clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Alex Smith trade: What does it mean for the 49ers backup QB position?

The 49ers have traded Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, which means it is time to find a new backup for Colin Kaepernick. We look at some of the free agent and college options


Earlier this month, we had what turned into a very thorough discussion about the 49ers backup QB situation if/when Alex Smith was traded/released. Smith has now been unofficially traded, so I thought it was as good a time as any to revisit that discussion in a bit more detail.

In that previous post, I put together a list of free agent quarterbacks and the top twelve college quarterbacks. While we are looking at similar content, I wanted to look at it from slightly different perspectives. The primary option at this point is Scott Tolzien. The 49ers have had him as their No. 3 quarterback for two years now. And yet we don't really know quite what the 49ers think of him as a potential backup option. My guess is the team signs a free agent and then adds somebody either late in the draft or through undrafted free agency. This will create some competition, and really give us a better idea of what the 49ers are thinking.

Free agent quarterbacks

If we exclude Joe Flacco (a free agent who will not be coming to San Francisco), the top quarterbacks on the market right now are guys like Jason Campbell, Matt Moore and Derek Anderson. This is not exactly the most exciting group of players, but they could make interesting backups. Now that Smith is headed to Kansas City, Matt Cassel is likely going to be looking for a job. Additionally, the Arizona Cardinals might decide to part ways with Kevin Kolbs. Both could end up as backups somewhere.

One name that is mentioned quite frequently is Josh Johnson. The 49ers signed Johnson last offseason, and then decided Scott Tolzien was a better option as their No. 3 quarterback. Although Johnson lost that competition, fans are looking to him as an option primarily because he brings some mobility that might mirror Colin Kaepernick's to some extent.

I understand that reasoning, but I still find myself wondering if the 49ers are necessarily looking for a mirror to Kaepernick. I think they would want somebody with athleticism, but does it need to be a poor man's Kaepernick? The offense includes a lot of read option, but as we saw before Kaepernick took over, a less mobile quarterback can run the offense to solid results. If the 49ers were forced to their backup, does it matter if it's not another version of Kaepernick?

College quarterbacks

The 49ers have a boatload of picks in the upcoming draft. While they will not use all of them, what's to stop them from using a sixth or seventh round pick on a quarterback? If not there, maybe they look to undrafted free agency to bring in some competition. Whatever they decide, I asked Nick and Trevor to come up with short lists of some guys they like as later round and UDFA pickups.

Nick Chiamardas

Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt: Aaron Rogers little brother, literally and figuratively. Jordan stands at 6-1 and only 212lbs. Average arm strength with above average accuracy. Smart player who helped make a historically awful football program somewhat relevant.

Brad Sorensen, Southern Utah: At 6-5, 235lbs Sorensen looks the part. Has a strong arm and didn't turn the ball over much in college. Threw for over 3,000 yards in all three years at Southern Utah. The 25 year old rookie-to-be may have showed just enough accuracy at the Combine to get him selected.

Dayne Crist, Kansas: Former Notre Dame QB. Seems to have the physical tools with good size and arm strength. He can even run a little when in trouble. Seems to lack the mental skills to read defenses and anticipate throws.

Nathan Stanley, Southeastern Louisiana: Big frame at 6-5, 215lbs coupled with a strong arm. Only started one year in college and didn't throw for a ton of yards. Long term project if he can improve on his accuracy.

Trevor Woods

Matt Scott, Arizona: Scott shows some promise and had a decent combine. Scott has a strong arm and is mobile (4.69 forty). Scott will be a 4th round selection more than likely. With as many picks as the 49ers have, it wouldn't be a shock if they went the Kirk Cousins route of drafting a backup in the mid rounds.

Collin Klein, Kansas State: Klein is extremely raw and showed that during the combine. Has a slow and funky throwing motion and his arm isn't all that strong. Klein is very athletic however, and can run the read option.

Jeff Tuel, Washington State: Tuel is an accurate passer, completing over 60% of his passes this season. He had a great NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, going 8-8 for 64 yards and a touchdown. Tuel's numbers could have been better if he was on a decent team that had an offensive line that protected him. He's one of the more intriguing late round options.