Utah quarterback Alex Smith followed in the footsteps of Auburn's Ronnie Brown and USC's Mike Williams by wowing team officials at his personal pro day in Salt Lake City on Wednesday.
One personnel source on hand said Smith had a "paramount" workout. Smith looked so good, he likely vaulted to the top of the 2005 draft's quarterback class a day before California's Aaron Rodgers responds with his personal pro day.
Throwing passes to Utah teammates and fellow draft prospects Parris Warren and Steve Savoy, Smith worked out in front of more than 60 officials, from every team in the league. The top three teams in the draft – the San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and Cleveland Browns – all had key personnel in attendance, including 49ers head coach Mike Nolan, Dolphins head coach Nick Saban and Browns general manager Phil Savage. Smith apparently spent a significant amount of time with all three men in the days leading up to the workout.
What teams knew about Smith heading into his pro day was that he was smart (he scored a 40 out of 50 on the Wonderlic test), could handle a complex offense and had adequate athleticism. What they didn't know was whether he could be accurate and show top-notch velocity on his passes.
One of the chief concerns about Smith – like Jacksonville's Byron Leftwich two years ago – was that he operated a great deal out of the shotgun in college. In response, Smith demonstrated on Wednesday that he could drop from under center and still maintain good throwing mechanics. He also went through various drills to show he could throw down field with accuracy but also hit a running back in the flat.
"It was all fluid," the personnel source said. "He didn't have many problems doing things – the out [pattern], getting [the ball] deep and whatever – he looked natural. … He looked prepared. Those guys, the quarterbacks, get nervous sometimes in that situation and then they are all over the place with the ball. He didn't look that way at all.
"There was some cheering at the end. I think he got a lot of pats on the back with people walking out feeling satisfied."
Smith's performance is only the latest in what has become consistent – and predictable – leapfrogging since the NFL's February combine in Indianapolis last month.
Until Smith's display Wednesday, the pro-day headliner had been USC's Williams, who used a strong workout in Florida last week to significantly weaken the hammerlock that Michigan's Braylon Edwards had on the No. 1 wide receiver spot.
Up next is Rodgers, who has been whispered to be the 49ers' favorite since the scouting combine last month in Indianapolis. While the Niners have been putting out some smoke signals of late (mostly with overtures toward Edwards), many believe San Francisco will take either Smith or Rodgers with the No. 1 overall pick.
Most of the draft's marquee pieces should be sorted out by the end of the week, as the remaining key prospects give their final performances in front of teams. On Thursday, Rodgers is expected to display his skills in front of a packed house equal to Smith's, and Michigan's Edwards will go through an array of drills on Friday. Benson showcases himself on March 23.