GREEN BAY—West Virginia’s Geno Smith is the consensus No. 1 quarterback prospect in this year’s NFL draft. Is there another first-round prospect?
Smith produced big numbers last season. He has size, athletic ability, can make all the throws and offers “New Age” potential. All of that could attract a team in need of a quarterback to draft Smith near the top of the order. Critics, however, point to Smith’s propensity to slide into bad mechanics and iffy field vision as downside risks. Some charge that he’s a classic system quarterback, a product of Dana Holgorsen’s hurry-up, throw-it-every-down offense.
There seems to be a divergence of opinion among draftniks. Tony Pauline thinks Smith has franchise potential, and there are those that agree with Pauline. Pro Football Weekly’s draft preview claims “he’s not as advertised.”
Jacksonville, which has the second pick of the draft, attended en masse Smith’s pro-day workout.
If there’s another first-round prospect among the quarterbacks, it’s USC’s Matt Barkley, who was ticketed for the top overall pick of this draft until a subpar senior season sabotaged his draft stock. Now, it’s a shoulder injury that’s hurting Barkley. He’s scheduled to work out for scouts next Wednesday, after opting not to workout at the combine. If he throws well in his pro day, Barkley could move up the order at a position that is traditionally overdrafted.
Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib has seemingly come out of nowhere to push himself into high-round consideration. Pauline says Nassib is little more than a game manager, but he makes sound decisions, is accurate and has a strong arm, and “when you can find that in the second round, you take it.”
Florida State’s E.J. Manuel passes the eye test. At 6-5, 237, Manuel’s size and athletic ability scream first round. “Boom or bust prospect,” Pauline said. Manuel didn’t do much at either the Senior Bowl or scouting combine to ease concerns about bad mechanics. He has trouble getting the ball up and out, and mechanics could be at the root of bouts of wildness. Nevertheless, some team is likely to believe they can tame his talent. He could go as high as the second round.
Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson, Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Tennessee’s Tyler Bray all come from big-time programs, and that will attract teams, but Jones is still living off his reputation from a few years ago, Wilson had an uninspiring combine workout and Bray carries the stigma of being a combine star. They’re all considered to be candidates for rounds two and three.
North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon has the vertical arm pro teams like. At 6-7, 225, his size matches his big arm. He was hidden for most of his career behind Russell Wilson, but got enough exposure to have emerged last season. He’s raw and makes bad decisions, but a team committed to his development will likely draft him in rounds two or three.
If there’s a sleeper in what is by and large considered to be a weak quarterback crop, Pauline says it’s Arizona’s Matt Scott, who found success in Rich Rodriquez’s offense after having backed up Nick Foles. Scott has top tools and displayed poise under pressure last season. He’s a spread-option quarterback with upside, but he’ll require considerable development. In rounds four or five, he might be a value pick.