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Alex Smith is a QB1

Drafting Smith puts you on the fast track to crushing your fantasy football drafts in 2018.

NFL: Washington Redskins-Training Camp Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Up front I’d like to say that I am just a passenger on the Alex Smith hype train that has been piloted by fantasy stalwarts like Salvatore Stefanile and C.D. Carter for quite some time (all time?). I am not the OG. I am merely a supporter. I aim to fan the flames. Work has already been done on this front, and it is important to point you towards such.

The Introduction

For funsies, here is Sal with “the origin story” on Alex Smith. This was penned way back in 2013. Within, Sal cites Smith’s friendly strength of schedule, which is neat because the same holds true this season (more on that later).

Here’s Carter’s effort on Smith from May of this year. In a nutshell, Carter believes it likely that Smith’s overall passing attempts and red zone passing attempts increase in Washington. That’s a gross simplification, so read the whole article.

Lastly (for this intro), in July of this year the Alex Smith hype was perpetuated by Gregg Rosenthal. He contended that Jay Gruden is excited about Alex Smith’s ability to process. So maybe Gruden wasn’t excited about Kirk Cousins’ ability to process? Or at least not as excited as he is for Smith. Either way, it is encouraging that Gruden believes his new quarterback can better execute his system—especially when Cousins’ floor as a starter in Washington was 4,100 yards and 25 touchdowns. That’s a pretty epic starting point for a quarterback being drafted routinely in Round 12.

To that end, I want to offer more propaganda as to why Smith’s higher range of outcomes for 2018 could include another top-five finish. This is not a projection. Instead, I am finding information that bolsters my current train of thought. I’m certain you can argue a case against Smith, but that’s not why I’m here.

Unabashed Alex Smith Propaganda

Here is a list of Smith’s 2017 accomplishments:

1 Alex Smith was the QB4 in 2017, behind only Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, and Carson Wentz.

2 Smith ranked sixth in rushing yards among quarterbacks, and one of those (DeShone Kizer) is no longer a starting quarterback. Another (Tyrod Taylor) might be on borrowed time after the Browns selected Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall in this year’s NFL Draft.

3 Smith ranked second in the NFL at 8.0 Y/A, behind only Drew Brees (8.1 Y/A). If you prefer adjusted yards per pass attempt (AY/A), Smith was tops in the NFL.

4 Smith was all the way down to sixth (gasp) in TD% at 5.1%, behind Wentz, A-Rod, Goff, Brady, and Russell Wilson.

5 Smith had the lowest INT% in the NFL at 1.0%, tied with Tyrod Taylor. Smith attempted 85 more passes than Taylor and had one more interception (5 to 4).

6 Smith’s 67.5% completion rate was third in the NFL, behind only Drew Brees (72.0%) and Case Keenum (67.6%). The man Smith is replacing (Cousins) checked in at 64.3% (ninth).

7 Smith ranked eighth in the league with 4,042 passing yards. He was 13th in passing attempts.

8 (via Pro Football Focus) Among quarterbacks with a minimum of 200 dropbacks, Smith posted the highest passer rating (108.7) when in the pocket for 2.5 seconds or longer. He was ahead of Brady (101.6), Brees (98.9), Rodgers (96.5), Wentz (92.8)...and everyone else. I figured if I listed out some names the statistic would carry more weight.

Now let’s move into more of an overall view of this Round 12 quarterback...

9 As CD Carter stated in his article (read it!) only TWICE in his 13-year NFL career has Smith crested the 500-attempt threshold. Incidentally, Smith finished inside the top-12 quarterbacks in each of those seasons—he was the QB11 in 2013 and the QB4 in 2017. Reiterating: Carter believes it is reasonable for Smith to experience an uptick in overall passing volume and red zone passing volume in the Jay Gruden offense.

10 Per FantasyPros.com, only Blake Bortles and the Jacksonville Jaguars have an easier strength of schedule for passing 2018. This means Alex Smith has the second-friendliest passing schedule in the league, from what we can assume right now. Shades of 2013, when Sal cited Smith’s friendly passing schedule (and Smith finished as the QB11).

11 The Washington Redskins currently rank 30th in strength of schedule for the run game. Again, that’s from what we can assume right now. But everything matters, at least a little. And the NFL is a matchup-driven league...

12 On that whole “running” note, over the past three seasons Alex Smith ranks fourth in rushing attempts among quarterbacks (192). Only Cam Newton (361), Tyrod Taylor (283), and Russell Wilson (270) have more.

13 Over the past three years, Smith has started two fewer games (and has 78 fewer rushing attempts) than Russell Wilson. Smith has rushed for eight scores, while Wilson has logged five.

14 Kirk Cousins has been the starting quarterback in Washington for the past three years. Over that time he has amassed 13 rushing scores, which ranks third in the NFL—behind only Newton (21) and Tyrod (14). Cousins ranked third in rushing scores despite ranking a mere 14th in rushing attempts over that time. Sounds pretty efficient!

15 Over that same three-year stretch, Kirk Cousins averaged 2.96 Y/A on his runs, compared to Smith’s 5.14 Y/A. Cousins averaged only 6.7 rushing yards per game, while Smith averaged 21.5 yards per game.

16 Since Alex Smith entered the NFL in 2005, only Cam Newton, Russell Wilson, and Michael Vick have logged more rushing attempts. Though he is not as effective a runner, Smith has four more rushing attempts than Aaron Rodgers over that time (who also entered the league in 2005). Yes, Smith has played in seven more games...but health matters too.

17 Over the past three years as a starter in Washington, Kirk Cousins had 1,689 passing attempts in 48 games. That’s 35.19 attempts per game, on average.

18 During that same time in Kansas City under Andy Reid, Smith played 46 games and logged only 1,464 passing attempts—or 31.83 attempts per game, on average.

19 On Pro Football Reference, I sorted for quarterbacks with 150 games played during Alex Smith’s time in the NFL (2005 to 2013). Smith ranks second in interception percentage (2.08%) over this stretch, behind only Hall-of-Famer Tom Brady (1.59%). Smith was better than some illustrious names: Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, and Peyton Manning weren’t as good, for example.

20 Smith’s career 6.9 Y/A is a full yard below Aaron Rodgers’ career 7.9 Y/A. But over the past three years Smith has beaten A-Rod in this regard twice, and nearly tied him the other time. Here are the marks by year:

2015: Smith (7.4) vs. A-Rod (6.7)

2016: Smith (7.2) vs. A-Rod (7.3)

2017: Smith (8.0) vs. A-Rod (7.0)

Sure, A-Rod is (and has always been) a better quarterback, that much goes without saying. But Smith has evolved into a very good NFL quarterback. He’s also very cheap...

SUMMARY:

Alex Smith is the QB18 according to FantasyPros consensus rankings, and he can be had routinely in Round 12 of your best ball drafts. I drafted Smith at 6.07 in this year’s Scott Fish Bowl, three picks before Sal was forced to settle for Mitchell Trubisky. I truly am sorry, Sal. I never meant to cause you pain. I just had to snag my high-end QB1 for a mid-range QB2 price. Let the record show that Smith was the 19th quarterback drafted in the Jim Halpert division of the SFB8...

Why do I like Smith this year? In summation, he can do it all. He’s intelligent (remember Gruden’s excitement). He is accurate (third in cmp% last year). He is efficient (8.0 Y/A last year, and better than A-Rod in two of the last three years). And as has repeatedly been shown, as a running quarterback he is among the best in the NFL.

Naysayers will point to Smith’s low touchdown totals, but I believe the move to Jay Gruden will aid those totals. Besides, Smith’s 26 touchdowns ranked ninth in the NFL last year, only one behind Cousins’ 27 scores. Smith did this despite amassing only 505 passing attempts—or 35 fewer than Cousins. Put differently, Smith ranked ninth in passing scores despite ranking 13th in passing attempts. And as mentioned above, Smith was eighth in passing yardage. Now he moves to a more pass-friendly coach?

I think Smith is a mortal lock to return value at his laughable ADP and believe he offers top-five upside at the quarterback position.

In the immortal words of Kirk Cousins, “YOU LIKE THAT!”