It’s Combine weekend, and that means we’re devoting our every spare second to earnestly studying college football prospects. Earlier today, we looked at a player who stands to gain a lot from this weekend, if he plays his cards right. Now we’ll take a quick look at a player who could actually lose a lot if he doesn’t perform up to par. That player is West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith.
The 2012 NFL Draft class produced one of the best crop of rookie quarterbacks to ever declare for the draft together. Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden, Nick Foles, Kirk Cousins, and Ryan Lindley all started and won games last year. This year’s class, however, is far from top-heavy. There is some good talent, but only two or three merit even first-round grades, much less top ten.
Because of the value of a quarterback to a franchise, and because there are at least three teams in the top ten who may consider drafting a quarterback, it is very likely that at least one is drafted before the Tennessee Titans at the tenth overall slot. Geno Smith is the top signal-caller on most draft boards, but there are legitimate arguments that Matt Barkley or Tyler Wilson could go ahead of him, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that a team may fall in love with Mike Glennon, Zac Dysert, or even Ryan Nassib.
If Smith wants to lock down the first quarterback spot (and possibly the number one overall pick), he needs to knock the Combine out of the ballpark. He needs to run fast and quick, throw hard and accurately, answer confidently and maturely, and sell himself like he’s never sold himself before.
He could miss out on being drafted number one overall if the Kansas City Chiefs decide, for example, that Matt Barkley is their guy. But they might just decide they aren’t impressed with any of the 2013 quarterbacks and elect to sign a veteran stopgap like Alex Smith. That would leave the Arizona Cardinals and Buffalo Bills as the top ten teams most likely to draft a quarterback. If the Chiefs decide none of them are worth, there’s a good chance the Cardinals and Bills decide the same and elect to bolster their offensive or defensive line instead. In that case, Smith would be in for quite a drop, to at least the bottom of the first, if not the top of the second round.
The number one overall pick in 2013, Andrew Luck, signed a fully-guaranteed, four-year, $22 million contract. The number seven overall pick, Mark Barron, signed a fully-guaranteed, four-year, $14.5 million contract. The number thirty-three overall pick (first of the second round), Brian Quick, signed a four-year $5.4 million contract with only $3.8 million guaranteed.
Geno Smith’s performance this weekend could be the difference in over $18 million in guaranteed money. No other prospect is facing a potential swing like that, so he is the player with the most to lose.