Dec 29, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers quarterback Geno Smith (12) drops back to pass during the second quarter against the Syracuse Orange at the 2012 New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

2013 NFL Draft: Is Geno Smith Still Head Of The Class?


 

Originally Posted on FantasyKnuckleheads.com

As the 2013 NFL Draft approaches, there are continuing questions regarding whether or not Geno Smith is still the head of the class among quarterbacks. Which is certainly appropriate, since there has been far more uncertainty surrounding the signal callers who are eligible for this month’s draft, than there normally has been in recent years.

Many Questions Remain

Since 1998, 12 QBs have been selected with the first overall pick, which includes a streak of three consecutive years. During that span, four QBs have been chosen in the initial round in five different drafts, and a minimum of three were drafted in nine times. In many cases, one name headed the list as the premier prospect among the available signal callers in that particular year. Plus, there were often at least two more QBs who were unquestionably destined for selection within the top 10 picks of the same round.

But with each passing day, the April 25th portion of this year’s draft beckons with increasing haste, yet an abundance of questions remain concerning how many QBs will be selecting during the initial round that evening, and how early within the process that might occur. Or put another way… we still don’t know with conviction, how quickly Smith will be selected, and if there will be any other QBs who join him that night.  For a comprehensive look at our latest top five QB rankings from my colleague Greg Brosh, click here: http://fantasyknuckleheads.com/2013-nfl-draft-top-five-quarterback-prospects/

The majority of discussion that has transpired with this year’s QB class has focused specifically upon Smith. Primarily because he is the one rookie who has the legitimate potential to start during the 2013 regular season. And even though there are many who serious doubt whether he can succeed under center if he would be thrust into that role this season, the other rookie QBs possess an even steeper learning curve before they could be entrusted with running an offense at the NFL level.

What Smith Has In His Favor

There are legitimate reasons why Smith has been the leading prospect among all QBs that are eligible for the draft, and beginning with the 42 TD passes and 4,205 yards that he accumulated at West Virginia last season. He possesses sufficient arm strength and accuracy to be an enticement for numerous NFL scouts. And even though there have been conflicting reports regarding his accuracy, his workout performances should have placed any concerns to rest. 29 teams saw Smith complete 60 of 64 throws when then attended his pro day on March 14, and he did so while connected on both long and short throws.

Plus, Smith led all players at his position by posting a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. Even though he is not necessarily considered to be a running QB, that is yet another positive  He has been, and still is, the one rookie QB who has enough has enough ability to be worthy of consideration as a starter during the 2013 regular season.

Existing Concerns

Since Smith has remained the clear front runner among this year’s QB crop, he has also been highly scrutinized. One report in particular was generated by Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki, and delivered a negative assessment that bordered on a personnel attack. Including criticism of Smith’s leadership skills, and his work ethic. As a result, there were responses to the report that defended Smith, with some also containing scathing remarks about Nawrocki. Perhaps the most important consequence of the review, was that a collection of individuals who actually know Smith, strongly refuted the critique. Including his former quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital, some of Smith’s teammates, and also other analysts.

The belief here is that so many of Nawrocki’s comments have been widely disputed, that it would better served to examine more tangible concerns. Such as Smith’s perceived inconsistencies with mechanics. And the fact that the Mountaineers did not employ an overly complicated offensive strategy. Although they will not prohibit Smith from being selected within the top ten.

Perspective On First Round QB Selections

Geno Smith Launches A Throw At The Combine

Smith has not exhibited enough overall ability to reach the level of appeal that we witnessed with Andrew Luck and RG3 heading into last year’s draft, or that Cam Newton attained in 2011. But it is important not to overreact to the negative comments, because he is simply the best prospect at a highly critical position. This is not the first time that the QB who is going to be selected first among his class has become the recipient of criticism in the final weeks leading up to the draft. Or to have his perceived shortcomings overanalyzed to a large extent.

Therefore, it is best to remember how often these maligned signal callers have still managed to secure a lofty draft position once the clock begins ticking. It is easy to review a large group of QBs who have been first round selections in recent years, and see that they were drafted very quickly, despite the lack of complete accord from scouts and observers concerning how they would perform. That lengthy list stretches far beyond examples such as Ryan Tannehill, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert, who secured top 10 selections in the two most recent drafts.

It is also important to recall that the league already contains numerous starting QBs who possess deficiencies. There are more than several teams that are struggling to get by with their current signal callers, and will gladly seize Smith if provided with the opportunity. In fact, it is conceivable that one of those needy franchises will trade up to ensure his presence on their roster. Regardless of whether they believe that he will be needed under center in 2013 or not. Despite some conjecture to the contrary, Smith appears destined to be a top 10 pick, and could easily be selected within the top five. And the most logical candidates will be teams that currently have a stop gap veteran, but need a QB for the long term.

Here are four teams who are most likely to select Smith, as I do not believe that he will remain available beyond Buffalo’s eighth overall selection.

Teams Most Likely To Select Him 

Oakland #3

GM Reggie McKenzie just exchanged a fifth-round selection in 2014, and a conditional pick in 2015, for the chance to secure Matt Flynn’s services http://fantasyknuckleheads.com/2013-fantasy-football-breaking-down-matt-flynns-move-to-oakland/. Which all but ensures that Flynn will be given the opportunity to win a starting job in 2013. But many questions abound regarding how effective Flynn can actually be, since he has only garnered two starts during his five year career. If he were to falter, the only other signal caller that the team currently has available to replace him is Terrelle Pryor. Considering that McKenzie and Dennis Allen both have reservations about Pryor ever becoming the long term solution, it is still possible that McKenzie could opt to add another QB to the roster, and utilize the third pick on Smith. He could also trade down in order to garner additional picks, and enable another team who covets Smith to grab him at this spot.

Philadelphia #4

In March, Smith held a private workout with Chip Kelly, GM Howie Roseman, and even owner Jeffrey Lurie all in attendance. Then just this week, the team hosted Smith for a visit. While that does not mean that Philly is a slam dunk to take him with the fourth overall pick, that possibility should not be summarily dismissed either. The Eagles will be in a similar situation as the Raiders, in that incumbents Michael Vick and Nick Foles are not likely to be the long term answer under center. They do have other positional needs despite their vigorous activity in free agency. And it is reasonable to wonder whether Smith is the right fit for Kelly’s offense. But these recent events should not be discounted, and Smith could be selected in this slot.      

Arizona #7

What had been a cataclysmic QB situation for Arizona was just addressed by the acquisition of Carson Palmer. However, that simply means that the Cardinals are yet another team that only has a short term signal caller. Which makes them a worthy candidate to secure Smith, and let him refine his skills while Palmer in 2013. I do believe that Arizona’s decision makers will ultimately choose to fortify their leaky offensive line, which  allowed a league worst 58 sacks in 2012, and has surrendered at least 50 in three consecutive years. However, the opportunity to select Smith might be too appealing for the team to eschew. He could then have an opportunity to him refine his skills while Palmer manages the offense.

Buffalo #8

The Bills also make the list of franchises that will operate with a QB who is only the temporary solution for his new coaching staff. They are now the third NFL team that has planned for Kevin Kolb to be the starter. And considering how Kolb’s previous two stints deteriorated into a disappointing mix of injuries and limited productivity, Buffalo joins the list of franchises that become prime candidates for massive interest in Smith.  I recently discussed the Bills decision to sign Kolb:

http://fantasyknuckleheads.com/2013-fantasy-football-breaking-down-kevin-kolbs-move-to-buffalo/

He could not navigate through his initial game as a starter in 2010, before suffering a concussion. He ultimately lost his job to Vick, while manufacturing just seven TDs and seven INTs throughout the entire season. Arizona chose to ignore those results, and anointed him as their #1 QB in 2011. But his two years in the desert consisted of just 15 starts and 17 TDs. Kolb’s primary competition as of this writing is Tarvaris Jackson, although I do not believe that Buffalo plans to depend solely upon that tandem. Instead, the Bills will likely search for another QB in the draft, and Smith will be their choice. While a likely scenario would then be for Smith to experience a one year apprenticeship backing Kolb, do not be surprised to see him taking snaps as  Buffalo’s starter at some point this season. 

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Tags: Arizona Cardinals Buffalo Bills Geno Smith Oakland Raiders Philadelphia Eagles