Wouldn’t you know it, we’re finally single digit days away from what Jerry Sullivan from the Buffalo News deemed, “the most important draft since they [the Bills] took Jim Kelly.”
Considering the importance of this draft for Brandon Beane and for the state-of-mind of Bills fans everywhere, it’s time you polish your knowledge of the top five quarterbacks in this draft – ranked by yours truly.
QB1 – Josh Rosen (2017 stats: 3,756 yards, 26 TD’s, 10 INT’s)
Rosen is my top-ranked quarterback for the 2018 draft, and much like last year’s QB1 [Patrick Mahomes], he’s far and away the top-ranked passer in the class. Most evaluators will agree that Rosen possesses elite (in the context of past draft classes) processing speed and field awareness. Although he doesn’t have Mahomes-esque arm talent, there isn’t a throw (practically speaking) that Rosen can’t make. He has a career 60-percent completion percentage and dominated the intermediate passing game in 2017.
But it wasn’t the numbers that impressed me as much as it was how he put those numbers up. What I mean is he played on an offense largely devoid of NFL talent. He also played with one of the worst scoring defenses in 2017, meaning he was playing from behind a lot.
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 16, 2018
But like every other quarterback in this draft, Rosen has his flaws. I guess those flaws start off the field, but I certainly don’t see the issues some NFL general managers do with Rosen off the field. In a recent Bleacher Report article about Rosen, there’s a goldmine of anonymous quotes from scouts and general managers that both indict and defend Rosen’s “issues” off the field. “That’s all funny when you’re not getting 50 people fired if you miss on a quarterback. The last thing we need is the face of our team tweeting about the president when we’re on a losing streak,” one NFL executive said. On the other end of the spectrum, one scout said, “Is he a douchebag? Probably, but so is Aaron Rodgers and he’s done OK.”
Although most of his criticism comes off the field, one on-field criticism you can find in Rosen’s game is his numbers in the red zone. When the field got smaller, so did Rosen’s effectiveness. He had the second-most attempts and was tied for the lowest touchdown percentage.
He also sustained a few serious injuries behind suspect offensive line play at UCLA, including a serious shoulder injury that ended his sophomore season and multiple concussions over the course of his three-year career. Regardless, I believe whoever decides to draft Rosen will draft a legitimate franchise quarterback who can elevate the play of the guys around him. It’ll ultimately be up to the organization’s structure and coaching staff to keep Rosen engaged, but he’s an investment; thinking a team won’t put the time into putting him in the best situation possible is ridiculous.
QB2 – Baker Mayfield (2017 stats: 4,627 yards, 43 TD’s, 6 INT’s)
If we went by the numbers, both conventional and advanced analytics, Baker Mayfield would have to be the QB1 in this draft. But add in his lack of prototypical size – measuring 6’1’’ at the combine – and questionable antics off the field (and at times on it), and Mayfield finds himself number two on my list.
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 5, 2018
On the field, Mayfield is an absolute assassin.
— Cover 1 (@Cover_1_) January 19, 2018
In Lincoln Riley’s air raid scheme at Oklahoma, Mayfield was the beneficiary of an incredibly aggressive, quarterback-friendly offense that some speculate inflated his completion percentage. Mayfield’s 68.5 career completion percentage is astonishing.
Even more impressive were his 2016 and 2017 seasons, completing 70.9 and 70.5 percent of his passes, respectively. But when you take a closer look, you see that despite having an offense that gave him a lot of easy reads against lame Big 12 defenses, Mayfield excelled in all three areas of the field, including tight windows.
2018 NFL Draft narrative busted!
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 16, 2018
It’s the stuff off the field, like Rosen, you worry about, just in a very different way when you take about Mayfield. Before his drunken, on-camera arrest, Mayfield was already known to toe the line on the field and reinforced that on multiple occasions in 2017, including an episode during a game against Kansas where he made an obscene gesture on national television.
But what makes Mayfield great is his ultra-competitive bravado that rubs off on the guys around him. He can truly be the pulse of your football team, but if you’re Brandon Beane or any general manager, you have to determine whether he can be mature enough to be the face of your franchise, because on the field he has a ton of potential.
QB3 – Sam Darnold (2017 stats: 4,143 yards, 26 TD’s, 13 INT’s)
In a lot of ways, Sam Darnold disappointed in 2017 after an incredible breakout freshman season the year before. In the run he went on at the end of the season for USC after a horrendous start in their season opener against Alabama in 2016, Darnold dazzled with 31 touchdowns in 13 games, completing 67 percent of his passes.
Ridiculous play by Darnold…Sometimes his lower body and movement in the pocket is chaotic, BUT sometimes it serves a purpose. Check out what it does to the safety here…Dime
Scouting Report: https://t.co/e60h7PVXeJ pic.twitter.com/5WRguTd4DT
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) March 27, 2018
In his second season as the full-time starter, Darnold shouldered a considerable load, throwing 480 times – over 100 more attempts than the previous season.
Sam Darnold: Special in crunch time (via @PFF_Steve)
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) February 21, 2018
The reason Darnold falls to three on my list stems from my serious concerns about his ability to overcome what I believe to be a serious turnover issue. In 27 career games, Darnold has 36 turnovers. That’s a big number with a decent sample size of play, and something I have a difficult time overlooking.
Looks like the bad footwork locks up his hip and the ball sails. pic.twitter.com/cqeP6hbKVZ
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) February 20, 2018
What worries me the most is his throwing motion, something I believe has a direct effect on his high turnover number. Besides his episodes of hero ball, Darnold’s turnovers happen when he drops the ball escaping the pocket and when pass rushers can game-plan around his looping throwing motion. Especially in the NFL, defensive coordinators will have their pass rushers time up his release and make things very difficult for him. Either way, it’s almost a lock Darnold goes in the top four. Wherever he goes, he’ll need a quarterback whisperer that won’t try to dramatically change his throwing motion.
QB4 – Josh Allen (2017 stats: 1,812 yards, 16 TD’s, 6 INT’s)
I’ve actually started to really open up to the idea of Josh Allen, not only from the Bills’ standpoint, but also from an overall prospect standpoint. There’s no hiding or denying his incredibly poor completion percentage in college playing at a lower level of competition in the Mountain West Conference. At just a hair over 56% for his career, Allen comes into this draft class as one of the more difficult prospects to evaluate. His raw talent and size are undeniable.
🚨🔓Our detailed scouting report on QB Josh Allen is UNLOCKED🔓🚨
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 13, 2018
Combined with elite arm talent – maybe the best we’ve ever seen – his on-field performances, at times, leave you scratching your head. The thing is, you can see it. I go back to the bowl game last year against Central Michigan. Especially early on he was throwing in rhythm, something you wanted to see much more of on film from Allen. He was extending plays and delivering strikes.
22 personnel PA strike for a TD vs. possibly quarters coverage.
Safety bites on the post by the TE, WR widens his stem, gets the CB turned around and heads to the post. Props to the WR for the all hands catch.
Allen almost succumbs to the turf monster but he buries the throw. pic.twitter.com/jYiv5oBq0G
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) January 18, 2018
The thing you can’t account for with Allen is what he’ll do with NFL talent around him. You always hear the argument that when Allen faced better competition like Iowa and Oregon, he played some of his worst football.
But it’s not like he was playing on a mid-major program pumping out high-end NFL talent. He had a lot on his shoulders, and at times you saw that in his play. He forced balls out of over-confidence in his arm. But what I like about Allen is his ability to out-throw any defender. The Bills don’t have the type of weapons that I think Allen can succeed with; he’s best suited for a vertical threat offense, somewhere where he can operate outside the scope of the offense. I’m not sure that place is in Buffalo.
QB5 Mason Rudolph (2017 stats: 4,904 yards, 37 TD’s, 9 INT’s)
I really wrestled with my QB5. I think if you would have asked me two months ago, I would have told you Lamar Jackson. I think Jackson brings such an interesting element to the position, but the more I’ve searched and evaluated, the more I’ve warmed up to Mason Rudolph. To be honest, his film isn’t sexy, but the guy gets the job done.
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) March 20, 2018
I won’t deny that he was an elite deep ball thrower in college; he has the numbers to back it up.
Talk about dropping it in the bucket.
Passes over 20+ air yds:
Completion percentage 43.3% pic.twitter.com/FLsm3abl7M
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) January 12, 2018
What I worry about is whether that translate to the NFL consistently, and can he live and thrive on the deep ball like he did at times in college. I have serious doubt about that because I don’t believe he possesses overly impressive arm strength. He definitely has the arm needed to play in the NFL, but he’ll have to thrive on timing and anticipation – two things he showed he was at least above average at.
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) April 8, 2018
What convinced me he was ultimately my QB5 wasn’t on film or on the stat sheet. His NFL Network interview at the combine and on the whiteboard work really impressed me. It might be stupid, but the way he conducted himself, his recall and his overall confidence really struck me and stuck with me.
I think he has the goods to succeed, but I’m not sure he’s a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. He’s got a little Nick Foles in him, so a quarterback-needy team could potentially find a mid-round gem in Rudolph.
Keep an eye out for my 6-10 rankings set to come out later in the week.