WVU football: Geno Smith continues waiting game, returns to NFL Draft's 2nd round
NEW YORK -- The question came out of nowhere Wednesday, like a cornerback coming from the quarterback's blindside.
Was Geno Smith worried about sliding in the draft and being stuck in the green room as be became a nationally televised soap opera waiting for his name to be called in the next day's NFL Draft?
"No," the record-setting West Virginia quarterback said with an abundance of evidence that it might happen. "Some of the best have sat in that green room. Aaron Rodgers did it. Tom Brady wasn't invited. So it's not that big of a deal."
The reality struck Smith between the numbers on the back of his jersey Thursday night. He wasn't picked in the first round and he won't be the first quarterback taken, as was predicted to be the case, because Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel went No. 16 to the Buffalo Bills.
And even though it wasn't a big deal, Smith reportedly left the draft before it was over and announced his plan to leave the Big Apple and go home. He reversed course Friday morning and decided to stay in New York and return to Radio City Music Hall tonight.
The second and third rounds are today, when Smith's high school and college teammate, Stedman Bailey, also figures to be selected in either round. Bailey was Smith's guest for the opening round because Bailey wanted to be there when his longtime friend was drafted.
The draft concludes Saturday with the final four rounds.
Smith at least sounded as if he were prepared for the eventual outcome Wednesday at a NFL Play 60 youth Clinic at the Chelsea Waterside Park -- the area he sat in Thursday was private and off limits to the press.
"I think it's just the deal with the draft," Smith said during a day he spent with 23 other prospects. "I don't think any of these guys know where they're going. If they do, they do a great job of hiding it. I just think that's the deal with the draft. Teams making decisions, I don't think the teams know what they're thinking up until the last minute on the clock, unless they really need a guy and it's a sure-fire thing."
The NFL Network reported Smith left the draft with two picks to go. ESPN reported Smith declined an interview request before he left Radio City Music Hall about two-and-a-half hours after Mountaineers receiver Tavon Austin was picked No. 8 by the St. Louis Rams.
In truth, the draft wasn't situated properly for Smith or the rest of the quarterbacks this year. In the past two years, 11 of the 32 teams drafted a starter.
Four teams drafted quarterbacks in the first round last year and a fifth found its starter in the third round. That doesn't include the Philadelphia Eagles, who may start last year's third-round pick in 2013 for first-year coach Chip Kelly.
In addition to that, the Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders and Arizona Cardinals all traded for quarterbacks before this year's draft. Each picked in the top seven.
That run on quarterbacks followed the 2011 draft, when four teams drafted starters in the first round and two more found starters in the second round.
Not coincidentally, teams invested in protection this year. Three of the first four picks, four of the first seven, five of the first 11 and eight in all during the first round were spent on offensive linemen.
Smith's slide will be costly, according to estimates at OverTheCap.com. Using the Eagles as an example, if Smith were taken with their first-round pick at No. 4, his rookie contract would have been worth about $19.8 million with a signing bonus around $12.5 million and an annual salary maxing out at around $6.3 million in 2016-17 season.
If the Eagles pick Smith with the third pick in today's second round, Smith's total contract would be worth around $5.3 million with a signing bonus of around $2.2 million and a high salary of around $1.7 million in that fourth season.
A top-10 pick has an option for a fifth year in which the salary is the average of the top 10 salaries at the position. There is no fifth-year option in a second-round pick's contract.
Smith, who declined an invitation to January's Senior Bowl, will have a chance early today, perhaps as quickly as Jacksonville with the first pick. The Eagles are 14 minutes later, though they drafted Nick Foles last season and convinced Mike Vick to restructure his contract this offseason. Arizona is No. 6, but acquired Carson Palmer from Oakland last month and agreed with Palmer on a restructured two-year contract.
The New York Jets pick seventh after passing on Smith at Nos. 9 and 13 in the first round. They have Mark Sanchez, Tim Tebow and 2011 seventh-round pick Greg McElroy on the roster, but Smith was optimistic Wednesday based on his meeting with the team last month.
Smith and Jets representatives, including the offensive coordinator, had dinner together and then talked football the night before Smith's impressive pro day performance.
"All those guys are great guys and I enjoyed the time spent with them," Smith said. "We talked a lot of ball and spent some time in the playbook being able to regurgitate it to see how much of it I could process and spit back to them. Overall I did a good job and they were very impressed."
Oakland might also be a fit at No. 10, though the Raiders traded for Seattle's Matt Flynn earlier this month.
No matter where Smith goes, there will be competition. Manuel was the only quarterback taken in a first round that saw just Austin, two other receivers and a tight end drafted at the skill positions.
Manuel wasn't surprised, even though he'd been rated not only below Smith, but also former Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who played in college for Bills Coach Doug Marrone. Manuel said he started to believe in the Bills after the Senior Bowl.
"When I met with them again at the combine I felt the same way and then also when I went out and worked out for them and then I went up for a visit," Manuel said. "There was a lot of confirmation going on. To me it was just more so a matter of when they were going to take me in the draft."