Why Geno Smith Might Be the Best Quarterback in the 2013 NFL Draft
West Virginia's Geno Smith is the kind of quarterback who suffers during the pre-draft period.
He's not a terrific athlete. He's not a statuesque pocket passer at 6'3", 214. He doesn't come from a program known for creating NFL quarterbacks.
Smith still could be a better pro prospect than draft-eligible passers with gaudier resumes like Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas, USC's Matt Barkley, Tennessee's Tyler Bray, Oklahoma's Landry Jones and Arkansas's Tyler Wilson. He might be better because he shows more "pro-ready" traits than any of those quarterbacks.
Smith has good arm strength, adequate size and adequate athleticism on an NFL-prospect grading scale, but it's the non-measureables that make him such a terrific prospect. He faced the dominant LSU defense last season and showed off the skills that will make him a starter on Sundays.
NFL quarterbacks have to be accurate above all, and you know Smith is an accurate passer because of his 65.8 percent completion rate in 2011. He demonstrates an understanding of how to lead a receiver for yards-after-catch with touch and also shows accuracy downfield. On one of his most accurate throws, Smith buries one in the belly of a receiver sitting on the ground because, after all, he's open:
College quarterbacks can make a living throwing to open receivers. NFL quarterbacks have to throw to receivers before they break open. Smith does this on this timing-based throw, and many other times during the game:
Mental toughness is an essential quality of pro signal-callers, and Smith demonstrates it (along with some strength) on this play when he is about to be creamed by Barkevious Mingo, who happens to be a first-round quality pro defensive-end prospect:
Smith feels the pressure and steps up in the pocket:
He spins to break out of a Mingo tackle around the hip:
Resets his feet, surveys the field and ends up finding a receiver open downfield:
Peripheral vision, instincts against pressure, movement within the pocket, lower-body strength, composure, field vision—Smith demonstrates all of these qualities on one outstanding play.
Removing Defenders from the Play
An underrated quality of NFL passers is the ability to look off or otherwise move defenders to create space elsewhere on the field. Smith does this like a seasoned pro. On this play, he looks to the left to create space in the middle for his tight end, who you can see all the way on right edge of the screencap:
He also displays some patience, another hallmark of his game, waiting for the TE to come open when the defender stumbles. You can see the safety still fading back with his hips open to the left:
Smith creates a touchdown with his pump fake to a screen pass here (diagrammed expertly by ESPN's Kirk Herbstreit):
Smith is an easy prospect to love because in addition to all of these qualities, he plays with a ton of patience and a deliberative thought process, but always with conviction and urgency. Look for him to be a first-round pick next year.
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