Quarterback Geno Smith generates praise, criticism

In the last three years, Geno Smith threw 97 touchdowns and only 20 interceptions.
In the last three years, Geno Smith threw 97 touchdowns and only 20 interceptions. (MICHAEL CONROY / Associated Press)
Posted: April 26, 2013

NEW YORK - Geno Smith was swarmed by adoring children Wednesday morning and directed participants in an NFL youth festival the way he would West Virginia receivers.

In the eyes of the children, Smith was just one of the 24 NFL draftees-to-be in attendance - and the most heralded quarterback in the group.

He was not viewed by the children as the most polarizing player this season at the league's most polarizing position. Smith has been seen as a potential top-five pick, but he also has received criticism and been discussed as a quarterback who could fall out of the first round.

The Eagles thoroughly scouted Smith, including owner Jeffrey Lurie's accompanying coach Chip Kelly and general manager Howie Roseman on a scouting trip to West Virginia. It's now believed that No. 4 is too early to pick Smith.

"You want to be No. 1 as a competitor, but obviously it's out of my control," Smith said Wednesday. "Wherever I go, it's not going to make any difference to me. Whether I go No. 1, top 15, top 10, that's fine and dandy and a huge accomplishment, but there's still work to be done."

It's significant, though, because a franchise quarterback is the most important piece of a championship contender. The early picks of each year's draft often are headlined by passers who eventually live up to the billing or become notable busts.

The fear of failing sometimes can override the potential for success, which is the conundrum of Smith. During the last three seasons, he has thrown 97 touchdowns and only 20 interceptions. He completed 71.2 percent of his passes last season. He is 6-foot-2 and 218 pounds, and his 4.59-second 40-yard dash was the fastest among all the draft-eligible quarterbacks.

For those who question whether Smith will fit into Kelly's offense, it's telling evidence that the Eagles coach offered Smith a scholarship out of high school when Kelly ran Oregon's offense, and he made multiple visits to Smith's high school.

Critics can point to statistics that were possibly the byproduct of a pass-heavy offense that relies on short passes, and production that waned during a five-game losing streak last year. Smith ended the season with only 201 yards in a 38-14 loss to Syracuse in the snow in New York's Pinstripe Bowl, raising questions about whether he would be effective in cold weather.

Then there was the scathing scouting report in Pro Football Weekly that described Smith as "disingenuous" and "immature," and said he is "not a student of the game," among other criticisms. On Tuesday, Smith sent a tweet that read, "Just want to thank all those so called 'experts' who say I can't be an NFL QB. Thursday will be a special day but the work has only begun."

"I'm not going to sit back and take all that criticism, especially the unjust criticism," Smith said. "Things that are made up. . . . But I just push that stuff to the side, and I continue to work. And the one thing I know is that the GMs and coaches don't listen to any of that stuff, and I don't either. They have scouts and people who do their research. And if you do your research on me, you'll see exactly what I'm about and who I am."

The NFL Network's Mike Mayock, perhaps the draft's most-respected analyst, ranked Smith as the No. 1 quarterback but also only the No. 21 overall prospect. Mayock said Wednesday that Smith has the physical skill set to become a franchise quarterback, but there was "enough bad tape" to cause concern.

In fact, Mayock continued to describe Florida State's EJ Manuel as the quarterback he would want to develop and as an intriguing fit for Kelly. That's a connection that has been made throughout the draft process. Manuel, 6-5 and 237 pounds, ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash and was recruited by Kelly when the coach was at Oregon.

Mayock mentioned the possibility of trading into the latter portion of the first round for Manuel. That also could be where the Eagles try to get Smith. A first-round quarterback can be signed to a five-year deal instead of a four-year deal for later picks, per league rules.

"I don't see why they wouldn't take me in the top 10," said Manuel, a projected late-first/early-second-round pick who has received heavy interest from top-10 teams, including the Eagles, Browns, Bills, and Jets.

The reason is that this season's class might not include a top-10 quarterback. Whether it's Smith or Manuel or Syracuse's Ryan Nassib or Southern Cal's Matt Barkley, no quarterbacks appear to be a unanimous top selection. For teams such as the Eagles in search of a franchise quarterback, beauty will be in the eye of the beholder - if there is beauty to be found at all.

QB/Running Back Prospects

Here are some of the top quarterbacks and running backs in the draft and others the Eagles could target in later rounds.



Player                           Ht.      Wt.     round

Geno Smith, West Virginia         6-2   218       1

Matt Barkley, USC                  6-2   227      1-2

EJ Manuel, Florida State            6-5   237      1-2

Ryan Nassib, Syracuse            6-2   227      1-2


 Matt Scott, Arizona               6-2   213      3-4

Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio)            6-3   231      4-5

Running backs


Player                           Ht.      Wt.     round

Eddie Lacy, Alabama               5-11   231       1

Johnathan Franklin, UCLA         5-10   205       2

Giovani Bernard, North Carolina   5-8   202      2-3

Montee Ball,    Wisconsin          5-10   214      2-3


 Marcus Lattimore, South Carolina   5-11   221      4-5

Kenjon Barner, Oregon            5-9   196      4-5

- Zach Berman

Geno Smith Scouting Report

Tale of the Tape

Height          Weight        Arm length       Hands

6-foot-2         218 lbs.       321/2 in.            91/4 in.

Combine Results

40-yard dash: 4.59 seconds    Vertical jump: 33.5 inches

Broad jump: 124 inches


Smith is a polarizing quarterback. But what cannot be disputed are the prolific numbers he produced at West Virginia. As a senior in 2012, Smith completed 71.2 percent of his passes for 4,205 yards and 42 touchdowns, with just six interceptions. He also rushed for two touchdowns. Smith has nice size and impressive athleticism, and his passing accuracy has drawn praise. He ran a spread offense and must adjust to the NFL, although many pro offenses now include spread principles. There have been varying opinions of how well he goes through his progressions and picks up blitzes. Smith likely will be the first quarterback selected Thursday, but he is unlikely to be a top-five pick like most top quarterbacks.

- Zach Berman

Contact Zach Berman at zberman@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @ZBerm.