A group that lacks a consensus №1 but packs plenty of debate, this year’s polarizing crop of QB prospects has everything that teams are looking for — well, outside of a sure thing.
How does one offer an honest evaluation on a tackle prospect if said prospect has never locked horns with a Von Miller or a Joey Bosa before?
And how can one conclude with conviction that a wideout is good at beating the press if he’s never slithered through the grips of a Richard Sherman or Aqib Talib caliber of player as a prospect at the college ranks?
Evaluating college prospects is an endless, daunting task, with a number of variables to consider. Professionals who are paid to evaluate NFL prospects have unlimited resources at their disposal, yet they misjudge and overlook the gems of a draft class far too often — quarterbacks, especially.
Let’s face it, the game has evolved —both at the collegiate level as well as the professional— and continues to do so, with the athletes providing the entertainment at the forefront of that evolution. The NFL rookie of today is better prepared for the league it enters than the generations of players before them. With everything from food science to trainers who help optimize combine and pro day performance, the prospects of today are practically spoiled little brats when compared to prospects from fifteen years ago.
With that being said, scouts have been slow to evolve at that same rate of speed, with the addition of analytics being the lone exception to their process.
The influence of modern statistical data has forced itself into the evaluation process, making an already complex system even more tricky. Data analysts now have a seat at the table in war rooms on draft day, although its fair to question the effectiveness of their findings and whether or not they help influence draft decisions. After all, this was most talked about piece of data concerning Russell Wilson during his evaluation process in 2012 …
A measly two inches (maybe three) is what ultimately prevented decision-makers from considering Wilson in the first or second round of the 2012 NFL draft. Taking it a step further, many evaluators didn’t even consider Wilson to be a starter at the next level, projecting him as a quality backup instead.
Take that for data!
What the analysts failed to calculate was the rare intangibles that Wilson presented; intangibles that cannot be measured but most certainly should be emphasized. You cannot place leadership and desire next to a ball pin for assessment — it doesn’t work that way. You need evaluators in the room who don’t give a damn about what the ruler says. You need evaluators with a trained eye who just know what special is when they see it — evaluators who place limitless value on the qualities that make the great QBs … great.
Believe me, I’m a man of few talents, but I happen to have that trained eye.
Evaluating quarterbacks is my one special gift in life, and I’m not afraid to admit it. I’ve been evaluating quarterbacks since the early 2000s, but I’ve only been publishing my evaluations online since 2014.
Whether it was Derek Carr in 2014 or Carson Wentz in 2016, I take pride in recognizing greatness whenever I see it in a prospect. And I don’t let the Todd McShay’s of the world sway my opinions one way or the other.
This year’s draft class offers the QB-needy teams everything from the prototypes to the underdogs but is missing that singular, “can’t-miss prospect” in the ilk of Andrew Luck. And while Luck has been great when healthy, he certainly hasn’t lived up to the can’t-miss superlative that was unanimously placed on him in 2012 by everyone in the world of scouting.
Though missing a stand-out, the 2018 QB class is deep and diverse and loaded with potential, which bodes well for every team that flopped in the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes. And as we know, there were several.
But rather than sit on their hands, the X amount of teams that whiffed on Cousins were aggressive at the start of free agency, with most of them adding a bridge quarterback to their roster, making the transition easier on whomever they draft and groom to inevitably take over the reigns.
(Hopefully they follow through and stick with their bridges in 2018!)
So, without further delay, these are my findings on the 2018 QB class.
RANKING THE 2018 QB CLASS
///I split these QB prospects into four tiers. Each tier represents it’s own classification, obviously, to make these prospects distinguishable from one another. My player comparisons are based on the college version rather than the pro version of that name. This is important to note. Opportunity is not equal, and some of these QBs will inevitably fail due to the fact///
TIER 4: RISK/reward QBs
A flip of the coin is good odds if you’re banking on the success of your new quarterback. This group, however, is more like dice in a game of craps: the long-term view has guaranteed loss, although you may get lucky in the the short term.
№10: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
6′ 0–5/8″ | 214 lbs. | 9–1/4″ hands
Player Comparison: Johnny Manziel
- Good overall arm talent; spins a tight spiral with good power behind it; accurate at all three levels of the field; accurate on the move; makes great off-platform throws with proper on-the-move mechanics
- Intelligent quarterback; nuanced; plays a next-level game; reads the defense in the pre-snap phase, understands coverages in the post-snap phase; manipulates coverage with his eyes and body alignment; makes protection adjustments, audibles, and hot reads in pre-snap
- Great pocket-mover; consistently creates throwing lanes for himself; good play-extender; keeps plays alive; good stop-and-go’s, pump fakes, spins and jukes when extending; has enough speed, burst and athleticism to pick up chunk-yards with his feet against man coverage looks
- Understands how and when to throw the ball with touch
- Brings an unmatched level of energy and passion with him to the field, and it’s highly contagious … this, along with his bravado and his confidence, is his leadership style; teammates love playing with him
- Intense and (excessively) competitive; plays with an edge; bulletin board material and trash talk fuels his fire, creating an inferno on the field
- Intense and (excessively) competitive; plays with an edge; bulletin board material and trash talk fuels his fire, creating an inferno on the field
- Over-emotional; too intense; the chip on his shoulder is always there — as it has been for many players before him — but is a double-edged sword for Baker, and hurts the team when he cannot harness his emotions
- Too confrontational on the field; instigators can easily agitate him by engaging or initiating in trash talk in-between or at the end of plays
- Immaturity (poor decisions) and emotional outbursts (on the field, constantly) carry a giant cloud of doubt with him to the next level
- Needs to continue developing from a mechanical standpoint; isn’t as crisp and consistent as Drew Brees and Russell Wilson were coming in
- Played in a simplified college offense that operated with concepts not seen in the NFL; was granted easy completions time and time again, which undoubtedly inflated his numbers (completion percentage, mostly)
I usually don’t watch a lot of football on Saturdays, but it’s players like Baker Mayfield that make me want to tune in.
Similiar to Johnny Manziel, Mayfield is a shorter QB who plays an ad-lib, backyard brand of football that excites the crowd like a John Frusciante solo at a Chili Peppers concert. He’s very accurate with the football, and he has the arm strength to make all the throws at the next level, yet he’s not prone to making careless decisions like Manziel was at A&M.
Mayfield’s supreme confidence derives from his days as a two time walk-on at both Texas Tech and Oklahoma, respectively. He’s someone who had to earn everything that he accomplished at the collegiate level. He’s a kid who turns doubters into believers, someone who is used to fighting for respect.
The reasons why I have Mayfield listed in this tier is multiple. First, I have my concerns with his size and his overall maturity level. He’s short, which isn’t exactly a roadblock for him but most certainly presents it’s challenges going forward.Over the last twenty years, the only quarterbacks six foot or under who carved out success in the NFL are Drew Brees and Russell Wilson, both of whom are superstars with special qualities that I just don’t see in Mayfield.
I mean, let’s be truthful about Baker’s background for minute. He was arrested in February 2016 and charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct and fleeing arrest. The video didn’t need to be public for me to pass judgement on Mayfield. But the video is public, and it has certainly changed my view of him, as it should have for everybody — especially for the league.
The entire incident bothers me, but it was Mayfield’s response to the arrest that made it clear to me that he simply does not get it …
I can’t do what a normal college kid does? Really Baker!??
It took Mayfield getting arrested and charged with three separate crimes for him to realize that he’s not just some normal college kid … that’s scary.
And to be clear, normal college kids don’t run from the cops if they’ve been out in public drinking excessively to the point where the police are called.
There’s no need to get long-winded on this topic, so I’ll keep it real simple. Drew Brees and Russell Wilson have never been arrested, although I’m certain that both players drank alcohol before. Supposedly, Wilson didn’t drink until he was at the legal age of 21, because he wanted to be an example.
People make mistakes, sure. Becoming blackout drunk in public, however, is a mistake that no franchise NFL quarterback has ever made in college — not to my knowledge, at least. Becoming drunk and belligerent, having the police called on you, then attempting to flee the scene as an officer is placing you under arrest is behavior that’s mostly associated with NFL failures.
Baker Mayfield’s arrest isn’t the only concerning issue here; his overall conduct and decision-making ability is of equal concern. Mayfield lacks sportsmanship on the field, showing time and time again an absence of maturity needed to be called a professional football player. I see in him a brash individual who conducts himself as if he’s already made it.
They say that past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior — a theory that I buy into. It holds true for those athletes who fall on either side of the ledger. The great NFL QBs have clean backgrounds going all the way to college, while the Ryan Leaf’s and Johnny Manziel’s of the world entered the league with backgrounds filthier than a couch from an adult film.
The red flags are everywhere with Mayfield. From his immaturity to his cockiness, from his inability to control his own emotions (especially his anger) to his Mother being concerned about him staying a week in Los Angeles because of the many distractions surrounding him, the bust factor here is undeniably resting on the surface. I just wish I felt differently about it, because Mayfield sure as hell is an exciting player to watch.
And as strongly as I feel about his character flaws, I have the same doubts regarding his athleticism and style of play as they relate to the NFL. Much of Baker’s game is predicated on extending the play. His athletic skill set was good enough to create success for him at the college level, but he’s no Russell Wilson. He’s not Aaron Rodgers or Alex Smith or Carson Wentz, either.
I remember how excited I was to see if Johnny Manziel’s style of play would succeed in the NFL. Manziel’s first career start came against the Cinncinati Bengals in week 14 of his rookie season. The Browns got crushed at home, and the Bengals defense swallowed Manziel whole like tuna does a herring.
He tried going Johnny Football on them, but failed — miserably.
Whether he rolled right or left, Geno Atkins and company were there waiting in the wings, forcing Manziel into committing multiple errors as if they were Serena versus the field circa 2002–2003.
It takes a good to great athletic skill set to make it in the pros as a quarterback with a scrambling style of play, and it takes humility and maturity and dedication to overcome a lack of height. These are the boxes that Baker Mayfield has yet to place checkmarks in, and I doubt that he even gets it.
One last thing …
The officers that arrested Baker Mayfield originally thought that he was just some regular kid who was drunk off his ass. While gathering information on the scene, they were notified of his identity by Mayfield’s girlfriend.
This was the conversation that followed …
Officer 1: “By the way he’s the quarterback for OU.”
Officer 2: “He is … Is he really?”
Officer 1: “That’s what his girlfriend said.”
Officer 2: “He’s not very fast.”
Well, ain’t that the truth. This was too funny not to share.
№9: Lamar Jackson, Louisville
6′ 2–1/4″ | 216 lbs | 9–1/2″ hands
Player Comparison: Robert Griffin III
- Brings a unique, athletic skillset to the QB position; great speed; elusive; can create huge gains off of a broken play or on a keep
- Has a live arm; makes all of the throws with the flick of his wrist; consistently spins beautiful spirals; short and compact throwing motion
- Great character and charisma; has a charming, playful personality
- Has a slight build but is mostly all muscle; Jackson is only 21 years old, with a body that is still developing and maturing
- Displays great toughness as a runner but takes on too many defenders one-on-one in the open field; invites contact, perhaps recklessly, à la RGIII; needs to learn to slide or go out of bounds and live for another play
- Gets lazy in his drop-back at times, leading to inaccuracies with the ball
I have nothing but respect for Bill Polian, but I believe that his recent comments on Lamar Jackson playing receiver at the next level are baseless. Lamar Jackson is without a doubt a quarterback at the next level.
Everyone has an opinion, though, and obviously my opinion of Jackson differs from Polian’s. When I see Lamar play, I see striking similarities between him and Michael Vick; if you squint your eyes, you can hardly see a difference.
Jackson ran some elements of a pro-style offense under Bobby Petrino, and is already accustomed to huddling and taking snaps from underneath the center, all of which will undoubtably benefit him in the pros.
Where Jackson excelled at in college — moving the pocket and creating big plays through the air with the threat of his feet, open field running on scrambles and read option looks — will surely translate into the pro game.
This speed/athleticism element to his game gives him a unique edge when compared to his fellow QBs from this year’s draft class.
Another element to Jackson that hasn’t been widely discussed is his outstanding intangibles. Lamar Jackson is all about football. He’s married to the game. He doesn’t party. He doesn’t socialize after games. He devotes all of his free time into honing his craft, and his mother makes sure of that.
Jackson’s father died when he was just 8-years old. Lamar’s mother, Felicia Jones, is a no-nonsense woman who has engrained a strong work ethic in her son, pushing him to be the best he could possibly be from a very early age. And her commitment knows no bounds. As a former athlete herself, Felicia would routinely put on the pads and engage Lamar and his younger brother in full contact drills in the backyard of their home. She would also work with Lamar on his drop-back and his throwing mechanics on a daily basis.
To develop his stamina, Felicia and Lamar would run wind sprints on a bridge by their home until he was completely gassed.
I’ve studied Lamar’s personality, at least what he’s shown on camera, by watching various interviews he’s conducted while at Louisville and I’ve come away thoroughly impressed; his Heisman Trophy acceptance speech is both humorous and adorable, as Lamar was shocked that even he won.
There is no doubt that Jackson is still a work in progress. He needs some seasoning. Jackson struggles at times to see the whole field, and he relies too heavily on his raw ability to bail him out.
He can be destructive to his own health when he tucks the ball and becomes a runner, as his penchant for taking second and third level defenders head-on will surely cost him in the pros. What the price of that cost is or may be is anyone’s guess, but history is not on Lamar’s side.
Just take at look at this cut-up: Louisville versus Florida State, 2017 — three straight zone-read plays are called. Lamar reads his keys and decides to keep the ball on all three plays, becoming Tevin Coleman in the process.
How did the zone-read help Carson Wentz last year?
How about RGIII in 2012?
There are some kinks to work out. However, Jackson’s base level of raw athletic ability when combined with his work ethic, his character, his toughness and his pure arm talent, are more than enough to get a handful of GMs excited over his potential and invest in him early on in the draft.
One last thing …
Because he is black and fast and athletic, Lamar Jackson is without a doubt being typecast in his evaluation process. There is no question that Jackson is a quarterback at the pro level. That much I am certain of. Jackson goes through reads, he diagnoses fronts and coverages in the pre-snap phase and adjusts accordingly, and he’s accurate with the football — at all three levels of play.
Sounds like an NFL quarterback to me.
Another thing that Jackson doesn’t get enough credit for is his ability to make good decisions with the ball when facing pocket pressure; Lamar would rather take the sack or toss it out of bounds than just throw the ball up for grabs.
The tape does not lie. Not everyone is into studying film, and I get it. But don’t make the mistake of overlooking Lamar’s quarterbacking ability by labeling him as an “athlete playing quarterback” — that’s a typecast.
Injury, or the potential thereof, is the one likely roadblock ahead of Jackson, and it derives from his aggressive running style. My biggest concern regarding Jackson’s pro future, however, has more to do with off-field subjects.
When his collegiate career ended and the 2018 draft process officially began, Lamar decided not to hire an agent, choosing to represent himself instead. Given the current constructs of NFL rookie salaries, Lamar figures that it’s in his best interest to keep everything that he earns in his first contract rather than fork a large portion of it over to an agent, which I can respect.
“I know coming in as a rookie, agents don’t negotiate anything really,” Jackson said at the NFL combine. “You know you’re gonna get the salary you’re gonna get, and I decided I don’t need him. He’s going to be taking a big cut of my paycheck anyways, and I feel I deserve it right now.” — courtesy of The Ringer
Further complicating matters, Lamar has recently stated that his mother is also now his manager, a move that has already created noise in NFL front offices. It was reported that several of teams reached out to Lamar’s camp during the week of his pro day only to be met with silence, as their calls went unreturned. These teams were requesting private workouts and formal meetings with Lamar, though their identities have not been released.
Now, you could take this one of two ways: You could absolutely hate this move, theorizing that Lamar’s mother is prematurely sabotaging his career, Lavar Ball-style, or you could choose to see this for what it actually is: a mother looking out for her son’s best interest; that’s my belief, anyway.
Felicia Jones stepped up when her husband passed away, and it couldn’t have been easy — not for Lamar, not for anybody. She was strong. She led and provided for her two sons. Once Lamar graduated high school and colleges came a calling, Felicia Jones was determined to see him treated fairly along the way, knowing that the color of her son’s skin — along with his tremendous athletic ability — would inevitably create prejudice during his recruitment process. And she was right. Just about everyone that recruited him had plans of moving him to receiver or to running back or to cornerback, but Felicia was having none of it. It all worked out, though. Mom knows best.
The hope is that Felicia’s plan for her son at this next stage is also executed to perfection. She clearly has an idea of which NFL teams are a good fit for her son and which ones are not — or at least she feels that she does. And who are we to question her instincts? I sure as hell won’t.
Ultimately, though, I have my doubts about Lamar’s future success. Part of my doubts are tied to his unique style of play, understanding that not many coaches are capable of or are comfortable with creating a playbook that’s perfectly tailored to suit his gifted abilities.
Another part of me doubts that many team executives are comfortable with or are experienced in dealing with a woman as strong-willed as Felicia Jones. Race plays a factor here, in my opinion, so it’ll be interesting to see where Lamar ultimately lands at the end of the month.
Rumor has it that the Chargers have shown heavy interest in Lamar, with head coach Anthony Lynn leading the way. Hmmm … an aging Phillip Rivers … a new stadium … a new city … sounds like the perfect landing spot to me.
Looks like Michael Vick may become a Charger after all.
Regardless of team, Lamar’s skillset will allow him to provide any offense with the type of dynamic plays that move the sticks and puts points on the board. In a best case scenario, Lamar lands with a team who’s owner and front office clicks with his mother, and who’s coaches click with her son. He develops as a quarterback and learns to slide early when he hits the open field.
And the worst case scenario? Use your imagination.
I’ve certainly used mine, and ultimately I believe that Jackson’s NFL career will not last very long with the style of play that operates under. NFL quarterbacks who last in the league avoid collisions at all costs; Lamar practically invites them, and it’s virtually an impossible habit to undo.
TIER 3: Developmental QBs
Some of these prospects will not make it in the pros, some will become good backup QBs, while others — with patience and development — will overcome the odds and make a good living as NFL starters.
№8: Mike White, Western Kentucky
6′ 4-5/8″ | 224 lbs. | 9–1/2″ hands
Player Comparison: Tom Savage
- Toughness: both physical & mental
- Arm talent; ball comes out with good zip and generally good location when feet are set and protection holds
- Nuanced; holds DBs and backers with eyes then returns to target
- Lacks the ‘It’ factor and demeanor of a top tier QB prospect
- Locks on to targets; holds onto the ball and takes sacks, fumbles
- Heavy feat; sluggish to evade the rush of speedy and athletic types
I liked what I saw when reviewing Mike’s game film, and for the most part his arm talent is impressive. He can make all of the throws, although he struggled with deep ball consistency in the games that I watched. His offensive lineman and receivers didn’t do him any favors, I might add.
White seems to have a smiley, happy-go-lucky personality, and coupled with his arm talent, Mike is an ideal developmental QB with considerable upside, depending on where he lands.
№7: Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
6′ 2–5/8″ | 222 lbs. | 9–3/4″ hands
Player Comparison: Brian Hoyer
- Can make all the throws, but short-ball accuracy is his bread and butter; throws a pretty sideline fade and is precise on short slants
- Strong leadership qualities; high character; tough — both physically and mentally; has overcome hardship and adversity
- Functional mobility; can extend plays and throw on the move
- Inconsistent with accuracy and ball placement
- Average recognition, in both pre- and post-snap phases
- Average arm strength, narrowing his play-call options
- Lower-body mechanics needs improving; throws with a wide base
Kyle Lauletta’s name started gaining recognition after his impressive showing at the Senior Bowl. He’s a well-built athlete who comes from an athletic family and has enough arm strength to make all of the throws at the next level.
Lauletta has the prerequisite intangibles (strong leadership qualities, great demeanor, strong work ethic) and good enough accuracy to eventually develop into a starter, or, at the very least, a very good backup quarterback.
I liken him to Brian Hoyer at the next level: a quarterback with decent size, good functional mobility, accuracy, and enough of everything else to make him a valuable addition to any club — especially a club who can develop him.
The one major knock that I have on Lauletta is his throwing base: it’s wide. It’s not wide all of the time, but he widens his stance often enough to catch my eye in film sessions. And I know that he has a quick release, but something about his entire throwing process seems off to me — I just can’t put my finger on it.
№6: Logan Woodside, Toledo
6’ 1–1/4″ | 213 lbs. | 9–3/4″ hands
Player Comparison: Andy Dalton
- Excellent overall footwork; displays quick and compact feet in his drop-backs … gives Josh Rosen a run for his money; upper-body mechanics are clean and smooth; quick release and compact throwing motion; changes arm slot and makes throws from different release points, if need be
- Gym rat and film junkie; prepares like Russell Wilson; understands the stigma attached to short quarterbacks and compensates through his preparation and attention to detail; wants to be great
- Accurate at all three levels of the field; excellent ball placement when he gets into a rhythm; good arm talent; can make tight-window throws in short-to-intermediate areas — can also throw with touch and timing
- Shows advanced nuance of playing QB at the next level; uses head/shoulder nods, pump fakes and eyes to manipulate coverage
- Tested and proven; has rebounded from setbacks; proceeds with a huge chip on his shoulder; has overcome the odds his entire life; gritty
- Poised and confident, at all times; never too high, never too low; plays well from behind; can overcome an early deficit and perform in the clutch; tough; can take a pounding; big hits do not rattle him
- Large hands allow him to grip and control the football, no matter the conditions; no fumbling or ball handling issues to speak of; spins the ball with good RPMs and good velocity on 1st & 2nd level throws
- Has sort of a thin, wiry build; size hasn’t been a problem thus far, but his lack of bulk may harness his potential at the next level
- Ball comes out wobbly at times and will lose RPMs as it travels
- Played in a gimmicky, up-tempo offense; averaged 70 plays per contest; micromanaged and guided, to certain degree; pre-snap reads and adjustments mostly came from the coaches on the sideline
I’m proud of myself. After only two tape sessions, I was excited enough to tell the world about this Logan Woodside kid and how he was going to be the next diamond in the rough quarterback that would go on to beat the odds and become an NFL great. I still feel compelled to do so, but I won’t.
The truth is, Woodside has everything — and I mean everything — that you look for in a QB prospect. He’s very accurate with the ball, at all three levels of the field, and displays near-perfect ball placement when he’s in the zone; it’s Drew Brees-esque, to be honest. He has good mobility, both in the pocket and on the move as a runner, and he’s aware when defenders are closing in, chewing up yards of grass then sliding at the perfect moment.
The thing that’s missing with Logan is obvious: He’s short and skinny — both of which present yet another mountain for him to climb in the pros. There will be several of quarterbacks drafted ahead of him in April, if he evens gets drafted at all. I believe that either scenario will serve him well, though; rejection has been Logan’s driving force for the entirety of his career.
It is my belief that Woodside will overcome the odds at the next level. Eventually he’ll get his chance to prove the doubters wrong — yet again.
I liken him to Andy Dalton, only better, and with a higher ceiling.
TIER 2: Upside QBs
This group defines the term polarizing. As unique and exciting as these prospects were as amateurs, the flaws in their profiles create enough doubt to warrant this tier. The risk factor here is considerable; the reward: likewise.
№5: Josh Rosen, UCLA
6′ 4″ | 226 lbs. | 9–7/8″ hands
Player Comparison: Sam Bradford
- Mechanically, Josh is the most polished and developed quarterback from his class; consistently displays excellent footwork within his drop-backs and uses the quick feet of an NFL vet to slide and reset in the pocket; consistently throws with the proper base underneath him; throwing motion is smooth and compact, with a very quick release
- Smart and nuanced; sees and understands leverage and body positions of coverage defenders and adjusts his throws accordingly; makes pre- and post-snap reads; had complete autonomy of offense at the line
- Displays good (sometimes great) arm talent; consistently spins a tight spiral; large 10″ hands allow him to grip the ball and throw it with great RPMs; throws with great velocity and really good distance; consistently accurate dialing it up deep, but is most accurate on slants and digs towards the middle of the field; isn’t afraid of throwing into traffic areas
- Good size and build, with a body that’s still developing
- Strong work ethic; has the desire to become great; puts time into his craft; asks smart questions and makes good suggestions in meetings; pushes coaches and players to be better than they were yesterday; perfectionist
- Excellent play-action passer — this is his bread and butter
- Has hit-or-miss personality and leadership qualities; high level of self-confidence can be taken as cockiness, depending on who you ask
- Comes from an affluent family, and that apparently matters to some people; parents’ wealth has created a negative perception of Josh in some inner-NFL circles — a perception of entitlement, to my understanding
- Durability concerns: two concussions in two years, as well as a soft tissue injury to his right throwing shoulder (with possible nerve damage) at the end of the 2016 season that required surgery to correct
- Plays hero ball too often for my liking; he takes check downs and throws it out of bounds at early signs of pressure, just not with the consistency that you see in great QBs — an area of his that needs continued development
Like his classmate Baker Mayfield, the question marks regarding Josh Rosen as an NFL QB have more to do with his personality and character than they do about football. Josh also has durability issues to consider.
Let’s begin with the concerns over Josh’s personality.
Most people hate rich kids. The only people that like rich kids are other rich kids. That’s how we tend to behave as a society — we stick to our groups.
I personally tend to treat people the way that I want to be treated. I try my best not to judge others. I like to know what drives a person and what their morals are before I decide on how I feel about them.
I don’t know Josh Rosen. I haven’t met him and only know what’s been publicized about him. He’s conducted a few interviews since declaring for the 2018 draft, and there’s plenty of background information thats been written of him going back to his somewhat controversial days at UCLA.
There, as the starting QB for the Bruins since his true freshman year, Josh has created a bit of legend to his name with his actions off of the field.
First, there was this …
Then this …
I prefer to stay away from politics, but I will say this: I totally get it.
Although the message makes sense, it should have never been conveyed by Josh in this manner. Needless to say that his antics came with considerable backlash, as he embarrassed his university and his coaching staff by inviting unnecessary conflict from opposing political parties into the conversation — a conversation that should never have been made public in the first place.
And therein lies the rub.
Josh is a rich kid yet he’s not ashamed to admit it, nor does he hide from it. He doesn’t go around flaunting his family’s wealth, and he’s never pretended that it doesn’t exist. In the same breathe, Josh’s past behavior — specifically the “Fuck Trump” bandana wrapped around his hat while shooting rounds of golf at a Donald Trump golf course — shows that he is capable of behaving like an entitled rich kid who’s got nothing to lose. At least that’s how I see it.
Poor kids, or kids from more humble beginnings, wouldn’t have dared to make such a bold political statement like that then post it on social media. But Josh had no qualms about it at the time, in part because of his talent — he’s fully aware that he chose UCLA and not the other way around — but also due to the wide safety net that’s available to him if football doesn’t work out.
There’s no arguing that Rosen used poor judgement in both of these situations, however, I consider them to be minor miscalculations— stupid things that a 19- or 20-year old college student does from time to time.
I happen to like Josh. To me, there’s this refreshing aspect about him and the way he chooses to present himself in spite of his affluent upbringing.
Rosen understands just how fortunate he is for having parents who created wealth for him and his sisters — the type of wealth that afforded them opportunities that people from less fortunate backgrounds could only dream of. He accepts this and owns it, showing us a side to him that’s much wiser than you would expect to see from someone who recently turned 21.
Josh fights for the less fortunate, and is passionate about social change.
As a senior at St. John Bosco high school in Los Angeles, Rosen was conflicted with the uncomfortable issue of money and how it affected his teammates. There was a game scheduled to be played in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the cost of the trip was steep: precisely $1,500 per player. Although Bosco was a private school, Josh had teammates that came from varying backgrounds, some who commuted everyday from the low to middle class areas of Compton.
Having already established himself as someone who asks why to everything, Rosen was determined to figure out a solution to the problem, so that all of his teammates could afford the trip to Honolulu.
His plan was to create discount cards for local businesses that would earn cash for the team. During the daylight hours of the summer, with the Southern California sun beating down on him, Rosen went from one business to the next selling them on his idea while fully dressed in suite and tie.
He required no help, and managed the progress of sales all by himself.
His plan worked. Josh was able to raise the money needed for the entire team to travel. As for the best part — nobody from the team was made aware of what he did. His selfless act was kept secret from them.
What I’ve learned about Josh Rosen has more to do with the human element involved that we as outsiders don’t often get to see with NFL quarterbacks. I see a very young, but very outspoken individual who’s highly intelligent, highly passionate, and highly empathetic towards his fellow man.
I believe that Josh is mostly misunderstood. But it doesn’t matter what I think, because at the end of the day it’ll be Josh’s coaches and teammates who’ll be judging him. He also has an owner to impress and media market to win over.
Will everyone like Josh Rosen? Probably not, but that’s to be expected.
Will Josh rub some of his teammates and coaches the wrong way? You can bet your ass he will. Will they see arrogance in him, or will they see confidence?
They’ll probably see both, depending on who you ask.
I could’ve spent the majority of my time here pasting video clips that demonstrate Josh’s crisp footwork with his drop-backs or his flawless throwing motion and his tight release. I could’ve pasted clips here of his pinpoint ball location with throws to the intermediate parts of the field or with his deep ball. But what would be the point in that?
By now, everyone should know exactly what Josh brings to the football field. He’s a savant of sorts, a quarterback who’s advanced in areas of play that make the scouts moist, and he’s highly intelligent. Advanced moisture.
The problem with savants, though, is that they have several of theories and passions to chase. They want it all. Josh fits that mold in many ways.
Rosen sat down for an interview with Bleacher Report’s Matt Hayes, who wrote a wonderful piece on him in the summer of 2016.
I found a response Josh made to a question Miller asked him regarding social change, and how Josh could advocate for it, to be very telling …
“What have I done to earn that? I haven’t done anything. We were 8–5 last season, and I had a pretty good freshman year and posted a few social media photos. I don’t have a platform to actually make significant change. That’s why I’m holding back a little bit.” — Josh Rosen
I don’t have a platform to actually make significant change? That’s why I’m holding back a little bit? Sounds like someone’s just biding their time.
Josh Rosen often draws comparisons to Peyton Manning for his combination of several great things, his candor with the media not being one of them. Josh is the anti-Peyton Manning in that respect, speaking as freely and openly as he wishes, regardless of the subject matter.
Its better to be seen than heard? Shit … good luck with that!
Josh Rosen is adamant about revealing his authentic self to the world, and no one, not even the NFL can stop him. That’s where things get murky for him. His boldness, his honesty, and his willingness to speak freely on sensitive topics, or topics that are simply taboo or too controversial for the NFL, will undoubtably land Josh in hot water in the near future.
He may very well alienate coaches and teammates during his career, forcing both to ultimately choose sides: defend your QB, or defend your owner?
Josh Rosen is certainly compelling, and is probably the most unique QB prospect that I’ve ever evaluated. Guys like Johnny Manziel and Baker Mayfield come around from time to time. But Rosen — he’s practically a unicorn. You just don’t see quarterbacks with his size, his arm talent, or his level of intelligence not go №1 in the draft. It’s usually automatic.
And lastly, there’s the issue over Josh’s long term availability in the pros. His injury list is concerning. Rosen has been concussed on multiple occasions, and he’s had surgery to repair soft tissue damage in his throwing shoulder.
The concussions forced him to miss a few starts, and the shoulder injury cost Josh the better part of his sophomore season.
So, coupled with his outspokenness and his multiple life interests, how do you come to terms with Josh’s tantalizing football ability if availability is a concern going forward? The answer depends on the person.
My gut tells me that Josh is too smart to fail and will manage to keep his ego in check at the next level. But your perception is whatever your peers say it is, and oftentimes you don’t have a say in the matter. For that reason, as well as the durability reasons, I see Josh carving out a career as the quarterback who keeps his franchise always wanting more but settling for less.
Sounds a lot like Sam Bradford to me.
One last thing … Just stop it already with Aaron Rodgers comparisons! It’s probably the worst comparison I’ve ever heard, to be honest. Though they share similar personality traits, the physical traits simply do not match. Aaron has succeeded in the NFL, despite being labeled a cocky little shit, because he’s so damn athletically gifted. That’s not Josh, and never will be.
№4: Josh Allen, Wyoming
6′ 4–7/8″ 237 lbs | 10 1/8″ hands
Player Comparison: Brett Favre
- Elite arm talent with rare throwing strength and velocity; ball explodes out his hand upon release; ball travels 70+ yards on max-out throws
- Can make special throws while on the move; naturally accurate when mobile; almost seems to prefer avoiding the rush and mobilizing
- Has the prototypical size that teams covet; strong kid; getting him to the ground is often difficult due to his strong base and upper body
- Very athletic movement skills; has the innate ability to free himself from trouble inside of the pocket and provide himself with throwing opportunities; has good initial burst combined with sneaky speed
- Josh is a gamer; always competes; never seemed inhibited by the lackluster talent surrounding him when facing tougher competition
- Struggles with fundamentals, especially in the pocket; his feet need work; often is stagnant in his stance; tends to drift in his drop-back and over-strides with his base when he gets into his throwing stance
- Gunslinger mentality is a double-edge sword; can win or lose you the game playing hero ball; takes too many chances; forces things
- Takes on too many defenders as a runner; would rather fight for an extra couple of yards than go down or slide before contact arrives
- Needs to be coached up on throwing with better anticipation; also needs work on throwing with better touch; uses his fastball way too often
- Frequently refuses to take the check down — almost stubbornly so
Josh Allen’s majestic 70-yard bomb during the throwing portion of the combine had the scouts in attendance oohing and aahing and staring at one another, mouths agape with astonishment. Allen’s measurables and his athletic testing (4.74 40-yard dash time with a 33.5″ vertical jump and a 6.9 3-cone time) only further cements his status as this year’s sexy QB.
Big quarterback … Athletic quarterback … Rocket-armed quarterback!!
Is it really a surprise that scouts are fanboying over Josh this year? For most of you, it probably has met your expectation. It has for me, at least.
And while Mike Mayock falls asleep with a bag of ice resting on his groin, his untamable hard-on red and swollen from a Josh Allen study session, I can’t help but laugh at his predictability.
I’m kidding of course.
There’s a lot to like, a lot to get excited about when studying Josh on film. He consistently makes throws that marvel you — that’s what stands out. Furthermore, he makes most of his stupefying throws while on the move, avoiding pressure with an impressive skillset that’s reminiscent Big Ben.
Per usual, you’ll find all sorts of varying player comparisons for Josh Allen on the web or on social media, with everyone from Ben Roethlisberger to Carson Wentz being tagged to his name. But Josh’s arm talent is so unique, so special, that it truly deserves a comp that reflects it as such.
Brett Favre is my player comp, but hear me out before you rush to judgement.
Most scouts are too caught up in the height-weight aspect of their player comparisons, electing to match their prospect to a pro of equal or near-equal stature while ignoring the essence of what a player comp is really all about.
Of course the size and the combine measurables matter … but only to a certain extent. There are other larger elements to consider.
When I see Josh, I see a big, raw, athletic specimen with a rifle of a right arm. I see a gunslinger who excels at playing a backyard brand of football. I see a quarterback that consistently extends plays by making rushers miss — almost effortlessly — with athletic jukes and stutters and spins. I see a quarterback that lacks refinement but has the toughness and the grit and the competitive fire needed to succeed while owning that style of play.
Sound’s like Brett Favre circa 1995, don’t it?
A lot has been made of Allen’s career 56.2 completion percentage, and I get it. But scouting evaluations are not based on statistics; they’re based on context. The good evaluators know this to be true, which is why the tape is so important with Josh. During my evaluation of him, the reasons why his completion percentage is below the 60% standard, to me, was more a reflection of the team around him than it was on Josh himself.
(Keep in mind that Matthew Stafford produced two consecutive sub-60-percent seasons at Georgia — 52.7% comp. in 2006 and 55.7% in 2007 — while also having many of the same flaws that Josh has in his profile.)
All too often I saw the protection around Josh failing, with receivers failing to separate against coverage. This wasn’t the case in every game that I evaluated, but it occurred far more often than it didn’t. There’s plenty of fault to be placed on Josh as well. It’s all about the context, though.
This cut-up is an example of Josh’s receivers failing him.
2017 versus Iowa: Under four minutes left in the 3rd quarter, down 21–3, the Wyoming Cowboys are in desperate need of a touchdown in order to make this a game. Allen, on a 2nd and 3 from his own 35, sidesteps the weak-side rush, steps up into the pocket and heaves a 45-yard strike — off platform — into the arms of his wide open target, who ran a basic go-route.
And he couldn’t hang on.
This play exemplifies what Josh was dealing with during his two years as the starting quarterback for the Cowboys.
Here you have this big, athletic, gunslinging quarterback who’s right arm generates enough velocity with a football to brand your chest with the seams, yet he’s missing the talent around him that a Sam Darnold or a Baker Mayfield or a Mason Rudolph has. He was completely overlooked in the recruiting process, yet he played the hand that he was dealt as well as he possibly could.
Again … context.
The bad with Josh, though, is really bad. His flaws — specifically the flaws with his footwork and his throwing base — consistently show up on film.
Studying Josh is a somewhat strange experience. In one sense he has all of these flaws, and they consistently rear their ugly heads. But in the same breath, Josh appears completely out of place with second-rate talent surrounding him. His protection often failed him, as did his receivers.
It would be like playing in a 3-on-3 game of hoops at your local YMCA with LeBron James as one of your teammates. Imagine yourself playing alongside the King and a 40-year-old back-to-the-basket guy who’s slow but is great at setting screens. And you’re hooping — or at least you’re trying — only you and Old School offer nothing of value to LeBron and just keep letting him down. He’s trying his best to make you look good, but his passes are ricocheting off of your hands and body like you’re a live target at a paintball course.
That’s kind of what it was like for Wyoming’s wide receivers catching fireballs from Josh Allen over the last two years — or at least trying to.
(Calm down, I’m not comparing Josh to Bron Bron; it’s just an analogy.)
Josh developed some very poor habits during his college stay — habits that I simply cannot overlook. He needs work. His lower body mechanics are a complete mess at times, and he consistently throws it with too much heat, which have led to many a ball bouncing off of his intended receivers hands (or pads) into the air and ultimately into the hands of the defense.
Favre entered the league in 1991 with the same superlatives attached to his profile that Josh Allen has to his. Atlanta’s coaching staff gave up on him too early, though, and the Packers surrendered a first round pick to acquire him. Mike Holmgren, Favre’s coach at the time, viewed Brett as a slab of clay that he could mold into a formidable statue. Now granted it took him some time to mold him, but he did it. Favre now has a bust in Canton as proof.
Allen won’t succeed with just any head coach in the league. He’ll need an offensive innovator, one who’s patient, and, perhaps most importantly, one who can teach. Pat Shurmur would be a great fit for Josh. Eli can’t play forever. But so many teams are in need of a quarterback this offseason that trying to guess Allen’s landing spot is a pointless exercise.
Wherever Josh Allen calls home in April is anyone’s guess. For selfish reasons I’m hoping that Josh becomes the successor to Eli Manning, so that the competitive balance in the NFC east remains in play, and rivalries continue.
Last thing …
Perhaps the most concerning topic to debate is whether or not Josh’s body will fail him at the next level. Fourteen plays into his very first collegiate start at Wyoming, Josh scrambled on a busted play and was met head-on by a defender, slamming him into the ground while his shoulder was met with the force of the defender’s helmet. His right clavicle was broken in seven different places, requiring surgery, which included eight screws and a metal plate.
The plate and screws are now permanently a part of Josh’s bone structure.
He also suffered a sprain to his AC joint in his throwing shoulder last year that kept him from dressing in a couple of games. Given his sometimes reckless style of play, it makes me wonder if Josh’s right shoulder — um, the one that he throws the football with — is damaged goods going forward. His massive potential trumps the need to devalue him in the draft, but the shoulder concerns are real, and perhaps removes him from certain team’s boards.
TIER 1: Cornerstone QBs
At the end of the day, the most important attributes that a QB can have in his profile are accuracy, intelligence, toughness and desire. These three prospects have them in spades. The floor is low and the ceiling is high with this group.
№3: Luke Falk, Washington State
6′ 3–5/8″ | 215 lbs | 9–1/4″ hands
Player Comparison: Tom Brady
- A natural thrower of the football; accurate and precise at all three levels of play; ball placement is mostly crisp; puts the ball on the money, whether with underneath, RAC opportunities or the mid to deep-field stuff; throws with zip when necessary — also throws with touch and anticipation
- Mechanically proficient; consistently throws with a good base and quick feet; has a compact throwing motion reminiscent of Tom Brady; keeps two hands on the ball inside the pocket when rushers are buzzing around
- Cool and calm demeanor (in the truest sense of the expression), a quality that teammates respond to; speaks with the same tone and wears the same facial expressions — whether in victory or defeat; accountable and mature beyond his years; good leader; poised; takes responsibilities seriously
- Plays with a huge chip on shoulder; like the more highly-touted Baker Mayfield, Falk was initially a walk-on at WSU before eventually earning a scholarship; setbacks and negativity only motivate him to succeed
- Tough as nails; stands tall in the pocket against pressure and throws strikes while taking it on the chin; bounces back up whenever he gets his clock cleaned; mostly proficient at picking apart the blitz; hurts man coverage
- Has a bad habit of staring down his first read and telegraphing throws; at times, appears slow or hesitant to go through read progressions
- Able to slide and sidestep the rush inside of the pocket, but is overall a below average athlete who can be an easy target for rushers
- Has good arm strength and can make all the throws, but does not have elite arm talent; ball velocity slows down when forced to reset his feet
- Has struggled beating complex zone coverages; zone looks disguised as man coverage with only four defenders rushing can confuse him
- Is thinly built, and has a narrow frame — though it hasn’t mattered much
No quarterback from this year’s class brings a better combination of efficiency, toughness and production to the pros than Washington State’s Luke Falk.
I understand that most fans prefer the exciting elements of QB play — such as down-field bombs and scrambling routines — over the monotonous, dink and dunk, take-what-the-defense-gives-you style of play. And if that’s where you stand on this topic, than so be it.
As much as I enjoy watching Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson extend the play and humilate game plans with their big arms, it’s the efficient quarterbacks like Alex Smith and Tom Brady who really excite my senses.
The term game manager is often taken as an insult amongst quarterbacks, but it shouldn’t. I want my quarterback to manage the game. I want my quarterback to take what the defense gives him, even if it involves him conservatively dinking and dunking with the frequency of a squirrel.
For years, the Alex Smith haters of the world ragged on him for his unwillingness to attack opponents deep. Actually, many believed that the issue was more about Smith’s inability to attack than it was his unwillingness to do so. And boy did the haters eat some crow this year.
Andy Reid drafts a Ferrari in the name of Tyreek Hill, and within the span of a year, he and Alex are daring safeties to creep up to the box and cheat. Smith was the best deep thrower in the league last year, and the metrics back it up.
Tom Brady dealt with the same stigma early on in his career. And then Bill Belichick traded for Randy Moss, who still had lightening in his shoes. The two shot down records in their first year together, and 50 touchdowns later, the Brady Checkdown watchdogs started to retract their words.
At last, Tom Brady was excepted as a great quarterback, not simply just some dink and dunk game manager who couldn’t challenge teams downfield.
That brings us back to Luke Falk. Obviously there’s a reason why I carried on with my Smith-Brady analogy. What I see in those two, I see the same in Falk.
There is no part of Luke’s game that could be labeled as sexy. He’s not athletic, he’s slow-footed, and his arm isn’t very strong, either. But his arm is good enough to make all of the throws, and his pocket movements are athletic enough to buy him some time to reset his feet and locate his receivers.
Luke Falk is a man of few words. He’d rather see his teammates get all of the praise, and he’d rather they do all the talking, too. He’s extremely humble.
So as the stories about Baker Mayfield’s triumph continue to swirl around the draft cycle — the short Texas native that overcame the odds and walked-on at not one, but two major college football programs to eventually become a Heisman Trophy winner — Luke just quietly takes it all in.
You see, Falk is a former walk-on himself, who was fifth on the depth chart when he arrived at Pullman, only he doesn’t need a camera in his face to brag on it all the time. (Ooooh … such a sick burn.) He’s not the only quarterback who’s had to earn every shred of success along the way, he’s just entirely too reserved and humble to try to make it a story. (Two for two! Sweet.)
It’s true, going through a Luke Falk film session probably sends 95 out of 100 scouts into a nap at some point, maybe even a few. The amount of highlight throws that Falk provides in a given game are scant, and he appears about as athletic as Mike Golic attempting a layup in a celebrity All-Star game. But his footwork is clean, his motion is tight, and he throws the ball with accuracy.
Luke Falk is arguably the most accurate thrower in his class. The draft analysts who fail to mention that only do so because it doesn’t look sexy on tape. The ball doesn’t spin out of his hand like it does for Josh Rosen, and it won’t cut through the wind like it will for Josh Allen.
It does, however, consistently get to where it’s supposed to go.
To gain an understanding of who Falk is and how he plays, look no further than his 2017 showdown versus the USC Trojans.
Who Luke Falk is as a quarterback all depends on the opponent.
If you want him to be a game manager, then cool — Falk will be the best game manager on the field that day while taking the free yards and points.
You want to congest the short areas and force him to be aggressive? That’s also cool. Falk will bring the aggression like Zack de la Rocha and drop bombs on your friggin’ head. The battle will be over before you even know it began.
All right … I got a little carried away there. I retract the previous statement about Falk and aggression. I was feeling it just a little. My apologies.
Falk is by and large a conservative quarterback, although he does throw a pretty deep ball. He played in Mike Leach’s well-known Air Raid system that allowed for a multitude of easy throws and run-after-catch opportunities, similar to what Baker Mayfield experienced at Oklahoma.
Is he perfect? Of course not. Like all quarterbacks, Falk misses some throws. His accuracy wanes from time to time. But he’s a rhythm thrower who was required to toss the ball around a ton in college, so it’s only natural to see those inconsistencies show up on tape.
Luke Falk is being discussed as a consolation prize of sorts — the mid-round QB prospect from the pile of leftovers, the backup plan for a QB-needy team who misses their target early on in the draft — and that’s okay. He may wind up being the seventh or eighth quarterback selected this year, and that shouldn’t surprise him. Falk is used to being doubted and overlooked. He wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, and had to earn his keep in college. His leadership is legendary amongst his teammates, as his toughness.
I see so many similarities between the Luke Falk of Washington State and the Tom Brady of Michigan that honestly, it’s just silly. Silly I tell you!
From their height and lanky build to their clean upper and lower body mechanics. From their accuracy and willingness to take what the defense gives them, to their grit and toughness and their willingness to stare down the barrel and fire away, knowing that the hit is coming — the similarities between Falk and Michigan Brady are strikingly obvious.
Falling in the draft is the best thing that happened to Brady, as the slights and doubts were used as a motivating mechanism to prove everyone wrong.
Luke Falk has openly confessed to having sort of an obsession with Tom, studying and incorporating everything from his idol’s game and implementing those elements into his. And I mean everything.
Falk monitors his own sleep patterns, logs everything that he eats, follows something called the Bullet Proof diet, and makes routine visits to his chiropractor as well as his acupuncturist.
Yup, Luke Falk has an acupuncturist.
He’s also very goal-driven, and has been since he was a young boy, a quality that his parents engrained in him as well as his sisters. The Falk’s use something called a vision board to help them focus on their aspirations and goals every year through the use of pictures. I know — strange, right?
Luke Falk is clearly a serious man. He has the desire and dedication that the majority of great NFL quarterbacks possessed before him. He’ll continue to tweak his game and improve upon his weaknesses. He’s a film junky and a practice nut who’s obsessed with mastering the finer points of playing the quarterback position. He’s extremely poised, and he’s an excellent leader.
Perhaps the most impressive quality to Luke, though, is his physical toughness. No matter how many times you hit him, no matter how hard the blow, Falk bounces back up and marches down the field, fully aware that he just beat your double A-gap blitz and picked up the first down.
This is a perfect example of Falk’s toughness and poise when the heat is on. Hanging in the pocket, knowing that he cannot avoid the hit but that he must complete the pass in a tie game, on a 3rd and 14, in the 3rd quarter of play.
Whippy arm? FUCK THAT … how about brassy balls?
Luke Falk has everything that you’re looking for in a franchise quarterback — everything except a “whippy” arm, that is. He’s been overlooked and underappreciated for the majority of his football career. At worst, I see a career path similar to Kirk Cousins — an initial backup who works his way into a starting role, where he’ll excel as a game manager for some lucky team.
But anything is possible with a guy like Luke Falk. As with Brady before him, falling in the draft will become Luke’s motivational mechanism. Will he achieve what Tom’s achieved at the next level? Probably not. Six rings is a little much. But that doesn’t mean he won’t try.
Final note: To further illustrate his toughness, Falk played most of his senior year with a broken left wrist (non-throwing hand) after suffering the injury in week 2 against Boise State. He played with the pain until he couldn’t any longer, as the pain only progressed, opting for surgery prior to the Holiday Bowl.
№2: Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma St.
6′ 4–5/8″ | 235 lbs | 9–1/8″ hands
Player Comparison: Philip Rivers
- Prototypical size for a QB prospect; tall and thick; strong base and regularly sheds would-be-sacks when defenders go low or lazily go high
- Outstanding deep-ball thrower; arguably the best in class; consistently drops the ball into the bucket on deep-ball throws with excellent timing and the perfect amount of air underneath it, hitting targets in stride
- Naturally accurate with the football, at all three levels; understands touch and how to use it with effectiveness; good anticipatory thrower
- Goes through his progressions; adept at reading the field
- Outstanding leader; a passionate, vocal leader who will step up and speak to teammates when needed — either individually or collectively; has been seen giving fiery pep talks on sidelines before and after drives
- Has the “It” factor; carries himself well; has unwavering confidence; wants to be great, and is committed to reaching his goals of becoming just that
- Tough; can take a hit and bounce back up; plays hurt
- Lower body mechanics could stand improvement; occasional accuracy and ball placement issues due to wide base that will haunt him if uncorrected
- Has a good arm, not a great arm, but can make all the throws he needs to; deep-ball will max out at around 55 yards, which is plenty good; ball occasionally loses velocity on sideline throws from the opposite hash
- Holds onto the ball for too long while looking to push it downfield to his deep reads, resulting in several of coverage sacks throughout his career; can be loose with the ball in the pocket, holding on with one hand
- Played in a wide open spread offense under Mike Gundy, but concepts are very transferable at next level due to aggressive, down-field nature
There where times when I was studying Mason Rudolph’s game films — several of times, actually — and all I could see was Ben Roethlisberger. Watch here as he climbs the pocket, sidesteps the rush, resets then throws a strike.
How about toughness, how about a quarterback that likes to hit? Watch Rudolph lay out a 6-foot-3-inch, 248-pound defensive end here on a trick play.
And how about Mason’s arm talent on 50/50 balls …
The color announcer is right — that was a gamble throw to make there on 3rd and 6, down 7 points from your own 30 yard line. And he kind of threw it into double coverage. But it was a throw that Rudolph and his 6-foot-4-inch receiver Marcell Ateman have practiced over and over again from that distance. It was a big-time NFL throw — the type of WOW throw that Big Ben has made a living on throughout the entirety of his career.
It’s plays like this that have opened up my eyes to the potential of Rudolph at the next level. But, (there’s always a but), Rudolph’s arm strength — although good enough — doesn’t compare to Big Ben’s arm coming out of Miami of Ohio. Not at all. Ben could throw it accurately, off platform if need be, from 60–70 yards out. Rudolph, however, struggles to really crank it. His deep ball will max out at around 55 yards, and even from that distance he struggles to throw with accuracy — unless his feet are set. Its even worse on the move.
The similarities between Big Ben and Mason Rudolph are very noticeable. However, because Rudolph lacks the power arm that Ben had (and mostly still has), I decided to go in another direction with Rudolph’s player comparison.
I spent a lot of time searching for an apt player comp for Rudolph, and Philip Rivers is the quarterback I eventually arrived at.
Rarely will you find a quarterback in the ilk of Philip Rivers who has the same funky sidearm delivery that he has. So let’s ignore River’s unique mechanical distinction here for a minute and focus on the players themselves.
The comparison was fairly easy for me to attach myself to once I got past the sidearm release. Both are tall, strong, pocket quarterbacks who attack the opposition with a touchdown to checkdown mentality. Both have good arms, and both can make all the throws, but they lack the power arm that’s often associated with aggressive, down-field throwers.
I think that Philip Rivers is one of the best quarterbacks of All Time, and I will defend him at all costs … but that’s just me.
Like the rest of these QB prospects, Mason Rudolph will write his own story in the National Football League. He has a lot of attributes working for him, most of which mitigate his weak points — which are his arm power (a lack thereof) and his inconsistent lower body mechanics.
Due to the aggressive, down-field style of offense that Rudolph played in at college, he tends to take more shots than most of the quarterbacks from his class. And because of that, he’s all too often held onto the ball as he looked to rip it down-field, which sometimes resulted in sacks or other errors.
This tendency, in my opinion, falls more on the coaching staff at OSU than it does on Rudolph himself. He was asked to be aggressive and take shots downfield more than any quarterback from this year’s class.
He was merely executing the game plan, as far as I’m concerned.
Mason Rudolph has everything that you look for in a pro QB prospect. He has the size and strength needed to shed defenders when they go low at his legs, and he’s more mobile than you would be led to believe. He can make throws while on the move, and he creates space and throwing lanes for himself by manipulating the pocket with athletic and instinctive movements.
His accuracy — especially his deep ball accuracy — is impressive to watch on film. This really sets him apart from his classmates, in my opinion. The offense that Rudolph played in was an open, Air Raid-style of offense, so he isn’t very experienced in taking snaps from underneath the center. But that’s really just a matter of practicing and learning, as far as I’m concerned.
There are other parts of Rudolph’s game that I could knock — like his habit for staring down his 1st reads or the lack of ball velocity on some of his throws — but, to me, the good outweigh the bad in his overall evaluation.
Rudolph is a clean, high character young man, and appears to be a great leader. He’s extremely confident in himself, but without the arrogance that tends to rub people the wrong way. I believe that once NFL coaches get their hands on him, they’ll coach him up and work on his flaws.
I’ve bought in. I think that Rudolph, with time, will develop into a productive starting quarterback and become a franchise cornerstone for years to come.
№1: Sam Darnold, USC
6′ 3–3/8″ | 221 lbs | 9–3/8″ hands
Player Comparison: Jimmy Garoppolo
- Excellent demeanor and on-field presence; tough, and leads by example; a gunslinger with a short-term memory; has that ‘It’ factor to him
- Exceptional at extending the play, both in and outside of the pocket; very accurate while on the move — especially with off-platform throws; keeps eyes down-field and feet moving while waiting to pull the trigger
- Consistently makes instinctual, reactionary throws with great ball placement and velocity; excels with anticipatory throws, too
- Adept at scanning the field and going through reads; nuanced at manipulating coverage and freezing defenders with eyes and shoulders
- Plays his best ball when the game is on the line; clutch in the 4th quarter; has a natural confidence in himself that’s evident through his play
- Good arm talent; elongated wind-up but has a quick release; accuracy and ball velocity shines brightest in the short-to-intermediate field areas
- Forces the football into tight windows more than you’d prefer; confident in his ability to make any throw on the field — perhaps too confident
- Has a habit of holding onto the ball with one hand while extending inside the pocket, which is largely responsible for the 21 fumbles in a 2-year span
- Has a funky wind-up in his throwing motion, similar to how an outfielder in baseball has; potentially an invitation for strip-sack opportunities
- Aside from his long wind-up, Sam needs to become more consistent with his feet and lower body mechanics if he wants to become great
I wasn’t able to fully appreciate and enjoy Sam’s game until I gave him a complete evaluation — which includes background research, game film analysis and interview analysis (post-game interviews after losses and network interviews are important in discovering personality traits).
Searching for a Sam Darnold player projection was frustrating because he reminds me of a handful of different quarterbacks. At first I saw Matthew Stafford: both have similar body types — broad shoulders with thick chests — and both are gunslingers who excel at recreating the pocket and throwing accurately on the move. However, I couldn’t stick to the comparison simply due to the differences in overall arm talent.
Stafford has a hose and Darnold does not.
For a minute there I noticed similarities between Darnold and Alex Smith. Both have laid-back, California-boy personalities and mannerisms, both are great athletes who excel at extending the play and shredding the short-to-intermediate areas of the field with pin-point accuracy, and both are assets to their team’s offense when they decide to become runners.
Hell, they even share the same funky wind-up in their throwing motions.
However, Smith is the walking spokesperson for risk-aversion and Darnold is a risk-taker with amnesia, so … that went into the garbage rather quickly.
The similarities that exist between Darnold and Aaron Rodgers are mostly related to their knack of avoiding pressure with ninja-like escapability while throwing accurate, off-platform darts to their intended targets.
Then I arrived at a Jimmy Garoppolo projection.
There are vast similarities to note. Although Darnold is the better play-extender between the two, Jimmy G is pretty good himself. Garoppolo is about an inch shorter than Darnold and is slightly stockier. Darnold has slightly bigger hands and is faster in a straight line.
Both QBs bring a unique style of leadership to the table that players respond to. They lead by example, letting their play do the talking. However, they will speak up and motivate their teammates at the right moments.
Both have that unquantifiable ‘It’ factor, too; people naturally gravitate to them. Teammates want to be around them, and are glad to follow their lead.
Stylistically speaking, there are a number of similarities between Darnold’s and Garoppolo’s game as well. Both are very accurate with the ball in the short-to-intermediate areas of the field, both have good arms and can deliver the ball with zip on just about any throw, and both possess a quick and explosive release at the trigger point of their motions.
Sam is definitely the better athlete of the two, though, and is a more gifted runner when he decides to tuck the ball and scramble for yardage.
Jimmy G was a four-year starter at Eastern Illinois. And in his first three years, Garoppolo, just like Darnold, had issues with turnovers. (Was averaging nearly 14 interceptions and 9 fumbles during that span.)
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah made a great point regarding Darnold’s personality while sitting in attendance at USC’s pro day. He said that Sam is both humble and confident, which is a very hard line to walk for a quarterback in general, but even more so for a young quarterback that’s just entering the league (Darnold doesn’t turn 21 until June). It’s an observation that more scouts should notice but simply don’t. All of these quarterbacks can throw it well, and most of them say the right things when the cameras are on. But the good evaluators can tell the difference between artificial leadership and genuine leadership, and Jeremiah sniffed it out — as did I.
I’ll admit that I’m a little bit concerned about Darnold’s turnover rate.
It would be hilarious to see me try and defend 21 fumbles and 22 interceptions in 27 games, but what the hell. Here’s my defense: Because Darnold’s only played two-years worth of college ball, it’s somewhat pointless to criticize him, given that he hasn’t had a third or fourth year to grow in an offensive system like a Baker Mayfield or Mason Rudolph has.
I don’t hear the same types of criticisms being made of Josh Rosen’s 26 interceptions and his 20 fumbles in the 30 games he has on record.
As for that elongated throwing motion of his, I believe that a good quarterbacks coach can work with Sam on refining it. And that’s all it needs, really. It just needs to be slightly tweaked and tightened.
Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers have completely altered their throwing motions since being drafted, so they’re living proof that it can be done.
John Dorsey, the Browns current GM and formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, has been blessed with a bevy of draft capital this year (including the number one overall pick), thanks in part to the ineptitude of TMBC — aka The Moneyball Crew (2016–2017). Hopefully he won’t drop the ball this year like the overly analytical dopes that preceded him did in back-to-back drafts.
Sam Darnold will likely be a Brown come April 26, and he’ll arrive at a time in Cleveland when things have never looked more promising for the organization. The roster is young but littered with talent, and has a true difference-maker on defense with Myles Garrett.
Dorsey added Jarvis Landry and Tyrod Taylor into the mix on offense, which immediately helps Darnold on two fronts: (1) They can groom him until he’s ready, and (2), he’ll have Landry’s sure hands waiting to work the middle of the field for him whenever that may be.
These two cut-ups against Utah are perfect examples of Darnold’s short-ball accuracy. The ball placement on both of these passes are absolutely perfect, and he provides himself with throwing lanes by looking off the box defenders on both throws. Sam completes both passes running simple slants with his slot receiver, but they’re both effective and transferable at the next level.
Now imagine that it’s Jarvis Landry running those slants.
It’s a new era in Cleveland, and Sam Darnold is the perfect quarterback to help usher it in. He’ll endear himself to the fanbase with his stoic personality, as well as his playmaking ways on the field. His coaches and teammates will instantly fall in love with him, and together they’ll grow into perhaps the new bully on the block in an aging AFC North division.
Well, if you had 2-day scruff on your face when you started reading this, then by now you must have the beginnings of a beard. You’re welcome.
I enjoyed everything about the entire process this year, as I believe that the 2018 class will go down as one of the best we’ve ever seen. We could very well see six quarterbacks drafted in the first round tonight, which is just mind-blowing to me, but it certainly speaks to how good this class is.
Hopefully you learned something by reading this, but my only goal in writing it was to get you to think. Now, bring on round one!