Where Will Geno Go?
By David Seigerman
Since his pro day, when he completed 60 of 64 pass attempts (indoors, in shorts, against air), West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith has been ticketed as a top 10 selection in the NFL draft. It may be that his talent and upside warrant consideration by those teams with one of the first 10 picks, but where does he fit?
It can be argued than seven of the first nine teams on the clock would consider taking a quarterback – everyone but Kansas City at No. 1 and Detroit at No. 5. Top-10 talent or not, it’s tough to figure the most likely landing spot for Smith. Let's break down the possibilities:
JACKSONVILLE (No. 2 pick): Was the all-hands-on-deck front office field trip to Morgantown a shopping excursion or a smoke screen? It’s difficult to see a defensive-minded first-year coach like Gus Bradley choosing to make his first impression with a rookie quarterback (even after his experience in Seattle with Russell Wilson). They may not be sold on Blaine Gabbert, but the Jaguars’ new regime might see the third-year QB as the safer choice for learning first-year coordinator Jedd Fisch’s pro-style offense.
OAKLAND (No. 3): Dennis Allen brought in Greg Olson to make the Raiders more explosive. Olson has track record of developing young quarterbacks, from his days as quarterbacks coach at Purdue, where he worked with Drew Brees, through Josh Freeman’s first three years in Tampa Bay. If GM Reggie McKenzie sees Smith as a more worthy successor to Carson Palmer than Terrelle Pryor (Smith is a far superior passer), he could be the Raiders’ pick at No. 3.
PHILADELPHIA (No. 4): Michael Vick seems like an ideal quarterback for a Chip Kelly offense. But for how long? Nick Foles doesn’t seem like the right fit, and neither Trent Edwards nor Dennis Dixon has Smith’s arm or is a long-term answer. This could be a great spot for Smith, who could be given the time to learn an offense more suited to his experience and not have to start until he’s ready -- or Vick gets hurt. Would anyone in Philly balk at the Kaepernick Program?
CLEVELAND (No. 6): Norv Turner would be a terrific tutor for Smith. But the Browns’ new offensive coordinator might get more immediate results with Brandon Weeden (who isn’t entirely dissimilar to Phillip Rivers) and, perhaps more importantly, with Trent Richardson. Plus, it’s tough to imagine a team spending first-round picks in consecutive years on quarterbacks.
ARIZONA (No. 7): The Cardinals knew they needed a quarterback. They may have found their opening day starter in Drew Stanton, the backup to Andrew Luck last year in Indianapolis, where Bruce Arians was the offensive coordinator and interim head coach (and, oh by the way, the NFL Coach of the Year). Arians found a guy who already speaks the language of his offense. If they feel compelled to draft a quarterback here, it would seem more likely that the Cards go with someone more familiar with that pro-style system (say, Matt Barkley) than have to teach it to Smith in a division with two of the league’s top defenses.
BUFFALO (No. 8): It’s easy to see the Bills drafting a quarterback to replace Ryan Fitzpatrick. But it’s easier to see new coach Doug Marrone and his offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, who made the move down I-90 from Syracuse to Buffalo together, preferring their own guy, Ryan Nassib, who should be available at the Bills’ second-round pick (41st overall). Besides, Marrone and Hackett had great seats for Smith’s most pedestrian performance of 2012 – they were on the opposite sideline for the Pinstripe Bowl, where Smith struggled with the Orchard Park-ish conditions as much as the Orange defense. Not a great job audition.
NEW YORK JETS (No. 9): They have four quarterbacks on the roster who have started games at the NFL level, and yet the Jets still aren’t set at QB. Smith would benefit from learning the pro game at the hands of new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. But a coach on the hot seat like Rex Ryan has to spend his first-round pick on a sure thing, and the Jets have more pressing positions of need.