Summary: Smith was one of the most consistently effective quarterbacks in college football over the past three seasons. He led some of the most prolific and high-powered offenses while showing steady improvement over the years.
Smith completed 65 percent of his passes in 2010 as a first-year starter for 2,763 yards with 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He made big improvements in year two and produced an excellent junior season for the Mountaineers. Smith completed 66 percent of his passes for 4,385 yards with 31 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also ran for 180 yards and two scores.
The junior played his heart out against LSU’s talented defense with 463 yards passing. That Tigers’ defense was comprised of future NFL draft picks led by a superb secondary featuring Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, Eric Reid and Brandon Taylor. Smith hung tough in the pocket despite constantly getting blasted by LSU’s defensive line led by Michael Brockers, Sam Montgomery and Barkevious Mingo.
Smith started out the 2012 season on fire. Ignoring that Baylor’s defense was the equivalent of a wet paper bag, the senior was a model of quarterback perfection in a record-setting performance. He had one of the most prolific games in college football history by completing 45-of-51 for 656 yards, eight touchdowns and zero interceptions. The signal-caller threw touchdown passes of 7, 47, 20, 2, 45, 52, 87 and 39 yards.
Smith played well against Texas to lead West Virginia to a road win. He completed 25-of-35 passes for 268 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Smith did have two fumbles though from sacks by Alex Okafor, one for a Texas touchdown and another inside his own 15-yard line.
The reason that Smith isn’t a candidate to be the first-overall pick is due to a lack of consistency during the second half of his senior season. West Virginia struggled down the stretch. Smith had a poor showing against Kansas State, completing 21-of-32 passes for 143 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. It was his second bad game in a row after struggling against Texas Tech. Both defenses took away the deep part of the field, and he couldn’t engineer the Mountaineers’ offense to dink-and-dunk well enough to move the ball or produce points.
Smith ended his collegiate career with an ugly game against Syracuse. He had fumbling issues and bad decisions which led to two safeties for the Mountaineers. Smith struggled against the Orange’s pass rush.
The senior completed 71 percent of his passes this year for 4,356 yards, 42 touchdowns and six interceptions. Smith has an excellent skill set. He has demonstrated his intelligence and field vision by working through his progressions and looking off safeties. Smith has some natural accuracy with good arm strength to make all the throws. That adds up to him being able to fire some fastballs into tight windows with phenomenal ball placement to hit receivers in stride. He rarely ever throws interceptions and has superb decision-making.
Smith’s plus mobility allows him to pick up first downs with his feet and bail out his offensive line. He will need to improve his footwork for the NFL and that is the primary reason why his accuracy can be inconsistent. Smith has to get more uniform with good feet to get in a rhythm and deliver the ball on point. If Smith can make strides with his feet, he could be a very accurate passer.
WalterFootball.com has heard from former teammates of Smith that he is extremely studious in the film room. For the most part, Smith has good intangibles, but there were times where he sulked on the sideline when things weren’t going well for West Virginia. He needs to show more strength to handle adversity as a professional.
Smith has all the tools to be a franchise quarterback. He has the skill set to be a quality starter, but needs good talent around him. Whether or not Smith pans out will depend largely on him landing with a good, stable coaching staff.
Player Comparison: Donovan McNabb. Smith is a poor-man’s version of McNabb. Both are West Coast quarterbacks who mix a strong arm with mobility. Smith won’t be selected as high as McNabb was, second-overall in 1999. McNabb (6-2, 240) is the same height as Smith and the West Virginia product will probably gain some weight in the NFL. McNabb had decent, but not good, accuracy, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising if Smith produces a better completion percentage in the NFL. Smith may not win as much as McNabb did, but if Smith pans out, he could be a quarterback similar to McNabb.
NFL Matches: Oakland, Cleveland, Arizona, Buffalo, New York Jets
There are a few teams early in the first round that Smith could land with. The first team that could select him is the Raiders. He would be a good fit in their offense, but they have bigger needs than quarterback, and there will be more talented players than Smith available at bigger needs. It seems very unlikely the Raiders will draft him.
The Browns aren’t really discussed as a potential destination for Smith, but the new regime in town seems very skeptical of Brandon Weeden. Michael Lombardi is capable of a surprise selection with Smith.
The most likely team to select Smith is the Cardinals at pick No.7. Arizona has to land a franchise quarterback and head coach Bruce Arians has had success developing quarterbacks. Smith looks like a good fit in Arizona.
If the Cardinals pass on Smith, he could easily go to the Bills with the eighth pick. Buffalo has a massive hole at quarterback that will have to be addressed in the 2013 NFL Draft. Head coach Doug Marone knows Smith from playing against him in the Big East.
If all of those teams pass on Smith, the Jets could surprise many by taking him. Mark Sanchez is one of the worst starters in the NFL, and New York won’t be able to land an upgrade in free agency.
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