NFL Honors 2012 Predictions: Justin Smith Must Win Defensive Player of the Year

Michael DixonAnalyst IIIFebruary 3, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14:  Justin Smith #94 of the San Francisco 49ers hovers over Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints after Brees was sacked in the third quarter of the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

There was no one player in the NFL that made the kind of impact that San Francisco's Justin Smith had this year. Moving between defensive end and tackle, Smith dominated opponents all year, anchoring a defense that at times was impossible to move against. 

Doug Williams of NBC Bay Area wrote a glowing piece on Smith, but doesn't feel he'll win the award. 

Smith likely won’t win the honor, because his numbers pale in comparison with some others. Minnesota Vikings defensive end Jared Allen, for instance, had 22 sacks this season, a phenomenal total. Smith had 7.5.

Looking only at the sack numbers, the edge goes to Allen, who had 22 sacks against 7.5 for Smith. But this is an award that has to go beyond just sacks. When you compare the impact each player made on his respective team, the edge goes to Smith in a big way. 

Let's start with the fact that Smith is not exclusively a pass-rusher. He often stays in to defend the rush, which is not Allen's forte. While the edge in sacks goes to Allen, Smith recorded 52 tackles against 46 for Allen. That goes a long way in evening up Allen's edge in sacks. 

Another question we have to ask is what kind of contribution did the two players make to their teams? The numbers tell that story. 

  PPG    League Rank  Rushing YPG  League Rank  Passing YPG  League Rank
49ers  14.3 2 77.3 1 230.9 16
Vikings  28.1 31 107 11 251.2 26

Even Allen's gaudy sack totals didn't keep teams from passing all over the Vikings all year. Those numbers are especially telling, as the 49ers were 13-3 while the Vikings were 3-13. Generally, the more a team is winning, the more teams are trying to pass on them and the more they're losing, the more likely they are to see the run. 

The double-teams Smith drew routinely allowed defenders like NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis to roam free and attack the linebackers. It also opened up holes for Aldon Smith, whose 14 sacks just missed a rookie record. And when push came to shove, Smith was capable of overcoming the obstacle and disrupting the quarterback.

Ultimately, the battle between Smith and Allen comes down to one question: Do you value sacks more than overall impact on the team? If you do, then Allen is your choice.

But with all due respect to a great defender in Allen, no defensive player made as much impact on their team or on the league as Smith. He is the only logical Defensive Player of the Year candidate.