West Virginia's senior quarterback Geno Smith started his 2012 season as an NFL Draft afterthought, buried behind USC's Matt Barkley and a half-dozen other pro-style quarterbacks on every draft board. Three months later, he's the consensus top quarterback in the 2013 Draft and a likely No. 1 selection.
Smith, a three-year starter at West Virginia, thrived in the Dana Holgorsen Air Raid offense. He threw for 4,385 yards on a 65.8 percent completion rate as a junior, tossing 31 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in his first season under the eccentric head coach. Nearly all of his statistics somehow improved as a senior: 71.2 percent completion percentage, 4,206 yards, 42 touchdowns, six interceptions. Smith ran the nation's tenth-rated passing offense, guiding West Virginia to a 5-0 start and a place in the top 10 before the Mountaineers' defensive woes derailed their season.
Geno Smith vs. Baylor (courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com)
Pros: At 6'3 and 220 pounds, Smith has the ideal frame for an NFL quarterback. He has a strong arm, and displayed pinpoint accuracy on the deep ball. Despite defenses keying on the West Virginia passing attack and relentlessly pressuring him, Smith hardly missed a meaningful snap in three years as the starting quarterback for the Mountaineers. He's not fast, but he has sufficient elusiveness and quickness to avoid the pass rush.
Cons: Don't let the Holgorsen spread scheme fool you: Smith is very much a pocket quarterback, and will not provide the dual-threat elusiveness of Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, or Russell Wilson. The West Virginia offense required him to make one or two reads maximum before either scrambling or dumping the ball into the flat, and questions have been raised as to his ability to handle a more complicated offense. It's unlikely that Smith will step into a starting role on his first day without some initial difficulty.
Smith currently sits in 17th position on the SB Nation Big Board. But as the top quarterback on most boards, he figures to go early in the first round. Smith is a possible choice of the Kansas City with the first-overall selection. Jacksonville could also be interested at No. 2, and a number of teams could consider trading up to grab him should the top two balk.
It will be intriguing to see how Smith's decision not to play in the Senior Bowl affects his stock. If the quarterbacks who are there such as Mike Glennon and Ryan Nassib walk away with positive grades, it could hurt Smith. In any case, some might take Smith's decision to stay away as an indication of his confidence or lack thereof.
Here's the word on twitter from a few experts:
QB: 1. Geno Smith, WVU - Pocket presence and deep accuracy are huge, and Geno has both. Always keeps his eyes down field. #BurnsBoard— Matthew Fairburn (@MatthewFairburn) January 24, 2013
Mayock on Geno Smith: ``He's athletic. Natural arm, delivery. From phys. skill-set perspective, could do some of things (in Kelly's O).''— Paul Domowitch (@pdomo) January 19, 2013
If you want to follow Smith on twitter, check out his handle @GenoSmith_12