Smith has been compared to last year's number two pick, Robert Griffin III, now impressing in the NFL with the Washington Redskins.
So, where do the similarities lie? Richard Moore takes a closer look...
To start with both quarterbacks are very accurate. Smith was a 65.8-percent passer last year, completing 346 of 526, putting up 4385– yards and 31 touchdowns (although he did throw 7 interceptions, and was sacked 26 times) and he's already completing passes at an astounding 74.8-percent clip this season.
Griffin finished his college with a career completion percentage of 67.1 percent, and has carried that standard over into the NFL, where he now boasts a completion percentage of 66.8, and a healthy quarterback rating of 97.3.
Both quarterbacks function mainly out what’s commonly referred to as ‘the pistol formation’. The pistol has the quarterback line up approximately 3.5-yards deep in the backfield.
Griffin has also been running plays mainly out of the pistol, and it’s pretty safe to assume that whoever assumes the role of Smith’s offensive co – coordinator will look to Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's for guidance.
Both quarterbacks also project supreme intuition where it concerns the detection of pocket presence, and how to escape it.
Smith and Griffin both frustrate opponents because you can't just let them sit back in the pocket. Their passing acumen will kill a defense. Also, if you rush them too aggressively, they will evade pressure and keep plays, plays that would die would under the instruction of less mobile and dynamic play makers.
Two big areas stand out that separate these two quarterbacks, and they point to Smith being an inferior prospect to Griffin, even though he could still go first as the number one selection, where Griffin went to Washington as the 2nd, following a deal with St. Louis.
The deep ball is the first one. Geno Smith does his damage with mostly quick, pinpoint throws that give his speedy, quick receivers chances to make things break out into the open field following reception.
Smith possesses an accurate throw, much like his USC, and possibly rival for number one pick in the draft, Matt Barkley, but seldom goes for the deep ball, thus making it decidedly difficult to assess his credibility as a deep pass exponent.
Although it is worth noting that West Virginia’s offence is quite restricting as far as the deep pass is concerned, and therefore doesn’t really allow Smith to gauge his effectiveness from range.
RG3 by contrast, is one of the finest exponents of the art, regularly connecting from distance, as demonstrated by the completion of 4 of 12 (33.3 percent) from distances greater than 10 yards, prior to this week’s meeting with the Pittsburgh Steelers, where he’ll enter the game with a league-leading 61.5 completion percentage on those throws.
It may be a tad un– realistic to expect Smith to replicate such form, as Griffin is in possession of a deep ball that very few currently in the league can replicate.
Another area in which Griffin appears superior is the run, in fact very few runningbacks have been able to match RG3’s ability to conjure yardage on the run, in fact only Arian Foster has had more rushing touchdowns, with 9.
Smith, however is very much the reluctant runner, as so far in 2012 his best effort has been 65 – yards from 8 attempts and one touchdown, thus from a statistical standpoint, shrinking under the considerable shadow of Griffin.
In summary, before we indulge in sensationalism by making outlandish predictions over Smith’s deficiencies and how they may or may not impact upon his NFL prospects, or that of any other quarterback entering next years draft, let us remember the downfall of a certain Ryan Leaf.
He went from being one of the greatest prospects to emerge from the college system, (as demonstrated him being one of three players in contention for the coveted "most outstanding" player, or Heisman Trophy), to being waived by the Chargers and indicted on multiple counts of drug possession and theft in both 2009 and 2012 respectively…
Watch Geno Smith in action, throwing for an incredible eight touchdowns in West Virginia's 70-63 win over Baylor in September...
images: © Keith Allison