
Some fans might scoff at this selection due to higher-rated defensive players remaining on the board. DE Trevor Guyton, DT Billy Winn, S George Iloka and CB Chase Minnifield all would have offered exceptional value at the end of the fifth round.
Fleming still provides beneficial depth for Smith, Brooks and Parys Haralson at the outside linebacker position. This was a solid, not stellar move by Trent Baalke.
The pick did occur in the fifth round, an area fairly devoid of household names. So don’t expect me to cast any aspersion on Baalke’s strategy so late in the draft.
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