Top-Five Quarterback Prospects

Photo Daily Bruin

By Chris Losey

After months of scouting the top-five quarterback prospects, my first official top 5 rankings rankings are here.

I’ll be doing these monthly, leading up to the NFL Draft in April, and I’ll also indicate who’d be the most likely candidates to land with the Buffalo Bills.

I’ll also include a pro comparison, which is limited to their style of play, not necessarily what’s between the earholes.

1. Josh Rosen UCLA Junior 6’4” 218

Rosen is the best quarterback prospect in this draft, and has all of the tools teams could want in their franchise guy. Rosen can sling it with precision, and his pass has a beautifully tight spiral. He routinely throws his receivers open, fits passes into tight windows, and did this all behind a below-average offensive line and receiving corps. He is not a very athletic quarterback, so mobility is not his strong suit. He’d be best suited in a west-coast style offense. Rosen has sharp footwork and a nice, quick throwing motion. I’d say he’s a polished prospect and one of the purest passers we’ve seen in a while. Rosen is very poised in the pocket, and faces defensive pressure well. He has shown resiliency multiple times this year, none greater than his week one comeback performance against a superior Texas A&M squad, where he threw for 491 yards and four touchdowns. He led the Bruins to a 45-44 victory, after being down 44-10 in the third quarter. The criticisms of Rosen are largely exaggerated, such as the point of his teammates disliking him, which was disproved by his teammates on Twitter. He’s brash and outspoken off the field, but extremely smart. Teams could be worried that he may only play for a few years and retire because of the head injury concerns of football and it’s lasting effects (he’s a smart guy). I like to think he has an Aaron Rodgers-like mentality. He finished the year with 3,756 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions. I imagine he’ll go in the top-three picks. Pro comparison: Matt Ryan

2. Sam Darnold USC Sophomore (RS) 6’4 225

Coming into the 2017 collegiate season, Darnold was the favorite to be the consensus number one pick in the 2018 draft. He had a really nice redshirt freshman season, and showed a lot of raw ability, which many expected Darnold to expand upon and take the next step this season. Darnold does a lot of things well, and has a knack for throwing guys open and making anticipatory throws. He’s an athletic quarterback, and can make plays with his feet, despite being built like a linebacker. His accuracy is through the roof, and has shown mental toughness. His footwork can be cleaned up, but Darnold still can stand strong in the pocket. He didn’t have an excellent offensive line like he did his freshman year, but was still able to make a lot of plays. He shows more flash than Rosen, and has a little bit more potential. Darnold probably should have went back to school for one more year to develop, as he suffered slight setbacks in turnovers. He especially had issues fumbling the ball. He also has to work on his decision-making, and everything he does, he needs to do quicker. These can be developed easily, as he possesses all of the raw tools needed for a star. Darnold does have a long delivery, which can be a little concerning, as you’d want your quarterback to get the ball out fast. With the right coaching staff, Darnold can be a very good starter in the NFL. He finished the year with 4,143 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Darnold will probably be a top-10 pick, and will be a prime candidate for the Bills to trade up to get. He would fit very well in Buffalo, and has that franchise-type stature the Bills have been waiting for. He’s your guy, so go get him, Beane. Pro comparison: Andrew Luck

3. Josh Allen Wyoming Junior 6’5” 237

Allen was pretty putrid early on in 2017, but finished with a nice bowl game against
Central Michigan, where he finally showed his massive potential, throwing for 154 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. Allen played on a dismal Wyoming squad, so it was very difficult separating the bad play between he and his teammates. Allen has the strongest arm in the draft, and is a proficient deep passer. However, his accuracy falls sharply in short and intermediate passes, as Allen lacks touch on his passes, and has atendency to throw rockets. Allen was erratic during Senior Bowl practices, and onewonders if he is accurate enough for NFL success. He checks all of the boxes in terms of physical abilities, with great measurements, and has nice athletic ability. In the Senior Bowl game itself, Allen completed nine of 13 passes for 158 yards and two touchdowns in limited action. He showed better touch on his passes in the game than in the practices, but it’s an extremely small sample size. Allen is every coach’s dream in terms of what a franchise quarterback should look like, but you wonder if what’s between the earholes will allow those skills to translate on the next level. He could go anywhere between pick one and pick 10. Pro comparison: Ben Roethlisberger (high), Blake Bortles (low)

4. Baker Mayfield Oklahoma Senior 6’0” 211

Mayfield seems to be the favorite of this class due to his great success this past year with the Sooners. The Heisman trophy-winner was a mid round pick that was projected to be a career backup going into 2017, and shattered all of those expectations. Mayfield showed great poise, competitiveness, and leadership, along with good accuracy and an NFL-caliber arm. Mayfield is a pretty good athlete, and can be elusive in the pocket if need be.He looks good when ad-libbing, but has a tendency to try to make unneeded flash plays. He reads the field much better than Allen, and would be number three on this list if not for his limitations. While his fans look at him and think Russell Wilson and Drew Brees, Mayfield is a bit different of a player. He reminds me of Colt McCoy strictly in terms of his physical talent and abilities, though his arm is a bit stronger. Where Mayfield excels isthrough the massive chip on his shoulder and ability to overachieve. While he’s a great leader on the field and in the locker room by all accounts, Mayfield has a lot of question marks off of the field. Less than a year ago, Mayfield was arrested for four misdemeanors, including public intoxication and disorderly conduct. He also got into hot water this fall over grabbing his crotch and yelling at the opposing sideline in a game against lowly Kansas. While some will pass this off, it is worrisome that an organization would make him the ‘CEO of the franchise’, with the potential of Mayfield’s immaturity rearing its head. Aside from that, teams will consider his size to be an issue. Mayfield doesn’t have the elite athleticism like Wilson or the intangibles like Brees to overcompensate for his size. He can be a very good NFL quarterback in the right system, and probably will do better in a dome or a warm weather city. He needs to work on his footwork, as it may be the worst out of this top-five, and just some general field vision skills, as most quarterbacks do. If Mayfield can work on being in a more conventional offense, and can adjust to elite pro defenses, he’ll do fine. If the hype train continues, he could be a top-five pick. Pro comparison: Colt McCoy with smarts and confidence.

5. Mason Rudolph Oklahoma State Senior 6’4” 230

Rudolph probably has the best chance of still being available for the Bills to select at picks 21 & 22. Rudolph checks a lot of the boxes that teams would want in a franchise quarterback. He has an excellent arm, and excels at the deep ball. Like Mayfield, Rudolph played against pillow-fight defenses in the Big-12, so his 4,904 passing yards are a bit inflated. He plays behind a solid offensive line, so he had a clean pocket a lot of the time. When he does face pressure, he has nice footwork and ability to avoid the rush and sets his feet to make a nice pass. A lot of quarterbacks in the draft don’t set a great base in the pocket, but Rudolph does, and you don’t see a ton of back-foot throws. His arm isn’t as strong as Allen’s, but he has much better touch, and can fit passes in tighter windows. He needs to work on reading the field, and you don’t see a ton of creativity with Rudolph. He doesn’t lack confidence, saying he believed that he was the best quarterback in this draft. Rudolph needs to work on anticipation throws and when the play breaks down, you don’t really expect him to be able to make a play from nothing like Darnold and Mayfield. Rudolph isn’t robotic, like a Kirk Cousins, but he could loosen up. He’s not perfect, but he may be the best option, seeing it’s becoming more unlikely that the Bills have enough to trade up for one of the more lauded options at the top of the draft. Best of all, Rudolph is smart and doesn’t get rattled too often, so you feel comfortable with him behind center, even though he’s not flashy. He’ll have to sit for a year or two to learn the speed of the league, but the development could do wonders for his game. Pro comparison: Bigger slower Derek Carr

Honorable mention: Luke Falk, Washington State Senior 6’4” 220 (PC: K. Cousins)
Lamar Jackson, Louisville Junior 6’3” 211 (PC: M. Vick)

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