2018 Quarterback watch

By Chris Losey

As the collegiate football season progresses, we’ve been getting a little more insight on how next April’s first round will shake out as it pertains to the quarterback position.

A few weeks ago, we took a quick look at the top signal callers that will be available in the 2018 NFL Draft, and today we’ll look at the changes within my top-five.

The Buffalo Bills have been abysmal through the air this season, ranking twenty-ninth in total passing yards, with only 522 in three games. For perspective, Tom Brady of the New England Patriots has 1,092 passing yards.
If it wasn’t completely obvious that the Bills need to invest all of their energy in getting a topflight quarterback before the season started, it is now.
Let’s take a look at the updated top-five, and I’ll give my opinion on who would be available when the Bills make their first selection.

5. Luke Falk Washington St. 6’4” 223
Falk has shot up the quarterback prospect ranks with an impressive season so far, throwing for 1,718 yards and 16 scores in five games with the Cougars. Though not a cannon, Falk has an NFL-caliber arm, and a lot of the physical tools to excel at the next level. He’ll still need to improve his field vision and working through his progressions. Falk primarily operates in the shotgun, so it will be imperative that he adjusts to working under center in a more pro-style offense after draft day. In his most recent game against USC, he threw for 340 yards and two touchdowns and one interception, in an impressive 30-27 win against a superior Trojans team. Falk is definitely someone to look out for next spring, as he could be a target for the Bills with their second first-rounder from the Chiefs.

4. Josh Allen Wyoming 6’5” 233
Allen has been compared to the Steelers’ Ben Roethlisberger over the past year in terms of skill-set and size, but still leaves something to be desired when watching him play. Allen possesses all of the tools, but is plagued by poor decision-making at times. Though he is playing on a bad team, you’d expect a blue chip prospect to elevate the play of his teammates. In his last game against Hawaii, Allen completed only nine passes for 92 yards and one touchdown. The previous week, in a loss to Oregon, Allen was equally abysmal, throwing for only 64 yards and an interception, while completing only 37.5 percent of his passes. He’ll have to fix his accuracy troubles if he wants to be successful in the pros, holding a 54.8 completion percentage on the season. The good thing is, college numbers usually don’t translate that well in the NFL, or else guys like Johnny Manziel and Tim Tebow would be on their way to Canton already. Allen will be a project for whichever team selects him, as they need to develop a lot of his skills in order for him to fulfill his mammoth potential. If his pro team is able to be patient with his growth, the sky is the limit, which is why Allen still falls inside my top-five. The Bills would be getting a good one with Allen, but the jury is still out on where in the first he’ll end up. If Buffalo ended up picking him, they’d need to probably sign a quarterback that could hold the fort down for a couple years while Allen develops. Perhaps they could make a short-term offer to a guy like Kirk Cousins, who doesn’t want a long-term deal as it appears. They could roll with Cousins and get better, then move on when Allen is ready.

3. Sam Darnold USC 6’4” 220
Darnold was the media darling heading into the 2017 season, as they heralded him as the future top pick of the draft next April. Scouts loved his composure under pressure, coolness in the pocket, and his superior accuracy. With all of the hype and expectation, the sophomore has been unimpressive so far, throwing nine touchdowns to eight interceptions. He still avoids pressure very well, and remains poised, but isn’t fitting the bill of the top quarterback in a draft. In his last game, incidentally squaring off against number five signal caller Falk, Darnold was underwhelming. He completed only 15 of 29 passes for 164 yards and an interception in the 27-30 loss to Washington State. Still, Darnold has all of the physical makeup to be a very good pro quarterback, and scouts have said that he is the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck came out of Stanford in 2012. On the season, Darnold has thrown for 1,389 yards and has a nice completion percentage of 64.6. He may do better to return to USC for his junior season if continues to slide, but if Darnold can right the ship before the season ends, there’s no reason he’ll be a top-10 pick. I still cannot tell how good he can be in the pros, and I’m not sure he’d be able to step in immediately for the Bills and be successful. He’d be an upgrade, that much is obvious. But I’m not sure he’d be a franchise savior as expected.
2. Lamar Jackson Louisville 6’3” 211
Jackson may be the most exciting prospect to come out of the draft since Cam Newton, except Jackson is probably a much better leader than Newton. Jackson has everything a team would want in a quarterback, with a rocket for an arm, improving accuracy, and nice field vision. His skill-set can be described as Brett Favre with the athletic ability of Michael Vick. Jackson is a little on the slim side, and will probably need to bulk up about 10 to 15 pounds in order to take the punishment of the pro game due to his rushing ability. In his last game, he threw completed 18 of his 22 passes for 299 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks. He also ran for 43 yards and a score. So far, Jackson has thrown for 1,387 yards and 10 touchdowns in four games this year, and is a prospect that could be very successful in the NFL. If the Bills were to draft Jackson, they’d be getting all of the benefits of Tyrod Taylor’s rushing ability paired with the quarterbacking skills of a pro signal-caller. He’ll probably be selected in the top-15 of the draft, so the Bills could have a nice shot at getting him. He could probably step in right away and succeed, utilizing his athleticism while he figures out the speed of pro defenses, an advantage that prototypical pocket passers do not have.

1. Josh Rosen UCLA 6’4” 218
Pure passer.

That’s what Rosen is. He has the nicest arm of all of the prospects, and puts a beautiful spiral on the football. Rosen puts the football where he wants it, and has very good accuracy and pocket presence. Rosen has also shown that he possesses resiliency and leadership, as evident in his comeback victory against Texas A&M in week one. In only four games this year, Rosen has thrown for 1,763 yards and 16 touchdowns, while only throwing four interceptions. In his most recent game against Stanford, he threw for 480 yards and three touchdowns, while tossing two picks. Rosen does get in the habit of being a gunslinger, since the Bruins defense often puts them in deficits. Still, the mistakes can be overlooked for this guy. He is loved by his teammates, contrary to popular belief, and buys his offensive line dinner after every game. Things like that bode well for a guy who will have to come in and be a leader of grown men. Rosen does have a brazen personality and isn’t afraid to speak his mind on social topics. On the field, he fits passes in very tight windows to receivers that haven’t done an exceptional job in gaining separation this season, and has a knack for the art of quarterbacking. Rosen possesses that “it” factor that everyone talks about, and he’ll have a spectacular career in the NFL if he continues on the path he is on. Sadly, the Bills probably won’t have a shot at Rosen when it’s all said and done, barring a poor finish to the season by either the Bills or by Rosen. He’ll be able to step in immediately and resurrect whichever franchise he goes to. As the old guard of quarterbacks begin to retire, Rosen will be the face of the new generation of signal callers.
At the end of the day, a guy like Falk will be a good fit for the Bills, since I think they have no shot at Rosen, Jackson, or Darnold unless they trade up. Allen would probably be better for the franchise down the line than Falk, it just depends on how patient the Bills are. Still, I can at least dream of Rosen in blue and red.

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