QB Tale of The Tape: Geno Smith vs. Matt Barkley
By Bill Lund
Factors that scouts consider when determining draft positioning for the quarterback position are dependent on the system of offense a team employs. Is it a West Coast or downfield attack? Are elements of the spread a big part as case with the 49ers, or does the team operate from the line of scrimmage in a no-huddle attack? Simply plugging in a QB with the best physical skills is dangerous, i.e. JaMarcus Russell. When comparing the top QB prospects in the 2013 draft we will evaluate the five most important characteristics scouts look for in the position:
- Physical Attributes: Size, athletic ability, speed
- Arm Strength: Accuracy at all levels, release, timing, touch
- Decision Making: Reading the defenders, audible
- Set Up/Mechanics: Ability to get to the throwing point, dropping back or on the move
- Pocket Awareness: Awareness to avoid the rush and find throwing lanes
Smith: At 6-foot-2, 218 pounds, has average size for an NFL QB. He has decent length in his arms at 32½ inches and small hand size at 9¼ inches. Ran a fast 4.59 at the combine. He had a Vertical Jump of 33.5, Broad Jump of 124.0 inches.
Barkley: At 6-2, 227, also has average size for a QB. Barkley only interviewed at the combine while recovering from a season-ending shoulder injury. He has short arms at 30 5/8 inches and good hand size at 10 1/8 inches. During his pro day, Barkley ran 4.8 to 4.9 in the 40.
Advantage: Smith. He shows through his testing and on film superior athletic ability, but this facet may be the least considered when determining the draftability of a QB. Barkley is “nifty” in space, making some plays with his feet, but it is not his strength.
Smith: Has elite arm strength. Shows he can make all the throws. Has the ability to drive the ball across the field. Shows the ability to throw from different arm angles. Seemed to struggle throwing in the wind (vs. Iowa State). Accuracy on deep sideline throws is inconsistent. Is inconsistent on deep throws and misses on some home runs (vs. Oklahoma).
Barkley: Has decent zip on intermediate throws but lacks the arm strength to drive the ball vertically downfield consistently. Barkley has shown the ability to make the NFL throws over his college career. Can thread the needle into tight spaces. He is good when rolling out or throwing on the run. Connects on deep passes, but tends to underthrow balls, forcing the WR to make a play. Against Oregon this season, Barkley showed his range of throws in a closely contested loss.
Advantage: Smith. On pure arm strength, it’s Smith. Geno can drive the ball deep, which some teams will value more. Barkley is more accurate and is equal to Smith in regard to intermediate throw “zip.” Barkley’s value will be to teams that see his arm as “strong enough” for their offense.
Smith: He is a competitor. He is an efficient thrower, though much of that is scheme-based. Willing to throw the ball away when he gets in trouble. Makes quick decisions on throws, but that is more of a trait of the offensive philosophy than going through progressions of routes. He gets anxious under pressure and will force throws and sail balls high. Locks onto a read when in a pressure situation. Will need to show better poise under duress in the NFL.
Barkley: Is a competitor and leader. Shows ability to see the entire field and consistently gets to his second and third read. Recognizes blitzes, formations and coverages and will audible at the line to get himself into the best play. He will force throws under pressure, effecting his timing on crossing routes and putting the ball behind the receiver or putting balls up for grabs.
Advantage: Barkley. He performed in an NFL-style passing system and adapted quickly. He had a lot placed on his plate with play calling and audibles and performed well. Smith did make good decisions, but the offensive style is not based on multiple passing progressions, so transition into pro-style offense will take time.
Smith: Has a quick over-the-top release and shows ability to change release angles while remaining accurate. Didn’t spend much time under center; mainly in shotgun. His footwork on dropback passes is inconsistent. Gets anxious under pressure and it effects his throws if he is not scrambling. Tends to overthrow when his setup and follow-through are off. Hasn’t worked a lot in intricate concepts in the passing game, and has not developed the subtleties in footwork needed to perform in a pro-style system.
Barkley: Has a quick three-quarter release and has shown the ability to change release point in the face of pressure. Has good pocket footwork and when he resets his feet, he remains accurate. Very good out of the pocket on boot plays and throwing on the run. Skilled play-action passer, selling the run with his movements. His sound mechanics and ability to read the defense, along with his timing and anticipatory skills are a testament to improving every aspect of his craft. Will throw "flutter balls'' if he is unable to follow through.
Advantage: Barkley. He has shown the intelligence, leadership and pocket presence to be a good NFL QB. While his arm strength is only average, his mechanics and ability to read the defense make up for it. Smith has the tools, but has not been well-versed in the NFL-style offense, and unless an offense will change its scheme to fit his strengths, he will need time to develop. Given time, Geno can be equally as good.
Smith: Doesn’t seem to have a feel for the rush, will lock in on one receiver waiting for him to get open. When he does see the rush, he will make a decision to throw or run quickly. Has some elusiveness and will take an easy first down run when given, turning broken plays into big gains. Feet allow him to buy time and keep plays alive. When he gets pressured and anxious, he will hold the ball too long, and that has led to 32 career fumbles. Texas was perhaps his best game on the biggest stage; vs. Kansas State had arguably his worst game.
Barkley -- Shows good instincts and poise in the pocket, keeping eyes downfield and getting through progressions in the face of pressure. Can sidestep pressure within the pocket. Has two hands on ball and displays ball security when the pocket collapses. Will hang in there and take a hit to complete the pass, but can be rushed into poor throws. In 2011 vs. UCLA, Barkley may have played his best game.
Advantage: Even. In their own ways, both players have good presence in the pocket. Smith has a scheme and athleticism to stay alive. Barkley has instincts and subtle movements to avoid the rush. It will be imperative for each player to be in a system that will utilize their skill set appropriately.
Matt Barkley.If you are looking for an answer on which player you should take in the first round, it is neither. Both have flaws, and will need time to develop. If I were to pick one, it would be based on the offensive scheme that is being implemented. Barkley would do well in a West Coast system, or any system based on using a short to intermediate passes predominately. Smith has the athletic tools that can translate into a lot of offensive systems, but has not been well-versed in a pro system and its progressions. I favor Barkley because of his preparedness to adapt to the NFL system. Given the right situation, he should excel. Smith certainly has the ability to be a franchise QB, but from an NFL offensive standpoint, in my opinion, will need time to develop.