Alex Smith

Whether the 49ers should go broke for Luck

Got a good question on Twitter last night about whether the 49ers, who were set back for five years when they drafted Alex Smith No. 1 overall, should try to trade to the No. 1 spot again to draft another quarterback. Only this time, it’s a QB we’ve all seen a lot of who presumably doesn’t need to play in a spread offense to succeed.

I’ve seen Luck play in person twice this season (against the powerhouse defenses of Wake Forest and Washington St.) and on TV several other times. He’s already crushed more defensive players this year than Alex has game-winning drives in his professional career. He’s a leading Heisman candidate.

Still, there are a few reasons why I’d be hesitant to trade up to get Luck, as good as he’s looked in his college career to this point.

1. Trading for Ricky Williams didn’t help the Saints win any games, much like when the Vikings traded for Herschel Walker and effectively handed Dallas three Super Bowl trophies.

2. As I sort of alluded to earlier, Luck hasn’t exactly faced great competition in 2010.

3. QBs drafted No. 1 overall are financial poison in the NFL due to the excessive signing bonuses teams are forced to pay.

3. The 49ers are probably bad enough to draft Ryan Mallett (who’s currently going anywhere from No. 4-10 in most mock drafts) without giving up anybody.

The reasons to take Luck over Mallett are Luck’s running ability (Mallett is pretty much super-glued to the pocket), and the fact that Luck’s a former high school valedictorian while Mallett’s character has come into question in the past.

However, Luck wears a gigantic knee brace (Mallett wears one too, but not quite as bulky as the one Luck straps on) and running quarterbacks aren’t really as valuable anymore unless you’re talking about Mike Vick (who’s a constant injury risk himself). Also, Mallett has been a slightly more prolific passer than Luck this season against much stiffer competition.

Mallett’s character issues may be a little overblown, even though he was cited for public intoxication in early 2009. Every well-known collegian who transfers schools is followed by rumors of a poor attitude. And being a well-spoken, obedient, smart QB isn’t a guarantee of success. Alex Smith earned a 40 out of 50 on the Wonderlic, for instance.

The 49ers, as bad as they were on Sunday against Tampa Bay, aren’t going to get the No. 1 overall pick with the Carolina Panthers around. The Panthers have the only offense in the entire league that makes the Niners look even professional (and the 49ers lost to the Panthers, so there you go). And along with the well-documented problems at QB, the Niners have below-average corners, defensive linemen, safeties (Taylor Mays getting benched was a BAD sign), offensive linemen and even receivers (I don’t care who’s playing QB, at this point it’s hard to imagine Michael Crabtree being much more than a smaller version of Keyshawn Johnson without the toughness).

Giving up a ton of draft picks is never a good idea in the NFL, least of all when the talent you have has been chronically overrated for two consecutive seasons.

The 49ers are strong at three positions: tight end, middle linebacker, running back and punter. While a good coach would probably get them to the top of the NFC West, giving up multiple draft picks for a quarterback behind the offensive line they have currently would be a mistake. While they certainly need a real starting NFL quarterback to reach the land of the relevant, they’d be better suited to get the best one they can without mortgaging their future.

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