Smith leads four Mountaineers participating in NFL Scouting Combine
Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 23:02
Last year at the 2012 NFL Combine, former West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin catapulted his NFL draft stock and became the 15th overall selection. Experts said prior to that Combine performance, Irvin was probably no higher than a second-round pick.
This year in Indianapolis, four more Mountaineers will take their crack at the NFL Scouting Combine while vying for positions in April’s draft.
Quarterback Geno Smith, wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey and center Joe Madsen all will participate in drills this weekend. Madsen will work out Saturday, while Smith, Austin and Bailey work out Sunday.
Smith has plenty to gain this weekend and can solidify himself as the top quarterback in the draft ahead of Southern California’s Matt Barkley and North Carolina State’s Mike Glennon. Smith put up dazzling numbers, throwing for more than 4,000 yards during both his junior and senior campaigns at West Virginia, but NFL experts, scouts and general managers have their doubts about Smith’s accuracy and ability to make quicker decisions.
"With Geno Smith, I see flashes of everything you want with a top 10 quarterback, but I also see a lot more inconsistency than I see those flashes," said NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock. "He – to me – is a real risk/reward scenario."
Smith is listed as the top quarterback of the 2013 class on most draft boards, but since he is throwing and completing drills at the Combine, he will be under a microscope this weekend.
Scouts will be nitpicking Smith to see if his three- , five- and seven-step drops are perfect or near perfect as well as his ability to hit basic NFL routes such as the slant, post, out and go with ease.
Mayock projects Smith being drafted between picks No. 20-32, but with a strong performance, Smith could rise due to his throwing ability, athleticism and proven accuracy.
Former WVU wide receiver Tavon Austin will have NFL scouts eyes glued on him all weekend. Each time the all-purpose star participates in a drill, he will have the ability to break a Combine record. Not only should Austin be able to run a below 4.4-second forty yard dash, according to multiple NFL experts, he has a shot to break the three-cone record – a drill that will show scouts how quickly Austin is changing direction.
"Tavon Austin is a playmaker. People want to make the comparison to Percy Harvin, (but) he’s 20 pounds lighter than Percy Harvin," Mayock said. "To me, he’s more like a Wes Welker and tremendous return guy."
Right now, the Baltimore, Md., native is a projected late first-round pick.
Austin’s partner in crime at West Virginia, Stedman Bailey, led the NCAA with 25 receiving touchdowns and was a 2012 Biletnikoff Award finalist. But he is being largely overlooked by NFL experts and currently a projected third round pick.
By running a sub-4.5 forty-yard dash would prove to NFL scouts that he has the straight-line speed to do what he did so well in college, executing the go route.
Typically one difference between college and the NFL is that wide receivers are larger on the outside and at 5-foot-10, Bailey has to prove he has the speed to compensate for the lack of height. If he can do so, Bailey’s pass-catching ability in conjunction with speed should move him up into at least the middle of the second round.
Last for center is Joe Madsen, who is considered a fringe, six- to seven-round prospect at this point. At West Virginia Madsen started 50 career games anchoring the WVU offensive line that thrived protecting Geno Smith during 2012. Madsen, who played in the Senior Bowl, helped himself by proving he can play one-on-one against bigger defensive tackles.
But to up his stock even more, Madsen must have a good bench press to prove his strength. Though Madsen will also have to do a kick slide drill to show he can move with a defender, it won’t be as important as him snapping the ball and scouts measuring how quick his first two steps are out of his stance.
If Madsen can do those two well, he can help himself move into the second tier of centers behind Barrett Jones of Alabama and Khaled Holmes of Southern California.