Geno Smith walked into the scouting combine as most analysts' top quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft class, and the former West Virginia Star did little to change that perception in Indianapolis.
Though there were some questions about Smith's first-round grade heading into the combine, his measurements likely put that to rest. Smith measured at 6'2" and 218 pounds, almost a mirror image of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, and also performed far better athletically than expected.
Expected to put up a good (but not great) sprint time, Smith ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds, beating out all other participating quarterbacks. He also put up an impressive 33.5-inch vertical leap, proving that he was a far better athlete than most gave him credit for.
That being said, Smith still has plenty of work to do under center. As Rob Rang of CBS Sports noted, he was only intermittently impressive in passing drills and did not do anything that screamed "No. 1 overall pick."
And with there being plenty of speculation regarding the Kansas City Chiefs acquiring Alex Smith, the possibility of Geno Smith going atop April's draft seems remote. But therein lies the question for the draft's top quarterback.
If not Kansas City, then where? Well, here is a look at Smith's most likely suitors following his strong combine performance.
Oakland Raiders (Pick No. 3)
Much of Oakland's draft strategy come April will be predicated on its ability to restructure the contract of quarterback Carson Palmer. The 33-year-old quarterback, for whom the Raiders gave up a first-round pick last season and a second-rounder this year, is due a base salary of $13 million and has a cap hit of $15.35 million, per Spotrac.
That has Oakland's front office already exploring its options just 25 games into the experiment. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Raiders want Palmer to restructure his contract, and it remains to be seen if the former Pro Bowler is amenable. If Palmer refuses to take less money in 2013, there is a very real possibility the team could cut bait to avoid overpaying the guy it once viewed as a franchise savior.
Without Palmer, the Raiders' quarterback situation becomes far more fluid. Terrelle Pryor remains on the roster and looked fine in a season-ending start last season, but there are far more questions than answers with the former Ohio State product. While the Raiders gave up a third-round pick in the supplemental draft to take Pryor, there are very few who think he will be a franchise-level guy.
On the other hand, the Raiders reportedly love Smith. Bleacher Report's NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller noted in late January that not only do the team's scouts like Smith, but the organization was ready as a whole for a new man under center.
A lot (obviously) can change in a month, and even more in nearly three. Nevertheless, there is not any one thing about Smith's combine performance that should make the scouts back off their stance—unless he bombed in the interview room.
With no indication that that's the case, Smith heading to Oakland remains a very real possibility.
Arizona Cardinals (Pick No. 7)
Desperately in need of an upgrade following last season's debacle, many have pegged the Cardinals as a guarantee to take a quarterback at No. 7. New head coach Bruce Arians has been a noted quarterback guru his entire career—especially with the development of younger players—and was an instrumental figure with both Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh and Andrew Luck in Indianapolis.
And after his combine performance, it's hard to deny Smith being the best all-around talent at quarterback this year. From a purely logical standpoint, this seems like a perfect fit if Smith were to last this long.
There are just a few problems with the prospect of Smith heading to Arizona.
The first (and most significant) of those lingering questions is how Smith would fit in Arians' system. Throughout his career, Arians has manned an offense predicated largely on big downfield passes. Luck threw more deep passes than any other quarterback in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus, an astounding stat considering the Colts' offensive line woes and the usual penchant for conservatism for rookie quarterbacks.
Smith, meanwhile, thrived in a spread attack that was mostly predicated on short and intermediate routes. There were many plays in the West Virginia playbook that essentially boiled down to "get the ball in Tavon Austin's hands as fast as possible and pray he does something with it." Oftentimes it was a sound strategy and plenty of Mountaineers first downs were a result of those types of play calls.
That's not a degradation of Smith. Someone obviously has to put the ball in the talent's hands, and completing 71.4 percent of your passes is no joke in any form of football.
Secondarily, it seems USC quarterback Matt Barkley may have gotten the first "promise" of the draft. Bleacher Report's NFL draft lead writer Matt Miller reported Saturday that a scout indicated Barkley would not get past the Cardinals' pick. It's interesting because, though most may view Smith as the top overall quarterback, all it takes is one team (Arizona) to feel otherwise.
Or are the Cardinals simply working under the assumption that Smith will be off the board? It's possible. The last time no quarterback was drafted in the top five was 2000. It's just one of those questions that will be answered as we get closer to April.
For now, though, it seems like a 50-50 proposition at best that Smith would go over Barkley at No. 7.
New York Jets (Pick No. 9)
The reasons for New York's struggles are many, but start with the quarterback position. Mark Sanchez was the NFL's worst qualifying quarterback in ESPN's QBR metric and Football Outsiders' DYAR measurement. Keep in mind, that's one measurement (QBR) saying he was worse than Brandon Weeden and another (DYAR) putting him behind the immortal Ryan Lindley.
Also worthy of note: Last season was Sanchez's fourth full year as an NFL starter. And the Jets have backups (Tim Tebow and Greg McElroy) who are so bad that Rex Ryan was hesitant to make either the starter (and refused in the case of Tebow).
So, yes, the Jets could use a quarterback. But they could also use a wide receiver, running back, outside linebacker, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. This is a very flawed football team, one that will be taking a $12.85 million cap hit for Sanchez in 2013.
To say the Jets would have a dilemma on their hands is an understatement on par with saying Sunday's Oscars telecast went a little long.
Smith is no elixir to all of the Jets' woes. It's even questionable whether he will become a productive NFL starter. That being said, the pressure will be palpable to take Smith if he's still on the board at pick No. 9.
Most pundits have had a skill-position talent like Cordarrelle Patterson or a high-upside linebacker like Ezekiel Ansah going to the Jets. Just know that the prospect of a franchise quarterback may be too much for the new management regime in New York to pass up if Smith is on the board.
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