The competition to be the 2013 NFL Draft’s top quarterback selected, and possibly also the No. 1 overall pick, is very different than that of last year’s draft. While the 2012 draft featured two superstar prospects who would each be locks to go No. 1 overall in almost any other draft class in Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III, this year’s class features no elite quarterback prospect.
Two of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft class are West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson. If the team at the top of the draft board — likely to be the Kansas City Chiefs — decides to draft a quarterback, either one could end up being the No. 1 overall pick.
While neither Smith nor Wilson should be more than a mid-to-late first-round selection on value, there is no position that draws a higher demand high in the draft than quarterback, which could cause either or both of them to rise to the top of the board if they finish the draft process strong.
Any team near the top of the draft board considering drafting a quarterback with their first-round pick will certainly compare every aspect of the two quarterbacks’ games over the next four months leading up to the 2013 NFL draft. Here’s how the two signal-callers compare from my evaluation.
Wilson and Smith both have the ability to place downfield throws on a dime and in perfect position for their receiver to make a play on the football. Neither has done it with the consistency, however, desired from an NFL starting quarterback.
Inside of 20 yards, Smith is the more consistently accurate quarterback, but Wilson has better deep-ball accuracy. Wilson is better at ball placement than Smith, and is more NFL-ready for hitting receivers’ routes with proper timing and fitting passes between tight coverage.
Smith’s completion percentage at West Virginia was more than nine points higher than Wilson’s this season, but Smith’s offense was much more predicated upon short passes than Wilson’s. While Wilson certainly had his issues with consistency in downfield passing, one reason for his lower completion rate was making more challenging throws over the course of a game plan.
Neither Smith nor Wilson will dazzle scouts with their arm strength the way RG3 could last year, but while neither has a cannon, both have arms plenty adequate for the NFL.
Smith throws the ball at a high velocity, but is not great at throwing the ball deep. Wilson’s arm is no cannon, but when he has time to step into his throws, he can throw a very solid deep ball.
Overall, the difference between the two quarterbacks will not come down to arm strengths, as both have arms strong enough to make every throw on the field. But neither has an arm that will blow the top off of opposing secondaries.
Although both quarterbacks are experienced starters, decision-making is an area where both have some significant work to do.
Both quarterbacks try to force too many passes into multiple coverages downfield. Smith does a better job of picking up coverages and not throwing passes with a good chance to be intercepted, but also has a tendency of getting too comfortable with his receivers, and staring down his target rather than going through his progressions. Wilson does a better job than Smith of finding second or third reads on different regions of the field.
Wilson and Smith both do a good job of knowing when the pocket is collapsing around them, then scrambling out of the pocket to run the ball or throwing the ball away.
Footwork will be a major area of development for both Wilson and Smith at the next level. Both quarterbacks lined up primarily in the shotgun in their college offense, and are not experienced with dropping back from under center.
Although not a great deal of it, Wilson has more experience under center than Smith, and has more refined footwork and dropbacks than his counterpart. Wilson’s dropbacks out of the gun are more shuffles than they are steps, but he is efficient in his movements. Smith usually takes no drop or a three-step drop from the gun, and has quicker steps than Wilson, but will need to significantly clean up his footwork at the next level.
Neither Wilson nor Smith is a dual-threat quarterback, but both are good athletes. Smith has better foot speed than Wilson, and is a better scrambler as a result, but Wilson has better pocket presence.
Smith does a good job rolling outside of the pocket away from pressure, and being able to do so effectively enough to set his feet and make accurate throws when doing so. Wilson does not have the speed to run away from fast pass-rushers, and often has to force throws or throw the ball away out of bounds when flushed out of the pocket.
Inside the pocket, however, Wilson does a better job dealing with pressure. While he is in trouble when forced out of the pocket, he does a good job of sliding his feet around the pocket and stepping up away from pressure.
Smith, on the other hand, tends to stay sedentary within the pocket, and allows pressure to come to him. When Smith decides to leave the pocket and scramble, he is a very mobile quarterback, but he has yet to develop a natural pocket presence.
Who will be the best quarterback from the 2013 NFL draft class?
Smith and Wilson both have very sound throwing motions that should not have to be changed at the next level.
Outside of Aaron Rodgers, there won’t be many quarterbacks in the NFL with a more precise and quick release than Smith, who fires the ball away in a quick, fluid motion. While that trait stands out on film with Smith more than Wilson, the Arkansas quarterback also has an NFL-ready throwing motion and can get rid of the ball quickly and efficiently.
Both quarterbacks do a good job of elevating the football, allowing them to throw effectively over pressure and not get the ball swatted down often.
|Statistical Comparison of Quarterbacks' Senior Season (Not Including Pinstripe Bowl)|
|QB||Completion Pct.||Passing Yards||Passing TD||INT||Passer Rating||Team Record in Games Played|
Statistically, Smith had far better numbers than Wilson in their senior seasons. In terms of leading his team to success and making more plays this season, Smith was the better quarterback this year, but the gap between their performance is not nearly as large as the numbers depict.
Smith’s improved completion percentage and lower interception rate are a result of making more short checkdown throws than Wilson, while many of his passing yards came from yards after the catch attained from wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.
That’s not to say Wilson did not get some big yards after the catch of his own from big-play weapon Cobi Hamilton, but making Wilson’s job tougher was the lack of a second consistent receiving option outside of Hamilton.
Neither quarterback’s team had the success they expected to this season, and some of that falls on the signal-callers for struggling in some of their team’s defeat. A bigger reason for both teams’ struggles, however, was inconsistent offensive line play and defenses that struggled badly.
The quarterback position in the National Football League is making strides toward less conventional, dual-threat quarterbacks each year—especially this season with the emergence of players like Griffin, Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick—but that is neither Smith nor Wilson. Smith is the better running threat and athlete between the two, but both are conventional dropback pocket passers.
While neither quarterback has a rocket arm or dynamic rushing ability, both have very good raw physical skill sets. Each quarterback is listed at 6’3”, a very good height for an NFL starting quarterback, and should test well at the NFL Scouting Combine and/or their schools’ Pro Days.
Both quarterbacks need to become more consistent with their accuracy and decision-making, and will need to learn the proper footwork from lining up under center. Between the two, Wilson is the better downfield passer, but Smith’s mobility, throw velocity, release and collegiate productivity fall in his favor.
While Smith has been the lead dog in the quarterback race all season, a closer evaluation between the two reveals that if Wilson is not the better prospect at this time, he is not far behind. There is still plenty of jockeying for the top quarterback spot to be had, not only between them but also with other top quarterback prospects including USC’s Matt Barkley, Georgia’s Aaron Murray (if he declares as a junior), Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib and North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon.
For Smith and Wilson specifically, each has at least one more marquee opportunity to make a big impression on NFL teams and scouts. Smith will play in the Pinstripe Bowl versus Syracuse on Saturday, while Wilson is committed to play in the Senior Bowl on Jan. 26.