INDIANAPOLIS – West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith is predicted by many to be the first quarterback taken in the draft in April, and could be the No. 1 overall pick by the Chiefs. No matter where he’s selected, he knows he has a lot to live up to after the performance of rookies Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson in 2012.
“Those guys changed expectations for many quarterbacks, let alone rookies,” Smith said Friday at the scouting combine. “Those guys stepped right in and were leaders most of all from Day 1.
“And that’s the one thing I took from it. No matter what age difference, where you come from or what pick you are when you’re taken for that role as a quarterback in the NFL, you have to lead by example. That’s the thing all those guys did. They set the bar very high. I want to be one of those guys that step in and do the same thing.”
Smith was mostly a pocket passer for the Mountaineers but said he has the ability to run some of the read option that became popular in the NFL last year with Griffin, Wilson and San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick.
“I think I have the skill set that fits any offense,” Smith said. “I can play within the pocket but I’m athletic enough to run that style of offense.”
The Browns are in the market for a quarterback to replace or compete with Brandon Weeden and Smith is an option at No. 6. But they may choose to fill a different need and try to address the quarterback later. The quarterback class is considered much weaker than last year’s, and there might not be any chosen in the first half of the first round.
Smith said whatever team takes him will be getting a winner.
“I’m dedicated to the game, I have a zeal and a passion for the game,” he said. “And I’m going to work extremely hard to hone in on my skills and be the best I can be from Day one.
“I don’t feel any pressure. I’m totally confident in my abilities. I’m not cocky or trying to say I’m this all-world player right now because I have many areas where I need to grow. But I do feel like I have a great, tremendous skill set and that I have an opportunity to showcase that.”
USC’s Matt Barkley is also in the discussion to be the first quarterback selected, despite questions about his arm strength. He insisted it’s good enough to succeed in the NFL.
“Look at the tape,” he said. “You can watch the tape where I’ve made throws in tight windows. I can make every NFL throw that you need. So I would disagree.”
Barkley won’t throw Sunday during combine workouts as he continues to recover from a right shoulder separation. He said his rehab is on track and expects to be ready for his pro day.
Barkley was projected as a top-10 pick in 2012 but elected to return for his senior season. He and the Trojans struggled and he was hurt. His draft status this year is less certain.
“I believe I am (the best QB in the class),” Barkley said. “I don’t think you can go into the draft not thinking you are. I definitely believe I am, yes, sir.”
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. suggested Barkley would’ve been drafted by the Browns last year with the fourth pick. Barkley didn’t want to go there.
“No regrets that I came back last year,” he said. “I haven’t looked back once. I wouldn’t change my USC career for anything.”
Alabama guard Chance Warmack wasn’t surprised former teammate Trent Richardson played through broken ribs as a rookie running back with the Browns.
“Not at all,” he said. “He’s durable, man. Everybody knows that.”
What was it like to block for Richardson?
“Not very hard, considering he’s a very explosive back himself,” Warmack said. “He’s been exceptional since his freshman year at Alabama and he just continues to get better. He’ll be in the Hall of Fame one day.”
Warmack compared Richardson to former Crimson Tide teammate Eddie Lacy, who’s in this year’s draft.
“Trent, he was already fast, physical, explosive, he was a raw talent. He already had it as a freshman,” Warmack said. “Eddie, it took him a little longer to catch on, but Eddie worked hard. I tell everyone Eddie’s my favorite running back because he worked so hard to get to where he’s at right now, he’s only going to get better.
“In terms of style, Trent will run through a guy, and Eddie will spin around a guy. So that’s the difference.”
Warmack, considered a top-10 pick, which is high for a guard, said he met informally with the Browns.
GOING THE RIGHT WAY
Marvin Lewis, who has seen the Browns twice a year during his 10 years as Bengals coach, thought they were on the upswing under the ousted regime of president Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur.
“They are a much better football team than what their record showed,” Lewis said. “It was a team that was improving. In my mind they were going in the right direction.”
CEO Joe Banner, vice president of player personnel Michael Lombardi and coach Rob Chudzinski have taken over in Cleveland.
“They are inheriting a much better football team,” Lewis said. “They’ve done a nice job over the last couple of years of the addition of guys through the draft and watching them grow.
“Rob has been a productive guy as a coordinator. His coordinators (Norv Turner and Ray Horton) are experienced. Mike Lombardi has had great experience in the NFL, Joe Banner. They have put together a group of people that have been successful and you come together and bring some ideas together.”
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh recovered enough from the Super Bowl loss to call his brother and tell a few jokes at the combine.
Jim said he called John a few days after John’s Ravens held off the 49ers.
“Talked a little about the game and some other things,” Jim said. “Don’t think it affects (our relationship), other than stronger. We have a strong relationship, and it always seems to get stronger.”
Harbaugh said the 49ers are unlikely to release backup quarterback Alex Smith. They are trying to trade him but could keep him if they don’t find a partner.
“Alex is really playing the best football of his career the last two years,” he said. “And we think we have the best quarterback situation in the National Football League.
“Again, that’ll be a process that plays out -- Alex Smith continuing to be a 49er or if a trade occurs in the next weeks or months. Those are the two possibilities -- most-likely possibilities.”
Harbaugh also said it’s important for a draft prospect to be forthright in the interview process.
“Somebody that’s not truthful, that’s big, to me,” he said. “I’m a big fan of the Judge Judy show. And when you lie in Judge Judy’s courtroom, it’s over. Your credibility is completely lost. You have no chance of winning that case. So I learned that from her.”
Kent State offensive lineman Brian Winters expects to make the move from tackle to guard in the NFL and is projected as a second- or third-round pick by Pro Football Weekly. He met informally with Cleveland co-offensive line coach Mike Sullivan on Friday afternoon and had a formal interview with the Browns set for Friday night.
The Hudson native would love a chance to play for the Browns, who could use depth at guard.
“It’s definitely a great feeling,” he said of the meetings. “Growing up, I’ve always been a Browns fan. My dad’s a Browns fan. My stepmom is a big Steelers fan. My real mother is a really big Browns fan also.
“So we have a little rivalry going in the household. It’s a cool experience.”
Ohio State fullback Zach Boren said he’s heard the Browns are interested in meeting with him. Chudzinski likes to use a traditional fullback as a lead blocker.
Boren converted to linebacker during the season, but was invited to the combine as a fullback.
** Barkley has known Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o since high school. Te’o will meet the media today and be asked about the fake girlfriend scandal.
“We’re good buddies,” Barkley said. “He’s handled this whole situation, I think, better than anyone could’ve. I love him, and he’ll have a great career.”
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