It is hard to count how many times Alex Smith has been left for dead, but he came within several plays of going to the Super Bowl last year. In fact, the Giants needed a sudden-death overtime to beat the 49ers and advance to the Super Bowl.
If not for 49er Kyle Williams' punt-return fumble in OT, we may have looked at Smith in a whole new light this year. One of the things that definitely stood out last year was the lack of mistakes from the much-maligned No. 1 overall pick.
Smith only threw five interceptions in 16 starts, and in his two playoffs games, threw for five touchdowns against no interceptions. And last regular season, Smith threw for over 3,100 yards on over 61 percent of his passes, both career highs.
To really see how far the Niners QB has come, just look at the playoff game against the Saints when he out-dueled superstar Drew Brees. Smith threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns without an interception, and to add fuel to the fire, he even ran for one score.
To get the win, he hit Vernon Davis, who was in very tight coverage, with the game-winning score with nine seconds left on the clock. Ron Jaworski of ESPN had this to say about Smith in that game:
I was really impressed with Smith in the playoff win against the Saints. He read the blitz, he was decisive and accurate. He pulled the trigger on the tight-window throws. The winning touchdown showed his development as a quarterback. Davis was in the tight slot. Smith's throw had to beat the deep safety to that side. You have to throw it early with great anticipation.
The team has added new weapons, most notably Randy Moss. This may seem like much ado about nothing, especially after Moss’ failure to hold with three different teams in 2011, but the one thing Moss has been adamant about is his desire to win a Super Bowl.
His current team absolutely gives him the best chance to do that since leaving the Patriots, and Moss has shown in offseason workouts that he is not finished yet.
Jim Harbaugh's team will still be more run-oriented than most, and Smith may never crack the top 12 in positional rankings, but expect him to take another step forward in 2012. He could easily throw for 3,500 yards and 20-plus touchdowns, which places him as a very competent No. 2 quarterback for fantasy purposes.