WVU’s Smith highlights quarterback class of 2013

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the seventh part of a series previewing the NFL draft by position.

There should be no way that the Browns would use the sixth overall pick in the NFL draft on a quarterback.

We’re assuming, of course, that Brandon Weeden, the 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft, is the long-term answer. Assumptions are never made in Cleveland, where playoff appearances come with the frequency of some comets.

Weeden and former Browns coach Pat Shurmur were seldom on the same page last season. The best thing that could have happened to Weeden’s career was Shurmur’s departure after a 5-11 season.

Weeden will be given the opportunity to remain the starter next season, but there are no guarantees beyond the first game. Last season he completed just 57.4 percent of his passes for 3,385 yards, 14 touchdowns and 17 interceptions.

There’s some conjecture that the Browns would be wise to take a chance on West Virginia’s Geno Smith. This is the era of the mobile quarterback who can run an option attack, and Smith fits the mold.

Smith (6-foot-3, 218 pounds) entered last season as a Heisman Trophy hopeful, but he ended it possibly slipping out of the top 10 of the draft. A great start quickly ended with a poor showing in a loss to Kansas State. He finished the season completing 71.2 percent of his throws for 4,205 yards, 42 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Smith has a NFL caliber arm and can throw with decent accuracy. He’s not an outstanding field general and is sacked too many times.

“I have a zeal and a passion for the game, and I’m going to work extremely hard to hone in on my skills and be the best I can be from day one,” Smith said. “I have a number of things I need to improve on. I work extremely hard to better myself as a whole and every single aspect of my game is improving day by day.”

Matt Barkley of USC decided to remain in college for his senior year after the 2011 season, a decision that might have cost him being the first overall pick last year. After posting huge numbers in 2011, Barkley (6-3, 227) completed 63.6 percent of his passes for 3,273 yards, 36 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 2012.

The high interception total was eight more than what he threw in 2011. Late in the season he sprained his right shoulder and missed the final two games.

Barkley now must prove doubters wrong and show he can be a quality NFL quarterback.

“Every year is not going to be the same,” Barkley said. “You can’t get better (statistically) every single year. It’s physically impossible to throw for more yards and more yards and more yards every year. There’s going to be some years when it just doesn’t click and things don’t go as planned. This was just one of those years.”

Barkley has decent arm strength and the size needed to handle the demands of the position. His accuracy on short- and mid-range passes is good, but he won’t thread a needle on deep drag routes.

Ryan Nassib of Syracuse completed 62.4 percent of his passes last season for 3,749 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Nassib (6-2, 227) is a physically strong and mentally tough athlete that plays above his talent. He has decent arm strength and above-average accuracy but doesn’t move well.

Scouts are most impressed by Nassib’s winning mentality.

“Being able to start for three years and playing for four, I’ve experienced a lot of things,” Nassib said. “I’ve been in multiple systems. I’ve learned a lot of football. Football is my passion. I enjoy learning it. It’s my favorite subject in school. It’s just something that stuck with me.”