On the heels of a 2011 season in which he set Big East and West Virginia records for passing yards and was named the Orange Bowl MVP, Geno Smith roared out of the gate in the Heisman race. And while he ended 2012 with the school record for touchdown passes, his team’s 2-6 fade threw a wet blanket on his Heisman hopes. And while he was at or near the top of most quarterback rankings heading into the 2013 NFL Draft, he spent the entire first round in the green room and debated coming back for Day 2—when he finally went off the board to the New York Jets.
There’s plenty to like about Smith, an experienced, durable starter with good size, mobility, and the arm strength to make all the throws. He has a smooth, quick, release and his accuracy improved each season. But scouts found plenty of holes in his game as well, questioning his decision-making and if the Mountaineers offense even required him to make enough of them. There are also concerns about his pocket awareness, his ability to handle inclement weather (he struggled in the Pinstripe Bowl), his leadership and confidence after the aforementioned late-season collapse, his 32 career fumbles, that most of his experience came out of the shotgun, and the impression that his stats were inflated by the West Virginia offense and the presence of Tavon Austin and Steadman Bailey. And that’s not even mentioning the highly-publicized rips from Pro Football Weekly’s Nolan Nawrocki (“nonchalant field presence”, “marginal work ethic”).
But all of that is behind Smith now as he brings his game to the Big Apple. He’s not a pure read-option quarterback in the mode of Robert Griffin; the more accurate comparison might be Alex Smith, a passing quarterback with enough athletic ability to run when necessary. That’s not unlike David Garrard, who is also in the mix to start for the Jets, and Smith would do well to soak up what he can from the veteran. There’s plenty of change going on in New York, and the Jets may opt sooner rather than later to start over with Smith. Don’t expect an immediate impact like last year’s crop of rookie quarterbacks, but he has the skills to warrant a dynasty league investment.