Three and out: Mr. Smith to start in San Francisco

Harbaugh backs Smith: After setting several career highs in 2011, Alex Smith appears to have locked down the 49ers’ starting QB job for 2012. Coach Jim Harbaugh made it clear that the organization fully supports the former No. 1 overall pick. While that’s bad news for backup QB Colin Kaepernick, fantasy owners at least know there is stability in the Bay Area. The next step for the 49ers is adding some consistent receivers for Smith to work with. Right now, he projects as a second-tier fantasy QB for the 2012 season and should probably come off draft boards in the third or fourth round.

Burress wants to join Eagles: Soon-to-be-free agent WR Plaxico Burress recently stated his desire to change from New York Jets green to Philadelphia Eagles green. Likewise, Eagles coach Andy Reid admitted that the team considered bringing Burress in last season. 2011 was a forgettable year for the big wideout, catching just 45 balls for 612 yards — both career-lows over a full season. But while those numbers suffered, he still scored eight TDs, which would be a welcome addition to a Philly team searching for big red zone targets. Even if Burress does nest in the City of Brotherly Love, he’s still a mid-round selection in 2012 and no better than a No. 3 WR for your fantasy team.

Knox’s recovery going slowly: Bears WR Johnny Knox isn’t recovering from a back injury as quickly as originally hoped, with the fear that his rehab could extend into the start of the regular season. After a breakout year in 2010, Knox’s numbers were somewhat down in 2011. But with a 19.6 yards per catch average, his ability for big plays never wavered. However, the injury puts a damper on his value for 2012 — especially if he’s not ready at the start of the season. It also adds more uncertainty to Chicago’s already muddled WR situation. The Bears are without a legitimate threat (fantasy or otherwise) at receiver, which in turn lessens the value of Jay Cutler. Expect management to make finding a top-flight pass catcher a priority in the offseason.

— Marcas Grant

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