Hidden Gem in the 2008 NFL Draft

Jonah NewmanContributor IApril 16, 2008

It seems like the best players are the ones that are underhyped.

People like Ryan Leaf go in the first round while Tom Bradys get snatched up in the 6th, and Tony Romos go completely undrafted. 

Far too often teams focus on physical stature or weight, and don't really look into a player's skill and intelligence until they're making a last round pick to try and balance out one of their other position players. This draft has just such a player in Paul Smith, the best college quarterback you've never heard of.

Paul Smith passed for more than 2,000 yards every year of his college career. His senior year was particularly outstanding, as he set numerous NCAA records, even more Conference USA records and still more school records. 

By the end of the season he had accumulated 14 straight 300+ yard passing games, including three over 400 yards, and 12 games passing for three or more touchdowns. 

In fact he had more than 5,000 yards this year (more than 1,000 more than Tim Tebow) and threw for 47 touchdowns and ran 15 more in, which surpassed the Heisman Trophy winner in every category except for rushing TDs.

He finished the season with an unheard of QB rating of 159.85, and lead the team to the largest blowout in bowl history with a 63-7 win, surpassing their win over previous No. 1 Conference USA team Houston, when they won 56-7.

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But if Paul were only those stats, I wouldn't be writing this article. His ability and intelligence in the pocket are what allow him to acquire those stats and make key plays that win games.

You could chalk his record-breaking season to the weak defenses in Conference USA, but that didn't stop basketball commentators from singing Memphis' praises this year. No, Paul Smith has the ability to make plays come out of nowhere. When he's not given enough protection, he can roll out and throw on the run. 

He has a calm awareness in and out of the pocket that doesn't just win games—it's fun to watch.

In the conference championship game, Tulsa's O-Line was completely outmatched. Paul never had two seconds to rub together after the ball was snapped, and he was either sacked, or if he managed to get the ball out, knocked down on every single drop back—it was aggravating to watch.

However, despite this he still managed to complete 28 passes for well over 400 yards and three touchdowns.

He's a sharp kid too, with a great sense of humor. Everyone's had classes with football players, and usually if they show up they sit in the back and crack jokes about how dumb they are. Paul attended every one of his classes and just acted like a normal guy, not full of himself or distracting the class.

He's level-headed and clearly very intelligent both on and off the field. He has the ability to make plays out of absolutely nothing, and in a pinch he can scramble for a first down. 

Whoever drafts him is in for a very pleasant surprise, and will probably find themselves benching their starting quarterback in favor of Paul Smith rather quickly.


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