Overreaction is a big part of the NFL draft process. Nothing sways public opinion more than offseason workouts.
Perception is 90 percent of a prospect’s “draft stock,” but you can bet your bottom dollar NFL talent evaluators and executives don’t read into what fans think of prospects. The reality is, a player’s stock isn’t tangible—we just aren’t often privy to what NFL personnel think of the prospects we so fervently follow prior to the draft.
That change in a player’s perceived draft stock is mostly fan and media reaction and, in large part, groupthink. For that reason, combine and pro day performances should be taken with a grain of salt.
West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is one of the most scrutinized players at this point in the pre-draft process. He’s undoubtedly the most talented signal-caller in this class, but questions remain about his worthiness to be selected in the top five picks in April.
Why is that, you ask? No one seems to have a good answer to your question, unfortunately.
Perhaps Smith’s lack of unanimous popularity is a direct result of the loaded quarterback class of a year ago, or perhaps playing in a spread offense at West Virginia isn’t what fans expect from a top NFL quarterback prospect. Everyone can come up with their own reasoning, but none of it will have any effect on what general managers do on draft day.
NFL decision-makers won’t be fooled by a pro day performance. Good or bad, it’s just another practice session and an opportunity to get an up-close look at a potential top-five draft pick. Smith hasn’t grown two inches and learned to throw a ball 95 yards into a shoebox since his final game in Morgantown, and no scout expects to see that kind of monumental change between the end of the season and a pro day.
I've coached a number of QBs who were unstoppable in seven-on-seven but wet the bed in game time. Pro Day is no different.— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 14, 2013
While there is some inherent value in seeing a prospect in person and evaluating his footwork, arm strength and throwing motion, decision-makers have already seen all of that on film and likely discussed those issues with Smith ad nauseum in offseason interviews.
For the few (if any) talent evaluators who hadn’t seen enough of Smith to form a strong opinion, his pro day on March 14 may have moved the needle a millimeter or two. Short of doing something completely out of the ordinary, no one else is going to make many changes to their draft board following his performance.
And while NFL decision-makers are doing little to adjust their scouting reports on Smith, the rest of the draft following will be reacting in some way or another to news like this from Jim Corbett of USA Today:
Geno Smith finished sharp throwing showcase 60 of 64 with two drops both by Stedman Bailey great zip, accuracy on move— Jim Corbett (@ByJimCorbett) March 14, 2013
That’s not to say Corbett did anything wrong by relaying this information; his job is to report what people want or need to know. But as a collective group, we as followers of the draft process with little access to the inner-workings need to understand that completing passes at a pro day means very little for a player’s draft positioning, and we shouldn’t expect it to.
Where Smith ultimately lands in the draft will come down to many, many factors. Positional needs, perceived value, financial factors and free agency will all affect his final landing spot—what he did at his pro day won’t be one of those factors.