By Chris Losey
With an eye toward the future, many fans of the Buffalo Bills are turning their attention to the college game, where the Bills’ potential franchise quarterback awaits.
While the Bills aren’t in full “tank” mode like the New York Jets, they are clearly rebuilding, evidenced by the stockpiling of draft picks as of late.
In what could be an incredibly disappointing 2017 on the gridiron, here are some quarterbacks to watch on Saturdays to prepare for the 2018 draft.
Mason Rudolph Oklahoma St. Senior 6’5” 230
Rudolph has been exceptional in two games this season, with 638 yards through the air and six scores. While he has faced relatively weak college teams in Tulsa and Southern Alabama, one cannot hold that against Rudolph just yet. He has a cannon for an arm and places the football very well. He struggles throwing past his primary read, and field vision has been an issue for him. Still, things are looking up for the senior, and he should develop on working through his progressions this year. Rudolph could be a nice option to snag in the late first to early second round next year if he keeps improving.
Josh Allen Wyoming Junior 6’5” 235
Allen reminds a lot of scouts and fans alike of Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, possessing great athleticism and a large frame. Allen has a great arm and can move around the pocket nicely. He will make great plays and make excellent NFL-level throws, but also is prone to mistakes and accuracy issues, completing only 56% of his passes last season. Allen opened the season with a poor showing against Iowa, throwing for only 174 yards and tossing two interceptions on bad passes. However, Allen’s line and supporting cast did little to help him out. Allen redeemed himself this past weekend, looking brilliant against Gardner-Webb. The communications major completed 22 of 32 passes for 328 yards and two touchdowns, living up to the loftier expectations he’s had entering 2017. Allen is a good bet to be a top-10 pick in next April’s draft, and may even go in the top-five if he improves on his footwork and mistakes.
Lamar Jackson Louisville Junior 6’3” 211
Jackson, the recipient of the 2016 Heisman, Maxwell, and Walter Camp awards, is one of my favorite prospects heading into the draft. As a friend of mine puts it, Jackson is a “Tyrod Taylor on steroids meets Brett Favre”, and I can’t help but agree with him. His leadership skills are unquestionable, and though he needs to improve his pocket passing and accuracy, he has a very nice arm and can fit passes in tight windows. Jackson’s scrambling abilities are also excellent, as he added an astounding 21 rushing scores to his 30 through the air. In Jackson’s first game of 2017, he completed 30 of 46 passes for 378 yards and two touchdowns, and added 102 yards on the ground in a win over the Purdue Boilermakers. This past weekend against the Tar Heels, Jackson posted an even better stat line, throwing for 393 yards and three touchdowns, while rushing for another 132 yards and three more touchdowns. That’s six total touchdowns! I’m very excited to see him play in the NFL, and he very well could be a top-10 pick. If he continues this break-neck pace of great quarterbacking, Jackson could find himself challenging the top two on this list as the first signal caller taken next April. He would fit very well in the Bills offense, with his superior physical skills, toughness, and leadership abilities.
Sam Darnold USC Sophomore 6’4” 220
Darnold entered this season as the favored quarterback to be chosen first overall, and has shown he deserves that honor. His accuracy is excellent, completing 67% of his passes a year ago, though that number is a tad bloated due to USC’s use of the bubble screen. Darnold remains extremely cool and collected under pressure, and can make plays out of nothing. His skills will translate well to the pro game, and he possesses nice athleticism. Darnold disappointed in his first appearance in 2017, throwing for only 289 yards and two interceptions, but nonetheless led the Trojans to victory against Western Michigan. He’s being considered as the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck came out of Stanford in 2012, and has the highest floor of all of the signal callers in this draft. If I’m being completely honest, I think Darnold is very good, and makes excellent throws, but I’m not in love. He probably gets drafted first overall barring any injuries or terrible play, and I don’t think the Bills are bad enough to get him. Be prepared to boo him as a Jet.
Josh Rosen UCLA Junior 6’4” 210
Rosen is my guy, plain and simple. I love his confidence, moxy, and pure quarterbacking skills. He has a strong arm and puts the ball in tight windows, and will excel on the NFL level wherever he goes. Rosen had a tough season last year, getting harassed by opposing defenses due to a poor offensive line, and eventually needing shoulder surgery. He began the year under fire from the Texas A&M defense and falling to a 44-10 deficit in the third quarter. Rosen ended up orchestrating one of the biggest comebacks in NCAA history, finishing with 491 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-44 win. Rosen showed impressive leadership and resiliency in that opening game alone, and his teammates rallied around him to come out on top. He has excellent field vision, which I think is better than Darnold’s. He puts a tight spiral on the football, and he has the best field vision in all of college football. Scouts have said he’s the purest passer of all of the quarterbacks coming out of college this year, and he looks the part of an NFL franchise leader. Rosen played very well in his second game of 2017, tearing up Hawaii for 329 yards and five touchdowns. The Bills may or may not have a shot at Rosen, but I am hoping that he somehow falls to wherever they are picking. He’s the real deal, and Buffalo will be very good for a long time if they’re able to land Rosen.
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