Geno Smith Fatigue?

  • By John Antonik
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  • April 24, 2013 09:37 AM
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It seems like every day there is something new out there about West Virginia University quarterback Geno Smith concerning this year’s NFL draft.

He’s going No. 2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, No. 3 to Oakland or No. 4 to Philadelphia. No, hold on, not so fast. He is slipping down to No. 8 to Buffalo where NFL.com draft expert Matt Smith has him going or to No. 11 to San Diego where Gil Brandt predicts he will land.

Or, he could fall entirely out of the first round as Charley Casserly and Josh Norris are predicting.

Say what?

Earlier this week, USA Today’s NFL columnist Jarrett Bell wrote a provocative piece claiming that Smith may be paying the “black tax”, meaning he is currently being subjugated to some of the age-old stereotypes that other prominent black quarterbacks have encountered in the past.

Others, like Fox Sports’ Jen Floyd Engel, write that Smith is simply a good quarterback in a draft that lacks a lot of good quarterbacks.

She does make a very good point: there are no Andrew Lucks or RG3s in this year’s draft, that’s for sure.

But does that mean Smith has gone from being an early first-round lock to falling all the way down to the bottom of the first round the way Aaron Rogers did in 2005 or Dan Marino did in 1983? Eight years ago, Rogers went from hanging out in the Radio City Music Hall Green Room to sitting in the outhouse in a span of four and a half hours. Oh, by the way, Rogers owns a Super Bowl ring and is considered one of the game’s best quarterbacks today.

So, what is going on right now with Geno? Is it a good, old-fashioned smokescreen being put out by teams interested in picking him early in the first round or has his stock really taken a nosedive?

Who knows?

Well, I’m going to put this one out there Ron Burgundy style. You can take it. If you don’t, send it right back ... I think there is definitely some Geno Smith fatigue going on right now, the same way there was Geno Smith fatigue going on when ESPN’s Mark May gave him the Heisman Trophy back on Sept. 29 when he passed for 656 yards and eight touchdowns in West Virginia’s 70-63 win over Baylor.

From that moment moving forward, everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – has been picking apart his game. And it’s not Geno’s fault.

It seems like just about everything you’re reading or watching this week concerning the draft revolves around Smith – universally projected the No. 1-rated quarterback – rather than Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel – universally projected the No. 1-rated player. Unless you are talking about Tony Mandarich, really, how excited can you get about an offensive lineman going so high in the draft?

Recently, an utterly ridiculous report surfaced in Pro Football Weekly questioning Geno’s work ethic and his love of the game. Anyone close to the Mountaineer program or those personally involved with Smith knows how absurd that story was.

I can remember former offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen once speaking in glowing terms about how diligently his freshman quarterback Geno Smith was studying his playbook and devouring game tape. Former quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital has frequently said the same thing – as has current Mountaineer coach Dana Holgorsen. In fact, Geno was usually the guy the coaches and janitors had to kick out of the Puskar Center because all he wanted to do was watch film (his solution to that problem was to start loading cutups to his iPad to watch them at home).

NFL.com NFL draft expert Mike Mayock came to the defense of the guy who wrote that scathing report about Smith, Mayock stating the guy’s sources throughout the league are “unbelievable.” Mayock went on to say that he “couldn’t take (Smith) in the top 10, probably not in the top 20.” Mayock also noted that he “can’t stand this whole quarterback class.”

That’s one man’s opinion based on what he’s seen on tape, and I can certainly respect that. Mayock has actually been pretty consistent in his evaluation of Smith, by the way, remarking back on Feb. 24 after the NFL Combine that Geno is “more of a 20-32 (overall pick player).”

The opinions run the gamut on Smith, which I guess is part of the cottage industry that has become the NFL Draft. However, I would be very leery of those attempting to dig up hidden, behind-the-scenes information on a player that may or may not be true. It may get some extra eyeballs and stir up some addition discussion but in the end that’s all it really does.

As for a trustworthy evaluation of Smith’s football ability, I will go with Don Nehlen’s opinion. Here is what the Hall of Fame coach told me last fall about the WVU quarterback: “He throws that football right smack on the nose. We’ve had some great quarterbacks, but I’m not real sure we’ve had anybody better than this guy.

“He’s as accurate as Marc Bulger but is bigger and stronger than Marc. And before Marc got killed in the pros he was the most accurate passer in the NFL.”

There you have it from a guy who coached his fair share of NFL quarterbacks through the years. Tune in at 8 p.m. Thursday night to ESPN to see where Geno and Mountaineer teammates Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey end up going.

However, you might want to turn down the volume while you are watching ;).

Check out Antonik's new book The Backyard Brawl: Stories from One of the Weirdest, Wildest, Longest Running, and Most Intense Rivalries in College Football History now available in bookstores. A portion of the sales benefit the WVU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Also, be sure to "Like" the new Backyard Brawl Facebook page and tell us your personal WVU-Pitt story.


Geno Smith, NFL Draft, ESPN, West Virginia University Mountaineers, WVU