SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- ESPN's Chris Mortensen stopped by San Francisco 49ers camp recently and culled this quote from team's top personnel man, Trent Baalke:
"I'm not saying Alex Smith is a great quarterback in the NFL, but if we protect him and we've surrounded him with the right kind of players, put him in the right system and stay out of all the third-and-8s that we had last year, then he'll be just fine. I just wonder if people truly understand what he's been through with five coordinators in five years, two significant injuries, and awkward situation with the [former] head coach [Mike Nolan]."
Niners fans around here are certainly aware. Not that those issues should matter so much this season.
Also on the Smith front, ESPN's Christopher Harris says he likes the 49ers' top skill-position players from a fantasy perspective -- except he's not so high on Smith. Harris points to two factors -- Smith's accuracy and his risk-taking ability -- in explaining his point. According to Harris, Smith's 2009 stats prorated over a 16-game season would have made him roughly the 16th-rated quarterback for fantasy purposes, and he doesn't expect much better in 2010.
Twenty-three quarterbacks averaged more than Smith's 6.3 yards per attempt last season (among players with at least 227 attempts). Smith is going to pile up some touchdown passes throwing to Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree. I do think it's fair to question how well Smith can avoid interceptions. Twenty-two of the qualifying quarterbacks had lower interception percentages. Quarterbacks with lower yards per attempt should, in theory, minimize risks. Let's see whether Smith can become more productive without too many turnovers.