Geno Smith received a tweet from Aaron Rodgers but no handshake from Roger Goodell.
West Virginia’s career passing leader, projected as high as the No. 6 overall pick in some mock drafts, went undrafted in Thursday night’s first round. As the picks scrolled by, Green Bay’s all-pro quarterback — himself the casualty of an excruciating draft wait in 2005 — empathized with Smith and shared some Twitter encouragement:
Smith likely will be selected soon after the draft reconvenes tonight for the second and third rounds. He could land with Jacksonville at No. 33 or Philadelphia at No. 35.
According to OverTheCap.com, the estimated rookie contract difference between picks No. 6 ($16.3 million) and No. 35 ($5.3 million) is steep.
The Browns, Eagles, Bills and Jets all were speculated to be interested in Smith, who threw for 42 touchdowns and only six interceptions during his senior season.
Despite a now-infamous flogging by Pro Football Weekly in a March scouting report, Smith was widely considered the best quarterback in an average class that included Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib, USC’s Matt Barkley, Florida State’s EJ Manuel, Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson and N.C. State’s Mike Glennon.
Some 90 minutes into the draft, the storyline of Smith’s slide heightened and cameras began focusing on the WVU quarterback — looking pensive as he sat at the green-room table. Network analysts wondered what teams drafting in the second half of the first round would even consider a quarterback.
“Once you get past the Jets (at No. 13), you start running out of places for Geno to land,” said the NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah.
The Jets subsequently selected Missouri defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
Later there was speculation Buffalo — which traded down from No. 8 to No. 16 — might select Smith. But the Bills delivered one of the night’s biggest stunners by making FSU’s Manuel the first quarterback selected. That was the longest wait for the first quarterback pick since 2000.
With two picks remaining in the first round, the NFL Network reported Smith had exited Radio City Music Hall. ESPN’s Suzy Kolber reported minutes later that Smith said he wouldn’t return Friday.
Smith still could own the distinction of highest-drafted West Virginia quarterback. That mark currently is shared by Pat White (2009) and Oliver Luck (1982), both of whom 44th overall pick.
ESPN’s Bill Polian, the former Colts and Bills executive, called Manuel “a developmental player” who can’t be expected to contribute immediately.
Polian’s ESPN studio partner Todd McShay was less gracious: “He’s all potential. He is a prospect, someone you develop four or five years down the road. I look at this pick as a waste. EJ Manuel is not a first-round talent at quarterback. He’s got the size, the arm strength and the mobility … but he has slow eyes on the field and his accuracy is below-average to marginal.”
West Virginia’s history of first-round NFL picks:
2013: Tavon Austin, WR, pick No. 8 (Rams)
2012: Bruce Irvin, DE, pick No. 15 (Seahawks)
2005: Adam Jones, CB, pick No. 6 (Titans)
2000: Anthony Becht, TE, pick No. 27 (Jets)
1990: Renaldo Turnbull, DE, pick No. 14 (Saints)
1986: Brian Jozwiak, OT, pick No. 7 (Chiefs)
1966: Dick Leftridge, RB, pick No. 7 (Steelers)
1958: Chuck Howley, OG, pick No. 7 (Bears)
1956: Joe Marconi, FB, pick No. 6 (Rams)
1936: Joe Stydahar, OT, pick No. 6 (Bears)