- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will likely draft Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota with the No. 1 overall pick. So how does this type of thing usually work out? We continue our countdown of the 18 quarterbacks who were drafted with the top selection over the past 40 years.
Playing for coach Urban Meyer at the University of Utah, Smith looked like a can’t-miss prospect. Things didn’t work out as planned. Long before becoming the efficient quarterback that now runs the Kansas City Chiefs, Smith went through eight rocky years in San Francisco.
His time with the 49ers was marked by inconsistency, injury and the emergence of Colin Kaepernick. In fairness to Smith, he never really had a chance to get comfortable in San Francisco. The 49ers kept changing coaches and Smith played for six different offensive coordinators in his first six seasons.
Smith’s career seemed to take a positive swing with the arrival of coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011. Smith had his best statistical season to date. He wasn’t putting up the type of numbers that he did at Utah, but he was doing what was asked of him. Smith showed he could be an efficient game manager.
Still, the 49ers weren’t completely sold on Smith. In the 2012 offseason, the 49ers made a run at free agent Peyton Manning. Nothing came of that as Manning ended up in Denver and Smith, who had become a free agent, ended up signing a deal to stay in San Francisco.
Smith continued his newly-found efficient ways in the 2012 season. He led the 49ers to a 6-2 start and was leading the league in completion percentage (70 percent). But Smith suffered a concussion and that opened the door for Kaepernick.
When Smith was cleared to return, Harbaugh said he was sticking with Kaepernick as the starter, but the assignment wasn’t necessarily permanent. Kaepernick kept playing well and remained the starter the rest of the season and led the 49ers to the playoffs.
Kaepernick’s emergence wiped out any chance of Smith returning to the starting job. In the 2013 offseason, the 49ers traded Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs, where he finally reached some sustained success. Coach Andy Reid immediately named Smith the starter and he wound up making his first Pro Bowl in the 2013 season as a replacement for Tom Brady.
Final analysis: Bad pick.