Quarterback Geno Smith went into his Thursday Pro Day as the consensus number-one player at his position in an iffy draft class for signal-callers, so there wasn't much to be gained from that perspective when he hit the field. But after working with former NFL quarterback Chris Weinke, now the Director of IMG's Football Academy in Brandenton, Florida, Smith showed off a few new mechanical fixes and some very impressive accuracy in a 62-pass throwing session orchestrated by Weinke. By all accounts, Smith sailed just two passes, and had another two dropped by receiver Stedman Bailey, and managed to answer some of the questions regarding his in-game accuracy, which was somewhat inconsistent during his workout at the scouting combine.
"I saw what I needed to see - the kid ripped it," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "Most importantly, his footwork looked like it had been cleaned up. He slid, moved in the pocket, and delivered the ball firmly and with authority. The intermediate routes -- 15 to 20 yards; the deep in-breaking and deep out-breaking, he threw the ball as well as you could. I loved what I saw from Geno Smith, and if you ask Geno, I think he did, too."
"I think I did a pretty good job," Smith told Mayock after his workout. "The receivers ran great routes, I was fluid in my drops, and I got good snaps from under center. I feel like I exhibited some of the things that everyone wanted to see from me."
The work Weinke has done with Smith this year reminds me of the clean-up job he did on Cam Newton prior to the 2011 NFL draft. Newton was highly inaccurate during his combine throwing session, and only slightly less so during his Pro Day. But when Weinke got Newton's body aligned, assured that his shoulders were in sync when he threw, and reinforced the importance of Newton pointing his forward foot at the target, everything locked into place. Newton, of course, was selected first overall in that draft and went on to break a number of rookie passing records in the NFL.
Smith does not possess Newton's exact skill set -- he's not as functionally mobile, but he's a better pocket passer, especially when taking snaps from under center. He's a gym and film rat who soaks up knowledge and clearly wants to be better. Whether his Thursday workout propels him into the upper tier of the 2013 draft is still up in the air, but Smith certainly didn't do anything to hurt his case. And if NFL teams can project Smith's 2012 college season (369 completions in 518 attempts for 4,205yards, 42 touchdowns, and six interceptions) into the pros, we may indeed have a quarterback taken in the top five -- a prospect that was seen as a bit suspicious until recently.
Smith got to try and meet that projection in a recent workout with the Philadelphia Eagles, which ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski said was as thorough as could be.
“He said the Eagles gave him a pretty rough workout,” Jaws said during an appearance on 97.5 The Fanatic, via Phillymag.com. “He threw almost a hundred balls on Monday. He said a lot of those were the movement-type throws – sprinting right, sprinting left, coming back against the grain. A lot of those types of throws that we know in Chip Kelly’s offense, he’s going to demand mobility from the quarterback.
“He also said the meeting was very intense at the blackboard. It was [Eagles owner] Jeffrey Lurie, [general manager] Howie Roseman, and of course [head coach] Chip Kelly. He said he felt very comfortable with them. He seemed to think they were comfortable with him. But he said it was a pretty grueling, intense workout they put him through.”
There are several possible landing spots for Smith in the top 10. The Jacksonville Jaguars had a heavy presence at Smith's Pro Day, and they have the second overall pick, behind the Kansas City Chiefs. The Oakland Raiders, who must make the call on Carson Palmer's big contract, could drop the hammer with the third pick. The Eagles follow the Raiders with the fourth selection. The Arizona Cardinals, who disposed of Kevin Kolb on Friday, have a new head coach in Bruce Arians whose passing offense requires a mobile quarterback able to make every NFL throw. In Shutdown Corner's most recent mock draft, we opined that Smith would be a perfect fit for Arians. And if Smith was to drop to the Buffalo Bills at No. 8 -- which seems like a near-impossibility at this point -- that's another team without a clear starter after the release of Ryan Fitzpatrick.
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