Alex Smith vs. Aaron Rodgers - It is SO on

Back in April of 2005, one of the big debates around the NFL was Alex Smith versus Aaron Rodgers.  This particular post was inspired in part by video over at nfl.com that discussed the quarterbacks feeling the most heat this year and Aaron Rodgers was one of them. Jason Campbell, not withstanding, Smith and Rodgers were the two potential "franchise QBs" available to the 49ers.  I did a little poking around and came up with some old scouting reports via the Oakland Tribune:

Alex Smith

Scouting report: An accurate passer who is very intelligent and has excellent leadership skills. He reads coverages well, works hard and is very mature.

Buyer beware: Smith played in a gimmicky offense at Utah and will have to adjust to taking snaps from under center in order to adjust to the NFL. His arm strength has been questioned.

Why 49ers will draft him: Smith has all the intangibles, is very coachable and has only scratched the surface of his vast potential.

Why it won't happen: Cal QB Aaron Rodgers, who visits today, is closer to being a finished product and the 49ers need immediate help.

Quotable: "While (Smith is) not the next John Elway or Troy Aikman, lacking that type of arm strength, the overall package of skills he brings to the table definitely makes him deserving of a lofty NFL grade." -- Mel Kiper Jr., draft expert.

Aaron Rodgers

Scouting report: Has great arm strength and mechanics, and is extremely accurate. Played in a pro-style offense in college and has a high football IQ.

Buyer beware: Rodgers is 2 inches shorter than Utah's Alex Smith, the other QB the 49ers are considering, and does not have great mobility.

Why 49ers will draft him: Rodgers already has an understanding of the West Coast offense, and his local roots put him over the top.

Why it won't happen: The 49ers will determine that Smith has the greater upside, or that WR Braylon Edwards is the most talented player available, or they will find a trading partner and move down in the draft.

Quotable: "Rodgers is tough, confident, incredibly poised and, most importantly, very few of his passes hit the ground." Mel Kiper Jr., draft expert.

One interesting comment was that the 49ers would go with Rodgers because he was closer to being a finished product.  Obviously things didn't quite play out accordingly as Smith was thrown to the wolves and Rodgers spent time learning on the bench behind Brett Favre.  However, with Favre retiring, and assuming Shaun Hill or JT O'Sullivan doesn't win the starting QB job, both Rodgers and Smith will be starting at the same time for the first time since the 2004-2005 bowl season.

I'm not trying to predict who will perform better.  While Alex Smith has Frank Gore lining up behind him, Aaron Rodgers has a significantly better receiver corp with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings hauling in passes.  Green Bay is coming off a 13-3 season that saw them in the NFC title game.  San Francisco, well we know how that roller coaster ended.  I think Rodgers has been put in a position to succeed, while Alex Smith is in a hazier situation.  The team should be improved from last season, but there really is nowhere to go but up, so it's hard to predict what could happen.

So, the question becomes, who is under more pressure?  Aaron Rodgers is succeeding a legend and Alex Smith is trying to avoid become a legendary footnote in draft pick bust history.  Personally, I think Alex Smith faces more pressure.  If both guys struggle this year, Smith will get the bust label, while I'm not sure what kind of label Rodgers would get.  Sitting on the bench for two seasons has taken some of the shine off Rodgers and people are more likely to forget he was a potential #1 pick in 2005.  However, Smith will always carry that label.  Either way, we're significantly closer to finally closing the book on the Alex Smith vs. Aaron Rodgers debate.

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