Geno Smith Reportedly a Top-5 Lock: Who's the Favorite to Draft the QB?

Zach KruseSenior Analyst IApril 5, 2013

Geno Smith Reportedly a Top-5 Lock: Who's the Favorite to Draft the QB?

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    For months now, the discussion on West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has not revolved around if he'd be the first quarterback selected in the 2013 NFL draft, but when he'd be taken. 

    Unlike so many recent drafts, where the No. 1 pick has typically been a quarterback-only race, this offseason has made slotting in the top quarterback a difficult task.

    However, as the 2013 NFL draft draws near, the range for Smith's stock has appeared to solidify. 

    According to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Smith "will be a top-five draft pick" and "there isn't any doubt about it." Furthermore, La Canfora reported that Smith is likely to go in the top three, with the Jacksonville Jaguars leading the list of candidates to take him.

    For some, this news will come as no real surprise. Smith has always been the consensus top quarterback in this draft, and the need for a quarterback still lives on in several locations within the top five. 

    For others who struggle to find a landing spot for the talented yet flawed player, the revelation will be somewhat of a shock.

    Regardless, if Smith truly is a lock for one of the top five picks, there should be a number of teams in the running to select him. Even a trade up from one of the other quarterback-needy teams is a serious possibility.

    In the following slides, we'll run down the favorites to take Smith and then finish by selecting a front-runner.

Jacksonville Jaguars

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    With the Kansas City Chiefs in possession of Alex Smith, Chase Daniel and Ricky Stanzi at the quarterback position, Jacksonville at No. 2 overall appears to be the first logical landing spot for Smith.

    But in their reported interest in Smith (via Peter King of Sports Illustrated), do the Jaguars present anything more than a smokescreen used to tempt another team to trade into the pick? Maybe.

    La Canfora wrote a scathing review of former first-round pick Blaine Gabbert, which included criticisms of his early-career production, development and overall demeanor. Chad Henne, a former second-round pick, is nothing more than a qualified backup.

    The Jaguars are also led by an owner, general manager and head coach who have no previous ties to Gabbert as the starter or future, so Smith could certainly be in play at No. 2 overall.

    As La Canfora notes, the Jaguars are still a struggling, small-market franchise without an identity at quarterback. Not seriously considering Smith, the draft's consensus top quarterback, would be reckless and ill-conceived.

Oakland Raiders

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    The Raiders essentially swapped the far-too-expensive Carson Palmer for the cheaper Matt Flynn, giving their roster a more promising situation at quarterback than before the wheeling and dealing. 

    But those who think the Raiders are content with a quarterback who will play in his third city in as many years and the athletic but raw Terrelle Pryor probably don't understand the dynamics of such an important position. 

    Flynn presents the potential of being more than just a stopgap, but he doesn't have a big arm and lacks experience. Pryor is even more tantalizing now with the read option spreading in the NFL, but he still struggles to threaten defenses with more than just his legs.

    Adding Smith to the stable would further increase the Raiders' chances of finding a franchise quarterback. Given how relatively inexpensive it is to roll the dice on a first-round quarterback, the Raiders will have to seriously consider using their top pick (No. 3 overall) on Smith.

Philadelphia Eagles

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    The Eagles have a crowded depth chart at quarterback, with Michael Vick the front-runner to start and 2012 draft pick Nick Foles serving as a capable backup.

    However, such a setup could benefit both Smith and the Eagles, and Philadelphia can certainly see what the future of its position looks like.

    While Vick will be the likely starter in 2013, he's scheduled to be a free agent in 2014. Foles, more of a pocket passer, might not be a terrific fit for Chip Kelly's up-tempo, run-based offense. Both will have a year to prove otherwise.

    Drafting Smith at No. 4 overall would afford the Eagles the luxury of grooming their top pick on the sidelines while also setting up an ideal replacement if 2013 is Vick's last season. Well versed in a high-paced, high-volume offense, Smith could make the Eagles immediate contenders as the unquestioned starter in 2014.

Cleveland Browns

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    The Browns may not be one of the top favorites to land Smith, but a quick glance over their quarterback position doesn't provide concrete answers why.

    In Brandon Weeden, the Browns have a potential above-average starter, but likely nothing more. He'll turn 30 years old in October, so his ceiling for vast improvement isn't high.

    The Browns signed veteran Jason Campbell in free agency but dealt away Colt McCoy, leaving Cleveland with two mostly average players at the game's most important position. Picking No. 6 overall provides the Browns a chance to remedy that reality.

    However, there are clear obstacles to Cleveland taking a quarterback like Smith high.

    The Browns lack a second-round pick (used on Josh Gordon in the 2012 supplemental draft), so moving up to get a quarterback probably isn't in the cards. Even if Smith falls, the Browns would have to think long and hard about the decision to not address any other position before the third round.

Arizona Cardinals

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    Cardinals fans who believe Carson Palmer to be the franchise savior at quarterback must only look a couple hundred miles to the west to discover how such a plan works out.

    Trading for Palmer certainly isn't a fix at quarterback. At best, it's a one-year opportunity for the Cardinals to be relatively competitive at the position. At worst, Palmer can't make it through one year and is eventually thrown to the curb.

    Arizona has other needs spread across the roster, but is there really one that can provide the kind of impact a quarterback most likely will?

    Even in a best-case scenario, Palmer is a one- to two-year "solution." To remain competitive, the Cardinals must ensure long-term health at the quarterback position. Taking Smith, even if a move up is necessary, can't be ruled out to accomplish that ever-important task.

Buffalo Bills

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    Like so many other teams on this list, the Bills will enter the 2013 NFL draft without a solid commitment to one quarterback.

    Buffalo signed journeyman Kevin Kolb to a two-year deal, and former Vikings starter Tarvaris Jackson remains on the depth chart. But those who believe either player will eventually lead the Bills out of mediocrity and into the AFC playoffs are sorely mistaken.

    For Buffalo to annually compete with the likes of New England in the AFC East, a short- and long-term answer at quarterback needs to be acquired. Kolb is a Band-Aid at best. Jackson is backup-quality, no more, no less.

    New head coach Doug Marrone has an obvious connection to former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, but is he worth a top-10 pick? That's debatable.

    Smith is this draft's sole quarterback worthy of being selected at No. 8 or higher. If the Bills want to get aggressive or have the luck of Smith falling that far, Smith makes a lot of sense.

New York Jets

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    Is there a more sorry quarterback situation in the NFL than the one currently at the Jets complex in New York?

    The Jets have five quarterbacks—Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow, Greg McElroy, Matt Simms and David Garrard—and one could argue that New York still doesn't have one legitimate starter. Each could be serviceable in stints, but a long-term option doesn't currently exist on the Jets roster.

    That reality alone should make the Jets candidates to move up and get Smith, even if acquiring a pass-rusher is another pressing need worth fixing at No. 9 overall.

    The Jets will always spin their tires until a legitimate quarterback is put in place. If the brass in New York feels Smith can be that guy, the Jets should certainly entertain the idea.

Favorite: Jacksonville Jaguars

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    As the draft process continues on, the idea that Jacksonville wants to smokescreen other teams about its interest in Smith should fade more and more.

    The Jaguars have new management across the board, and two-year reviews on Blaine Gabbert remain poor at best. Chad Henne certainly isn't starting quality.

    With the No. 2 pick in hand, the Jaguars will now have the first legitimate opportunity to pull the trigger on Smith. That alone makes them front-runners to take the former West Virginia quarterback.

    In fact, the expectation might now lean towards Smith coming off the board at No. 2, regardless of if the Jaguars take him or trade the pick to one of the many quarterback-needy teams picking in the top 10. The Cardinals, Bills and Jets all make sense as teams that could make the move up to No. 2 to ensure the selection of Smith.

    But until the quarterback-needy Jaguars make such a deal, we'll put the odds on Smith landing in Jacksonville later this month.