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From Game Manager to Game Changer: Alex Smith
In 2005, Alex Smith was drafted with the 1st overall pick in the NFL draft to play quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers. 1st overall pick or not, for any quarterback to succeed in the NFL, you are going to need talent, a coach and a system that makes the most of that talent, and the right personnel. For the first five to six years of his career, one could say that everything that happened to the quarterback out of Utah was like a movie straight from Hollywood, a horror film. A consistently weak receiving corps and porous offensive lines were just some of the problems he faced. Going from a coach that didn’t trust him (Mike Nolan) to a coach who couldn’t keep his pants on (Mike Singletary), Alex Smith finally had a competent coach who not only believed in him, but put him in situations for him to succeed and succeed he did. Despite being 2 muffed punts away from a Super Bowl game and leading the NFL in completion percentage the following year, Smith got traded to the Kansas City Chiefs in the offseason. The current state of these Chiefs makes me believe that Alex Smith will not only be a solid, efficient QB in real life, but I’m going to surprise a lot of people and say that he is going to be a QB1 in 2013.
2013 is one of those years where the QB position is extremely deep, along with tight end. Running back and wide receivers on the other hand, are much scarcer. The problem is, after the first few rounds, it’s tough to say which RBs and WRs are going to have a good season. You’re drafting handcuffs, third down backs and secondary WRs, but every year, there are guys in this group that break out and reward investors. If you are able to wait on a QB, the more guys in this tier you are able to take in the middle to late rounds, and the higher the odds are that you select the guy that breaks out. If the QB that you select in the late rounds is able to put up top 10-12 numbers? Then you are almost guaranteed to win your season. Here’s why I think Smith deserves to be on every roster this upcoming season.
In Kansas City, Smith is going to have another coach that can best utilize his talents. During the two seasons that Smith played under Harbaugh, he averaged 7.6 yards per attempt but only 27 passes per game during this time span. Andy Reid’s pass happy offense on the other hand, averaged 35 passes per game throughout Reid’s entire tenure. If you combine this with Smith’s YPA and extrapolate it to a full 16 game season, it comes out to 4,250 passing yards, which would’ve had him in the top 10 last year. Smith may not be the best at throwing the long ball, but Reid knows this. Reid’s West Coast offense doesn’t rely much on deep throws, but rather short, safe ones that Smith excels at. The transition from Harbaugh’s offense to Reid’s will be seamless, and for someone who knows what it feels like to learn a brand new playbook every year, that is so important. If you throw in Smith’s X factor, his legs, he becomes even more valuable. He averaged over 11 yards per carry and had no fewer than 130 yards on the ground each year under Harbaugh. Do you remember that bootleg that came against the Saints in the Divisional round of the playoffs? The talent is there. The coach is there. All he needs are weapons around him to make the most of his situation. Speaking of which…
Offensively, an argument can be made that the weapons at Smith’s disposal are going to be more explosive and talented than what he had in San Francisco. In the backfield, Jamaal Charles is not only capable of running between the tackles, but also is an excellent pass catcher. If you throw in RB/WR specialist Dexter McCluster, you’ve got two of the most explosive pass catching running back duos in the league taking short dump offs from Smith. While his tight end will not be close to what he had on the Niners, Anthony Fasano and Tony Moeaki are both solid pass catchers that were on one too many sleeper TE lists a few years ago. Many experts smarter than me have pegged Dwayne Bowe as having a breakout season this year because he will be playing with the most talented QB he has ever had. This works both ways: Bowe is the number 1 receiver that Smith has NEVER had in his entire career. Smith’s leading receivers before Crabtree broke out in 2011? Arnaz Battle, pre-Denver Brandon Lloyd and Antonio Bryant. Yikes. With a solid offensive line that added Eric Fisher this past draft, all the pieces are in place for Smith’s breakout year.
Talent, coaching, and a supporting cast. These are things that all the elite quarterbacks have. While I’m not saying that Smith is going to be better than guys like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees or Cam Newton, he has a good chance of putting up QB1 numbers. Smith is poised to make a tremendous impact both for the Chiefs and for your own fake football team. Smith’s ADP is currently in the 200’s, so he literally can be had for nothing. We’re all antsy for the season to start, so while it seems a little strange to make a prediction of what will happen at the end of the season, I’ll do it anyways. When we look back upon the drafts and waiver wire pick-ups, Alex Smith is going to be the first name on the list again, but this time, on the list of biggest surprises of 2013.