Is Aldon Smith the NFL's Best Defensive Player?

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Is Aldon Smith the NFL's Best Defensive Player?
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Aldon Smith, OLB, San Francisco 49ers

San Francisco 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith broke a couple of sacks records on Monday Night Football against the Chicago Bears. He could be the best pure pass-rusher in the NFL already—as a sophomore—but he still has room to grow before he can be recognized as the best defensive player in the league.

Smith’s 28th career sack marked the most that any NFL player has achieved in his first 26 career games—until he notched his 29th career sack in the same game.

Now that everyone has played 10 games, Smith is on top of the NFL sacks leaderboard with 15. He’s on pace for 24 sacks, which would be an NFL record. Fellow sophomore Von Miller has 13. Smith’s second broken record is one made for prime-time:

Is Aldon Smith the NFL's best defensive player?

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Without taking anything away from his incredible accomplishments—no more jokes need to be made about the Chicago offensive line—Smith can’t yet be considered as the NFL Defensive Player of the Year. There’s too much talent surrounding him.

This isn’t the 2011 version of Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher DeMarcus Ware, who racked up 19.5 sacks despite being the premier defensive threat on a team that couldn’t cover a glass of water.

Smith is blessed with top-flight NFL talent all around him in guys like Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Justin Smith. Just as importantly, the 49ers can cover. Smith has been productive enough to warrant double-teams on a regular basis, but they aren’t happening because offensive lines have to account for other San Francisco defenders.

That’s why quarterbacks get sacked.

Smith is only now growing into a full-time player for San Francisco and certainly has the potential to develop into a strong DPOY candidate—especially if he can shed the label of being purely a pass-rusher.

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