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Thursday, March 14, 2013
Smith headed for the top 10 overall?
West Virginia held its pro day Thursday, and despite all the positive buzz surrounding Mountaineers WR Tavon Austin (more on that later), it was QB Geno Smith who was the main attraction.
Smith came into the scripted, 62-pass session put together by former NFL QB Chris Weinke looking to back up a solid showing at the NFL combine, and he did just that.
What stood out most to me was the velocity and accuracy Smith showed on intermediate throws, which is something you see consistently on tape. He looked perfect on seam routes, throwing with low trajectory and good zip, and putting the ball right on the money.
I also saw more consistent velocity and accuracy on deep outs and vertical throws toward the boundary, but just like on film, Smith was not quite as sharp in that area as elsewhere and missed within the strike zone at times. He said when I spoke with him after the workout that there were some deeper throws he would have liked to put closer to the sideline, throws that caused his receivers to have to gear down or come back to the inside a bit.
However, Smith does appear to have worked on his posture in the pocket, being more erect with his upper body while still maintaining balance and bend in his knees. That led to a little more consistency and zip on those deeper throws than we see on tape. It's just a small tweak, but in this kind of controlled environment it paid off.
Smith also showed the quick feet and compact delivery I expected to see, showcasing his smooth throwing motion. He gets the ball out in a hurry, is very accurate when throwing over the middle of the field and looked good on shorter throws, as well. He also displayed the ability to throw when moved off-platform and with different arm angles.
There is some work to be done in terms of being more mechanically sound and relaxed with his feet in the pocket, but Smith has the frame (6-foot-2⅜, 217 pounds), size potential, mobility, arm, short-to-intermediate accuracy and drive/work ethic to be a good NFL starter.
Smith has now aced the first two tests of the predraft process, and now his ultimate draft position will be determined by how he performs in private workouts and interview sessions with NFL teams that bring him into their facilities.
The first goal of those sessions is to get him out of his scripted comfort zone when working out, to see how Smith handles throws specific to a team's offense and being asked to react when things are mixed up.
The second is to watch film with him, to have an installation session that requires him to ingest and regurgitate a portion of the playbook, then get him on the whiteboard to see how well he retains and processes the information. Basically, to test his football IQ.
What he shows in those areas will go a long way toward determining his ultimate draft fate. I have a late-first-round grade on Smith, but based on conversations with people around the league it seems more and more likely that he won't make it out of the top 10 overall picks.
Arizona (No. 7) and Buffalo (No. 8) both have a primary need at quarterback. Bills GM Buddy Nix was in attendance Thursday, and Smith already has a workout scheduled with the team on March 22.
And don't read too much into the fact the Cardinals were not represented Thursday in Morgantown. They might be feigning disinterest, they might be legitimately disinterested, or they might believe (as many teams and scouts, including yours truly, do) that pro days are so scripted and controlled that they're better off waiting for their own private workout.
Plenty of other teams in the top 10 have a secondary need at quarterback, including the Eagles (No. 4), who brought head coach Chip Kelly, owner Jeffrey Lurie and GM Howie Roseman put Smith through a workout on Monday. On Wednesday, Smith met with two undisclosed teams. Throw in Jacksonville (No. 2), Oakland (No. 3) and the Jets (No. 9), and there could be plenty of competition for Smith's services.
Now that he's showcased his physical skills twice and seemingly met the on-field standard for teams, it takes only one to fall in love with his intangibles and handling of the process for Smith to come off the board early in the first.
Alex Smith will be better than Geno or Cassel, Alex Smith will be better than Geno or Cassel, Alex Smith will be better than Geno or Cassel, Alex Smith will be better than Geno or Cassel...