Looking at the teams drafting in the top ten, and I don’t see any landing spot that is particularly likely for Smith. Consider:
1 – Kansas City Chiefs: The Alex Smith trade presumably takes them out of the running.
2 – Jacksonville Jaguars: With a new general manager and new head coach, the organization would surely love to take a a franchise quarterback and have those three men be the faces of the team for the next five years. The issue is whether Smith is worth a top-three pick in the draft, and it seems like most scouts and draft experts answer that question with a resounding ‘No.’ The wildcard here is that the new GM, Dave Caldwell, was in Atlanta in 2008, the last time a quarterback was not selected with the first overall pick. That year the Falcons had the third pick, and “reached” on Matt Ryan in the eyes of some in the draft community. It’s possible Caldwell hopes to have lightning strike twice, but he would have to be very high on Smith to select him here. Considering how quiet things have been out of Jacksonville and the fact that they still say they are open to trading the pick makes me think they’re not in love with him. If there’s a better prospect on the defensive line — and I think there are several — that makes more sense for a team that had just 20 sacks last year. In the last five years, only once have the Jaguars had a player record more than five sacks in a season.
3 – Oakland Raiders: In a similar situation to Jacksonville, except Reggie McKenzie and Dennis Allen are beginning year two of their tenure. I don’t think the presence of Matt Flynn or Terrelle Pryor prevent the Raiders from drafting Smith, but just like the Jaguars, you have to really love Smith to take him this high. Most of the reports indicate that Oakland is desperately trying to trade down, so I don’t think this is a likely landing spot. Many scouts seem to think Smith has more warts than your typical top-three quarterback, and since the Jaguars and Raiders need so much, why not take a better player at a less premier position?
4 – Philadelphia Eagles: It’s hard to read Chip Kelly: does he like Michael Vick? Is Nick Foles the quarterback of the future? Philadelphia is in the same boat as Oakland: they have needs (Tackle, Edge Rusher) that meet the likely best players available and neither team is desperate for a quarterback. I think both teams would prefer to target a quarterback in rounds two through four than use such a high pick on Smith.
5 – Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford is the Lions quarterback of the future. No chance.
6 – Cleveland Browns: Without a second round pick (after selecting Josh Gordon in last year’s supplemental draft), this pick isn’t a “luxury” for the organization. I know that Brandon Weeden has few supporters in the building, but it’s not as though Geno Smith is without flaws. His struggles in the wind and cold against Texas Tech and Syracuse could concern a team like the Browns. If Dee Milliner falls here, I think the Browns jump on him. Like most teams, Cleveland is looking to trade down, and the Chargers or Dolphins could try to vault the Cardinals for Lane Johnson (the last of the big three tackles) if Luke Joeckel and Eric Fisher are both off the board at this point. The Browns seem more likely to select Smith at 11 (San Diego’s pick) or 12 (Miami’s) then by standing pat and taking him at six.
7 – Arizona Cardinals: Carson Palmer is not the answer to any good question, but the Cardinals need so much help on the offensive line that taking Smith makes little sense. If all three tackles are off the board at this point, Smith is a possible pick, but with Palmer in place, I think the Cardinals are more likely to use a third rounder on a quarterback than the seventh pick.
8 – Buffalo Bills: Let’s skip the Bills for a moment.
9 – New York Jets: Having Smith and Mark Sanchez on the roster would make for an interesting locker room, especially if Tim Tebow is still around. But the Jets seem willing to go with a quarterback-by-committee approach this year (Sanchez, David Garrard, Greg McElroy) and I expect them to address quarterback next year. New GM John Idzik won’t say it, of course, but Rex Ryan is on the hot seat and odds are he’s gone after this season. It will be more difficult to hire a new head coach if that candidate has to inherit Geno Smith. That’s never a good situation — see Mike Mularkey (and now Gus Bradley) inheriting Blaine Gabbert — and I don’t think Idzik voluntarily places himself there unless you have a lights-out prospect. The Jets desperately need help on offense and defense, and Smith isn’t good enough to cover up all the other holes on the roster.
10 – Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker may not be special, but the Titans aren’t ready to give up on him, either.
I don’t see any team outside of the top ten that would want to spend a first round pick on Geno Smith.
If Smith falls past the Bills at 8, he’s going to fall for awhile. Will he fall to #33, the Jaguars first pick in the second round? Probably not, as one of the teams that likes but doesn’t love Smith will trade up for him to jump the Jags (or Raiders, or Eagles, or whomever the perceived threat is). But they’re not going to jump to 15, because they don’t think anyone else will jump that high. A team that wants Geno Smith needs to jump just high enough to get him. Where is that likely to be?
To figure that out, you need to spot a trade-down candidate. The Patriots at 29 are always on the table, but that’s too obvious. I think the Packers would jump on the chance to move down from 26 to 33 or 35 or 37 or 41 in return for a 2014 second or third round pick or a third or fourth rounder in this year’s draft.
If you’re the Bills, you have to really love Geno Smith to take him at eight. In 2010, the Broncos packaged their second round pick (#43) with their third (#70) and fourth rounders (#114) to move up to 25 to grab Tim Tebow. That’s too high a haul to give up, but I think Buffalo could package their 41st pick with either their 2013 or 2014 third-round pick for Smith. Even if they give up their 2014 second rounder along with their 2013 second rounder, that’s still a better deal than taking Smith with the 8th pick (and they’d probably get a fifth or sixth round pick in return, too).
If you miss on a first-round quarterback, you’re probably going to get fired. With that risk, the new regimes in Jacksonville, Oakland, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Arizona would have to fall in love with Smith to take him so high. That risk is mitigated if you package your second and third round picks for the West Virginia quarterback. There are also a number of intriguing quarterback prospects that teams can select in the second and third rounds, lowering the “need” to grab Smith. If the Bills think they can reunite Doug Marrone with Ryan Nassib in the second round — and that’s something they want to do — then they will simply pass on Smith. If the Jaguars, Raiders, and Eagles are similarly high on other quarterbacks in this draft, Smith could experience a free fall. I expect the teams in the top six to pass on Smith, and the Bills to read the market and decide they can wait on him. At that point, it just becomes a question of how the bidding war unfolds at the end of the first round.