It used to be there would only be fantasy football losers when it came to Alex Smith. That will not be the case in 2013, though.
In case you have had your nose buried in hockey and basketball box scores the past few weeks, the Kansas City Chiefs have agreed on a trade with the San Francisco 49ers that will send a couple draft picks San Francisco’s way for Smith. The deal will not be official until March 12, but that does not mean we cannot analyze the fantasy ramifications of it.
Smith has been more of a game manager than a fantasy force over his career, although his numbers have improved in recent years. This is a guy who had a 30-to-10 touchdown-to-interception ratio over his last two seasons and posted a quarterback rating of 104.1 in 2012.
But Smith has never thrown for 3,200 yards or 20 touchdowns in a single season, and he has been around since 2005 so it is not like he has not had the time or the opportunity. Will going to Kansas City help Smith reach both of those statistical plateaus? And how will his new teammates fare fantasy-wise now that he is under center instead of the god-awful duo of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn?
Here are the fantasy football winners and losers of the Smith trade:
Alex Smith (QB)
New Kansas City head coach Andy Reid believes in passing the ball as much as Mumford and Sons believe in banjos. When Reid was head coach in Philadelphia, the Eagles were always among the league leaders in most pass plays called, and that should not change with KC.
So you do not have to be Rich Eisen to figure out that more pass plays should translate into more yards and touchdown tosses for Smith. He will no longer be in a conservative ground-and-pound system like he was in San Francisco. His fantasy value has no choice but to go up unless he turns into a Mark Sanchez-like interception machine, but Smith’s cautious passing will prevent that.
And you do not have to be a statistical wonder like Bill James to figure out that the fantasy value of a starting quarterback is better than that of a backup quarterback. Smith had no shot of starting in San Francisco with Colin Kaepernick having a stranglehold on the job. Smith immediately was a winner as soon as he was dealt.
Smith is a winner, but that does not make him a top-10 fantasy quarterback. Can he give fantasy owners 3,500 to 3,700 passing yards and the first 20-TD season of his mediocre career, though? He should as long as he does not revert back to being as horrendous as he was in his one-TD, 11-INT rookie season.
Tony Moeaki (TE)
Kansas City’s solid but unspectacular starting tight end should see his fantasy worth rise thanks to Smith’s arrival.
Because of his lack of a big-time arm and his conservative downfield approach, Smith tended to favor throwing to his tight ends and running backs rather than deep to his wide receivers in San Francisco. That is why Vernon Davis averaged 890 yards per season and scored 26 touchdowns with Smith as his quarterback between 2009 and 2011, while Michael Crabtree was as invisible as Congress during the Christmas break.
This should bode well for Moeaki, who will hopefully turn into Smith’s go-to guy over the middle. Moeaki only had 1,009 receiving yards and four touchdowns over his first pair of pro seasons. He is not to be confused with New England’s Rob Gronkowski or New Orleans’ Jimmy Graham, but he has ability and definitely had his stats stunted by the below-average quarterbacks throwing to him.
Look for Moeaki to have 600-700 yards and four-to-six touchdowns with Smith as his QB and be a decent No. 2 tight end to have on a fantasy roster.
Jamaal Charles (RB)
Charles should already have his fantasy value boosted just because he will be another year removed from his major knee surgery. He certainly did not look like he lost a step last season, though. All he did was sprint for 1,509 rushing yards and would have been the Comeback Player of the Year if not for a couple fellows named Peyton Manning and Adrian Peterson.
Charles should catch some additional dump-off and screens now that Smith is at the helm and Reid is calling the plays. Smith has always liked using his running backs as safety valves, while Reid’s patented screen plays have always been feared by defenses. Charles should get his receiving totals back into the 400-yard range like it was a couple years ago.
Frank Gore’s stats never suffered in San Francisco with Smith running the show. The same should hold true for Charles. And Charles could have the most productive year of his career. Just do not expect him to suddenly score double-digit touchdowns.
Ryan Succup (K)
You don’t think Smith is good for a kicker’s fantasy value? Just ask David Akers owners from 2011. All Akers did was set the NFL record for most field goals made in a single season thanks to all the drives Smith would lead into the scoring zone—and then help stall.
Succup was one of the lone bright spots during a dismal 2012 campaign for KC, kicking a career-high 28 field goals out of 34 attempts. He has connected on 81.5 percent of his field-goal tries and has never missed an extra point during his underrated four-year career.
But over the last two years Succup’s extra points have dried up as if he was kicking in the Sahara desert. He only had 17 extra points in 2012 and 20 in 2011, whereas he made a whopping 42 when Kansas City’s offense was actually decent back in 2010.
Smith and Reid’s arrivals will hopefully upgrade Kansas City’s offense and allow Succup additional opportunities to kick field goals and extra points. I think he is line for 115 points in 2013, which would be a personal best and make him a top-15 fantasy kicker.
Dwayne Bowe (WR)
Bowe shocked me and probably millions of fantasy owners and football pundits by re-upping with the Chiefs on a five-year, $56 million deal. The contract makes him one of the highest-paid receivers in the NFL even though last season he only mustered up 801 yards and three touchdowns. Now New York’s Jeremy Kerley can ask for $60 million, I guess.
Bowe must have liked living in Kansas City and loved the idea of being a main man in Reid’s West Coast offense. We all know Bowe has the talent and tools to be an elite receiver. He is three years removed from a season where he had 1,162 receiving yards and scored an amazing 15 touchdowns.
Bowe should return to the 1,000-yard mark and score six-to-eight touchdowns with Smith as his passer, but you have to think that if he signed with a different team with a different quarterback he could have set himself up for a 1,200-yard, 12-TD season.
Another thing to consider is that while Reid’s pass-often offense sounds geared to elevate the numbers and fantasy values of its receivers, that was not always the case in Philadelphia. DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin were both fantasy stars in 2010, but their 2011 and 2012 outputs left a lot to be desired for fantasy owners.
Jon Baldwin (WR)
Baldwin’s fantasy value took a double piledriver between Smith getting traded to Kansas City AND Bowe surprisingly re-signing with the Chiefs. While he will have a more accurate quarterback throwing to him, Baldwin’s fantasy worth would have been better served if a strong-armed signal-caller who could throw long rainbows like Joe Flacco were his QB.
Baldwin has been more well-known for getting his wrist broken during training camp by running back Thomas Jones in 2011 than for anything he has done on the football field. The former first-round pick has 41 receptions for 579 yards and two touchdowns—over two seasons. Many receivers do more than that in just eight games these days.
Maybe things will come together for Baldwin in Year Three. He has size and leaping ability that should make him difficult to cover on jump balls around the end zone. But with Smith as the one passing it is hard to fathom Baldwin breaking out with a 1,000-yard year, especially since Bowe will be the top target of the receiving corps.