Second Round: 39th Pick
Geno Smith is the lightning rod for criticism of this year's class of quarterbacks. Players like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III have spoiled football fans over the last two years, so the flaws in the quarterback who is listed first on most draft boards might seem larger than they really are.
Or perhaps, like quarterback-hungry teams, we are employing too much wishful thinking in projecting the best of a weak class of passers as a quality starter? What does Geno Smith have to offer his team at the next level?
When Smith is on, he is a hyper-accurate passer in the short and intermediate passing game, with lightning quick reads and release. He is excellent at anticipating breaks in routes, leading his receivers, and putting the ball in the perfect spot for run after catch opportunities.
His play fake, ball-handling and play execution are all very crisp. Smith is a cool, tough customer in the pocket, and he is very elusive when pressure is on. He keeps his eyes downfield on the move, and he is also a top-notch athlete outside of the pocket. He is also patient in the pocket and able to go through his progressions quickly with excellent field vision.
Smith's footwork is beyond inconsistent. He needs to tighten up his mechanics to iron out issues that result in him missing throws that he should be able to make. He doesn't have a great deep arm, and sometimes, his throws to the sidelines have too much air under them.
When Smith misses, he misses high, which results in bad things in the pros. Smith faded at the end of his senior season, reverted to bad habits, and came up small against the toughest defenses he faced.
Smith is somewhat wiry at 6'2", 218 pounds, but he is tough and strong in the pocket. He is a very underrated athlete with 4.59 speed, a 33.5" vertical and a 10'4" broad jump. He can extend plays and gain yards with his feet, and he will keep defenses off balance with his athleticism.
Smith is known as a "gym-rat" type who is extremely dedicated to watching film. He is a natural leader, and he plays with great toughness, shrugging off big hits and craning his neck from the bottom of a pile to see the result of a play. He is an intense competitor who does not hide his disappointment on the sidelines, but this is also a good sign of leadership.
Smith has been in a shotgun/spread offense for the last two seasons, but he has actually played in three systems, including one that asked him to take a lot of snaps from under center. His offense can make him look like a "catch and throw" quarterback, but he goes deep into his progressions when his first read isn't open. Even though Smith is a great athlete, he was rarely asked to be a ball-carrier on designed runs.
Smith throws in the short and intermediate passing game with great velocity. He isn't afraid to put the ball into small windows, and this velocity serves him well in that respect. Longer throws to the sidelines and deep balls have more air under them and are sometimes either prone to interceptions or being underthrown.
When Smith is on, his accuracy is his greatest weapon. His anticipation of where to throw to receivers who are on the move or even haven't come out of their breaks yet is near perfect many times. He throws the ball to the correct shoulder and at the correct level to maximize production after the catch.
His accuracy starts to degrade on longer throws, but he does flash the same hyper-accuracy on deep throws at times. When he misses, he usually misses high due to poor footwork (which is correctable)— a bad tendency to have in the pros.
Smith has a very quick, compact delivery from an arm slot similar to a javelin thrower with a lot of snap, but he can also make throws from other arm slots. His footwork needs some coaching, as you'll see him set up in a variety of ways, which compromises his accuracy.
This is one area where Smith often shines. He senses pressure and is usually quick and strong enough to elude it. He moves well inside the pocket, remaining light on his feet, and Smith doesn't abandon the pocket until it is absolutely necessary. Smith keeps his eyes downfield throughout this process, and patiently goes through his progressions, even while the bullets are flying around him.
Smith will also stare down the barrel, take the hit to make a throw, and he usually springs right back up after getting blown up by a larger man. Smith's escapability combines with great field vision to make things happen after the play breaks down. He also possesses good instincts as to when to scramble across the line of scrimmage, but will try to keep the passing possibilities alive until the last second.
He's not known as a mobile, athletic quarterback, but Smith will be one of the more athletic starting quarterbacks in the NFL. He is very fast on his rollouts, and he is more than dangerous enough as a runner to run the read option in the pros, even though he didn't do it this year at West Virginia.
How Does He Attack Defenses?
Smith is successful because he is quick in his delivery and decisions, and he is also very aggressive-minded. His mind is a weapon, as he utilizes pump fakes to manipulate defenders, and he also looks safeties off to create room for receivers in the middle of the field. He is a passer, first and foremost, and will attempt to create plays even when there isn't much room to get the ball to a receiver.
He is willing to challenge his guys to make plays and trusts them to operate well in tough situations. While Smith can make big plays with his feet, he only tries as a last resort.