Friday night Wyoming junior quarterback Brett Smith confirmed that he would forgo his senior season in Laramie and enter the 2014 NFL Draft.
The 6-foot-3, 206-pound junior leaves behind school records for total offense (10,365 yards), touchdowns (97) and touchdown passes (76). He also holds the Mountain West and Wyoming record for total yards in a game (640) and is second in school history with 8,834 passing yards.
It's a resume unlike any other in Wyoming history. But how will all that production translate to the NFL?
To evaluate where Smith will likely be drafted and where he needs to improve, the Star-Tribune on Saturday spoke with CBS and NFLDraftScout.com analyst Dane Brugler, quarterback evaluator Benjamin Allbright and ESPN Denver NFL Insider Cecil Lammey.
The consensus is that if Smith impresses in workouts, interviews and finally at the NFL Combine, he will likely be selected somewhere between the second and fourth round in the NFL Draft taking place May 8-10.
Enough with the news. Now for the analysis. Following is a Q&A between the Star-Tribune and Brugler, Allbright and Lammey, concerning Smith's NFL future.
Casper Star-Tribune: As of right now, where do you see Brett Smith falling in the 2014 NFL Draft?
Dane Brugler: Scouts have told me they've given him second-day grades, which is the same grade I gave him. And I'd expect him to be drafted somewhere in the 2nd-4th round range.
Benjamin Allbright: If he has an outstanding combine and interviews he could go as high as the second round. I’d put him in that second to fourth round range, where he fits right now. I like him. Brett’s a guy I saw his freshman year and I knew right away he was a guy who was going to play in the league (NFL) someday.
Cecil Lammey: Right now most scouts I talk to consider Smith a third-round pick. That could climb if he performs well in the pre-draft process (Scouting Combine, Pro Day).
Star-Tribune: Based on what you’ve seen, where do you think Smith falls among the quarterbacks that are expected to come out in this draft class?
Brugler: To me, Smith is a more controlled version of (2012 Heisman Trophy Winner) Johnny Manziel. So I'd much rather have Smith than Manziel and I can get Smith in the 2nd-3rd round while if you want Manziel, you need to take him top-15 because someone will take him that high. Smith is the first underclassman QB to declare so time will tell where he falls in the QB pecking order, but he'll be behind Teddy Bridgewater and a few others.
Allbright: (Louisville’s) Teddy Bridgewater is going to go ahead of him. (Fresno State’s) Derek Carr is probably going to go ahead of him. You’re probably looking mid-to-late first round for Carr. I think you look at some of these other guys that are out there and Brett has a good chance to be anywhere from the fourth or fifth quarterback taken up to about the eighth.
Lammey: I currently have Smith as my number six QB in this year's draft class. I have him ahead of other well-known quarterbacks like Tajh Boyd (Clemson), Aaron Murray (Georgia) and Zach Mettenberger (LSU).
Star-Tribune: What do you think Smith’s strengths and weaknesses are heading to the next level?
Brugler: STRENGTHS: Average height and body type … better athlete than given credit – deceiving speed and runs like his hair is on fire … scans quickly and holds the ball as long as possible … recognizes soft spots in coverage pre-snap … extremely tough and gutsy … elusive in the pocket to avoid the rush … extremely quick feet and always appears under control.
WEAKNESSES: Lazy decisions at times, will throw into tight coverage hoping for a play … extremely confident, but almost to a fault as he tests tight spaces too often … accuracy tends to dip when throwing on the run…gets jumpy and skittish in the pocket … good enough arm strength but lacks elite velocity especially when he can’t step into his throws.
Allbright: He reads the field so quickly. And I don’t mean to dog anyone, but that Wyoming offensive line is terrible. He doesn’t have a lot of time back there, and given that the field is so spread out because of the system (former Wyoming coach Dave) Christensen liked to run, the defensive line was able to kind of pin their ears back and not really worry about the run. He reads the field very well and he has a very quick release, which are things that you can’t really teach. Of course, the athleticism is a huge strength as well.
On the downside, he struggles a little to throw on the run. But then again, who doesn’t? He doesn’t have the strongest arm in the draft. He’s certainly not a Carr or a Mettenberger as far as that goes. But he’s got adequate velocity. I think the gunslinger attitude he operates with will serve him well in the league. He tries to squeeze the ball in places where maybe he shouldn’t sometimes, but in the league you’d rather have a guy try to take a chance than not.
Lammey: Strengths — mobility, understands coverage pre-snap, is able to go through reads quickly, will scan the entire field before taking off to run, not rattled by pressure, high football intelligence, leader. Weaknesses — sometimes too bold, will attack small windows when perhaps a check down is best, accuracy suffers when throwing on the run, too thin right now.
Star-Tribune: There’s been a lot of talk around Laramie about whether another year at Wyoming would have been good for Smith, since new coach Craig Bohl is coming in and bringing more of a pro-style offense. Do you think that would have benefited him, or was it a good decision to declare for the NFL Draft now?
Brugler: I always believe that QBs have more to gain staying for their senior years, but I certainly understand why a player like Smith would declare now. Regardless of the coaching situation, I think he was leaning towards leaving no matter what. Sounds like he feels ready and I respect that. He's only 21 years old, but he's known as a gusty leader who doesn't act like most 21-year-olds so he shouldn't have a problem in an NFL locker room.
Allbright: I think there’s two sides to the coin. On the one hand, yes. Running a pro-style offense would have helped him in the sense that you’re taking the snap from under center, dropping back and learning to read the defense while making a three-step drop. But on the flip side of that, you look at Wyoming’s roster and you don’t have a real tight end or fullback on scholarship right now. Where are those going to come from? Coach Bohl is going to have to go out and get JUCO (junior college) guys, guys that don’t know everybody. There could be chemistry issues. I previously referenced that the offensive line is just not very good. And I understand that it’s Wyoming. It’s hard to recruit stellar offensive linemen. But that offensive line puts you at an increased risk of injury.
Lammey: After the disappointing season Wyoming had I was a bit surprised Smith decided to turn pro. I believe a transition year in a different system would not serve him well. In the end, this was the best decision for his draft stock.
Star-Tribune: Smith is going to have a busy next few months, with the NFL Combine and his pro day and interviews. What do you think he needs to show to improve his draft stock?
Brugler: It's easy to see Smith's competitive spirit on the field and scouts and NFL teams will want to see that same attitude off the field when it comes to the film room and X's and O's so he should interview really well and win over coaches with his competitive mentality and winning mind-set. I know he puts the work in off the field so Smith might surprise some when he runs in the 4.6 range in the 40 and it wouldn't surprise me if he decides to do the bench press even though QBs often skip that drill. The pre-draft process is important for every player, but especially true for quarterbacks from the non-heavyweight conferences.
Allbright: The main thing is going to be the stuff that’s behind the scenes, the measurables. In the interviews, people are going to want to know some things that are medical. As for concussions, he’s had one official concussion and it’s been hinted that there’s been one or two others. That’s going to be something he’s going to need to clear up. Concussion history is very heightened in the modern NFL.
Then there’s how tall he’s going to measure in. He’s listed at 6-3, and he’s probably going to come in at 6-2 and a half. He definitely needs to do that. You don’t want to come in any lower than that. And a big thing not many people talk about is hand size. I don’t know what Brett’s hand size is, and we’re talking about the measurement from your pinky to your thumb if you spread your hand out. That has to do with how well you can grip a football at the pro level, if you can grip it cleanly. Guys with small hands just don’t succeed.
Lammey: Smith has to bulk up as much as he can. He has the arm to make all the throws in the NFL, but he needs to show better velocity on long passes. Deep passes tend to sail a bit when his feet aren't set.