West Virginia QB Geno Smith was portrayed as being in the same mold as RG3 by the press over the past college season, but he’s two or three notches below Griffin in his polish and understanding of the nuances of the game. He showed he is learning, however, and absolutely demolished Clemson in the Orange Bowl with a bowl record 401 yards passing.
How does he stack up to 2011’s top pick, QB Cam Newton?
Newton is the better athlete of the two, head and shoulders above Smith. He’s a larger young man AND faster, and Cam has the bigger arm although Smith is no slouch in that department either. Cam just has an exceptionally strong throwing arm. Geno has very similar issues to Cam as a passer, however. He excelled against lesser secondaries or defenses but the better ones gave him some trouble. In Cam’s senior year, this is where the athleticism powered Cam to a Heisman season that Smith couldn’t invoke. He has mechanical problems – ones very similar to Cam’s – to work on. Like Cam, he throws off his back foot too often, leaning on his arm strength and thereby being inaccurate at times. Cam is 6’5″ 250; Smith is 6’3″ 220 – built more like RG3 than Cam just without the top-end speed.
To the good, he is athletic enough to scramble and maneuver out of trouble, buying time to get the ball downfield or at least to a hot receiver. He blew away the field in the early going of his last college season but his stats took a dive when he faced those better defenses I mentioned. Still, he made improvement against these teams, culminating with that game against Clemson. So, apparently the kid is very coachable and that’s HUGE in the NFL evaluation process.
So what does all this mean?
With the large premium put on the QB position and with Geno Smith rated somewhere in the teens in overall score for this year’s draft class, he probably SHOULD fall to someone like the Buffalo Bills, but will probably wind up being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs with the top overall pick.
Chiefs QB Matt Cassel has shown he’s susceptible to injury and after a few seasons at the helm he has shown a very Jon Kitna-like ceiling. Oh, he can get the job done, but I don’t think Andy Reid is looking to keep a journeyman quarterback with an established low ceiling around as the long-term starter. Since he has experience with the highly athletically gifted Michael Vick, coaching the less athletic Smith should be an easier task since he’s not a guy who is going to do a ton of running and probably won’t have too many designed plays for him to run like the rising read/option offense. Not gonna happen in KC.
Especially after the rookie wage scale hit, teams are both more willing to trade (as we saw in the top seven slots last season) up or down. We also have seen QBs going too high for their draft status and relative ranking. While Newton was the highest-graded QB of many years by many talent evaluators, everyone knew he was very raw since he had only one season of SEC-level play. But the tools were there in spades.
Smith is similar that way but is probably further along in the passing development area. He has made strides in his senior season that Newton really did not make until his rookie season in the NFL. He’ll also benefit from a normal training camp that Newton didn’t have.
Put that all together and KC probably takes him to light a fire under Matt Cassel and hopefully boost his play while Smith pushes for the starting job from day one. Smith will eventually start, and could well be starting on opening day if recent history is any indication.
He is going to be overdrafted at #1 when he should be in a more Tanehillian 8th slot overall, but that darned rookie wage scale is allowing – even encouraging – teams to draft out of positional need and the premium or devaluation of certain positions dictates draft position more than even talent does. Have a look:
Quarterbacks and offensive tackles largely go in the top 5 – at least the top one at the position does – and interior offensive lineman (guards and centers) tend to fall below what their grade might reflect. Watch the 2013 draft and see where top overall rated guard from Alabama, Chance Warmack, winds up. All positions aren’t created equal, and whoever drafts Warmack will be getting the most NFL-ready player in the entire draft…not to mention the best overall player.
It just won’t be Kansas City that takes him.
One thing that could throw a wrench in the works is Chiefs’ LT Brandon Albert. Albert’s a free agent and very good player, but the Chiefs really MUST re-sign him if they want to go after Geno Smith. If they do, they’ll skip that step that teams like the Minnesota Vikings had to do and wait a year to get their anchor LT in the following draft after getting their signal caller. They took QB Ponder in 2011 then LT Matt Kalil in 2012.
The Chiefs would be smart to have that LT locked down before drafting Smith. If Albert’s price is too high or he otherwise isn’t a Chief for 2013, drafting Smith overall #1 could make for another very rough offensive season in Kansas City if for no other reason than protecting WHOEVER is starting. Again, the Chiefs have had major injury issues at QB over the past 2 seasons and protecting the blind side should be the team’s top priority.
All of which depends on free agent QBs and/or other QBs that could be available. Seattle might be willing to trade the guy they signed last year, former Packer QB Matt Flynn, due to the emergence of Russell Wilson. Also don’t forget San Francisco’s QB Alex Smith, who wants to start for someone but lost his job to Colin Kaepernick permanently after an injury sidelined him.
There are a number of others in the Matt Moore category – competent quarterbacks who are stuck behind an established or rising star – even when you leave out rookies from last season that stepped in and played well for a few games.
History and need say Geno Smith goes off the board after Kansas City selects. The more I look at the players and recent NFL draft history, the more apparent the signs point to Smith become.