Early success of Geno Smith is best NFL storyline so far


Okay, so it’s an odd season. I’d argue most seasons have a chunk of bizarre after seven weeks. The Cards were 7-0 on this date a year ago. Kansas City scored three points in Week Seven last year. Things happen.

This year, the weirdness includes Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson all having losing records. The defending Super Bowl champs, the Rams, are 3-3, and probably are lucky to be 3-3. The Jets and Giants have firm grips on playoff spots.

But the story of the first two months of this season is the comeback story of all comeback stories. Geno Smith is good. He’s really good. He’s the most accurate quarterback in football, he’s the third-highest-rated quarterback in football, he’s in the top five in MVP consideration right now, and he’s got the Seattle Seahawks alone in first place in the NFC West.

He’s also totally unsurprised.

“After not playing much for eight years,” I asked Smith Sunday evening, “what’s one or two things that have surprised you so far this year?”

“Nothing,” Smith told me evenly after Seattle’s 37-23 win at the Chargers Sunday. “Nothing has surprised me. In fact, I know I can play a lot better.”

On a day when Taylor Heinicke beat Aaron Rodgers, P.J. Walker beat Tom Brady, Christian McCaffrey wore a new number for a new team, and Joe Burrow and Patrick Mahomes chased perfection, Smith had a pretty modest day: 20 of 27, 210 yards, two TDs. He wasn’t even his team’s biggest star. Kenneth Walker, the rookie running back, was unstoppable.

When you haven’t played much for the last eight years, you could give a flip about things like credit and headlines. You exult in the everyday joy of playing football when you thought there was a pretty good chance you’d never have the chance to be handed the reins of a team again. Geno Smith was invisible for seven years. And now we see you, Geno. Everyone sees you.

Smith won over Pete Carroll last year by his confidence when playing three games for the injured Russell Wilson. But no one in the organization thought when they traded Wilson that Smith would be a 30-percent upgrade over what Wilson would become in Denver.

His two touchdown throws to Marquise Goodwin against the Chargers were perfect examples of what Smith has become. On the first one, toward the right side of the end zone five yards in, Smith threw about 38 yards in the air to a spot where only Goodwin could make the catch. On the second, slightly deeper on the left side, Smith threw a high ball again that only Goodwin could catch, and he made it look easy over J.C. Jackson with his great leaping ability.

Not the greatest throws of the NFL weekend. But exactly where they should be, timed perfectly. Surprised Smith is completing 73.5 percent? You wouldn’t be if you watched those throws.

That’s where I’ll start our conversation — with Smith’s accuracy. The last time he was a regular starter, with the Jets in 2013 and ’14, he completed 57.5 percent. And yet, the 16-percent increase barely impresses him. I’m going to present his words as a stream of consciousness, because he spoke in long paragraphs and made quite a bit of sense, so I’ll let him explain this unexpected season.

”In my rookie year playing with the Jets, we went 8-8 and missed the playoffs by one game. The reality is, it’s hard to win the NFL with a young quarterback. That’s just the reality of the NFL. So much goes on that you have to know in order to be successful. Quarterbacking is a skill more than just a talent. I’m just happy I’ve just continued to develop.

“I know I might’ve struggled out the gate in pro football. That’s just the reality of the NFL. Sometimes they give up on you fast. The numbers at the beginning of my career are kind of skewed if you ask me. If you look at Peyton Manning, if you just judge his rookie season, you’d never think Peyton Manning would’ve become what he became. Steve Young too. Troy Aikman. The list goes on and on and on. Just gotta have patience with young quarterbacks. You gotta find the right young quarterbacks with the right mentality who are gonna continue to work and have a great attitude about the game and the struggle.

“Over the years, not playing was heartbreaking. I’m so competitive and I love playing so much that I really wanted to be out there every single game. But what’s that cliche? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I know I’m better for all those years. Coming into this year, I wasn’t sure what would happen [after the trade of Wilson to Denver]. When Pete Carroll hit me up and was like, ‘Hey I’m giving you opportunity to compete for the job,’ I mean, that’s all you have to say to me. That was awesome. He’s shown faith in me. That’s just what I need.

“You ask me what am I focused on during the week. Playing hard, doing what I’m coached to do. It’s that simple. I don’t think about failure. My thought process is I need to run on the field with my linemen and play just as hard as they’re playing and do exactly what I’m coached to do and then let my talent take over after that. It’s that simple in my mind.

“Our success so far starts with the trust and belief of our head coach. Not many coaches would start two rookies on the offensive line, a rookie running back, two rookie cornerbacks. Not many coaches would be comfortable starting a quarterback who hasn’t played in many years. But Pete does it because he knows what he’s looking at. He’s played young guys before, lots of times. He’s taken chances on players, lots of time. He knows how to coach ball. You can see that this year.

“I think we’re built to last for this season and many seasons. But ultimately, it comes down to what we do, not what we say. It’s about the work we put in. it’s about the consistency. And our preparation and consistency and our togetherness. That’s all that matters. As long as we continue to build together, the sky’s the limit. It takes work. It takes hard work. We gotta embrace that part of it.”

That is one mature dude. No bitterness about being kicked to the curb for so long. Just gratitude for his place in the game, right here, right now.

Read more in Peter King’s full Football Morning in America column

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings: Zay Flowers, Jaxon Smith-Njigba top list


The 2023 NFL Draft is just around the corner, and across all positions, fans are eagerly tracking the names to know to see what prospects can bolster their team in the upcoming season. A top-quality pass-catcher is on the wish list for more than a few franchises, and ahead of the draft on April 27th, Chris Simms broke down his picks for the top five wide receivers in this year’s draft class, starting with Boston College’s Zay Flowers, who’s been rumored to be of interest for both the Saints and the Patriots. Stay tuned to the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast for the next month as Simms breaks down his rankings for every position group, and read on for the rest of his wide receiver rankings.

RELATED: Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings: C.J. Stroud leads the way, and a tie at No. 5

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Wide Receiver Rankings

Tier One

1. Zay Flowers, Boston College

2. Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Tier Two

3. Quentin Johnston, TCU

4. Michael Wilson, Stanford

Tier Three

5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

Chris Simms Top 5 2023 NFL Draft Wide Receivers

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Simms Breaks Down 2023 Draft WR Rankings

The following are highlights from Simms’ WR draft rankings. For Simms’ in-depth analysis, read below for a breakdown on each prospect and be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

No. 1 Zay Flowers (Boston College)

What Simms Said: “The position versatility – he can play inside or outside. Some of the best releases in the draft are from Zay Flowers. He is pedal to the metal every play, every cut, everything he does. The build, the style of running…I think he looks like Antonio Brown. He is an unbelievable route runner, along with the explosive athlete. You’re really getting a three-in-one here with speed burner on the outside, speed burner on the inside, and slot receiver inside. I wrote Jaylen Waddle, that’s a guy he reminds me of…(He) plays bigger than his measurables say. To me, he’s a top-20 pick.”

No. 2 Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

What Simms Said: “The speed is not blazing…but what’s off the charts good is the guy’s quickness and route running. His ability to come off the ball and be going 70% and almost jump in the air at the six-yard mark…it’s like Allen Iverson with an unbelievable crossover dribble. He’s got this unbelievable ability to change direction and then accelerate in a hurry. His ability after the catch…the first guy never tackles him…He reminds me of Jarvis Landry, to a greater version. This guy is about as high level of a route runner as you’re going to see in college.”

No. 3 Quentin Johnson, TCU

What Simms Said: “Tee Higgins-ish with more explosive ability than Higgins had coming out. He can catch the six-yard shallow cross and run 80 yards for a touchdown. His ability to jump – it’s a 40.5 inch vertical – plus he’s 6’3” and his arms look like they’re ridiculously long. He’s Drake London-ish from last year, except he doesn’t have the route running but has more of the straight speed…He’s one of the most physically impressive wide receivers in recent memory. You don’t see a lot of the route variety…but he shows the ability to change direction with the ball in his hands. He has better feet, quickness, and suddenness than most people with his size.”

No. 4 Michael Wilson, Stanford

What Simms Said: “This is where we’re going to go a little unconventional…But if you watch the film, you go, ‘There’s no doubt this is one of the best three or four receivers in this draft.’ There’s nothing he doesn’t do that’s top-notch…He ran a 4.58 at the Combine in the 40, (but) he plays way faster than that…The physical specimen is real, let alone the refined things you like to see in a receiver are real too. He can be another guy who could be inside or outside because he’s got the pure size and strength and speed to beat you outside but has the route running and it looks like the smarts to be that slot guy that catches your eye as well.”

No. 5 Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee 

What Simms Said: “If you like speed, then you like Jaylin Hyatt…This is a track start, straight-liner, DeSean Jackson-, Will Fuller-ish type of receiver. So, there’s going to be things about him that you love, there’s going to be some things about him that I’m not crazy about. He’s not a great route runner…I truly question whether he can do it, unlike the other guys where I try to piece things together. You can watch a bunch of catches and he never makes anybody miss, that’s not his game…If there’s a seam straight away, watch out…If he gets a free release or gets off the line of scrimmage the right way and you have a safety that doesn’t get back instantly, see ya. It’s going to be a 60-yard post for a touchdown. That’s where he’s special.”

For more preview content of the 2023 NFL Draft, stay tuned to Chris Simms UnbuttonedProFootballTalk and NBC Sports EDGE for all the latest updates, player analysis and mock drafts.

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings: The top QBs, WRs, RBs, and more ahead of draft weekend


The 2023 NFL Draft takes place on Thursday, April 27 through Saturday, April 29 in Kansas City, Missouri. Click here for the full first-round draft order to find out when your team is picking.

Ahead of this year’s draft, Chris Simms has already started analyzing the top prospects by position on the Chris Simms Unbuttoned podcast. So far, Simms has revealed his highly anticipated list of the top 5 quarterback prospects and wide receivers. See below to find out who made the top 5 names for each position and be sure to check back for updates!

Be sure to subscribe to Chris Simms Unbuttoned for more on the 2023 NFL Draft as well as an unfiltered look at the NFL, featuring player access, unabashed opinion, X&O film breakdown, and stories from a life in and around football.

RELATED: When is the 2023 NFL Draft? Date, start time, location, Round 1 order

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft Position Rankings:

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft QB Rankings:

  1. C.J. Stroud, Ohio State
  2. Bryce Young, Alabama
  3. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
  4. Anthony Richardson, Florida
  5. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA and Will Levis, Kentucky

Chris Simms’ 2023 NFL Draft WR Rankings:

  1. Zay Flowers, Boston College
  2. Jaxon Smith-Njibga, Ohio State
  3. Quentin Jonston, TCU
  4. Michael Wilson, Stanford
  5. Jalin Hyatt, Tennessee

How can I watch the 2023 NFL Draft live?

ESPN, ABC, and NFL Network will air all seven rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft.

What time does the NFL Draft start?

The first round of the 2023 NFL Draft will get underway on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET. Rounds two and three will commence Friday at 7 p.m. ET, with Saturday’s final rounds at 12 p.m.

Follow along with ProFootballTalk for the latest news, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2023 NFL Season and be sure to subscribe to NFLonNBC on YouTube!