Posts Tagged ‘Alex Smith’

When Alex Smith was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2013 2nd round pick and a conditional pick in 2014 there were plenty of fans who said the price was too high for Smith, who could have presumably ended up a cap casualty for the 49ers, but with the regular season ready to get underway the Chiefs seem to have gotten a steal. The Chiefs went from the worst record in the NFL in 2012 to a trendy dark horse playoff pick that could challenge the Broncos (especially following the loss of Elvis Dumervil and suspension of Von Miller) for the AFC West title. The interesting thing is that Smith could have had a similar effect on several of the other teams he who were rumored to be interested in the former number 1 overall draft pick.

We’ll start with the Vikings who find themselves in the usual position of being an afterthought in the NFC North, even after earning a playoff berth in 2012. I understand, Percy Harvin is gone, and Adrian Peterson had one of the best season’s for a running back in the history of the game (a feat made only more impressive by his recent return from an ACL injury and the prevalence of pass heavy offenses in the modern NFL.) But just think if Alex Smith were under center this season instead of Christian Ponder. Immediately people are talking about how great it is that Ponder will finally have a mentor and the Vikes jump immediately into the conversation as a team that can really challenge the Packers in the North. The defense probably starts to earn more credit and the Kyle Rudolph hype train would go out of control. The Vikings have a better offensive line than the Bears, a better running back and with Smith they would have at least a more consistent QB. Not to mention we get to have Alex Smith vs. Aaron Rodgers twice a year in a battle of the ’05 draft’s top QBs.

Next we’ll move over to New York and the Jets. Okay, so this one isn’t really fair. The Jets are a mess and didn’t have the money to pay two QB $8 million in the same year, but it certainly would have settled the controversy and maybe, just maybe allowed Rex Ryan to keep from losing his cool in front of the media. Unfortunately for the Jets, Smith probably doesn’t make them playoff contenders. There is some talent on the offensive side of the ball, Chris Ivory holds a lot of potential, but Stephen Hill entering his second year suddenly becomes a much more intriguing player, and Smith probably also gets the best out of Jeremy Kerley in the slot. The AFC East seems pretty wide open this year so maybe with Miami losing Keller for the year and the Bills breaking in a rookie QB you could say the Jets would finish in 2nd in the division without people laughing at you.

The Jaguars find themselves in a similar situation. You have a lot of talent with an improved offensive line a healthy MJD, the emergence of Cecil Shorts and 12 games of Justin Blackmon with Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson as speedy x-factors, so having a guy in Alex Smith who could consistently get the ball in the hands of your playmakers makes anything seem possible, but honestly it wouldn’t even come close to putting them ahead of the Texans and Colts. Still, I have to think the fans of the Jaguars would feel a lot better about the season with Smith under center than Blaine Gabbert or Chad Henne.

The Cleveland Browns actually seem to have made out the best without Smith. Brandon Weeden has looked good running Norv Turner’s offense and there’s some cautious optimism surrounding the team. Considering the Browns still play in the same division as the Ravens, Bengals and Steelers that’s about all they could have hoped for from getting Smith under center as well.

I guess you can also call the Cardinals ‘winners’ in the succeeding without Alex Smith game. Carson Palmer fits Bruce Arians attack better, so had the Cardinals ended up with Smith there would have been constant questions surrounding his arm strength, and while Smith is clearly the better QB, the offensive line and running game are much bigger issues for Arizona in 2013.

I don’t know if he was even rumored to be connected to either of these teams, but I also think Smith could have had a big impact on the perception of the Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans. Of course if Buffalo surrendered it’s second round pick they would have missed out on Robert Woods, who I believe could be in for a big year. But for arguments sake, let’s say they gave up a 2014 first rounder instead so they can keep their whole draft class. Again you get Smith in a mentor role to a QB in EJ Manuel many thought would need time to develop. You also give Smith the two things he works best with, a good running game, and a West Coast offense. With Smith at the helm it;s likely the Bills and not the Dolphins who are being talked about as the biggest threat to the Patriots in the AFC East. The Titans I’m sure never really considered it, but they have a lot of talent at WR, a good looking run game and one of Alex’s favorite targets in TE Delanie Walker.

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I’m hoping to do a more complete list at some point as their are a lot of guys I think might be flying under the radar this season, especially at WR and TE, but since I’m already behind here are a few of my favorites:

Quarterback

Alex Smith, Chiefs:

Maybe I’m just the last guy to give up on Alex Smith’s fantasy value, but I think he has a chance to be a consistent fantasy QB this year, and as deep as QB is this year things get dicey after the elite guys, and the biggest question, especially once you pass the top 10 guys is consistency. Smith’s upside is he’s accurate, he’s mobile and he has everything to prove. He also left behind a very run friendly San Francisco offense and now leads Andy Reid’s pass happy attack. He also may have the most complete complement of weapons either coach or player has ever had: Bowe can be a true #1, Baldwin should be primed to produce and Avery, looks to prove he can be a consistent target. Add Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster as guys who can really move with the ball in space, and TE Tony Moeaki and Anthony Fasano as red zone targets and what you get is a QB with a high floor and plenty of upside.

Sam Bradford, Rams:

Bradford is a perennial sleeper candidate ever since he teased fantasy owners with a promising rookie campaign, only to fall short of anyone claiming to be sure of his fantasy relevance, but this year might actually be different. Bradford found a connection with last years 4th round pick Chris Givens and while it’s still only preseason Tavon Austin is rumored to be living up to the hype that made him the #8 overall pick in the 2013 draft which means Bradford should have the most complete group of receivers in his Rams tenure. It’s also worth mentioning that Jared Cook adds a big bodied presence in the middle of the field and that Jake Long also figure to be the best blindside protector Bradford’s ever had. This will be Bradford’s first year without Steven Jackson, and with the run game up in the air and the current leader for the starting job (Daryl Richardson) being a talented pass catcher Bradford will be throwing often.

(Editor’s Note: My first draft featured Miami Dolphin’s 2nd year QB Ryan Tannehill rather than Sam Bradford, but I credited a good deal of Tannehill’s sleeper value to TE Dustin Keller who will now miss the entire season after tearing multiple ligaments in his knee.)

 

Running Back

Giovanni Bernard, Bengals:

Been high on Bernard since the pre-draft process, and I like the fit with the Bengals. He’s going to be splitting carries with BenJarvus Green-Ellis, but he’s the more versatile back and assuming he stays healthy he could have the Law Firm relegated to Goal Line and short yard work by mid season.

Daryl Richardson, Rams:

Coach Jeff Fisher has come out and said that Richardson is the leader for the starting job so far and I just don’t see him giving it up that easily. He’s already the more experienced back and he’s making the most of his first team reps. Not to mention Pead still has a one game suspension to serve so unless either Pead or Stacy set the field on fire in the next few weeks, I think Richardson runs away with the job and doesn’t look back. He’s a bargain in the mid/late-rounds and well worth the pick if you end up missing out on an elite runner in the early rounds and are hurting for RB depth.

Wide Reciever

Kenny Stills, Saints:

If you’ve been watching the preseason this shouldn’t come as a surprise for you. The Saints have been giving Stills special attention in games, presumably to help him develop chemistry with Drew Brees. (He had 4 receptions for 64 yards and a TD in game 2 and a few nice catches to go with a few close misses in Game 1) Now of course preseason numbers don’t count for the season, but Still projects to the Devery Henderson role of deep target, and he’s probably no better than the 3rd or 4th option behind Colston, Graham and maybe Lance Moore, but he’ll have some big games and some bad games, but that should make him worthy of a late round flier.

Chris GivensRams:

This should be a no brainer. Givens emerged as a favorite target of Sam Bradford last year and the additions of Tavon Austin and Jared Cook only means more one on one match-ups outside for the second year burner out of Wake Forest. You can draft Givens as a #4 receiver and he has #2 upside. The Rams will be better this year and when all is said and done Givens is going to be the guy Bradford looks for.

Tight End

Jordan Cameron, Browns:

I’ve been high on Cameron since the Browns failed to sign Fred Davis away from Washington, and his stock has shot through the roof since then, but he’s still flying under most people’s radars due to the depth at TE and emergence of the position as a legitimate offensive threat. What’s going to set Cameron apart is earning the trust of his 2nd year QB playing for a team in need of playmakers in an offense that isn’t afraid to showcase the TE. (see Gates, Antonio)

Rob Housler, Cardinals:

Similar to Cameron, I’m not quite as high on Housler, but Larry Fitzgerald can’t do it alone and we learned last year that Carson Palmer likes to check down to his tight end. Not to mention the aforementioned Larry Fitzgerald has praised Housler’s hands. And even at 6’5, 250lbs the third year has plenty of speed to keep up with new Head Coach Bruce Arians vertical passing game. He’s well worth a late round flier and could make a steady stand-in with plenty of upside if you’re also drafting Rob Gronkowski.

Defense/Special Teams

Colts:

Coach Chuck Pagano may have been away from the team much of the 2012, but he’s back on the sidelines, and with another offseason to help build his defense this should be a much improved unit. Remember Pagano is a defensive guy, and the Colts quietly had a very nice offseason. Aubrayo Franklin should be a solid addition at Nose Tackle and could hopefully mentor rookie Montori Hughes. Adding versatile former 49ers Defensive Lineman Ricky Jean Francois is great for depth. The pass rush could be much improved if Erik Walden plays up to his contract and Bjorn Werner plays up to his draft status. The secondary looks to at least be a more physical unit with LaRon Landry coming in at Safety and former Cardinal Greg Toler at Cornerback.

Chiefs:

This is another unit that stands to be much improved after being pretty terrible last year. The offense will be better, which should help keep the defense fresh, and assuming they can stay healthy this is a formidable secondary featuring Eric Berry at Safety, and an impressive trio of CBs in Brandon Flowers, Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson with nearly across the board pro bowl linebackers and what looks to be an improved defensive line. Dontari Poe has a full season under his belt and looks to improve, and adding Mike DeVito at DE could be a difference maker.

Kicker

Kai Forbath, Redskins:

I know, a kickers a kicker to most people, but Forbath seems to have gotten lost behind the emergence of Blair Walsh and Greg Zuerlein, but after taking over full time kicker duties midway through last season Forbath didn’t miss a kick. I’m not saying reach for him, but if your pick is in the later half of the final round he should be sitting there and should be a solid option all season long.

Don’t let anyone tell you the Chiefs should have waited for the 49ers released Alex Smith, or until the cost of a trade came down, because neither option was on the horizon. If anything Alex Smith’s stock was on the rise. It’s no coincidence that this deal is announced to be all but complete just days after this year’s rookie QB’s worked out at the combine in Indianapolis. Tyler Bray of Tennessee was about the lone story of a QB who threw significantly better than expected, and the major knock against Bray was never his arm. What the combine largely proved for the QB class was, what you saw is what you were getting.

New head coach of the QB needy Cardinals, Bruce Arians, said the group lacked a ‘wow’ factor. That could only be good news for Smith as while the draft seemed to lack significant first round talent it was believed most of the teams looking to draft their franchise signal caller this year would do so in the 2nd round. This likely became the baseline.

Remember, even though we only heard reports out of Kansas City and Arizona that their was a high level of interest in Smith, a lack luster QB combine could have spiked interest, particularly in Cleveland where Alex Smith’s old OC Norv Turner currently resides with a head coach who’s fond of mobile QB’s (Smith may not be Cam Newton, but he’s leagues ahead of Weeden.) I also think Buffalo could have come calling. They’ve already got a bit of money tied up in Fitzpatrick and Jackson, but if they weren’t wowed by their interviews with the rookie prospects it would be a worthwhile investment (especially since Smith was likely to restructure his deal with a new team anyway.) The Cardinals, I expect were willing to part with a second rounder, that otherwise was expected to go to Matt Barkley. Smith would provide all the football intelligence of the USC product, plus a stronger arm and NFL experience.

So, no, the Chiefs should not have simply waited. Alex Smith wasn’t going to be released and while the second round pick is a particularly high one, and finding out that there is a second conditional pick headed to San Fran next year may sting this is the price that must be paid to lock in a starting QB. And those of you who were hoping for Nick Foles (Andy Reid may well be amongst this group) he was reportedly unavailable, and based on the reports out of Philly is unlikely to come available anytime before training camp, which just leaves too much uncertainty. No, the Chiefs paid what they had to to secure Smith’s services and lock in a starter at QB, which essentially takes them from rebuilding project to contender’s in the AFC West (the Broncos will be tough to overcome, but the Raiders and Chargers…not so much.)

It was at one time thought that Alex Smith would be the most attractive free agent QB on the market this offseason. At this time it was believed as fact that the 49ers would grant the former No. 1 overall pick his release and he would be free to seek out a new contract and a new team. But with a weak QB draft class and a QB needy division rival in Arizona the 49ers decided to hold on to Smith, at least for now, to explore trade possibilities.

But, I’ve gotten the feeling recently that Smith’s once high trade value is dropping quickly, with QB needy teams looking in other directions. The Buffalo Bills who had shown some interest in Smith, have since resigned Tavaris Jackson and made a statement that both Jackson and current started Ryan Fitzpatrick will stay with the team, likely to provide competition for a rookie QB.

The Chiefs, who I had pegged as a good landing spot for Alex have inquired about Nick Foles, who obviously worked with new Chiefs coach Andy Reid last year. Many analysts also believe the Chiefs could take Geno Smith with the #1 overall pick in this year’s draft on the assumption that starting LT Brandon Albert will be resigned.

The Jaguars new GM David Caldwell released a statement that he was interested in building around former first round pick Blaine Gabbert. With the team still rebuilding in a tough AFC South the team would likely rather keep it’s draft picks. Should Alex Smith get released, I would look for the Jags to reevaluate the situation. (With MJD in the final year of his contract and the emergence of Cecil Shorts and Justin Blackmon improved QB play could go a long way towards helping the struggling Jags.)

The Eagles, who also at one point showed some interest in Smith, have since resigned Michael Vick removing the need for Smith, and added QB Dennis Dixon, which at least opens the door to the possibility of trading current back-up Nick Foles.

The Browns emerge as a strong candidate, stuck with a QB they don’t want and one of Alex Smith’s many former coordinators Norv Turner calling the plays. But the Browns have plenty of holes to fill and may be reluctant to surrender any draft picks. The Browns are in line to have plenty of cap space and if they fill holes quickly through free agency, may pull the trigger, but I doubt they’ll be in any hurry, as they’d probably win a bidding war if they truly believe Smith could be their guy.

Then there’s the Jets, who I just don’t see being able to commit to Alex Smith. The Jets want competition for Sanchez, Smith wants to start…it’s not really a perfect fit. The Jets are also one of the few teams for whom Alex Smith’s current cap number could create a problem. The team is already pressed tight under the cap and paying $8 million to Mark Sanchez with lots of holes to fill. Spending another $7 million on Smith just wouldn’t seem right.

The Vikings have also come up as a landing spot, but unless Percy Harvin makes an (unlikely) push to bring Alex Smith to Minnesota, I just can’t see it. Christian Ponder showed growth towards the end of last season and I think he needs to be allowed to build off of that. Yes, Adrian Peterson put the team on his back (especially once Harvin went down) but Ponder made some big throws against Green Bay to help clinch that playoff spot and Ponder should be much more confident coming into the 2013 season coming off that playoff berth, than he was coming into this season (fresh off a less than impressive rookie campaign that netted the team the third pick in last year’d draft.) 

Pass rush menace Justin Smith will be playing Superbowl XLVII with a 50% torn triceps muscle. Fellow defensive linemen Ricky Jean-Francois and Issac Sopoaga are set to become unrestricted free agents. And the top of this years draft class just so happens to feature some exceptional defensive lineman that could set up the 49ers line for years to come. With this years “can’t miss” talent at a position of need, I think there is a chance that the 49ers make a play for the Number 1 overall selection in the draft.

I’ve already talked about how a trade of Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs works for everyone, and using the number 1 overall draft pick might be the perfect conduit for the deal. Though the Chiefs sit a top the draft board, they have a lot of talent and not too many holes to fill (depending on who they let go in free agency) As it stands their biggest need is at QB and none of the available prospects warrants that high a pick. Sure the Chiefs could look to add one of the elite D-lineman or solidify their O-line on the cheap by drafting Luke Joeckel, but the idea of trading back and acquiring that much needed QB must be an attractive prospect.

The 49ers are almost certainly going to be without Smith one way or another next year (though the owner has said he doesn’t mind keeping the QB despite his price tag) and rather than trade for a later round pick (which the team already has plenty of) they could create an attractive package to offer the Chiefs in return for a climb up the draft board.

In addition to Smith the 49ers would send WR Kyle Williams and their first round draft choice (31/32) in exchange for that top pick.

The 49ers get an anchor for the future of their defensive line (I would have them taking Utah DT Star Lotulelei) and the Chiefs get their starting QB for at least the next two years, some sorely needed depth at WR and more flexibility, less pressure and possibly back to back picks at the bottom of the first/top of the second round.

The biggest obstacle to this deal ever becoming a reality is of course interest. The Chiefs are reported to be interested in Smith, but are they willing to deal their top pick? Perhaps the team has already fallen in love with Joeckel or wants to draft Lotulelei or one of the other top prospects themselves. Maybe the 49ers aren’t interested in the top pick, they could have already identified D-lineman available later whom they like better, perhaps the price would be too steep.

A sticking point of the deal as I’ve laid it out is Kyle Williams. I don’t know if San Francisco is willing to part with the young receiver, but after his gaffe in last years NFC Championship game against the Giants, and being buried on the depth chart (14 receptions in 11 games) I think Williams could use a new start. He also provides Alex Smith with a familiar face, and the Chiefs with a little more flexibility at the position as he can play inside or outside (though he’s probably best used on the inside) He’s not going to replace Dwayne Bowe, but he should be a welcome addition to an Andy Reid offense.

Final note from the 49ers prospective, I really like everything I’ve been reading about Lotulelei. He would likely replace Sopoaga as the nose tackle in the 49ers 3-4 scheme, giving the 49ers a solid base on the defensive line and freeing up Justin Smith to continue terrorizing QB’s as his career winds down. It’s a passing of the torch without introducing Smith to his heir apparent. Plus, you have to love the symmetry of a top pick from Utah (Alex Smith) leaving at the same time a top pick from Utah is coming in (Lotulelei.)

It has become all but official, Alex Smith won’t be a 49er for the first time in his NFL career come next season. The question that looms is what jersey the former #1 draft pick will be wearing come March.

The Utopian answer seems to be a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite their NFL worst record, the Chiefs should be an attractive option for Smith. He’ll have a proven stud running back in Jamaal Charles, two talented pass catching tight ends in Kevin Boss and Tony Moeaki, and assuming Dwayne Bowe resigns, a talented #1 WR. Plus he’d be following a precedent set by Joe Montana…probably doesn’t make it more enticing but i does make for an interesting side note

The deal works for Kansas City because Smith could offer the kind of immediate turn around Andrew Luck helped the Colts pull off last year. The Broncos will still rule the division, but the Raiders and Chargers are still searching for an identity. Smith also seems like a good fit for Reid’s offense, (Smith has plenty of experience using his backs and TE’s) and any young QB they bring in couldn’t ask for a better mentor than Smith. Trading for Smith rather than waiting for his release also seems ideal. Smith will have 2 years left on his deal and will make a decent salary but the deal is far from extravagant and any low draft pick they give up is already compensated by Smith’s presence saving them from reaching for a top prospect in a week QB class.

The 49ers also come out of the deal happy because they get something back for a player they were willing to cut, and moving him to the AFC has to be better than giving the division rival Cardinals a chance to pick him up. (Should Smith be released I think Arizona becomes the front runner)

If you think Alex Smith was making any sort of personal attack against Cam Newton when he made a statement about yards per game being an overrated stat. Newton set all kinds of records his rookie year, he’s an immense talent, but guess what? The Panthers finished 6-10. Newton was in a new pass oriented offense and playing from behind most of the year. I’m not trying to take anything from Cam Newton, neither was Alex Smith. His point was simple. I’d rather have the 29th ranked offense and play in the NFC championship game than set record and go 6-10. Guess what? I bet if you ask Cam if he’d rather have a deep playoff run or the Rookie record for passing yards, he’d pick the latter.