Why Geno Smith Would Be Latest 1st-Round Flop for Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders haven't had a lot of success with first-round picks in recent years, and if recent reports are to be believed, a franchise that badly needs to hit with their high picks as they try to rebuild is preparing to shoot themselves in the foot once again.
Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported (via Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio) on Wednesday that there are rumors that the Raiders are interested in selecting West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith with the third overall pick in April's NFL draft.
That pick would follow a rather depressing precedent that the Raiders have set with their first-round picks of late.
That is, reaching only to regret it later.
Of the Raiders last five first-round picks, only two (Darren McFadden in 2008 and Michael Huff in 2006) can be considered even marginally good. Even then, McFadden has been plagued by injuries and Huff hasn't played up to his draft spot.
Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (2009) has shown some flashes, but hasn't come close to justifying a top-10 pick. Linebacker Rolando McClain (2010) and quarterback JaMarcus Russell (2007) were nothing short of absolute busts.
Mind you, this isn't necessarily a knock on Smith the player.
The 6'3" 220-pound senior had a very productive 2012 season in Morgantown, completing over 70 percent of his passes, throwing for nearly 4,200 yards and tossing 42 touchdown passes against only six interceptions.
Smith was also impressive at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine. As Tony Pauline recently reported for USA Today, Smith threw the ball well in Indianapolis, and his 4.59-second 40-yard dash time was tops among signal-callers.
However, as pointed out by Don Banks of Sports Illustrated before the combine, none of this year's quarterback crop is wowing scouts like Robert Griffin or Andrew Luck did a year ago.
[Mike] Mayock of the NFL Network doesn't have a first-round grade on any quarterback prospect this year. Ditto for ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay, whose top six quarterbacks carry second-round grades, and who doesn't consider any of the draft's best seven passers to be candidates to run the read-option in the NFL.
Granted, some scouts may have Smith as a first-round prospect, but you'll be hard-pressed to find one that grades him as a top-five overall pick.
Does Smith have the tools to be a successful NFL quarterback? Yes. He has the size and athleticism that NFL teams covet, and while his arm isn't a howitzer it isn't a popgun either.
With that said though, Smith is also far from a slam dunk as an NFL prospect. His footwork and mechanics could use some work, and after running the Mountaineers' offense mostly from the shotgun Smith may experience some growing pains working from under center.
That makes Smith exactly the sort of reach that the Raiders can't afford right now, especially given how little they have to surround him with and how Smith responded to adversity at West Virginia (not well).
The Oakland Raiders are a team with multiple needs on both sides of the ball and precious little cap space with which to address them as they try to dig out from under years of poor personnel decisions.
The offensive line, defensive line and secondary are all areas that the Raiders need to address. Each of those positions offers the Raiders choices in the draft that carry with them less risk than Smith, whether it be Central Michigan tackle Eric Fisher, Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd or Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner.
This isn't to say that quarterback isn't also an area of need for the silver and black. Carson Palmer is well on the wrong side of 30 and due an untenable $13 million salary in 2013. Terrelle Pryor apparently hasn't inspired a lot of faith inside the organization that he's the man for the job; otherwise, we wouldn't be having this little discussion.
Still, the third overall pick isn't the place to address that need, at least this year. Picks born of desperation are picks that blow up in team's faces.
The Raiders' lack of a second-round pick this year (as a result of the trade that brought Palmer to Oakland) aggravates the situation, but the team can't let that force their hand.
The Raiders could try to trade down this year and draft a signal-caller, such as USC's Matt Barkley, a bit later in the first round. Florio even speculated that this feigned interest could be a ploy to get a quarterback-needy team to move up if they desire Smith.
If that's the case then great, as the Raiders could certainly use the extra picks such a deal would bring.
However, if the Raiders are forced to make a pick at third overall, Smith shouldn't be the guy they take.
Get a player such as Tennessee's Tyler Bray or Arizona's Matt Scott later in the draft if you're absolutely set on selecting a passer in 2013. Then convince Palmer to restructure his deal or cut him loose and find out exactly what you have in Pryor.
Who Should the Oakland Raiders Choose with the Third Overall Pick?
It's not like the Raiders are going to be competing for a playoff spot in 2013, and next year's class of passers features Heisman trophy winner Johnny Manziel and Teddy Bridgewater of Louisville, both of whom are more highly-regarded NFL prospects than any quarterback in this year's crop.
This year's first pick can then be used to take the best player available while also filling one of Oakland's numerous other needs.
When Reggie McKenzie took over as the general manager in Oakland, he said that the Raiders were going to do things differently. So far he's been a man of his word, trimming the fat from the Raiders' roster.
The third overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft would be the worst possible time for the Raiders to revert to old habits by reaching for Geno Smith.
More likely than not, all that will get the Raiders is the same thing reaching has gotten them over the past several years.
A fat bag of nothing.
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