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Insider: 49ers rookie OLB Smith really impressing

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By PFW staff

The following quotes are from NFL scouts, coaches and front-office personnel, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

• "If you look at the way (49ers ILBs) Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are playing, I don't think there are two better in the National Football League. There is no question they are the best tandem in the league.  But the guy that has been most impressive there is the rookie. If (Aldon Smith) were starting right now, he'd be leading the league in sacks, hands down. His snap-to-sack ratio is ridiculous." 

• "There's not a receiver in the league who stacks up with Calvin Johnson physically. It's not even close — he's the best in the game."

• "I've never seen anyone luck into as many plays as (Giants DE) Jason Pierre-Paul. If you watch his tape closely, it is very generic, and then all of a sudden, he falls into a sack. Then he gets blocked for the next 10 plays, and he falls into another one. … The one thing you have to give him, he plays hard. His motor runs. I'll say this — he has produced."

• "The value of running backs is going down. It takes more than one back to win in this league. I see more and more teams going a committee approach, realizing you can't have enough healthy backs. … It's a passing league. There is a premium now on big-play receivers. I think you'll see guys that can run start getting drafted earlier even if they can't play."

• "(Panthers QB) Cam Newton has a chance to turn the franchise around. He is the Rookie of the Year right now. Everyone said he was squirrelly when he was young at Florida, but the kid has grown up. If he is playing to the fans, so what — they love him. I have seen him throw some balls to Steve Smith that most quarterbacks can't throw. He's setting his feet and making plays in the pocket with two guys hanging on his back. He's only getting better."

• "If you look at Seattle's roster, there's one player who would be starting for us — the safety (Earl Thomas). That is it. Ted Thompson built it up, and Tim Ruskell tore it down, and I haven't seen it get much better since Pete (Carroll) arrived. … They threw a ton of money at the receiver (Sidney Rice) and the tight end (Zach Miller), but they both have missed time and don't have a quarterback to get them the ball. I think they had the right idea upgrading the supporting cast — but a quarterback has got to be able to get the ball from point A to point B. I like Pete, but if he does not find (a passer) next year, he's done, and even then, it might be too late. By the time a rookie comes around, it'll be for another coach. … It's a little different up here when you can't recruit 10 first-rounders every year. You can flip it fast in college. It's a lot harder at our level. I've always thought he was an excellent college coach. He had it humming at USC. But I don't think he's cut out for this league."

• "(Rams QB) Sam Bradford did the same thing last year that he is doing now. It's checkdown, checkdown, checkdown and primary, primary, primary. He's not consistently accurate, especially down the field. Now, how much of that is injury and how much is skill? I think injuries have taken their toll. But again, that was his deal in college. He couldn't stay healthy."

• "(Raiders WR) Denarius Moore looks just like he did in college. Everyone was worried about his character, but no one questioned his speed or ability to make plays down the field."

• "The Bills threw a lot of money at Ryan Fitzpatrick. He's a Harvard guy. He knows the system inside and out. He's made it work for them. But I don't think he will ever take them where they want to go. With how many teams need quarterbacks, the price was only going up. I get it."

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