Geno Smith: The New Top Prospect in 2013 NFL Draft?

Ryan McCrystalFeatured ColumnistSeptember 29, 2012

MORGANTOWN, WV - SEPTEMBER 29:  Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers drops back to pass against the Baylor Bears during the game on September 29, 2012 at Mountaineer Field in Morgantown, West Virginia.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Geno Smith rewrote the West Virginia record books on Saturday with his eight-touchdown performance against Baylor. His video-game-like numbers caused Twitter to blow up with bold statements about an inevitable run to a Heisman Trophy and becoming the eventual No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

So is Smith the new favorite to go No. 1 overall?

While Smith has undoubtedly improved his draft stock this season, it's far too early to call him the consensus top prospect.

Here are two reasons why we should reserve judgement on Smith until the Mountaineers enter the heart of the Big 12 schedule.


He hasn't been tested

Baylor was West Virginia's first Big 12 "test," but it wasn't much of a challenge for the Mountaineers offense. In its first three games, Baylor's defense allowed 507 yards against SMU, 549 against Louisiana Monroe and 411 to Sam Houston State.

The toughest defense Geno Smith has faced this season was Maryland—a team that went 2-10 and ranked 75th in passing defense a season ago.

The lack of defense doesn't take anything away from Smith's display of downfield accuracy—an area in which he displayed elite talent against Baylor. However, it does mean we haven't seen how Smith will hold up against pressure.

Smith has essentially been playing flag football through the first month of the season. It has allowed him to show off his arm, but not his decision-making ability under pressure.


Can he do the little things necessary to win?

Being an elite quarterback requires much more than a strong, accurate arm.

In terms of physical talent, Smith has the tools of a first-round pick. But he has yet to show a mastery of the little things that separate the cream of the crop at the next level.

Smith's most obvious flaw is his tendency to stare down his receiver. He frequently locks on to his primary target—usually Stedman Bailey or Tavon Austin—and simply waits until they break free from coverage.

Because of the defenses West Virginia has faced, Smith has gotten away with telegraphing his throws. Against Baylor, there were times when Smith had over five seconds to stand in the pocket and wait for his man to get open. But he won't be afforded that luxury against the likes of Texas and Oklahoma—or any NFL defense.

As the season progresses, it will be important for Smith to show improvement in this area if he hopes to leapfrog Matt Barkley on draft boards. These gaudy September stats will quickly be forgotten if he's picked apart by the better defenses on the Mountaineers schedule.