Alex Smith is familiar with the position 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo finds himself in: a top-10 draft pick QB now sitting behind him on the depth chart.
Smith was the starter for the Kansas City Chiefs when Patrick Mahomes was selected No. 10 overall in the 2017 NFL Draft, and ceded the position to the eventual MVP after one season.
Garoppolo has No. 3 overall pick Trey Lance gunning for the QB1 role with the 49ers now, and Smith believes both of the 49ers' quarterbacks could benefit from Jimmy G somewhat replicating Smith's situation in Kansas City and remaining the starter into the regular season.
“If he stays healthy, I think he’s going to have a big year,” Smith told The San Francisco Chronicle's Eric Branch. “I look forward to it. I think he’s a heck of a player and really has been bitten by the injury bug. And I think that would be amazing for Trey to watch a guy play at the kind of level that Jimmy can operate.”
Smith led the Chiefs to a 10-6 season and a playoff appearance in 2017, where Kansas City fell to the Tennessee Titans by a single point in the AFC Wild Card Game.
The 49ers and Garoppolo also have playoff expectations for the 2021 season, and the last time he played a full campaign in 2019, the 49ers were a few bounces away from taking down Mahomes and the Chiefs in Super Bowl LIV.
Lance has impressed in training camp, and although his stats weren't ideal, he showed off his elite arm strength with an 80-yard touchdown pass in the 49ers' preseason opener over the weekend.
Given what the 49ers gave up to trade into the No. 3 pick to select Lance, there undoubtedly will be more external pressure on Shanahan to put the rookie in the starting lineup than there was in Kansas City with Mahomes.
But if the 49ers are winning games and Garoppolo is healthy, there is no need to force Lance into action, especially as he continues to learn Shanahan's complex playbook.
There is no open QB competition as of now, per Shanahan, and until Garoppolo struggles in games or gets hurt, that likely won't change. The 49ers certainly would be thrilled if their situation ends up imitating what happened with Smith/Mahomes in Kansas City, but it's far too early to compare the two situations perfectly.