Alex Smith could set records despite short season

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Alex Smith could set records despite short season

Alex Smith hasn't seen the field since he suffered a concussion against the Rams on Nov. 11, but that doesn't mean his stellar start to the 2012 season will be swept under the carpet. In fact, Smith has a chance to enter his abbreviated campaign into the NFL record books.

Smith has attempted 217 passes this year, seven shy of the 224 attempts the league requires for eligibility in yearly records (14 attempt-per-game average). It's significant because Smith is on the doorstep of two NFL honors.

The 49ers backup quarterback has a chance to finish the season with the highest QB rating in the league, and he is within striking distance of the NFL record for single-season completion percentage set at 71.2 last year by Drew Brees.

Aaron Rodgers currently owns the top QB rating in the league with a 104.7 mark. Robert Griffin III is close behind him at 104.2, followed by Smith at 104.1. If Smith qualifies with another seven attempted passes this season, there are numerous scenarios in which he surpasses Rodgers and Griffin for the title.

In their final two games of the season, Rodgers faces the 19th- and 23rd-ranked passing defenses of the Titans and Vikings, while Griffin faces the 13th- and 14th-ranked passing defenses of the Eagles and Cowboys.

Smith has connected on 152 of his 217 pass attempts this season, giving him a clean 70.0 completion percentage that falls 1.2 percentage points behind Brees' NFL record, even though Brees attempted significantly more passes with 657 attempts.

As the New York Times points out, an additional nine completed passes would give Smith the all-time record with a completion percentage of .71238, barely besting Brees' .71232 mark. Duplicating his last full game -- an 18-for-19 effort against the Cardinals -- would be more than enough to do the trick with a dominating completion percentage of .72033.

The 49ers have their playoff berth clinched, but they are still jockeying for standings superiority and the all-important first-round bye. Head coach Jim Harbaugh won't throw Smith out there just for the pursuit of records. And you shouldn't expect him to tailor his play calls towards breaking the records if Smith does end up in the game.

As long as Colin Kaepernick continues to play at an Offensive-Player-of-the-Week caliber, that might not happen.

"The only thing I did to lose my job," Smith said, "was get a concussion."

It's true, Smith didn't do anything to lose his job. But football is a business, and the brutal reality is that Alex Smith is only one play away from once again being the 49ers starting quarterback -- with a pair of records in reach.

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

49ers trade up, select QB C.J. Beathard in third round of 2017 NFL Draft

C.J. BEATHARD
Position: Quarterback
College: Iowa
Height: 6-2
Weight: 219
Selection: Third round, No. 104 overall

SANTA CLARA -- The 49ers traded back into the end of the third round to select a quarterback to join Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley on the 49ers' roster.

General manager John Lynch's fourth trade of the draft netted the team the grandson of legendary NFL personnel man Bobby Beathard. His grandson, C.J., joins the 49ers after a four-year career at Iowa. Beathard completed 58.6 percent of his passes last season with 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Beathard was not generally expected to be chosen within the first two days of the draft. He was the sixth quarterback selected, falling behind Mitch Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Deshone Kizer and Davis Webb.

"They won't regret it," Beathard said on a conference call with the Bay Area media.

The 49ers traded up with the Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings had the No. 104 pick, and called the 49ers to see if they were interested in a trade. After some consideration, the 49ers decided to move up from No. 109 while also giving the Vikings a seventh-round pick at No. 219.

"Might he have been there at 109? That’s what we had to weigh," 49ers John Lynch said. "But at the end of the day, we felt like it was worth it to be able to go to bed knowing that we had a player that we liked and want the opportunity develop at the quarterback position."

And that's what coach Kyle Shanahan plans on doing. He said Beathard is not coming to the team this season to compete with Hoyer for the starting job.

"We’re bringing him in here to develop him and give him a chance, but just like any other position, everyone competes," Shanahan said. "Brian is our starting quarterback and, right now, Matt Barkley is our second. And I look at him to come in and be our third with us only having three on the roster.

"By no means did we come into this draft thinking we’re going to get a guy to compete with Brian."

Shanahan said Beathard and Pitt quarterback Nathan Peterman were the two quarterbacks in the draft who ran offenses in college most similar to the offense he will install with the 49ers.

"One thing that helps is being able to see guys play the way you’re going to ask them to play," Shanahan said. "It helps being at Iowa and watching the system he’s in. It’s easier to see to watch him over the years. He’s a three-year starter. He’s led his team to a bunch of wins, especially in 2015 when they had a better team and he played unbelievable."

As a junior at Iowa, Beathard completed 61.6 percent of his pass attempts for 2,809 yards with 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. 

"He’s a leader. He’s tough. He processes very well," Shanahan said. "He's extremely accurate and he lives and dies football."

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

49ers select CB Ahkello Witherspoon in third round of the 2017 NFL Draft

AHKELLO WITHERSPOON
Position: Cornerback
College: Colorado
Height: 6-2 3/4
Weight: 193
Selection: Third round, No. 66 overall

SANTA CLARA – The 49ers selected Colorado cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, a Sacramento native, in the third round of the NFL draft with the No. 66 overall pick.

“Being close to home is an incredible opportunity, as well as the type of defense they play -- press man, up in your face,” Witherspoon said. “When I came in for a visit, they were asking me if I’ve adopted that role and if I’d be willing to continue that. And I said, ‘Absolutely.’

“It’s an opportunity to play for such a great organization, close to home, with such a savvy defensive mentality. I think it’s going to be a great place for me.”

The 49ers were also scheduled to have the next pick, but traded the selection at No. 67 for the New Orleans Saints’ second-round pick in next year’s draft, as well as a seventh-round selection (No. 229 overall) this year. The 49ers now have 10 picks in next year’s draft.

The Saints used that pick at No. 67 to select Tennessee running back Alvin Kamara.

Witherspoon began his college career at Sacramento City. He played his final three college seasons at Colorado. He started 12 games last season and earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors.

Witherspoon led the nation with 22 pass breakups. He recorded one interception -- a game-saving pick in the end zone to preserve a 41-38 victory over Oregon. A pre-med student majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, he said he aspires to be a doctor after his football career.

But Witherspoon said he is committed to football and promised the 49ers during his visit to Santa Clara that he will make huge strides over the next few years as he continues to develop as a player.