More and more NFL rookies are expected to contribute early in their careers. However, for them to make an impact they need to beat out a veteran player. We are going to analyze the situation of specific rookies and determine the likely hood of them winning a position battle.
Player: Aldon Smith
Team: San Francisco 49ers
Position: Outside Linebacker
Chance of winning the battle: 85 percent
Thoughts: I am on record as stating that Aldon Smith needs time and work in order to develop. However, when reviewing the linebacker depth chart I feel he has a good chance to make an immediate impact. The 49ers have struggled to generate a consistent pass rush and a lot of that failure falls on the outside linebackers.
The trio of Manny Lawson, Ahmad Brooks, and Parys Haralson combined for 11.5 sacks which is not the type of production needed from this position. In the 49ers 3-4 system, it is expected that one of the outside linebackers will create pressure off the edge.
I have little doubt that Smith will see significant playing time especially on passing downs. He is the only one on the roster that presents a true edge threat. While, Smith will go through growing pains he is still the best pass rush option. Look for Smith to start the season as a 3rd down specialist but move into a more full time roll as his coverage technique improves.