I understand the best and smartest way to build a winner in the NFL is through the draft. Free agency and trades should be designed to fill holes, not build foundations. I get it that draft picks have great value.
But often, I think, they are valued too highly. Latest case in point is Kansas City giving up perhaps as many as two 2nd round picks to San Francisco for quarterback Alex Smith. The reaction I’ve heard the most from the NFL world is this trade was a major victory for the 49ers and, at best, an iffy move by the Chiefs.
Obviously the outcome of the trade is yet to be determined, but on the surface if looks like a solid victory for the Chiefs to me. KC badly needs a quarterback in a quarterback-driven league. Smith, a former No. 1 overall draft pick, blossomed in 2011, leading his team to the NFC Championship Game and two fumbled punts from the Super Bowl. In 2012 he was completing 70 percent of his passes and helped the 49ers get the lead in the NFC West when he was sidelined by a concussion.
I’m not saying Smith has joined the ranks of Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning among NFL QBs, but he’s proven he can play pretty damn well. While he hasn’t been spectacular, he has been consistently efficient, particularly when it comes to protecting the football. So the Chiefs have every reason to believe they’ve acquired at least a better-than-average QB to join a roster most experts think is better than the team’s 2-14 record in 2012. (For what it’s worth, Kansas City had five Pro Bowlers last season.)
It wasn’t necessarily a bad trade for the 49ers. The newest QB sensation of the NFL, Colin Kaepernick, had replaced Smith as the starter. If Kaepernick stays healthy there’s no problem for the 49ers. That, of course, is a big if in the violent world of the NFL.
It is also iffy how well any draft pick works out. If the 49ers eventually get two solid players in the trade, I’d call the deal a win for both sides. If they get two Pro Bowlers then I give the Niners a slight victory.
Bottom line is quarterback is the most important position in the NFL. It also is the most difficult to fill with a proven winner. How can getting a proven quarterback in his prime not worth two 2nd-round draft picks?
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