The NFL draft is fast approaching. Okay, maybe not fast approaching, but the college off-season means it’s time for draft season to begin. It will go quickly and April 25 will be here before you know it. For potential draft picks, there is much work to be done between now and that fateful Thursday night. A huge part of the agenda for many of them is to play in one of the ever-growing number of college football All-Star games.
These events have really grown in popularity and offer NFL teams an excellent opportunity to observe these prospects in a very natural environment, where they can really learn a lot about them. The practice times during these game are littered with NFL scouts taking notes and evaluating things you can’t see in games. So, when I heard that West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith was going to opt out of competing in the Senior Bowl, the biggest of all the college football all-star games, I couldn’t believe it. The effects of this could be more devastating than any bad game.
I’ve scouted players for a long time, since before the interwebs and before there were 15 sports channels. One thing I have come to understand is that if you want to be great and be a top pick, you have to show it every chance you can get. The NFL draft has become increasingly more and more competitive and this draft class in particular has the top spot wide open. This draft class sports four of the most talented offensive linemen I have ever scouted and some of the most exciting defensive lineman in several years.
What it doesn’t have is a clear top quarterback. If Smith wants to be that guy, dodging the Senior Bowl is not the way to do it. It shows me he has concerns about going out and competing against his peers in an environment he cannot control. Similar to the regular season, when Smith wasn’t able to dictate what he wanted to do in the game, he struggled to make adjustments. The idea of throwing to new wide outs and having a new line in front of him is something he really needs to get used to and a great week of Senior Bowl practice could cement his spot at No. 1 overall in the draft. Skipping it could force teams who have been waiting for this opportunity to move him down and obviously with the draft, the lower you are taken, the less money you are going to get in that first contract.
I’ve bothered very much with this. I have tried to stay on board with Smith this season even when he’s played poorly, but I have to question his judgment here. If the only off-season workout he does is at the West Virginia Pro Day, it might be too late for him to ascend to that top spot in the draft. If I were consulting Smith I’d tell him to get to Mobile, Ala. and show 32 NFL teams you are that player from that first half of the season and not the player from the second half.