He fell in the draft like Aaron Rodgers, but is Geno Smith the next elite QB? You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one. We're doing our discount double check to find out.
Blast from the past
To get those memory juices flowing, Aaron Rodgers was drafted with the 24th overall pick in the 2005 NFL Draft to Green Bay, after expecting to be drafted high, possibly to the San Francisco, who held the first overall pick. Instead, they went Alex Smith. What a poor move, in hindsight.
The teams following the 49ers, like many in the 2013 draft, had higher priority needs outside of QB. The focus in '05 was drafting players at skill positions other than quarterback, like Cleveland with the third overall pick who drafted now Jet fan favorite, WR Braylon Edwards. Only one other QB was taken on Day 1, Jason Campbell, who was selected by the Washington Redskins, one pick after Green Bay. (More after the jump...)
Rodgers was not the only one surprised to fall to 24, as analysts projected he'd be taken early on. Analysts loved his athleticism, leadership, and intellect on the field. Rogers, coming out of California, showed the ability to make throws with accuracy and timeliness. However, critics argued that Rodgers was a 'system QB,' a phrase that is becoming more recognizable in 2013. Some believed that California ran an offense tailored to QB's and that the NFL's caliber of defenses could be too much to handle. In addition, his down-the-field accuracy left something to be desired. For possibly these reasons and/or others, Rodgers started his career as a back-up to all-time great, QB Brett Favre.
Let the comparisons begin
And that's where we'll begin our 'tale of the tape.'
Stats mean a lot less to me than intangibles like leadership and intellect, but Smith and Rodger's numbers do have a comparison to some degree. In fact, one could argue that Geno Smith looks like the better prospect coming out of college, on paper.
What isn't shown is that both QB's have a very useful tool that is their legs, to scramble around and outside the pocket to make plays, and get moving, if needed. It's something from Geno Smith that some fans may not be anticipating come game-day.
Competition-wise it's hard to compare the two, coming from both different teams and conferences.
To give some kind of context, in Rodger's final season with the California Golden Bears, the team went 10-2 in a 2004 Pac-10 that had an overall record of 63-53. The Bears had the second-best record in the conference, with only undefeated USC ahead. In Smith's final season with the West Virginia Mountaineers, the team went 7-6, in a 2012 Big-12 that had an overall record of 75-54.
On the field
At California, Rodgers could throw these balls all day long.
Three-step drops with a quick release, just as the receiver comes out of their break. And this is why some analysts worried that he could not handle more complex NFL defenses, requiring multiple reads and longer times in the pocket. Yet, Rodgers' ability to throw on the run has become an 'Achilles heel,' no pun intended, for defenses.
Geno Smith has a similar feel to his game, often making 1-2 quick reads, and using his legs, when necessary. Smith is clearly the stronger runner, which sometimes undermines the talent he has to air the ball out.
From watching tape, I believe Smith would greatly benefit from a stronger O-Line than the one he had at WVU, which'll help give him more time to analyze the field, as opposed to taking off, which is not even his own first option. As shown in the video, a three-man rush forced Smith into scrambling and making, essentially, a one-read throw. That'll be an INT in the NFL.
The mind, body, and soul
One thing that was never questioned from Rodgers coming out of college was his leadership---in fact, his intangibles, altogether, were excellent, by a near unanimous vote.
Smith, on the other hand, has played recipient to reports of his work ethic, leadership, and 'caring.'
We've reached out to numerous WVU players who were on the 2012 roster, and all have either been hesitant to provide comments or have yet to respond.
What's true and what's false is always a difficult thing, and I'd like to see what happens once he is in a Green and White uniform. The thing I'd most like to see out of Smith, in comparison to Rogers, is that "it's never good enough" mentality. Every touchdown gets Rodgers pumped up like he has something still to prove, even with a Super Bowl ring. And another one will always remain his mission.
It's way too early to tell, but Smith and Rodgers could be two sides of the same coin.
I leave you with Aaron Rodgers' Sound FX, the same leadership I hope to see and hear from Smith, come his time.