Is Geno Smith the 1st Piece of the Puzzle for Gus Bradley in Jacksonville?
After suffering through the worst season in franchise history, the Jacksonville Jaguars will have a fresh start in 2013. It includes a new general manager, new head coach, new logo and new uniforms.
It may even include a new quarterback.
General manager David Caldwell said the Jaguars will have a "wide-open competition" (per Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com) at quarterback and will add players (via Alex Marvez of Fox Sports) to compete at the position.
Jacksonville could be looking at its quarterback of the future with the No. 2 overall pick in West Virginia's Geno Smith.
The franchise has a preliminary interest (per Peter King of Sports Illustrated) in Smith, and head coach Gus Bradley said he was impressed (via Ryan O'Halloran of The Florida Times-Union) with what he saw from the quarterback at West Virginia's pro day.
Geno Smith just went to meet with new Jags coach Gus Bradley he told me he was most pleased with accuracy— Jim Corbett (@ByJimCorbett) March 14, 2013
It's easy to see why Bradley was singing Smith's praises: He had an outstanding pro day as he completed 60 of 64 passes while showing off his accuracy and mobility.
Of course, all of this interest could be a smokescreen to try to lure quarterback-hungry teams into a draft-day trade.
If it's genuine, however, the Jaguars have a major question to ask themselves: Is Smith the first piece to their rebuilding puzzle? If he is, Jacksonville has to consider him with the No. 2 overall pick.
Smith is widely considered the top quarterback, but is he worthy of the second overall pick and being the future of a franchise? All statistics are courtesy of SecondRoundStats.com unless otherwise noted.
Looking at his career at West Virginia, the answer seems to be a no-brainer. He improved each year as a starter and finished his senior campaign by completing 71.4 percent of his passes for 4,205 yards with 42 touchdowns and six interceptions, according to Sports-Reference.com.
Critics could say his completion percentage was inflated from West Virgina's reliance on the screens and short passes. That criticism isn't unwarranted as almost 30 percent of Smith's passes were screens, which is almost 13 percent more than the average quarterback.
He quieted those criticisms by showing accuracy all over the field, especially on mid-range throws. After taking dropped passes out of the equation, Smith completed 64 percent of his 11- to 20-yard passes, which is four percent higher than average.
Smith is more accurate than the other top-tier quarterbacks in this year's draft. Only North Carolina State's Mike Glennon comes close to matching his accuracy, but Smith has a higher percentage in almost every yard range.
In addition to Smith's accuracy, he is also mobile, which head coach Bradley said (via Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk) he wanted in a quarterback. Smith showed off his speed and athleticism at the scouting combine in February, where he ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.59) among quarterbacks.
His game isn't without faults, though, which causes some to question him as a top pick.
The biggest concern is Smith's lack of production while lining up under center. Although he completed 80 percent of his passes out of shotgun, he completed just 33.3 percent of passes from under center. This could be a product of the system he ran in college, but the issue could also follow him into the NFL. It is something that could be coached, though.
He also had an extremely low average distance of passes, which is yardage (before YAC) divided by completions. Even though he had a high accuracy in mid-range throws, he rarely threw the ball that deep. His passes traveled 4.69 yards on average, which is the lowest (per SecondRoundStats.com) of any of the draft's top quarterbacks.
Smith's positives seem to outweigh his negatives, and he could become a franchise quarterback with the right coaching. Jacksonville has to be sure he will become one to use the second-overall pick on him, and he looks to be worth it.
If the Jaguars look elsewhere at No. 2, the most realistic possibility would be a speed rusher who could fill the LEO role in Bradley's defense. Oregon's Dion Jordan, LSU's Barkevious Mingo and BYU's Ezekiel Ansah would all fit the position and are talented enough for the Jaguars to draft in the first round.
Should the Jaguars draft Geno Smith with the No. 2 pick?
If Jacksonville passes on Smith, the Jaguars would have to add a quarterback with the top pick of the second round. If they wait any longer, none of the quarterbacks are guaranteed to be available at their next pick.
History also shows it pays off to take a quarterback high in the draft, as 12 of the last 16 Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks were drafted within the first 60 picks (including Steve Young in the 1984 supplemental draft).
So, is Smith the first piece of Jacksonville's puzzle?
In a league as quarterback-driven as the NFL, the answer has to be a resounding yes.
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