Former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, the top quarterback prospect in this year's draft in the eyes of many (well, almost everyone) won't make it out of the top three picks, according to CBSSports.com's NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on Wednesday.
La Canfora actually begins by saying he doesn't see Smith being anything less than a top-five selection, but highlights the Jacksonville Jaguars, who are sitting with the second overall pick, as the team most likely to take Smith. SB Nation's Dan Kadar agrees with this sentiment in his latest mock.
In the piece, La Canfora makes a lot of good points regarding teams in the draft's top five, even ten, slots and their respective current quarterback situations. Yes, the Philadelphia Eagles brought Michael Vick back and still have Nick Foles, but there's a new regime in town with some apparent interest in Smith's game. Sure, the Oakland Raiders just dealt for Matt Flynn, but he remains unproven after Russell Wilson's emergence with the Seattle Seahawks. As for the Jaguars, quarterback Blaine Gabbert has been the type of player that should garner at best a competition for the starting spot, and at worst the need for another option entirely.
La Canfora is writing this piece because of a recent general public thought bubble that seems to think Smith's stock, despite being the top quarterback in the draft and, as La Canfora also wisely notes, one that won't need to be paid insanely right off the bat thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, is sliding.
And maybe to some degree it is. SB Nation's Jason Kirk writes that there are more than a few reasons why NFL teams aren't entirely sold on Smith as an NFL quarterback. Like Kirk notes, it could come down to the system he lands in, and which coach potentially translates his skills in the Air Raid offense to the NFL the best. Still, it's a well-used idea but bears repeating: These teams picking in the top ten are here because of many shortcomings but a common thread is the lack of a "franchise" quarterback. Other than the Detroit Lions, all of them could make a case for a new signal-caller.
What this probably all comes down to, in one opinion, is time. Prospects are analyzed and picked apart more and more each offseason because there is an unquenchable public thirst for more information (Exhibit A: This post) about their respective team's future. This is a good thing for the NFL and a good time to be following it for anyone who loves the league.
Eventually, though, everything great about a prospect as highly regarded as Smith becomes too easy to talk about, giving way to the warts-and-all analysis, then the criticizing-the-criticism reversals towards the end. It's partly due diligence, especially with such a high pick at stake, but it's also just passing the time until the real thing actually happens later this month.
Because when the time comes for one of these teams in the top five to make a selection, most of the fluff won't be able to hang around with Smith's stronger characteristics. Does it mean he's a lock for greatness in the NFL? Of course not. But when they're on the clock, somebody's going to face talking themselves out of the draft's best prospect at the game's most important position. They're going to remember that last part, and they're going to change their mind one more time.