+Deceptively good athlete
+Good decision maker
+Comfortable through his progressions
+Surprising escapability in the pocket
+Pretty accurate on the run
-On the small side
-Mediocre arm strength
-Doesn’t usually drop his front shoulder on play actions
-Doesn’t throw a great deep ball
-Can get happy feet in the pocket
I’m a fan of Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith. He doesn’t have a very high ceiling, but he has some of the best mechanics in college football and really makes the most of what he has. He’ll never be a star, and you always want to draft a quarterback with star potential, but I expect him to be a passable starter at the next level.
Smith has mediocre measurables. He’s listed at 6’2 (probably closer to 6’1), 206lbs, and he runs a 4.83 40 yard dash according to NFLDraftScout.com, but he definitely seems faster on film than his listed 40. The bulk is definitely an issue, as 206lbs quarterbacks rarely stay healthy for too long. However, his escapability in the pocket and flexibility are some of his best strengths, so you don’t want him adding too much weight.
Smith has mediocre arm strength but he makes up for it with good mechanics. Generally, the best measure of arm strength is the ability to throw far and with zip on the run. When Smith is on the run, his accuracy is respectable, but he sure doesn’t throw fast and if he throws deep on the run the ball wobble like crazy. However, when his feet are set, Smith uses some of the most efficient mechanics in college football to eke out every bit of strength his arm has, and he does so with great effectiveness. When he can set his feet, he puts more than adequate zip on his passes and he proves he can fit the ball into pretty tight windows. He doesn’t have to change his mechanics much under pressure. Smith’s mechanics are perfect from the waist down, and combine that with his flexibility, he does an outstanding job of generating throw power not just from his arm but from his entire body. On the downside, he doesn’t throw a good deep ball, since he really doesn’t have extra throw power to tap into when he needs to go deep, and his deep is wobbly. He rarely throws deep, but, when he does, he maxes out at about 55 yards (average to mediocre for an NFL starting quarterback) with a fair amount of loft and little spiral. Spiral problems usually can be attributed to some sort of grip issue, and, if Smith has one, he grips the football just a little bit too tight. Still, his ability to use all of his strength is quite impressive.
Smith is pretty accurate. First of all, if you ask me, mechanics and accuracy are one and the same, for inaccurate throw are almost always caused by a kink in the quarterback’s mechanics. Smith’s mechanics are almost always ideal. His biggest problem is that he doesn’t do an adequate job of dropping his front shoulder when he doesn’t take a snap under center, and this results in shoulders that aren’t level and passes that sail ridiculously high. This shouldn’t be too tough to fix. There is little wasted motion in his throws. His front foot is always pointing toward the target and his hips are always square to the target when he releases the ball. His mechanics are quite sound and it makes him a very accurate quarterback.
One of the coolest things about Brett Smith is his ability to adjust his mechanics. From a theoretical standpoint, the best way to throw a football is not unlike the way a one throws a baseball. The pitcher’s mechanics maximize velocity more efficiently than any quarterback’s throwing motion. In theory. However, practically speaking, there is a huge problem with throwing like a baseball pitcher; it’s not space efficient. When a pitcher throws a baseball, his forward momentum carries him several yards away from where he started the pitch. Quarterbacks don’t have that much room in the pocket. They need to make a throw in a confined area. Generally, the more space efficient the quarterback’s motion is, the more accurate he is under pressure, since he always has room to complete his release. I think a space efficient release is an underrated aspect of quarterbacks, and, in my mind, it’s why Tajh Boyd won’t go in the first round. Smith has very space efficient mechanics, but the cool thing about his mechanics is that he has this unteachable instinct to be able to adjust to a less space efficient but more powerful release when he knows he should have thrown the ball a second ago and he knows he has room to do so. He uses that release sparingly and does an amazing job of not allowing it to become habit. It’s pretty fun to see.
Smith is a good decision maker. He makes good pre-snap reads and is very comfortable through his progressions. He does an excellent job of reading zone coverage and he can find holes in the zone. He is pretty consistent and is very comfortable under pressure. One of the best things about him is his ability to adjust an open receiver wen he realizes he was a little slow through his progressions. One of the toughest things for young quarterbacks is adjusting their body to an open backside wide receiver. On the playside, the quarterback will go through his progressions, no one will be open, and he’ll see an open backside receiver. His body is adjusted to the playside, so the quarterback needs to quickly adjust his feet and body to the backside to hit this receiver as quickly as possible, while the window is still there. Doing this effectively isn’t just a matter of having quick feet (not that it doesn’t help). Quarterbacks young and old get the ball out quickly, knowing they don’t have much time, but many young quarterbacks (Johnny Manziel) panic, rush their mechanics and throw an inaccurate pass. Smith is a natural. He can adjust his body quickly and use the same, picturesque mechanics he always uses to deliver a catchable ball. He looks so comfortable on the field, and looks like a natural.
Smith is the biggest overachiever with respect to escapability in the pocket and ability to run the football I have ever seen. First of all, he has 1531 rushing yards in his career, and he has a yards per carry over 4 despite the fact that the NCAA counts sacks against his rushing tally. Secondly, he attempts about 400 passes per year, for the Wyoming Cowboys I might add, and he gets sacked about 21 times a year. Wyoming doesn’t have a good offensive line. Smith is just ridiculous. He will have to bulk up in the NFL, and it will take away some of his lateral quickness, but few NFL running backs have his instincts. His pocket awareness is incredible, he moves very quickly laterally, constantly getting defenders to over-pursue, he always has his eyes downfield, he can be incredibly deceptive with his eyes, his balance is shocking, and his core flexibility allows him to get under tackles. He adjusts back into a position to throw the football very quickly thanks to his quick feet, he’s got a great stiff arm for a guy of his size, he does a really good job of protecting himself and he protects the football as a scrambler, showing the awareness to move the ball to if he’s darting toward the left sideline and doesn’t want to fumble getting hit from his right. His instincts with the ball are awe inspiring, to understate it, his running ability is a pleasant surprise. Don’t get me wrong, he won’t be 1,000 yard rusher in the NFL, but I don’t think I’ll ever see a quarterback with a 40 worse than 4.8 rush as effectively as he does. He’s probably going to lose a lot of his mobility when he adds the bulk to stay healthy, but for now, watching him run is a great sight.
I really like Brett Smith. His average throw power and below average size limits his potential, and his film suggests he may have plateaued since his sophomore year (not that he had much room for improvement), but his polish and instincts make me think he will be a good NFL player.
NFL Comparison: Alex Smith with more mobility, but less size. Given that he will likely be available in the third round, he’s good value.
Grade: 86 (worthy of a mid second to early round pick)
Projection: 77 (will be an early third round pick)