The Eagles aggressive foray into free agency has more than a few people now believing the team will spend pick #4 on QB Geno Smith. There is some logic behind this thinking.
The Eagles brass went down to West Va and took an up close look at Smith. They put him through an intense on-field workout and then grilled him on the whiteboard (testing his knowledge of plays and offensive concepts). I’m sure the Eagles had someone at his Pro Day event last week, where Smith showed off much-improved footwork. Smith has been working with QB guru Chris Weinke since the season ended.
Smith wasn’t great at the Combine, but he did catch a few people by surprise when he ran the fastest 40 time of any QB. Smith was first in the broad jump and second in the vertical jump. He ended up being a heck of a lot more athletic than expected.
Previously the idea of spending pick #4 on a QB seemed crazy, due to the many holes on the roster. Then the Eagles went and acquired 9 new players, as many as 7 of which could be starters. Wow. That gave the Eagles a lot of flexibility in the draft. The team can now truly go into the draft looking for talent rather than to fill holes.
So now we have the Eagles showing specific interest in Smith, due to his combination of passing skills and athleticism, and also having draft flexibility. Could this be Chip Kelly’s guy?
No. I simply don’t see Chip wanting Geno at #4.
If things change and Smith is the pick, you can all beat me over the head with my prediction, but I don’t see the match. When you draft a QB early, you’re looking for a star QB. I see Smith as a future NFL starter, but I don’t see him as anything special. Would he be an upgrade on Nick Foles? Probably, but not definitively. Before you go nuts and rant against me, remember all the sure-fire QBs who haven’t panned out: Joey Harrington, JaMarcus Russell, Matt Leinart, Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, David Carr, etc. Those guys won trophies and bowl games and deserved to be high picks. They all failed miserably. Foles is far from a sure thing, but he has shown that he can be a functional player in the NFL. Smith is a total unknown.
I think the team that takes Geno Smith is going to be one that has an empty QB cupboard or has some sense of desperation about them. The Bills have a terrible QB situation. The Jaguars are desperate for something good to happen to their organization. The Cardinals have been awful at QB since Kurt Warner left. And so on.
The Eagles are not set at QB by a long shot. There is no player that Chip Kelly can say with confidence is “his guy”.
Could Smith be his guy? It is possible. I don’t question Geno’s talent. The guy makes some throws that are breathtaking. He has good accuracy and great touch. His arm is maybe a hint above average, but nothing special. It is certainly good enough to be a starter. Smith is a smart player that generally makes good decisions.
One huge turn-off for me is Smith’s 5-game losing streak in 2012. I don’t think QBs should get over-judged as winners/losers in the NFL because circumstances are so important, but that stuff is relevant in college. If Smith is truly a franchise QB, how could he not stop a losing streak? West Va’s only “good” win this year came against Baylor, a team that finished 8-5. Beyond that they beat a bunch of mediocre or bad teams. In 3 losses, the West Va offense was held to just 14 points. And this is a unit with a pair of 1st round picks in Smith and Tavon Austin, and a Top 100 WR in Steadman Bailey. There are another couple of guys who have a shot at getting drafted later.
While Smith did post great numbers, how much of that is him and how much is Austin/Bailey? 30 percent of Smith’s passes were screens, passes at or behind the LOS. That’s an enormous total. Another 42 percent of his throws came in the 1-10 yard range. Think about that. 72 percent of his passes came within 10 yards of the LOS. He lived on RAC yards. Austin was the most dynamic RAC player in all of college football.
Smith was great in coach Dana Holgorsen’s system and getting the ball to those players. Projecting him to the NFL is where you start having to think and guess. How does he fit in? How good can he be? Smith can run the read-option, but didn’t do it in college so you don’t know how well he could do that. His deep balls aren’t great, partially due to his arm. In that sense, he would be either no improvement over Foles or just a marginal one.
Smith is not anywhere close to as good as Andrew Luck or RG3. I don’t think he’s nearly as good as Ryan Tannehill. I would compare him more to Brandon Weeden, with Smith being a younger, more athletic version with less of an arm. Is that really the guy you take at #4?
Maybe it will turn out that Chip Kelly really hit it off with Smith and that is the guy he wants. I don’t see it, but I’m still learning about Kelly and could be dead wrong. I know that Smith doesn’t fit my criteria of being a player I’d want to hitch my wagon to. If you draft him #4, you’re putting your career in your hands. Look what Blaine Gabbert did to the guys in Jacksonville. If Smith became and Eagle and failed, that would be at the top of Kelly’s resume. Do you trust Smith enough to make him “your guy”? I’d be asking him over and over about the 5-game losing streak. If he can’t stop that, how’s he going to handle tough times in the NFL?
It is possible that Smith gets to the NFL and thrives. He could become a star player. His improved footwork will help. Maybe West Va was a dysfunctional team and that affected him in a negative way. If he gets with the right coach and players, maybe Smith turns out to be a franchise QB.
I’m not willing to bet my job on that and I don’t think Chip Kelly will either.
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In case you want to watch a QB’s Pro Day…here you go: