On Wednesday, I explained that the Philadelphia Eagles were smart to perform due diligence on potential first-round draft pick/franchise quarterback Geno Smith, who was meeting with the team for the second time this spring.
I do believe that taking a chance on the draft's top-rated quarterback could wind up being a necessary gamble for the Eagles, who simply can't get that first championship without a reliable and productive starter under center.
But I also believe that the Eagles are smart enough to determine for themselves whether Smith is fit to lead this franchise.
There hasn't been a single quarterback pegged to be drafted in the top five in the last 10 years that caused this much uncertainty leading up to draft day, and I'm including JaMarcus Russell, Vince Young and Mark Sanchez in that assessment.
And I'm not even talking about the scathing write-up the West Virginia quarterback received from Pro Football Weekly scouting troll Nolan Nawrocki, who earlier this week trashed Smith on a personal level. Nawrocki's criticism of Smith's work ethic has since been refuted by everybody who possesses the God-given ability to refute.
But as ProFootballTalk's Michael David Smith points out, there are still major questions regarding Smith's ability to play the quarterback position. MDS alludes to comments recently made by NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock, who is more concerned with Smith's ability to, you know, play quality football.
"It's absolutely the football side," Mayock said on Path to the Draft. "Talk about the football issues: First of all, ball security, ties into the pocket awareness. Whatever that number is, 30, 32 fumbles in his career, he has no awareness of the rush surrounding him. So his pocket awareness—five sacks in the first half against Texas, three of them he could have gotten rid of the football easily, and one of them he was stripped of the football in the end zone for a touchdown. There's no internal clock, there's no feel."
That's not a good assessment for any team looking to draft a quarterback, but doesn't it stand out to Eagles fans in a very special way?
If I were to remove that fumble stat (and it's 32, not 30) and the reference to a West Virginia-Texas game and tell you that in the above paragraph Mayock was referring to Michael Vick, would you dispute it?
It gets worse, though, because while Smith possesses some bad habits that are eerily similar to those Vick has been hampered by his whole career, Mayock also questions his accuracy on deep balls, which is something Vick doesn't really have a problem with.
With Vick, you get the good (rocket arm, lightning speed) with the bad (poor decisions, too many turnovers). But with Smith, there isn't a lot of upside. He doesn't have the same arm or the same mobility, yet he has the same reputation for making silly mistakes in the pocket.
I'm still somewhat split on what I'd do if I were the Eagles. Russell Wilson was supposed to be a career backup. He was too short, they said. And then he went out and became a bona fide franchise quarterback in less than a year.
Two years ago, Nawrocki also gave a clown assessment of Newton, who was compared to Akili Smith, also took a beating from Mayock and drew questions about his accuracy. He then proceeded to put together one of the best rookie campaigns in NFL history.
My point, which I go into detail with here, is that nobody truly knows what to expect from quarterbacks in the draft. Some aren't done learning and maturing, and some are. And that's why you're always rolling the dice.
It doesn't necessarily have to be with Smith at the top of Round 1—it could be E.J. Manuel in Round 2—but I do believe the Eagles have to take that chance at some point in this draft. Because it might not feel like it, but the odds indicate there's at least one franchise pivot in this class of quarterbacks, and, right now, Philadelphia can't afford to stay out of those sweepstakes.