NFL Draft  

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Geno Smith: A franchise quarterback worthy of a first-round pick

No player defines the drama, intrigue and ambiguity of the 2013 NFL Draft better than Geno Smith.

There has never been a more wide-open draft in NFL history, and there's such a significant range of opinions out there about players. This is particularly true at the quarterback position, with members of the media elite beating the drum about how this class lacks sizzle at that spot.

Accordingly, the rumors about Smith are flying in rampant fashion. Some believe he's a sure-fire top-five pick. Some believe he'll tumble all the way out of the first round.

I believe you should tune out the noise.

Geno Smith is a franchise quarterback.

Now, before you fly off the handle, let's examine what that means.

Smith isn't Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson; last year's quarterback group was special. I don't think he'll blossom into a player like Peyton or Eli Manning, either. But there is a next tier of "franchise quarterbacks," and I think Smith fits right in.

Is he capable of playing at a level somewhere between that of Tony Romo and Andy Dalton? Absolutely. Is he capable of being better or more consistent than Jay Cutler or Matthew Stafford? Without question. Do I trust him more than I do Cam Newton? Of course.

Smith has all of the tangibles -- and intangibles -- you look for in an NFL quarterback. He can make every throw. His arm strength is legit. He's also a football junkie, and winning is important to him. He takes the game and the preparation involved very seriously. He's smart. Teams crave quarterbacks with these traits, because teams crumble when they draft frauds.

Of course, there are dissenting opinions. One NFL general manager told me, "He's absolutely the best QB in the draft and will have a long career." Another general manager said, "I'm not buying in. He makes some 'wow' throws, but he struggles with field reads."

Why is Smith under scrutiny? Is it because he's not a "can't miss" prospect like Luck or RG3?

Some scouts question the offense he played in at West Virginia. Others question his in-game decision-making and fluidity. But Smith completed 71 percent of his passes last season. He threw just six picks against 42 touchdown passes.

Forget the NFL Scouting Combine or pro days or who gets hot close to draft time. How Smith played on Saturdays -- and how it should translate to his performance on Sundays -- has to count for something.


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Actually, in some ways, it's kind of comical that he isn't a lock to be a top-five pick.

Smith would be the best quarterback on the Jacksonville Jaguars (second overall pick) or Oakland Raiders (third), but he likely isn't even being considered by either team. Jacksonville, which has so many holes to fill, is still licking its wounds from the Blaine Gabbert fiasco. And Oakland needs, well, everything.

Then there are the Philadelphia Eagles at No. 4.

I understand why Chip Kelly kept Michael Vick; what else was he going to do? But Philadelphia can't bank on Vick to stay healthy. Vick also won't be an Eagle past this season. Meanwhile, if Nick Foles is the answer, I'd love to know the question.

Smith would be a great fit for Kelly's offense; he just makes sense for the Eagles. I think it would be the best possible match for both player and team.

Of course, Philly isn't the only potential landing spot. Two general managers I polled believe the Cleveland Browns are going to pick Smith at No. 6. The new brass there has no attachment to incumbent quarterback Brandon Weeden, who represents a waste of a first-round pick by the Mike Holmgren regime a year ago. Smith is a Day 1 starter.

The Arizona Cardinals, who have the seventh overall pick, just traded for Carson Palmer. Desperately in need of offensive line help, they'll draft someone who can provide it -- and that's the move to make. However, if the Cards were to select Smith, he would be the best quarterback on their roster.

I chuckle when I hear people say Smith can't play in Buffalo. I don't think the Bills should draft him with the eighth overall pick, but not because he wouldn't be able to succeed there; as I wrote in January, I just think Ryan Nassib, who played for Doug Marrone at Syracuse, makes more sense.

The New York Jets are in major need of a quarterback, and Smith must be considered if they keep the ninth and 13th overall picks -- though their top priority should be to trade down and accumulate as many extra selections as possible. The Jets are another team that needs, well, everything, including an offensive guard and a pass rusher. Still, a franchise quarterback would be high on their list, and they should absolutely consider adding Smith and/or his college receiver, Tavon Austin.

What happens if Smith slides? First, teams will live with regret. Second, you have to believe someone will trade back into the first round to nab him.

Will a sleeper team emerge? Could the Tampa Bay Buccaneers package next year's first-round pick and a pick in the second or third round this year -- which they successfully avoided giving up in the trade for Darrelle Revis -- in a deal to get Smith? Have the Tennessee Titans gotten off of the Jake Locker bandwagon?

It's so en vogue to talk about who Geno Smith isn't -- and he isn't perfect. Here's what he is: an answer for quarterback-starved teams, someone who should be a starter and a really good player in this league for a while.

That means there's a place for him in Round 1. That makes him a franchise quarterback.

Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.

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