Ray's Replies: Will Geno Smith be a top pick?

Ray's Replies: Will Geno Smith be a top pick?
March 3, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Q. I was listening to your WIP radio show last week and Glen Macnow asked you which player should the fans be watching at the NFL combine. You named Geno Smith but you didn’t elaborate. Why Geno Smith? Were you hinting the Birds might take him with their first pick?

Charles L., Elkins Park, Pa.

A. You read too much into my answer. No, I wasn’t dropping any hints about the Eagles taking Smith, the West Virginia quarterback, in the draft. I don’t think the Eagles would take a quarterback in the first round and that’s where Smith will go. He is the best QB in this class but, in my opinion, he is not worth the fourth-overall pick. I think the team has too many other needs to spend its first-round pick on a quarterback who is still a project.

I picked Smith as my “player to watch” because there was such a wide split of opinion on him going into the combine. Some GMs and scouts saw him as a top-10 pick. Others gave him a low second-round grade. But all were in agreement that Smith’s stock was volatile; in other words, it was going to either rise or fall based on his showing in Indianapolis. He had more at stake than most of the prospects.

I wanted to see how he responded to the pressure. By all accounts, he handled it well and improved his standing with most scouts. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.56 seconds, a very good time for a quarterback. Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers ran it in 4.53 when he was at the combine, so Smith proved he had the speed to run a pistol formation or a read option if some pro team wanted to go in the direction.

Smith also impressed the NFL coaches by taking part in the drills on the field. In recent years, most of the highly rated quarterbacks don’t throw the ball at the combine. They do the interviews, take the written tests, run the sprints and cone drills, but they don’t do the passing drills. They are afraid if they have a bad day – and it can easily happen since they are throwing to a bunch of unfamiliar receivers – it can really hurt their draft grade.

Smith didn’t worry about that. He took part in the passing drills and threw the ball well. More importantly, he proved he wasn’t afraid to compete. He had enough confidence to put himself on the line. He trained for a month at the IMG Sports Academy in Florida to prepare for the combine and it paid off.

Smith has excellent size (6-3, 220) and a strong arm -- probably the strongest arm of this year’s QB class. He still needs to smooth out his fundamentals, in particular his footwork which is choppy and inconsistent. That affects his accuracy. But because so many teams need a quarterback and because they are in such short supply, I believe Smith, aided by a strong showing at the combine, will be a top-12 pick.

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