Weak field lets Smith stand out

The admittedly weak group of draft-eligible quarterbacks has been helpful to Geno Smith. National Football League scouts and executives have been in agreement that the quarterbacks they have to pick from in this month’s draft are not much more than wallflowers at the high school prom — they dress up in an ill-fitting tux, but nobody wants to dance with them or take them home in the wee hours of the morning.

West Virginia’s Smith has been judged the best of a common lot. The NFL types like Smith’s size, arm strength, intelligence and mobility. But how will he perform taking snaps from under center instead from WVU’s shotgun? How will he do when asked to stand up against pass rushes that want him to run instead of throw?

Geno Smith throws at West Virginia University’s Pro Day workout for National Football League scouts and administrators.

Geno Smith throws at West Virginia University’s Pro Day workout
for National Football League scouts and administrators.

Smith stayed healthy for both his junior and senior seasons, but he’d broken the same foot twice before that.

Three weeks ago, Smith’s place in the first round of the 2013 draft was all but guaranteed. But recents trades and signings have changed things considerably.

First, the anemic Kansas City Chiefs get quarterback Alex Smith from the 49ers. The Chiefs have the draft’s first pick.

Then Oakland, with the third overall pick, makes a trade for quarterback Matt Flynn of Seattle. The Raiders also have Terrelle Pryor on their current roster.

Arizona, with the seventh overall pick in the first round, brings in quarterback Carson Palmer from Oakland.

Moribund Buffalo signs quarterback Kevin Kolb, who was recently seen scrambling unsuccessfully away from trouble in Philadelphia. The Bills own the eighth selection in the first round.

Cleveland, with the No. 6 selection, still has Brandon Weeden along with just-acquired Jason Campbell and Thaddeus Lewis as its uncomplicated quarterbacks.

Cincinnati (Andy Dalton), the Jets (Mark Sanchez) and Miami (Matt Moore and Ryan Tannehill) are unsatisfied with their respective positions in the standings. Their quarterbacks receive criticism from the fans, the front office and even some of their teammates.

One of the most interesting developments in the few weeks before the late-April draft has been the signing of quarterback Michael Vick by Philadelphia. Vick is guaranteed enough millions in his new contract to make his dismissal a problem should the Eagles decide Geno Smith could be their way back toward the top.

Right now, Philadelphia has the fourth selection in the first round.

Trades are bound to happen. Some team that needs a defensive lineman could get one and then find that Smith is still available. To get him, that team could make a trade to move up in the draft and then select him.

Smith could slip through the first round and not be selected at all. But that is unlikely for the player seen as the best of the available quarterbacks.

West Virginia University wide receiver Tavon Austin has everything the NFL desires. Except size. He’s fast enough. Elusive enough. Versatile enough to be a kick returner or punt returner.

Most scouts, coaches and team executives believe Austin has first-round skills.

Drafting 16th in the first round is St. Louis. The Rams’ very young corps of receivers has Austin Pettis, Chris Givens, Brian Quick, Raymond Radway and Nick Johnson. None of those five players has been in the league for more than three years and none is older than 25.

The Rams value quarterback Sam Bradford and want to help him flourish. Nobody would be surprised if they took Austin in the first round.

Another West Virginia wide receiver in this year’s draft is Stedman Bailey, who forfeited his last year of collegiate eligibility to join the draft.

Bailey has more size than Austin, but is not as straight-ahead fast nor as slippery and versatile.

Both Bailey and Austin were return men at WVU.

His last season in Morgantown found Bailey scoring scads of touchdowns (25 via pass reception) and making so many catches (114) that he had 1,622 receiving yards.

Without Austin as a threat beside him, it is doubtful he could find those same statistics in 2013. And should he return, Bailey could be injured.

So, here he is in the draft this April.

Bailey is not expected to be a first-round selection. Just where he figures to be drafted will likely depend on the close-to-draft-day trades and those actually made during the selection process.

Geno Smith. Tavon Austin. Stedman Bailey.

At least two of them have found favor with those NFL types influencing the 2013 draft.

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