NFL execs provide reasons for Geno Smith's draft-day slide

5/1/13 in NFL   |   Matthew_Shovlin   |   735 respect

Several months ago, it looked like West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was destined to be the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. Some concerns with Smith's game then developed, and the team selecting first in the draft (the Chiefs) acquired a starting quarterback. His stock had dropped, but he was still generally considered the best quarterback in his draft class. CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora said there was no doubt that Smith would be a top-five pick. With the quarterback-needy Jaguars, Raiders, and Eagles all at the top of the draft, the top-five seemed realistic for Smith. Even if he made it out of the top-five, I don't think many people expected Smith to plummet the way he did.
Blog Photo - NFL execs provide reasons for Geno Smith's draft-day slide
Smith was finally selected by the New York Jets with the 39th overall selection (the 7th pick of the second round). Not only did every team decide against selecting Smith in the first round, but a few teams in dire need of a long-term starting quarterback - the Jaguars, Eagles, and Cardinals - passed on drafting Smith twice. It was a shocking free-fall, reminiscent of Brady Quinn's plunge in 2007 - however, Quinn only fell to the 22nd pick.

So why didn't anyone want Smith? A few NFL executives who spoke to Yahoo Sports shed light on the causes of the quarterback's draft-day slide:

"His biggest problem is that he doesn't know what he doesn't know," one league executive said. "I'm not sure he knows how to take instruction because he pretty much wouldn't talk to our coaches... You can't tell him anything right now. He's tuned out because he thinks he's got it all down."

Making the transition from collegiate quarterback to professional quarterback is one of the most difficult adjustments in sports. We've seen it countless times - a signal caller who dominates in college, but can't quite fit it through a tighter window, can't quite figure out the complicated reads, can't quite feel the quicker pass rush, and so on. If a quarterback thinks he can come in as a rookie with everything figured out, he's going to be in for a rude awakening. Apparently, that's what Smith may be in for.

Another league executive spoke on Smith's lack of leadership, saying, "He doesn't have much presence, not much of a leader. I don't think he's a bad person, but that's not enough to be a quarterback in this league."

As we all know, quarterbacks are the face of this league and the face of their teams. Players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady take command of their locker rooms and demand the very best out of their teammates. Players feed off of the energy of their quarterback, and if Smith "doesn't have much presence," he may struggle to get the same passion and intensity out of his teammates as a player like Peyton Manning does.

An anonymous source told Yahoo Sports that Smith was not engaging with team officials during pre-draft visits, and often kept to himself, spending a lot of time on his cell phone texting friends and reading Twitter. "All these other players who were in there were talking to coaches, trying to get to know people, and he was over there by himself," the source said. "That's not what you want out of your quarterback."

Simply having enough talent to play quarterback isn't enough - a quarterback has to have a distinct mentality. The league's great signal callers are always engaging, eager to learn more and improve their game. Smith apparently didn't display that eagerness during his visits. The source acknowledged that EJ Manuel - the first quarterback taken in the draft - was the opposite of Smith in that regard. "Manuel gets it; he gets the whole big picture of what it takes to lead a team."

Hopefully, Smith's slide in the draft will be a humbling experience that allows him to realize that he is a rookie quarterback and nothing more. He'll need to be willing to take advice and become more engaging if he wants a shot at being successful in the NFL.
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