The fine folks at Football Outsiders put together their 2011 All-Rookie Team and it should surprise nobody that Aldon Smith and Bruce Miller were on the team. Miller was in at fullback, while Smith was listed as "Joker/Pass Rusher Off The Bench." Whereas normally there would be an honorable mention spot, they recognized that Smith plays so many snaps even as a "part-time" player.
Bruce Miller has been an absolutely money pick, and he deserves plenty of all-rookie team honors. Hitting on a first round pick is necessary for a team to maintain some manner of success. Also hitting on seventh round picks is where a team can position itself to take the next step.
The 49ers have done a fairly solid job picking up quality contributors in the latter rounds. Among others, the 49ers late round contributors this year have included Miller, Kyle Williams, Ricky Jean-Francois, Larry Grant (by way of St. Louis), Joshua Morgan (before he got hurt), Tarell Brown, Delanie Walker, Parys Haralson and Brian Jennings, among others. The team is doing a better job of hitting on more of the early and mid picks and will hopefully turn this into a complete effort moving forward.
I did find it interesting that FO named Von Miller the Defensive Rookie of the Year. It is not absurd to go with Miller, but I think many of us can agree Aldon Smith is right in the thick of the discussion. As per FO, Miller has 11.5 sacks, 23 QB hits, 19 tackles for a loss and 2 forced fumbles, among other things. Aldon Smith on the other hand has 14 sacks, 35 QB hits 14 tackles for a loss, 2 forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
Von Miller received a great share of snaps, but that argument can go two ways. Miller was given more responsibilities, but Aldon Smith was better getting to the QB on a consistent basis. It can roll both ways. So, realistically, how do you see the race playing out? It will be incredibly close and a final big push in Week 17 could very well be the difference for one of these two men.