If it weren’t for Monday night’s nationally televised match-up between the Steelers and 49ers, most of you would have little to no idea who Aldon Smith is. It only took 15 Weeks of the NFL Season for people to get a chance to see this kid in action. Obviously the 49ers haven’t had many nationally televised games, at the same time most of the country knows who Von Miller and Ryan Kerrigan are.
Aldon Smith didn’t get the kind of love he deserved on draft day either, he was considered a “project” by many scouts. He was doubted, but never his physical tools. Blessed with an 84 inch wingspan, standing 6’4, and weighing 263 pounds it’s obvious that Smith “looked” the part. Smith reminded me of a certain player the year before who was lauded for his physical tools, yet wasn’t expected to contribute early in Jason Pierre-Paul. Flash forward a year and JPP is dominating the league as a 2nd year player with 13.5 sacks. You would think that when another player with similar physical tools is presented, scouts would reference JPP and think otherwise. Instead things like this were said:
“I would have taken Gabbert and potentially Robert Quinn over Aldon Smith at seven.”
” You watch, Robert Quinn is going to be a better player for the Rams at 14 than Aldon Smith will be at 7.”- Draft Analyst Robert Rang
“Smith is gifted athletically, but his game has alot of growth left. Jim Harbough clearly sees him as a fit, but Smith won’t be asked simply to pin his ears back and rush the passer; he’ll also need to read the NFL game.” -Mel Kiper
Smith has been a factor for the 49ers since training camp, he showed flashes as early as Pre-season, he has an innate ability to “get skinny” as 49ers DE Justin Smith would say. Great pass rushers are able to “bend” the corner, if a kid shows you that ability early you’ve stumbled upon a keeper. Smith has only been asked to play on “obvious” passing downs this season, so pretty much only 3rd and long situations. Now compare that with Miller and Kerrigan who have pretty much been starting since Day 1, not to take anything away from those other kids but they have more opportunities to make impact plays. All 3 of these young players are studs, I simply want to show you how much of an impact Aldon makes in his limited number of opportunities. Mind you both Miller and Kerrigan play with above average pass-rushing teammates in Elvis Dummerville and Brian Orakpo. Which means all 3 kids are getting 1 on 1 match-ups most of the time.
Von Miller- 13 games, 11.5 sacks
Ryan Kerrigan- 14 games, 7.5 sacks
*Aldon Smith- 14 games, 13.0 sacks
The reason JPP is such a great reference point is that neither player started, they were both in the rotation but didn’t get a starter’s share of the snaps. Barring an injury, both will have played in 16 games in a limited role. The difference being that Aldon tripled JPP’s production in sacks in a similar sample size. This isn’t a nomination for Defensive Rookie of the Year on Aldon’s behalf, I’m simply serving notice that he’s been doing this ALL SEASON LONG for arguably the BEST DEFENSE in the league. That is all, please leave your thoughts or comments below!