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The seventh overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft had a monster year for the 49ers. Aldon Smith proved to be an absolute animal on the field. In his rookie year, he was mostly used as a situational pass-rusher while Parys Haralson was the starter. After double-digit sacks in his first year, however, it looks like Smith has earned himself a starting role.
Smith had only 37 tackles in 2011, yet 14 were sacks. On top of the numerous quarterback hits, he had two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and four passes defensed. Over the season, he was responsible for more than 100 yards lost by opposing teams.
He put up such astounding numbers as a youngster, and there are so many factors that indicate he'll be even more productive in 2012. Entering his second year, he will become the starter and assume most of the reps, unlike his rookie season. He will have more experience, flow with the defense, be acclimated to the speed of the NFL and have a full offseason to build his game.
Remember, Smith is very competitive and he went to the NFC Championship in his first year in the NFL; it'll be hard for him to accept less than that from now on.
The sky is the limit for Aldon Smith as many draft analysts and NFL commentators have compared him to Bruce Smith, the all-time NFL career sack leader. Being compared to a Hall of Famer isn't bad after your rookie year. I personally cannot wait to see him take the league apart as a full-time starter at outside linebacker.