Smoker back on track

Mel Kiper Jr. takes draft-related questions on Jeff Smoker, Philip Rivers, Bradlee Van Pelt and more.

Originally Published: October 10, 2003
By Mel Kiper Jr. | Special to ESPN Insider
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Q: After watching Michigan State QB Jeff Smoker play extremely well the past few weeks, do you think he will be a high draft pick or will his off-the-field problems scare pro teams away? I think that he has all the tools to be a good QB in the NFL.
Andy, Detroit
KIPER -- It looks like Smoker has gotten back on track, and first-year Spartans coach John L. Smith has handled this situation perfectly. He gave Smoker a chance to put his his life back together after the substance-abuse problems that precipitated his suspension last year. After Smoker's suspension, the Spartans -- who started 2-0 and were ranked 15th -- went 2-8 (finishing the season at 4-8).

Smith made Smoker work hard to regain his starting job, and Smoker has benefited as a person and a football player. The 6-3, 224-pound QB has emerged as a legitimate Heisman candidate and NFL prospect. Smoker could be an intriguing second-day draft choice (in rounds 4-7).

Jeff Smoker
It appears that Jeff Smoker has put his problems behind him.
Smoker had a great game vs. Iowa (the Hawkeyes' only loss). He's completed 64.8 percent of his passes for 1,500-plus yards, 10 TDs and five interceptions. And he's done this without gifted WR Charles Rogers, who declared for last April's draft as a junior and was selected No. 2 overall by the Detroit Lions. Smoker has been assisted this year by all-purpose sophomore WR Agim Shabaj (team-high 31 catches) and RB Jaren Hayes, one of the nation's top sophomore backs and the team's second-leading receiver (26 catches). Smoker has been on target and he's spread the wealth to 12 different receivers overall.

Mel Kiper Jr.

Football analyst