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49ers project top pick Smith as pillar in nickel defense

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted May 25, 2011 @ 6:50 p.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Don't look for No. 1 draft pick Aldon Smith to become a starter right away. "I don't see that happening, particularly considering his lack of experience dropping back in coverage," one team insider said. "Don't forget, he's only 20 years old and really hasn't played all that much. I do see him getting on the field in passing situations. And in today's NFL, that means he would be seeing action more than half the time. Fred Dean never started for the Niners, and he's in the Hall of Fame. I'd be surprised if Smith was not viewed as a pillar in the team's nickel defense by October at the latest." It's looking more and more like the starting outside linebackers will continue to be Manny Lawson and Parys Haralson on the strong side and weak side, respectively — unless Lawson, a free agent, becomes unrestricted, which would increase his market value. "If [Lawson] leaves, then I think Haralson and Ahmad Brooks will start," the insider said.

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