Oct 27, 2012; Laramie, WY, USA; Wyoming Cowboys quarterback Brett Smith (16) throws against the Boise State Broncos during the fourth quarter at War Memorial Stadium. The Broncos beat the Cowboys 45-14. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown – Brett Smith, QB Wyoming


The sales pitch made by Wyoming head coach Dave Christensen to quarterback Brett Smith had to be an attractive one for someone with his talents.  An offense based almost exclusively run out of shotgun with five receiving options most of the time and just letting him throw the ball all over the field in addition to creating plays with his legs against defenses so spread out to stop all of their receivers.  All of that combined with the fact that he would get to be the starter as a true freshman was enough to seal the deal and Smith was able to contribute to an 8-5 record as well as earning a trip to a bowl against Temple, which ended in defeat.  All in all, not a bad way to start a college career for Smith.

His sophomore campaign was not quite as successful and while he made strides as a quarterback and ran the ball less, the team’s record was 4-8.  Smith threw for 2,832 yards and 27 touchdowns while running for another 6.  The offense they run at Wyoming features a sandlot feel to it and while he occasionally will make throws that resemble those he will need to make in the NFL, the overall scheme can make it a difficult evaluation.

There is no question that Smith has tremendous amount of athleticism and potential as he enters his true junior year and he has the arm talent to continue his progression at the position.  He needs to continue getting stronger, throw passes with more velocity more consistently and learn when to give up on a play.  Right now, Smith looks like a day three prospect but has the opportunity to improve his stock significantly this year and next should he opt to stay.  He is one of the more exciting quarterback prospects going forward because of his potential, playing in the Mountain West and for Wyoming, which makes for a great story as he continues with his career.

Vitals & Build

Smith is listed at 6’3” 205lbs heading into his junior year after being listed at 195lbs as a sophomore, which is a good sign as he was extremely lean during his sophomore season.  Smith is an impressive athlete with good speed and agility, so if he is able to continue adding muscle to his frame, he could end up a dynamic threat out of the backfield at the next level.  Despite his size, Smith has taken a number of hits and not slowed down, so more bulk should only help him in that department.  He should have significant physical potential going forward and has enough height for the position at the next level.

Arm Strength

Smith has the arm strength to push the ball down the field, though he tends to throw rainbows when he does.  To Smith’s credit, he never looks like he is really straining as he throws the ball down the field, so he is typically able to control the passes when he goes deep and put them where he wants them to go.

When it comes to zip, Smith seems to have the ability to get some good spin on the ball but he needs to do it more consistently and more often.  Perhaps because he wants to make sure his receivers have a catchable ball or because of his overall arm’s condition at this point, Smith tends not to throw many passes with a ton of speed on them.  Smith seems to be comfortable throwing bullets to about 15, maybe 20 yards at which point he is going with more air under his throws.

Whether it is this year or two more, Smith should continue working on his arm strength as there appears to be enough to work with but he could be more consistent and increase his range in terms of being able to put zip on the ball.

Accuracy & Touch

Smith displays impressive accuracy at times, making some incredible throws to receivers, both in terms of hitting them in spots as well as in stride.  He has made some terrific throws down the field on go routes and made some great stick throws when he not only makes a great throw in terms of accuracy, but throws the ball when the receiver is just making their cut.

Smith is also able to maintain his accuracy when he throws on the move.  He is more comfortable going to his right than his left, which makes sense, but he is not afraid to go left when the situation calls for it and he will not hesitate to throw going that direction.

In terms of touch, Smith has shown he can make all kinds of touch throws.  He can make rainbow throws down the field to just putting a pass over the second level of the defense.  The criticism that can be made is that Smith will sometimes use too much touch and throw passes that seem to hang up in the air forever, giving defenders chances to make up ground and make a play on the ball.  Because of the space that the Wyoming offense creates, he is able to get away with it, but there have been examples where he has gotten picked off because the throw ends up looking like a punt such as againstTexas.  The fact he has so many different throws at his disposal is great, but needs to use more zip and less touch for the most part.

Mechanics & Footwork

Smith is a traditional overhand passer.  His throwing motion and mechanics depend on the throw he is making.  If he is going into a play knowing he is going to be throwing relatively short, he goes with a shortened release that goes to his ear and pushes forward.  For plays that are not prescribed throws or quick reads, he puts the ball up by his ear and positions his elbow out like a little leaguer holding a bat.  From there, he pulls the ball behind his head and throws from there.  Both ways of throwing the football are efficient and quick enough to do the job.

Despite the fact that he works almost exclusively from the shotgun, Smith has great footwork and shows quick feet.  He takes snaps and then executes footwork like a drop from there, allowing him to get his timing and rhythm.  And while he can appear chaotic in how he does it, he generally throws on the run with good balance enabling him to maintain his accuracy.  He tends to throw on the run with more velocity than he does in the pocket to make sure the pass has enough juice on it, but he will throw his fair share of ducks on the move.

Pocket Awareness

Smith is incredibly confident in the pocket.  He keeps his eyes down field and has a good feel for what is going on around him.  He will step up in the pocket to avoid pressure and make a throw or bail out of the pocket on a rollout to extend a play.  At times, his confidence can border on arrogance because he will hold onto the ball late and trust his athleticism to get him out of trouble, which can result in some bad sacks.  Overall, his confidence in his legs is warranted and he can get himself out of trouble and make big time plays.  It helps that Smith is often times in a shotgun with everything in front of him so he can keep track of everything, but he rarely appears phased by opponents working their way behind him.

Decision Making & Anticipation

For the most part, Smith makes good decisions with the football.  It helps that they are often times in a five wide spread or four wide receivers and a tight end, which creates opportunities to have wide open passing windows, but even when throwing into tighter passing windows, Smith tends to make good decisions.

There are examples, albeit not a ton of them where Smith makes NFL type throws and anticipates what the receiver doing, which give him the appearance of being able to make a successful jump to the next level.  While there are a ton of plays that are wide open and let Smith sit back and just find the open guy, there are quick slants and quick throws where Smith can put the ball where it needs to go and enable his receiver to catch the ball and continue running.  He has demonstrated the ability to throw his receivers open at times and especially when plays break down, Smith has shown that he will throw passes where he wants his guys to go to catch the football and it has been extremely successful.  Obviously, the hope is the play does not break down, but the chemistry he demonstrates with his receivers and knowing where he can put them in terms of throwing the ball in those situations is a good sign.

Smith will get himself in trouble at times and make cardinal sin type decisions.  For example, Smith has made a couple throws across his body from the right side of the field all the way to the left side of the field.  The game against Texas featured one of these prayer type throws where Smith just tried to do too much.  Smith is extremely competitive and is not a guy who likes to throw the ball away, always looking to make a play succeed, but these can result in some ugly decisions and turnovers.  His confidence is something teams will like, but they want him to be smarter with the football and granted, those types of decisions are not a huge surprise from a true sophomore.  The question is whether or not he will learn from them this coming year and the future to avoid those same situations and protect the football.

The other side of this is that Smith will take a lot of chances that give his receivers chances to make plays on the football and his teammates will absolutely love him for it.  And he has made some great throws that let them reward him for his faith in them with some great catches.  Watching Wyoming on tape, there are a number of receivers who seem to make huge plays for him and appear ready to run through a wall for him, which is an incredibly important trait for a quarterback to possess when leading their team.

Mobility

Smith is a tremendous athlete on the move.  Despite his size, his quickness and raw speed have made him a huge threat to run the ball and the reason he has been able to avoid taking big hits is because he is so quick.  He ends up being slippery and opponents are worried about getting him on the ground that trying to really lay the wood becomes a significant risk of missing the tackle.  Smith has been able to make guys miss, fight out of arm tackles and avoid being dragged down by some stronger tackles, so he is a terrific player when it comes to extending plays, but also for picking up yardage.  He has been dangerous enough as a runner that his running has been a featured part of the offense, especially in his freshman year, but still picked up a number of yards as a sophomore in addition to several trips to the end zone.

Smith’s ability to extend plays is extremely valuable and he keeps his eyes down the field and looks for receiving threats, which makes him that much more dangerous.  He is not afraid to throw or run with the ball depending on the situation, which makes him a huge pain to deal with for defenses.  There is no question he can run the zone read type plays as he does it now at Wyoming and he runs them effectively.

At times, Smith will trust his legs a little too much and will take sacks as a result instead of throwing the ball away.  It also can result in him taking some chances down the field that he might regret.

While more strength will help him hold up better and break more tackles, Smith definitely has the speed and athleticism to extend plays and pick up yardage as a runner in the form of picking up a first down, near the goal line, or in the middle of the field.

System Fit

The fit that jumps out is the style of offense the Pittsburgh Steelers run.  Ben Roethlisberger is the ultimate example of a sandlot quarterback in the NFL who lives on extending plays and improvising them.  A lot of their offense ends up being Roethlisberger dropping back and waiting for a guy to get open, much like Smith does in Wyoming.

Beyond that, Smith looks like he is malleable to adjust to any offense a team would want to put him in at this point.  He might be better suited to a horizontal passing game that works on timing and accuracy as Smith has shown he can be extremely accurate and throws better zip on those types of routes, but there is nothing to suggest he cannot play in a vertical offense yet.  If his velocity on passes down the field does not improve, it could become a bigger issue when he ultimately does declare for the draft.  A system like the one Green Bay runs with Aaron Rodgers stands out as a system Smith could excel running.

2013 Schedule

Sat, Aug. 31 at Nebraska
Sat, Sept. 7 vs. Idaho
Sat, Sept. 14 vs. Northern Colorado
Sat, Sept. 21 at Air Force
Sat, Sept. 28 at Texas State
Sat, Oct. 12 vs. New Mexico
Sat, Oct. 19 vs. Colorado State
Sat, Oct. 26 at San Jose State
Sat, Nov. 9 vs. Fresno State
Sat, Nov. 16 at Boise State
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Hawaii
Sat, Nov. 30 at Utah State

Notable Games

The first game of the year has Wyoming going on the road and trying to take down Nebraska in Lincoln.  The Huskers will have more physical talent but may have trouble dealing with Wyoming’s offense.  It will be a Big Ten Network game, so it is a prime time opportunity for Brett Smith to play well with a big audience.  The last five week of the year will be a brutal stretch.  They start out going out to play San Jose State on the road against David Fales and their talented offense.  They come back to host David Carr and Fresno State’s potent attack.  After that, they go play Boise State on the road, before getting a slight break against Hawaii at home.  Then they finish up their regular season schedule by going on the road against Utah State.  In all, Smith plays the top two from the Mountain West and the WAC from the previous year during the last five weeks of the year and it stands to reason that the Cowboys are going to need a ton of points if they want to win those games.

NFL Comparison

There is a great deal of time for Smith to figure out what type of NFL quarterback he might be, but right now, he is similar to Jake Plummer.  Plummer was an extremely exciting player at Arizona State that could make some heroic plays and lead his team to victory, but he could also make decisions that would really hurt his team.  This followed him into the NFL and Plummer showed flashes of being able to be a great quarterback in stints in Tampa and Denver, but inconsistency and decision making ultimately had him fall short in the end.  Smith has the same type of heroic ability, but he has also made some of those bad decisions that hurt his team.

Draft Projection

Based on what he has done to this point, Smith is a third day prospect, but that is based on two years of playing the position.  Smith is an extremely talented prospect with a ton of potential that has plenty of time to continue forming the player he is going to be when he does make his move to the NFL.  Increasing his overall strength at the position, becoming more consistent with decision making and getting more zip consistently on his throws will go a long way in helping him impress evaluators in the NFL Draft process, but it cannot be emphasized enough that he is only going to be a true junior, so he could and hopefully will have another 25 games of experience before making the leap to the NFL and his stock could be significantly higher as a result.

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