Commentary

Rusty Smith and the no-name rookies

Who is Rusty Smith? A look at his pro prospects and other no-name rookies

Originally Published: November 26, 2010
By Mel Kiper Jr. | ESPN Insider
Every Friday, Mel Kiper writes about the NFL through the prism of the NFL draft.

"Rusty Smith?!"

That's a phrase -- in its entirety -- that I heard a lot this week. It wasn't just a baffled response to seeing the updated depth chart for a team that started the season with Vince Young and Kerry Collins at its disposal. That's because even experts were saying he could be a fantasy option given that the Titans are about to play Houston. But who is this guy? Where does he come from? Smith is one of those rare players who, when he steps onto an NFL field, not only will there be questions about him, but even serious fans might have never seen the guy play.

Getty ImagesRusty Smith has a big arm, but upside is a question.

And Smith isn't alone. A number of relative no-names have been thrust into big roles at points in this season. But where were they at the draft, and are they more than mere Band-Aids? Let's start with Smith:

Although Rusty Smith is a no-name to many, even avid followers of the NFL draft, he actually jumped onto the radar of personnel folks in 2007 when he really took off as a sophomore at Florida Atlantic. That year, he started to show off a big arm and put up some solid numbers. With 32 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, he also piled up huge passing totals. The problem was he essentially leveled off. As a junior, his statistics fell, but the bigger concern was that his accuracy didn't really pick up. Then, as a senior, his accuracy fell off again, and he dealt with injuries. I had him as a guy who could go in the middle rounds but as more of a developmental prospect because of questions about not only his development but also his funky delivery.

Does Smith have a chance to make it as a starter in this league? Although I question his ceiling -- accuracy is one of those traits that historically are far more innate and hard to teach -- you can't put it past him. He comes from an NFL-style offense, and he played under Howard Schnellenberger, who has a great eye for NFL-caliber quarterbacks and has developed his share at the position. And despite the delivery questions, Smith has an NFL-caliber arm. He also has the reps: In four years at FAU, he started 45 games and threw nearly 1,400 passes, so he's seen a lot.

On the "Where did this guy come from?" scale, Smith barely even qualifies as a long shot.

Here are some others:

Javarris James, RB, Indianapolis

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst