Brett Smith is one of the least talked about quarterbacks in the FBS, because he has played at Wyoming. After playing three years, starting as a true freshman under Dave Christensen, the school fired Christensen, who ran a wide open, four and five wide receiver offense with Smith as the focal point. They replaced him with Craig Bohl, who wants to institute an offense with tight ends and fullbacks like he has run at North Dakota State. The Cowboys did not have any on the current roster and were probably going to have to fill them through the JUCO route, so Smith went ahead and opted to declare for the NFL Draft.
When he played for the Cowboys, he was able to push some big name teams to the limit before ultimately falling short with issues on the defensive side of the ball. Smith was the offense, throwing the ball, running the ball, and having a staff move him around and be creative with everything he could do.
Projecting to the NFL, Smith is not a finished product but he has made substantial growth in his time in Laramie. Smith has the physical tools from the arm, build, and athleticism. He has shown the ability to throw accurately in rough weather as Wyoming plays their home games in one of the most difficult climates in the country at 7,220 feet of altitude (highest in Division-I) with the ability to get extremely cold and windy. Smith has gotten much better when it comes to making extremely risky and dangerous throws, but there is going to be an adjustment period as he goes from such a wide open offense to a more conventional one used in the NFL. The potential is sky high for Smith and if put in the right situation with a good coaching staff, he could be an extremely talented passer. Smith warrants a top 50 pick that probably needs to sit for a year, but he could easily get pushed up into the first round if teams get desperate and do not want to risk missing on their guy.
Vitals & Build
Smith is listed at 6’3” 206lbs who has gotten stronger but still looks lean and needs to continue adding to his frame. He 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. Smith has taken a number of hits and shown toughness, but that style of play is always a little concerning, 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.
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.
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. The fact he has so many different throws at his disposal is great, but needs to add to the number of frozen ropes and work to eliminate the rainbows.
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.
The ball comes out extremely quickly and defenders have a difficult time getting a job on the football. When Smith makes mistakes, they tend to be on bad decisions as opposed to
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. When he has the room in the pocket, he tends to throw with good footwork and balance going forward.
Smith can get himself in trouble when he faces pressure and is trying to avoid getting sacked, will throw off of his back foot at times, duck out from pressure and not step into a throw where he would take a hit, or not really using any footwork at all.
And while he can appear chaotic in how he does it, Smith generally throws on the run with good balance enabling him to maintain his accuracy. Smith does a good job of keeping his shoulders and upper body balanced when he throws on the run, so the results are predictable. 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.
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.
Last year, Smith had a bad habit of making some terrible throws into coverage that would simply look ugly. These decisions are few fewer this season and while there are examples, he is far smarter when it comes to throwing the ball away and living to play another down; something he refused to do last season. This is something that looked like it could really hold Smith back and this is a huge area of growth for him. Last year, there was no throw it seemed he did not think he could make and while there are times where that confidence is there, he tends to save those throws until he has to take those chances.
Smith still bets on his guys to make plays and put them in better situations where they can make it work. Whether it was last year or this year, 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.
Smith is a tremendous athlete on the move. 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. Smith has shown he can move and creative play calling has had him use rollouts that have him move to a spot with a throw or set of throws in mind.
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 chances and taking some hits he probably regrets. In all, he leaves Laramie having carried the ball 377 times in three seasons, averaging just under eleven carries per game, which is not a small number.
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.
Hopefully in the NFL, Smith will be a little more cautious with how he runs, picking his spots when to really take on hits. He can be an athlete and extend plays but someone who can pick up first downs or punish defenses not accounting him with touchdowns. Smith is athletic enough where teams have to account for his mobility.
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.
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. Seemingly, Smith has made efforts to clean up some of those issues with decision making and he could become what many thought Plummer capable, but Smith cannot afford to fall back into those hero ball type habits.
Brett Smith is an incredibly talented quarterback prospect, but not a finished product yet. It would have been ideal had he been able to stay and play his senior year in college, but in certain respects, there would still be questions left unanswered. Still, he comes into the NFL as an impressive project that might need a season or maybe a couple to get where needs to be as a quarterback. In the right situation with a consistent coaching staff, Smith’s upside is fantastic especially considering the growth he has made in his career in tiny Laramie. Smith warrants a top 50 pick, but could end up going in the first round due to the amount of needs NFL teams have.
Some of the film used in this scouting breakdown was provided by the good folks at draftbreakdown.com