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Top Five 2018 NFL Draft Prospects - Quarterback
These young men will be tasked to be the future leaders of an NFL franchise. Today I rank the top five quarterback prospects for the upcoming NFL Draft.
1. Sam Darnold, USC
Bio: Initially recruited to play linebacker, Sam Darnold redshirted his freshman year before being name the backup quarterback in 2016. After a 1-2 start to the season, starter Max Browne was benched in favor of Darnold. With Darnold as the starter, the Trojans averaged 518 yards and 37 points per game and set Rose Bowl records for passing touchdowns and total yards. The following season, he led the Trojans to the PAC-12 Championship. Darnold decided to forgo his final two years of eligibility and enter the NFL Draft.
Pros: Prototypical NFL size. Trusts his o-line to maintain the pocket as he keeps eyes down the field. Knows how to look off safeties. Takes what the defense gives him and able to audible. Sees the whole field and doesn't focus on his first option. Goes through progressions like a seasoned vet. Throws with great anticipation and timing. Isolates deep ball routes pre-snap. Can make all the necessary NFL throws. Knows how to fit balls in tight windows. Trusts his arm, tight spiral, and accuracy. Has the arm strength to get rid of the ball quickly. Nice velocity, timing and accuracy to throw the deep out. Tough in and out of the pocket. Feels edge pressure and climbs up in the pocket. Shakes off defensive ends and throws with accuracy and pace when on the run. Completion percentage unaffected by blitzes. Quick processor when faced with unblocked blitzers. Can pump fake and find next option. Strong runner who can move the chains with his legs. Doesn't get overwhelmed by mistakes. Shows quality leadership and poise.
Cons: Elongated release is obvious. Windup gives defenders early cue to break on routes. Muscle memory may not allow for correction on his mechanics. Turnover total is concerning. Finished 2017 with 22 turnovers (13 interceptions and nine lost fumbles.) Averaged a pick a game over last 20 games. Decision-making and field vision were all over the place in 2017. Has a tendency to rush throws. Too much heat on some shorter throws. Relies more on arm strength rather than driving through with his legs. Too willing to throw off his back foot. Accuracy on intermediate throws dropped this past season. Throws too often with placement rather than leading his receivers. Touch on deep throws needs refined. Took sacks when throwing ball away was an option. Must learn to slide in the open field.
Compares to: Andrew Luck
Projected Round: 1
Projected landing spot: Cleveland Browns
2. Josh Rosen, UCLA
Bio: As a true freshman, Josh Rosen was named the Bruin's starting quarterback in spring practice. He would go on to be named the PAC-12 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year. After missing half of his sophomore season, Rosen returned opening day of 2017 to help the Bruins overcome a 34 point deficit, the largest in school history, to beat Texas A&M. He was named second team All-PAC-12 after leading the conference in passing yards per game and also set the school record for passing yards in a season.
Pros: Elite footwork and delivery balance thanks to years of playing tennis. Plays with excellent coordination between eyes and feet. Turns head around quickly on play-actions. Able to play under center. Anchors in pocket and doesn't needlessly move around. Trusts his protection and doesn't take eyes of targets when edge rushers are in pursuit. Climbs pocket when needed. Willing to stand and deliver in the face of pressure. Completed 63%of his passes on blitzes in 2017. Accuracy totals negatively impacted by 31 drops by receivers this past year. Mechanics are ideal. Rarely over-strides and throws with great bend in his knee. Throwing motion and follow through are near flawless. Extremely confident and smart. Throws receivers open. Might be best back shoulder thrower in the class. Shows ability to speed up internal clock for move to pro level. Very good usage of pump fakes and hitches to fool defenders or buy more time for receivers to get open. Touch passer who can throw soft when needed.
Cons: Durability is an issue. Carries lean build and has had injury issues dating back to high school. Missed most of his sophomore season due to an injury to his throwing shoulder which required surgery. Carries ball low in pocket leaving him susceptible to fumbling. Too care free with pocket set-up. Decision making and post-snap reads are inconsistent. Refusing to check down throws at times. Overall arm talent and strength are below average. Needs to make a better effort to make seam throws. Poor career deep ball completion percentage. Allows some throws to sail, giving defenders an opportunity to break up a pass. Lacks arm to challenge safeties with throws over the top. Needs better anticipation of when routes open up. Next to no mobility. Struggles to elude early pressure. Completed just 42.4% of his throws when forced out of the pocket. Plays too much hero ball. Able to extend plays, but takes unnecessary chances rather than throwing the ball away. Experts question his passion for the game and whether he's willing to be coached.
Pro Comparison: Eli Manning
Projected Round: 1
Possible landing spot: New York Giants
3. Josh Allen, Wyoming
Bio: After attending junior college, where he threw for 285 yards a game and 26 touchdowns, Josh Allen transferred to Wyoming. In 2016, he threw for over 3,200 yards and 28 touchdowns and nearly declared for the 2017 Draft. The next year, he led the 8–5 Cowboys to a 37–14 win over Central Michigan in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and announced that he would be entering the 2018 NFL Draft.
Pros: Prototype build for pocket passer. Sturdy base allows him to shake off defenders and extend plays. Rare arm strength and overall arm talent. Has variety of release points for any situation. Can release quickly when route breaks open. Able to thread the needle with a missile launcher. Makes throws that no other quarterback at the college level can make. Excellent thrower of deep outs. Able to outpace safeties on deep sideline throws. Aggressive pump fakes open up double moves. Capable of directing receivers when scrambling. Can roll right and fire it down the field with impressive velocity and placement. Asked to read the entire field in Wyoming's offense. No throw is impossible for him. Has arm strength and mobility to create explosive plays when chaos arrives. Ability to challenge safeties over the top could help open up running games. Attacks intermediate windows with above average precision when allowed to sit in the pocket. Has experience under center and operating in play-action. Willing to pull it and move the chains with his legs. Has experience playing in poor weather conditions .
Cons: Overall accuracy issues. Never had completion rate higher than 56% in either season as a starter. Accuracy diminishes greatly when he's forced to move in the pocket. Tries to play the hero too often. Attempts to overcome obstacles with arm talent and makes poor decisions because of it. Takes too many chances with low percentage throws. Needs to play smarter and put more emphasis on ball security. Fastball pitcher whose touch could use improvement on shorter throws. Will phone in the deep throws at times. Ability to read defenses is sketchy. Needs to be more patient in allowing routes to open up. Would benefit by toning down velocity for better timing. Anticipatory throws aren't natural to him. Lacks focus on pre-snap reads. Breaks from pocket without reason, throwing off his timing with receivers. Footwork inconsistent when sliding in pocket. Often reverts to unorthodox throws when there is time to set feet and deliver.
Compares to: Blake Bortles
Projected Round: 1
Possible landing spot: Denver Broncos
4. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Bio: As a true freshman, Lamar Jackson played in 12 games making eight starts and was named the MVP of the 2015 Music City Bowl. On opening day of 2016, he set a school record for total touchdowns in a game with eight. Jackson finished the year with over 5,000 total yards and 51 total touchdowns while being named the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner. As a junior in 2017, He played in 13 games, finishing with 3,660 passing yards, 25 touchdowns, 1,443 rushing yards, and 17 rushing touchdowns.
Pros: Elite playmaker with rare ability to make big plays with his arm or legs. Has experience playing under center. Arm is lively and can deliver tight spirals. Delivery has no wasted motion. Ball comes out with flick of the wrist reminiscent of Michael Vick. Can drive throws with velocity. Pocket poise and pre-snap reading has improved each year. Has improved ability to freeze safeties and linebackers with his eyes. Soft deep ball touch off play actions. Requirement of full-time spy lowers coverage numbers. Willing to take sack over making a dangerous throw. Master of improvisation. Scrambling ability forces cornerbacks to choose between covering receiver and coming up in run support. Eliminates pursuit angles when he is on the move. Has open field instincts and elusiveness of elite level running backs. Understands when his speed can eliminate a tackler and moves focus to the next defender. Dangerous in the red zone. Accounted for 10 rushing touchdowns of over 40 yards in three seasons.
Cons: Lean frame with thin base and legs leave him open to punishing hits in the pocket and as a runner. Must learn to slide. Lazy in his setup. Throws with excessively narrow base and stiff knee bend. Flips it rather than rifling it. Makes receivers work too hard. Sails throws that can end up in hands of a defensive backs. At times, hesitates to challenge safeties down the middle. Low release point leads to tipped passes at the line. Typically gets through first two reads, before stopping and taking off. Pocket awareness has room for improvement. Poor accuracy on rollouts and scrambles. Underthrown deep balls allow cornerbacks to make plays on the ball. Lacks touch to get the ball over the heads of middle linebackers into intermediate pockets. Turnovers are still a problem.
Compares to: Michael Vick
Projected Round: 1-2
Possible landing spot: New York Jets
5. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Bio: As a true freshman, Mason Rudolph played in three games after injuries to the starters. By his sophomore season, he was the Cowboys fulltime starter. In four years at Oklahoma State, Rudolph threw for over 13,000 yards, and 90 touchdowns. His senior year, he won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm and Sammy Baugh Awards all while leading the FBS in passing yards per game.
Pros: Great size and stands tall in the pocket giving him his true height as a passer. Does a good job of letting routes develop and allowing wide receivers to get open. Stays clean in the pocket with footwork and is rarely touched by rushers. Keeps eyes targeted downfield when moving around pocket. Got rid of the ball quicker and cut down his sacks in 2017. Willing to throw in front of safeties and attack over top of linebackers in intermediate part of the field. Has steadily improved each year and showed full command of the offense as a senior. Saw 10% of his drop back passes turn into 25+ yard completions. Puts air under his deep throws and gives receivers a chance to make plays. Reads safeties and moves to his progressions accordingly. Ran zone reads around the red zone and finished with 17 career rushing touchdowns. Willing to drop his head to get extra yards? Comes from a football family with dad playing at North Carolina in the 80's and his brother currently a linebacker at Clemson.
Cons: Over-strides on throws at times. Rarely drives lower body through the throw causing balls to sail. May not generate enough velocity to beat playmaking corners who lockdown passing windows. Struggles making some pro level throws. Throws are scheduled and aren't often improvised. Needs to throw with better timing and placement on comeback and out routes. Defaults to off balanced throws when there is time to step and deliver. Ball placement and decision making can diminish when forced to move from pocket. Ball will come out wobbly at times. Inexperienced as play action passer. Benefitted from playing with receivers who fight for balls downfield. Wasn't asked to get through many progressions in Oklahoma State's offense. Has had ball security issues in the past.
Compares to: Ryan Tannehill
Projected Round: 2
Possible landing spot: Washington Redskins