Geno Smith: Why Did Draft's Top-Rated QB Fall Out of the First Round?

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IApril 26, 2013

MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JANUARY 04:  Geno Smith #12 of the West Virginia Mountaineers looks on against the Clemson Tigers during the Discover Orange Bowl at Sun Life Stadium on January 4, 2012 in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

From the start of the offseason to the end of Thursday night's first round, the NFL sent a loud and clear message to West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith

Despite entering a league predicated on winning at the quarterback position, Smith simply didn't cut it as a first-round pick. 

And so Smith, a projected No. 1 overall selection at several points in the pre-draft process, slipped completely out of the first 32 picks. 

Before the start of the 2013 league year, it was very easy to glance over the top 10 picks and find a number of suitable landing spots for a highly rated quarterback like Smith. But those options dried up quickly.

The Kansas City Chiefs, with a new regime hell-bent on moving on from Matt Cassel, had every opportunity to claim their quarterback of the future with Smith at No. 1 overall. Instead, Kansas City dealt a second-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers for backup quarterback Alex Smith. 

For all intents and purposes, Smith's draft-day fall didn't start on Thursday. It began when the Chiefs and 49ers agreed to that deal, because the dominoes started falling as the offseason continued on. 

The Oakland Raiders, holders of the No. 3 overall pick, decided to address their quarterback problems by dealing for Seattle Seahawks backup Matt Flynn. Oakland may still go quarterback in the second round, but the chances of Smith landing in the Bay Area at No. 3 fell drastically when the Flynn deal finally went down. 

And not only did the Raiders eventually have a chance to take Smith at No. 3 on Thursday night, but they had another chance at No. 12 after trading down and passed again. 

The Philadelphia Eagles, who were entering the Chip Kelly era with major question marks at quarterback, restructured Michael Vick's deal and held on to Nick Foles. Instead of tying their new head coach with a new quarterback, like so many rebuilding franchises do, the Eagles decided to recycle their own in-house options. 

Sensing a theme here?

The band-aids at quarterback continued. 

With quarterback guru Bruce Arians taking over head coaching duties, the Arizona Cardinals signed Drew Stanton and dealt for veteran Carson Palmer.

Arians helped mold the likes of Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck into first-round stars, but he obviously saw Smith as unfit to be his next pet project, at least with the No. 7 overall pick. Arizona instead took a guard. 

The Buffalo Bills signed Kevin Kolb to a modest deal after he was released by the Cardinals, but they were still viewed as a primary landing spot for a first-round quarterback.

That projection came true, but the Bills dealt down from No. 8 and instead went with Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel, who ended up as the lone first-round quarterback selected. 

Once the New York Jets—home of Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and the worst stable of quarterbacks in the NFL—passed over Smith at both No. 9 and 13, it was painfully obvious that he'd be 2013's version of Brady Quinn and Aaron Rodgers

When the last third of the first round came and went without a team re-entering the top 32 picks for a quarterback, Smith's fate was confirmed. 

There was a sense of surprise in Smith's fall out of the first round, maybe due to the fact that his disappointment in the green room was broadcast at length to anyone watching the draft. 

Another part of the shock is that this is a league that drafted Jake Locker, Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder within a handful of picks of each other just two years ago.

There's simply no more important position in the game than quarterback, and that's reflected in the recent draft history. Since 2001, at least one quarterback has been drafted in the first three picks, and in no draft since 2000 has the first quarterback been drafted this low.

Teams use the draft to fix the position. Period. 

But not in 2013. No one can say that Smith's fall couldn't have been predicted, especially after all the moving and shaking at quarterback before April. 

Go back to what an NFL personnel director told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

"Man, I'm glad I don't have to draft a quarterback," the director said. "These are a bunch of guys as far as I'm concerned. If you're starting one of them, it's because you had nobody else."

Six different personnel people also told McGinn there wasn't a legitimate first-round quarterback. Few were willing to pound the table for any of the quarterbacks.

In turn, the rest of the NFL sent a strong and direct message over the last two months. Trades and signings at the position screamed how poor of a draft this was for quarterbacks. Smith included.