If you didn’t read the preview for these quarterback rankings, I skipped over 29 to 32 because I’m projecting four rookies to start right away (Teddy Bridgewater, Johnny Manziel, Blake Bortles, and Derek Carr). I felt that it would be unfair to compare veterans who play in a tougher NFL to quarterbacks who succeeded in college; therefore, I will be starting with 28.
Without further ado…
No. 28. Geno Smith, New York Jets (± N/A)
From an outsider’s perspective, it would seem that Geno Smith’s season was nightmarish in some sorts, as the rookie struggled, especially early, in his first year in New Jersey. With the help of a good defense and improved play by Smith late in the season, and not to mention a very poor AFC, the Jets somehow finished 8-8. But that outsider’s perspective would largely be correct.
Smith has obvious deficiencies when it comes to playing the position, but it does seem like he has the physical tools to be around an average starting quarterback in the league (15-20 range overall, at best, based on what he’s shown so far). He’ll obviously have to make some major improvements from last year, however.
Accuracy & anticipation
Of the games I watched, Smith was inconsistent. He’d make a beautiful, back-shoulder, touch pass on one play, and he’d come back the next play and throw a duck or flat out miss a receiver. He’d have two or three perfect throws in a game, and the rest of the game was below average for him. He seems steadily inconsistent, if that makes any sense – he misses the same amount of throws per game, and makes relatively the same amount of good passes per game. He does lead the receiver well, allowing for a fair amount of yards after the catch, and has the capability to squeeze throws into tight windows, although he seldom does so. In general, Smith’s ball placement is worse than so-so. 16/30.
Smith has the arm strength to make any throw. The ball moves out of his hand nicely and he has good velocity on downfield passes. As a result, he was surprisingly an above-average deep ball thrower on tape last year, and the stats actually do support that. But his mechanics somewhat limit him in terms of how far he can get the ball downfield in a timely manner (read the next section on mechanics). Having said that, Smith made some throws last season that your average NFL quarterback couldn’t make, and that’s because of his good upper body strength shown on tape. 13/15.
Most, if not all, of Smith’s physical deficiencies are a result of lackluster mechanics. Footwork is the biggest concern – while his dropback is fluent and precise, he seems to have issues setting his feet properly when throwing the ball, which results in a drop in accuracy. Some throws are simply off-target because of this. Sometimes, he doesn’t set his feet, throwing off his back foot, which results in underthrows, and other times, his feet aren’t 90 degrees from his target (actually, they’re often pointed directly towards his target), which results in overthrows or just general inaccuracy. And that’s just his lower body mechanics; there are other issues with his throwing motion. It seems as if Smith throws the ball with a javelin-like motion, bringing his arm back an excessive amount – that is simply unnecessary motion. He needs to keep the ball high and tight to be more accurate and efficient with his throws. Furthermore, bringing the ball back on his release increases the risk for fumbles inside the pocket as a result of the ball being knocked away by a defender. 12/20.
Some of the poor decisions on the field that Smith made may be attributed to his youth, and there’s obviously a learning curve in the NFL. But some mistakes were intolerable and were a pain to watch – they were simply bad mistakes, whether it be throwing into triple coverage or attempting to throw while getting sacked and then fumbling. I’m also including pocket presence as part of this category (technically, it’s the decisions quarterbacks make in the pocket). For Smith, pocket awareness was actually a strong point in 2013. He went through his reads under pressure, and avoided sacks when he could. He often evaded the pass rush, stepped up into the pocket, and delivered a strike right in stride. However, other than pocket presence, Smith has much to improve on with his decision making. 13/20
Intangibles & mental make-up
A lot of the “mental make-up” of this category ties back into decision making. But this also includes Smith’s readiness as an NFL quarterback, meaning how mentally developed he is to play. That includes going through reads, making audibles, and being a smart player. On tape, it seemed like Smith did go through his reads last year, but there were some glaring deficiencies. He often made the wrong read and failed to look off defenders to make throws in the intermediate to deep parts of the field. As for his intangibles, there have been no off-field concerns. This year, Smith must fend off Michael Vick in training camp and re-earn the starting job, and more pressure will be on him to succeed. 7/10.
Smith is an impressive athlete who often used his legs to score and pick up first downs. While he isn’t the fastest quarterback, he has good shiftiness inside and outside the pocket that allow him to avoid defenders. He moves well in the pocket and, in 2013, his accuracy was not affected when he threw on the run. 4.5/5.
Smith has some promising physical traits that serve as a spark of hope for the future. However, right now, in my eyes, he must make the most improvement out of any non-rookie quarterback to keep his job as a starter. As I said before, I believe he has the potential to be about an average starter, but he will have to significantly improve in most aspects of the game. Total: 65.5/100.