49ers: 3 players whose careers took off after leaving San Francisco

Alex Smith Kansas City Chiefs, Colin Kaepernick San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Alex Smith Kansas City Chiefs, Colin Kaepernick San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /
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San Francisco 49ers, Alex Smith
Alex Smith San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

No. 2: The 49ers’ Top Pick in 2005, Quarterback Alex Smith

With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft, the 49ers selected quarterback Alex Smith out of Utah. From the get-go, the choice of selecting Smith first overall was met with criticism. And Smith himself had a pretty difficult first few seasons.

Smith’s first six seasons were very tumultuous and he never seemed to get in a rhythm. This was due to a multitude of reasons, but partially the lack of continuity with offensive coordinators. He played for five different offensive coordinators in those six seasons.

In 2011, Jim Harbaugh arrived in what would be his first (and only) NFL head-coaching stint. Things looked to be turning around for Smith, and he threw for 3,144 yards, which at the time was a career-best for him.

He also threw 17 touchdowns to only five interceptions, which was also a career-best in touchdown-to-interception ratio for him at the time.

The 49ers had their first winning season in almost a decade and made it to the NFC Championship game. The following season Smith looked to build on that success in the Harbaugh system but was injured mid-season and replaced by second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Even when Smith was cleared to play, the 49ers opted to go with Kaepernick, and thus his time with the team had come to an end. The following offseason, the 49ers traded Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2013 second-round draft pick and a conditional 2014 draft pick

With head coach Andy Reid, Smith had another career-best in 2013, throwing for 3,313 yards. He also had 23 touchdowns to only seven interceptions to go along with it. That performance earned him his first Pro Bowl selection.

He would earn two more Pro Bowl selections in 2016 and 2017. His 2017 performance was his currently standing career-best with 4,042 yards passing.

Smith proved to be another player that took a little bit longer to develop, but was hitting his stride just as his time with the 49ers ended. Could he have repeated those Pro Bowl season performances he had with the 49ers?

It remains a big “what if?” in franchise history.