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Jaws’ QB Countdown: Alex Smith Comes In At 20

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ESPN analyst (and former Chiefs QB) Ron Jaworski, is releasing his yearly NFL QB rankings and he has Kansas City Qb Alex Smith coming in at No. 20.

Interestingly, that ranking is only two slots higher than former Chiefs QB, Matt Cassel, received in 2012. Last year, Cassel sat at No. 22 and Smith was ranked No. 16 coming off a strong season in San Francisco.

Here is some of what “Jaws” had to say about Smith this year.

“Now it gets interesting. My top 20. My 20th-ranked quarterback is Alex Smith. A year ago, Smith was coming off his best season in the NFL, having led the 49ers to the NFC Championship. This year, he’s the starting quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a great move by Andy Reid to acquire Smith.

“The defining element of Smith’s play is efficiency. He executes the offense the way it’s designed, and he makes very few mistakes. Last season – for the second year in a row – he was exceptional on first down. In 2012 he led the NFL in first-down passing, with a quarterback rating of 119. Much of it came off play-action, or in the case of the 49ers, hard run-action out of base personnel. There was no better play-action quarterback last season than Smith. He had a quarterback rating of over 132.

“Smith has been outstanding out of multiple tight end personnel over the last couple of seasons. No quarterback has thrown the ball more with three tight ends on the field. You don’t see that very often in today’s NFL.

This is the usual narrative when we hear an evaluation ofSmith. He doesn’t make mistakes, he executes the plan and he is good on first down.

Here is what Jaws said about Matt Cassel in 2012.

“Cassel is at his best in a managed offense that features run personnel, run formations and the play-action pass game. Play-action primarily gives the quarterback ‘either-or’ defined reads. Cassel is very good in that scenario. … Cassel throws the ball better to the inside — digs, hooks and throws like that — than he does to the outside. That’s the way it is with quarterbacks with limited arm strength.

“In addition, the deep throws often come on first down. Play-action is almost always featured. As is six- or seven-man pass-protection schemes. … You give Matt Cassel a solid run game, a good offensive line, room in the pocket to deliver the football comfortably, and he can be a very efficient NFL starter. That’s what he is. He’s a function of the team around him. And he needs those pieces in place working effectively.”

Jaws seemed to be right about Cassel. When the team around him was performing efficiently in 2010, Cassel was at his best. When the team around him was a dumpster fire or mistakes and regret, like in 2012, Cassel was pretty much useless.

While there are some similarities in what Cassel and Smith do well, Jaws seems to be more complimentary of Smith’s skills.

“One area Smith improved in 2012 was in the pre-snap phase of the game. He was much better at the line of scrimmage checking and audibling.

“It will be interesting to see what Andy Reid does in Kansas City. Don’t be surprised if he turns Smith loose a little bit and features an up-tempo offense with an emphasis on quick throws. Remember, Alex Smith played for Urban Meyer at Utah.”

Smith was perhaps better in 2012 than he was in 2011 so why did he drop from #16 to # 20 in the rankings?

I think there are a number of factors. For starters, Smith only started about half the season in 2012 before being replaced by Colin Kaepernick. Add to that the influx of young and successful QBs in Andrew Luck, RG3 and Russel Wilson and a guy like Smith was bound to slide a little bit.

I believe that if Smith had started the entire season for the 49ers, San Francisco still would have had an excellent chance to make it to the Super Bowl.

If Smith can bring the same hope to Kansas City in 2013, he’ll likely be a lot higher than No. 20 in next year’s ranks.

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