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Spotlight - QB Alex Smith, San Francisco 49ers

Jason Wood's mug

Jason Wood's Thoughts

Typically we limit our Spotlight analysis to the upcoming season. Although dynasty/keeper leagues are popular (and growing), we ultimately try to appeal to the majority of our subscribers' needs and that is squarely focused on "how will they do this year?"

With that in mind, I don't see much reason to roster Alex Smith unless you're in a deep league where every projected starter and a few backups are drafted. By now you're aware that Tim Rattay, not Smith, is going to start in San Francisco and, if you're to believe the coaches, he won't be on a short leash.

In my view, this is an EXCELLENT decision in terms of the franchise's future. It's not that I don't like Alex Smith (in fact I do), it's that I think the 49ers are a year or two away from being competitive and Smith's value to the franchise is too immense to throw him to the wolves as a rookie.

Smith has off-the-charts football intelligence and the presence in the huddle that separates the "good" QBs from the "great" ones. Yet, he played in a derivative collegiate offense (the "spread option") which called for him move around quite a bit. He played out of the shotgun almost exclusively and would be just as apt to sweep left or right as he would be to make his reads and throw downfield.

His savvy and understanding of NFL schemes will allow him to adjust. Every solid NFL quarterback talks about how the game slows down for them after a time. Better to let the game "slow down" from the sidelines than in the face of a relentless pass rush.


  • Smith has an exceptionally high football IQ, many believe he could (or will) be a head coach someday
  • Smith is uber-athletic, having run the spread option attack to perfection at Utah
  • He's got the requisite physical tools to succeed at the NFL level


  • Smith played in a quirky collegiate offense and need to learn some of the nuances of classic drop-back quarterbacking (i.e., footwork in a 3- or 5-step drop, when to stay in the pocket, taking the snap from center)
  • The 49ers are short handed offensively in terms of personnel. The offensive line, despite adding Jonas Jennings, is a question mark as is the receiving corps
  • Tim Rattay was given the starting job toward the end of camp

Final Thoughts

If you happen to be reading this and are in a Dynasty league, make no mistake, I think Alex Smith WILL be a fantastic NFL QB. Arguably better than guys like Eli Manning, Byron Leftwich and Philip Rivers to name a few. But this year, he's most likely going to sit on the sidelines. And if he does get into game action, it's not going to be pretty.

Colin Dowling's mug

Colin Dowling's Thoughts

I really like Alex Smith’s chances to be a good NFL quarterback. I actually like his chances to be a good NFL quarterback much more then most people. I realize his preseason outings haven’t inspired much confidence, but here’s the thing to remember about Alex Smith: he wasn’t drafted first overall because he has a cannon arm (though his arm is underrated) or because he’s fleet of foot. (he certainly is). He was drafted first overall because he possesses precisely the kind of persona, attitude, and mind to be a team leader for the long term.

Smith’s strength lies squarely between his ears. While he has ample physical talent, Smith is going to mature in to a solid NFL starter in conjunction with his mental adjustment and development at the quarterback position.

Looking at the top drafted quarterbacks in recent years, it’s easy to see that most of them – Palmer, Carr, Vick, Harrington, Eli Manning – were selected because of the physical upside they possess. As such, I ask you now, 3 or 4 or 5 years later, where are those guys with regard to that upside? Palmer is on-track but unproven. Carr is still a work in progress. Vick still hasn’t learned the finer points of passing. And Harrington’s job seems to constantly be in jeopardy.

So I ask you now, why not give a chance to a player that has the upside of having an accelerated learning curve at the quarterback position?


  • Has shown the ability to master a complex, pro style offense.
  • More mobile then most quarterbacks.
  • Underrated arm capable of making most throws.


  • Team lacks talent at most every offensive position.
  • Smith’s preseason games have reminded us all that he is indeed a rookie.
  • Tim Rattay has been named the season starter by Mike Nolan

Final Thoughts

Alex Smith may not offer much in redraft leagues, although I suspect he’ll end up better on a points-per-game-basis then some veterans. However, long term, there is plenty of reason to be excited about Smith’s prospects. He has the physical tools and the mentality to grow into a solid and stable option, not just in the NFL but in fantasy football. In dynasty leagues, Smith is well worth investing a mid-to-late first round choice on.

Quotations from the Message Board Thread

To view the entire Player Spotlight thread (there's a ton of fantastic commentary in there), click here.

Prior to the draft, all the talk was that Rodgers was the QB more ready to start and Smith would need "time". However, the teams' marketing campaign is centered on Smith, incumbent Rattay was on the market all offseason (and Nolan didn't even talk to him for months after being named head coach), Nolan has said he would prefer Smith to be ready to start, and now Smith is getting the majority of the reps with the 1st team Offense in camp all lead me to believe Smith will start right away.

I personally don't think Rattay was that bad a QB under the circumstances, and Smith won't be better, at least not immediately. IMO it's too bad that Nolan seems to have made up his mind already, Rattay could easily be the better option this year.

Alex Smith Projections

Jason Wood80043702
Colin Dowling13421391401
Message Board Consensus300010164503

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