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Aldon Smith wins Defensive Rookie of the Year

Pro Football Weekly
49ers' Harbaugh expects Smith to be ready for opener

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49ers' Harbaugh expects Smith to be ready for opener

Youth has most definitely been served in San Francisco this season, with 22-year-old Aldon Smith, the youngest player on the 49ers, headlining a strong rookie crop that provided a major impact in head coach Jim Harbaugh's NFL maiden voyage.

The first-round draft pick out of the University of Missouri was selected as this year's PFW/PFWA Defensive Rookie of the Year after wasting no time becoming a premier pass-rushing force at the pro level.

Smith's team-high 14 sacks set a franchise record for most sacks in a rookie season and fell just half a sack short of the league record for sacks by a rookie, set by Jevon Kearse with the Titans in 1999.

"He is a unique talent in the sense that he's got a defensive end's size (6-4, 258 pounds) and the mobility, agility and speed of a linebacker," 49ers GM Trent Baalke said of Smith, who led all rookies in sacks and tied for fifth among all players.  

"He's a pressure player. He had proven to us that he had a knack for getting to the quarterback, and that was something we had been missing. It's hard to pass up guys like that. It was a bit of a projection, but we were impressed with his passion and work ethic, and what people had told us about him - about his ability to play at such a high level coming off an injury in his junior year."

Smith had his share of dominant performances, the most notable being his 2½-sack masterpiece on a national stage against the Steelers the night he set the franchise record for most sacks by a rookie. He totaled seven QB hits and two tackles for loss in the Niners' 20-3 home victory.

"We knew he was young and needed to mature. But we were confident in our coaching staff's ability to bring him along," Baalke said.

Smith's teammates also have gone out of their way to help him develop, particularly fellow Mizzou grad Justin Smith, the team's second-leading sacker this season with 7½ .

"Aldon's had a tremendous rookie season," star ILB Patrick Willis said early in the week leading up to the Niners' divisional playoff game vs. the Saints. "He is getting great pass rush, and it helps when you're in coverage, and that's across the board. (DT) Justin Smith, (OLB) Parys (Haralson), (OLB) Ahmad (Brooks), (DT) Ray (McDonald) — all those guys have worked with him all season.

"They continue to do that, and he listens well."



Defensive Rookie of the Year

2011   OLB Aldon Smith  / S.F.
2010   DT Ndamukong Suh  / Det.
2009   LB Brian Cushing / Hou.
2008   LB Jerod Mayo / N.E.
2007   LB Patrick Willis / S.F.
2006   LB Demeco Ryans / Hou.
2005   LB Shawne Merriman / S.D.
2004   CB Dunta Robinson / Hou.
2003   LB Terrell Suggs / Balt.
2002   DE Julius Peppers / Car.
2001   LB Kendrell Bell / Pitt.
2000   LB Brian Urlacher / Chi.
1999   DE Jevon Kearse / Ten.
1998   CB Charles Woodson / Oak.
1997   LB Peter Boulware / Balt.
1996   DE Simeon Rice / Ariz.
1995   DE Hugh Douglas / N.Y.J.
1994   DT Tim Bowens / Mia.
1993   DT Dana Stubblefield / S.F.
1992   CB-PR Dale Carter / K.C.
1991   LB Mike Croel / Den.
1990   FS Mark Carrier / Chi.
1989   LB Derrick Thomas / K.C.
1988   FS Erik Mcmillan / N.Y.J.
1987   LB Shane Conlan / Buff.
1986   LB John Offerdahl / Mia.
            DE Leslie O'Neal / S.D.
1985   No Award
1984   S Tom Flynn / G.B.
1983   LB Vernon Maxwell / Balt.
1982   LB Chip Banks / Clev.
1981   LB Lawrence Taylor / N.Y.G.
1980   LB Buddy Curry / Atl.
1979   DE Jesse Baker / Hou.
1978   DE Al Baker / Det.
1977   DE A.J. Duhe / Mia.
1976   CB Mike Haynes / N.E.
1975   LB Robert Brazile / Hou.
1974   LB Jack Lambert / Pitt.
1973   DT Wally Chambers / Chi.
1972   DE Sherman White / Cin.
1971   LB Isiah Robertson / L.A. Rams
1970   CB Bruce Taylor / S.F.
1969   DT Joe Greene / Pitt. (NFL)
            CB James Marsalis / K.C. (AFL)

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