Smith's scouting report is full of positives, and watching him play, it's clear he has the physical tools to become a capable starting NFL quarterback—if not a dynamic playmaker and the face of a franchise.
Using five expert scouting reports, we'll take a look at Smith's strengths and weaknesses. These include Todd McShay's Scouts Inc., the National Football Post, Rob Lang of CBSSports.com, WalterFootball.com's Charlie Campbell and Bleacher Report's Sigmund Bloom.
With these experts as our guide, let's take a look at how Smith rated in key areas as it pertains to playing the quarterback position in the NFL.
In order to become a successful NFL quarterback, one must be a leader first.
All the talent in the world means nothing if a quarterback doesn't know how to or isn't concerned with leading his team by example and with his words.
Smith, thankfully, isn't afraid to put in the hard work—in the gym, in the film room and on the field—required to lead an NFL team.
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.
Scouts Inc. adds, "Mentally tough and never stops fighting."
Campbell and the National Football Post both echo Bloom's assessment as well.
One thing that stands out, however, is that Smith isn't a vocal leader as much as he is a leader by example. That's not a negative, but there will certainly be times in his career that he'll need to speak up to set his team straight.
Accuracy trumps arm strength in the NFL, but there's no doubt having a cannon for an arm helps.
Open windows close in a hurry at this level, and quarterbacks must be able to zip a ball into tight coverage. Balls that float or get to the target late risk being intercepted, and turnovers can ruin a quarterback's career in a hurry.
Our five expert scouts all agree that Smith has enough arm strength to make all the throws. From the National Football Post:
While Smith does not have rare arm strength, he definitely has a strong arm to make every NFL throw with ease. He has shown the ability to make the far-side 15 yard out throw with excellent zip without setting feet and striding into throw.
Scouts Inc.'s report adds: "But deeper sideline throws have been his Achilles heel on tape."
Bloom also notes that Smith's deep passes down the sideline "have more air under them and are sometimes either prone to interceptions or being underthrown."
While not contradictory, per se, Rang writes: "Very good deep ball passer. Has the touch and accuracy to lead his receivers away from defenders."
Smith has plenty of arm strength to succeed in the NFL. Deep throws down the sideline require both arm strength and precise touch, which we'll address in this next section.
Plenty of strong-armed quarterbacks have failed to succeed in the NFL because they never developed enough accuracy to make the pin-point passes necessary to beat the league's top defenders.
Other quarterbacks, like Joe Montana, never had an overly strong arm but excelled because they could drop the ball on a dime utilizing excellent mechanics.
At this time, Smith's accuracy and touch (or lack thereof) is his biggest flaw. All five expert scouting reports mentioned his inconsistent accuracy.
Scouts Inc. reports: "Can be very accurate for long stretches but must improve consistency. Shows touch and timing. Highly accurate when he throws on balance, particularly short-to-intermediate."
Bloom adds, "When he misses, he usually misses high due to poor footwork (which is correctable)—a bad tendency to have in the pros."
Given Smith's incredible accuracy when his feet are properly set underneath him, it seems clear that he'll be able to overcome his struggles in this area.
Any doubts about Smith's athleticism were put to rest at the 2013 NFL Scouting Combine.
Campbell of WalterFootball.com notes that Smith is "athletic" and "can make plays with his feet."
Don't confuse Smith with Robert Griffin III or Colin Kaepernick, though. He only gained 342 yards on the ground in his four years at West Virginia and is much more like Andrew Luck in that he's always looking to make a play downfield.
Bloom doesn't believe that should define his capabilities in the pros, however: "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."
Scouts Inc.'s report indicates Smith may be unsure about making plays with his feet: "Has shown reluctance to take off running at times. There are also too many instances in which he's not aggressive enough once he has crossed the line of scrimmage with the ball in his hands."
If Smith is going to utilize his above-average speed and excellent athleticism in the NFL, he'll need to be more decisive when he sees an opportunity to take off and run.
Smith has what it takes to evolve into an NFL quarterback.
That said, he's not ready to step into a team's starting lineup and perform at a high level. His footwork, accuracy and ability to read the field must improve, and Smith would be better off sitting behind a veteran for a year before becoming the starter for his new team.
If Smith lives up to his full potential in the NFL, he could easily work his way into the conversation as a top-10 signal-caller. He has the right attitude to achieve this goal, isn't afraid to put in the hard work and possesses all the physical attributes to make it happen.
There's a good chance Smith will be a top-10 pick in this year's draft. Teams without franchise quarterbacks are desperate to find one and, as such, are more willing than they should be to reach for one.
I have Smith as a late first-round pick on my big board, and I'll be surprised if he's not a competent starter in two or three years.
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