Here we finally are! After spending more than a month on the rankings and analyses of the top prospects at each other position, we are down to the final one – the quarterbacks.
Unlike a lot of scouting pages and grading systems, I don’t weigh accuracy, arm strength, leadership or any of these abilities the same. I look at every factor and grade the total package.
This group of signal-callers includes six potential first rounders and there’s a solid chance four of the top five picks end up being spent on QBs. After that, there’s a lot of different opinions, on who the next guys are. I believe all of my top ten players have a shot at starting for an NFL franchise some day and a few guys at the top could be special players.
I really wanted to go in-depth with these quarterbacks, especially the top guys.
1. Sam Darnold, USC
After redshirting his freshman year, Darnold transformed the USC program in his second season, leading them to ten straight wins, after losing three of their first four. He put his name on the map with an incredible Rose Bowl performance versus Penn State in 2017, in which he threw for 453 yards and five touchdowns. Darnold came into last year as the top quarterback and a lot of people’s radars and despite an up-and-down junior campaign, he is still clearly my number one guy.
Darnold is the total package with the athleticism to burn defenses when pulling the ball on zone reads, as well as the ability to carve them up from the pocket. He has the arm and definitely the confidence to make any throw he wants to, You might not like the way the ball is coming out of his hand, with that baseball release and the way both his feet are often pointing forward, but the accuracy he is capable of is absolutely crazy. Maybe the most impressive pass I saw him make, came against Arizona with a tied score and just over six minutes in the fourth quarter. Darnold was rolling to his left and lobbed the ball thirty yards over the top of a linebacker to his running back, perfectly in stride. His touch is truly amazing.
Darnold doesn’t have the pure throwing power as a Josh Allen or is as natural a passer as Josh Rosen, but I don’t think there’s anything he can’t do with his right arm. Versus Oregon he threw perfect ball into the seams off his back-foot, displaying his unbelievable arm talent. The first-team All-Pac-12 member has a feel and trust for the pocket, which allows him to keep his eyes downfield and make big plays. He stays calm in the middle of the storm and his creativity is off the charts. Darnold can escape, reset and deliver better than anybody else in college football. He is just way too reckless and loose with the ball at this point and will drive some coaches crazy, but h makes up for it with some incredible actions and never loses confidence.
A leader by example, Darnold is as tough as a five-dollar steak. He was a three-sport athlete coming out of high school and played linebacker before going to USC. I’ve seen him bury people as a lead-blocker on reverses and run through defenders instead of going out of bounds. Darnold is extremely competitive and just wants to make plays for his team. However, he loses awareness to some degree when doing so (see scramble at the end of the half versus UCLA, which led to the time running out).
The big issues here clearly are the turnovers (22 total in 2017). There are certainly some things that are correctable with proper coaching, like keeping that off-hand on the ball inside the pocket to cut down the number of fumbles with defenders around him. Yet, he simply has a mindset of going for the big play every single times and he loses track of when the right decision would be to either check it down or give up on the play. I certainly love the confidence, but the careless attitude as a junior worries me to a degree at this point. However, I would argue that he had to force some throws for his team to be able to win. Unfortunately, Sam often is too pre-occupied on the pre-snap look of defense and forgets to clarify it once the play starts. He locks into his primary target too much at times, which especially was on display when you see him directly compared to UCLA’s Rosen. He didn’t live up to the bill against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl, when he threw a pick-six and put the ball on the ground twice with a bunch of Buckeye defenders around him and holding the ball in one hand instead of bringing it into his body. Darnold will need to be more consistent with bringing his entire with him on throws and not toss it off platform that often. He possesses a lengthy wind-up and the decision-making was questionable to some degree last year.
Darnold comes from a spread-offense at USC, but he didn’t just let it go once the receivers were running free. More than anybody else in this class, he shows the anticipation and touch necessary to succeed in the NFL. He decided not to throw at the combine, but looked very smooth flinging it around in the rain at his pro day and threw the ball in rhythm. Danrold hust has that “it” factor, which makes his teammates believe that they always have a chance to win.
2. Josh Rosen, UCLA
Rosen was already labelled “The Chosen One” coming out of high-school and it didn’t take him long to make a mark on college football, winning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year after beating out the competition right away. The UCLA signal-caller missed half of the 2016 campaign with a shoulder injury, but came back as good as ever last season, completing almost 63 percent of his passes for 3756 yards, 26 touchdowns and ten INTs.
To me, this guy was the best true pocket passer in the country. The ball just comes out of Rosen’s hands so effortless. He is an amazing rhythm-thrower. Rosen takes his steps, a hitch and the ball is out. He displays excellent accuracy on all three levels and can carve up opposing defense. He understands leverage and where the ball needs to be placed. The former Bruin star drops some perfect deep throws right into the bucket, even if his receiver only has half a step on the defender. That is possible thanks to the way he can use different angles and arc to his advantage. While he is smart with the ball in his hands and knows when to live for another down, he doesn’t lack any confidence.
Rosen has complete control of his offense. He displays underrated mobility inside the pocket and a feel for when to climb up into it, plus he doesn’t need perfectly set feet to deliver the pass on target. He was a star tennis player in his youth and some of this translates to the football field, in terms of his footwork and balance. Rosen finds mismatches against man and uses ball-placement to defeat it, while routinely locating the open areas against zone. He isn’t only concerned with the getting the ball to his man, but rather he wants to put it in a spot, where his receiver doesn’t have to break stride and can continue to run with it. Early on in the season opener against Texas A&M, Rosen didn’t have any receivers open and was put on his back a lot, before leading one of the greatest comebacks in college football history,
Especially in 2017 Rosen didn’t get much help from the rest of his team, as the Bruin defense allowed 36.6 points per game. His receivers dropped a bunch of passes and the rushing attack averaged just 3.8 yards per carry. Rosen probably is the most pro-ready QB of them all, which was displayed when going up against Sam Darnold towards the end of the regular season. He already understands the nuances of the position, like looking the safety off to open up a throwing window, or manipulating defenders with shoulder fakes and you routinely see him get to his third or fourth read in the progression. That includes getting back to an option, he has already come off earlier. If nothing is there, Rosen has no problem throwing the ball away either.
Rosen has been caught a couple of times, when he just trusted in himself to move the defender to open up the throwing-lane (see pick thrown into the end-zone in the third quarter versus USC). His slender frame and injury history connected with it are scary. Him showing average athleticism doesn’t help that case either and limits what he can do once the play breaks down. Rosen had a very up-and-down tape against Memphis, when lofting passes off his back-foot and stuff like that. On one play, he was scrambling to the right and had Jordan Lasley running wide open across the field, but instead he decided to throw the ball all the way back to his running back in the middle of the field. He was late and gave it away way too easily, leading to a pick-six. Overall, he just forces some balls over the middle at times and he puts too much air under some throws, instead of stepping into them and driving the ball.
I don’t want to hear about his family being wealthy and that he doesn’t really need football. I have no problem with Rosen having other interest off the field either or having an opinion on different topics. All I care about is if my quarterback wants to be great and what he is willing to invest into it. Rosen’s personality reminds me a lot of Aaron Rodgers, which was only magnified when I saw them work together on NFL Networks’ show “Destination Dallas”. If he can build up his body to be less vulnerable to injury, he is mentally challenged and surrounded by teammates, who see on the same level as him, Rosen is set up for an excellent pro career.
3. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
This guy is a gun-slinger, who led one of the most explosive offenses in the country over the past three seasons. However, he took really good care of the football throughout his collegiate career and put up a crazy touchdown-to-interception ratio of 119 compared to 21. In addition to that, Mayfield led the FBS in completion-percentage and quarterback rating over the last two season, plus he averaged a ridiculous 11.45 yards per pass attempt last season, which was a good yard more than the next-closest out there. This led to him finally winning the Heisman trophy, after being a finalist the past two seasons as well.
I had some doubts, if Mayfield could put up the same kind of numbers as a senior without his speedster Dede Westbrook and two excellent backs, but he was even more prolific and was the first former walk-on, who ended up being crowned as college’s premiere player. Mayfield started spreading the ball around more, but quickly found a new favorite target in Marquise “Hollywood” Brown. The Sooner standout is light on his feet and quick with eyes. Despite everything breaking down, him escaping the pocket and defenders chasing after him, Mayfield stays under control and makes excellent decisions. He just stays so calm amidst the chaos around him and some of his biggest plays occur, when he needs to improves and launches the ball down the field, sometimes even off the wrong foot.
While some of his scrambling and off-script playmaking looks hectic to the viewer’s eyes, Mayfield continues to play smart and he turns the football over very rarely. He beat the all-time record for QB efficiency in his career. The big question is – What to make of his incredible college statistics? Mayfield certainly had his numbers skyrocket with a lot of easy layups against the soft zone defenses in the Big XII. You imagine what his stats would look like in a conference like the Big 10, in which teams play a lot of tight man-to-man coverage and he can’t just throw it to an open receiver, but rather he has to throw his guy open. With that being said, he looked phenomenal at Ohio State last season and showed up big-time in the games with the highest stakes. At the next level, defenders are even faster and they will challenge his receivers more, but Mayfield doesn’t lack any type of arm-strength. His accuracy is excellent and he seems to even rise his level of play against the best competition.
Let’s get to the often used comparison to Johnny Manziel. I see the similarities in terms of height and crazy playmaking ability, when things break down around either one of those two guys, but Mayfield has a way stronger build, a better arm, is much more consistently accurate and most importantly, he can function from the pocket and win on plays that are on script. Moreover, I think he clearly cares about football more than partying. I’ve seen Mayfield shake off defensive tackles off his back, which shows you the lower body strength he possesses. This makes him dangerous as a runner as well, in terms of tacklers bouncing off his thighs. Mayfield is extremely competitive once he takes off and will pick up the first down when necessary pretty much every time. He went into a gun-fight in Bedlam with Mason Rudolph and won against the state rival.
Mayfield worked his way through his progressions much further than you’d expect from a spread system quarterback, but he also had the advantage of having one of the best offensive lines in college football in front of him. He doesn’t always use the time he has to set his feet perfectly and gives up some accuracy. Even though Mayfield got the best of the Buckeyes last season, he probably had his worst outing as a college QB in 2016 against them, when his receivers got pushed into the boundary and his offense was sent off the field on third and fourth downs continuously, plus he forced a couple of bad throws down the field. There certainly is some concern about the lack of success we’ve seen from spread QBs and those at around six feet. Mayfield fills both those bills and he can’t change them. The biggest question for him however, will be his character and how much of his cockiness you are okay with.
At the Senior Bowl, Mayfield came out in team-drills and showed the anticipation scouts want to see off the bat. When he wasn’t in the line-up, he always stayed right behind the offense and took those mental reps. We finally know he’s six feet tall and we can finally get past this ridiculousness. Mayfield clearly worked on his footwork when you watch his transition from Mobile to Indy and then back to Oklahoma, at his pro day. He received the two highest single-season grades ever by PFF. Mayfield is a great athlete, improviser and a fierce competitor.
4. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
This young man is probably the most dynamic dual-threat quarterback in college football since Mike Vick. After earning the first Heisman trophy in Louisville history with 51 total touchdowns and an unheard of 3500+ yards passing plus 1500 on the ground, Jackson came back with 13 pounds of added muscle and put up similar numbers once again, despite his team not being in the run like they were the year prior. I thought he was unfairly criticized during his collegiate career, because he was blamed for three bad games in 2016, despite taking 22 sacks during that span, and then his 1601 rushing yards in 2017 were more than the rest of the entire team.
I thought some of the offensive line struggles were gone in Jackson’s last season, but he once again had to run for his life and make things happen on his own, which certainly hurt his development in the pocket. On the other hand this makes his efforts that much more impressive, since he had to shake a defender before even getting a chance to either deliver the ball downfield or take off himself on multiple occasions. Jackson’s completion percentage improved every year and ended at 59.1 his junior year. Louisville counted heavily on him to make up for his defense allowing a large amount of points weekly, especially when cornerback Jaire Alexander was out with an injury.
Jackson really became a nation-wide discussed player when he and the Cardinals blew out Florida State in 2016 and he came up with five TDs. In 2017 I thought he had an equally impressive season as he did in his Heisman campaign, putting up almost identical numbers, while showing some improvement as a pocket passer. While I still thought he didn’t go through his progressions on a snap-to-snap basis, instead of taking off if he doesn’t like what he sees, he has the quality of retaining a calm base and quiet feet when coming off one read, pivoting his feet to the secondary target and releasing the ball with a rushers right in his lap. He also has the ability to process information quickly, can definitely throws with touch and arc over the top. When he does take off, he just kills pursuit angles routinely and can absolutely juke defenders out of their boots, forcing his opponents to play 11-on-11 at all times. I mean he had more career rushing yards than Saquon Barkley.
The electric playmaker is looking to throw first and actually shows a ton of composure. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves for that, because people think of him as this scrambler, who can’t operate from the pocket, but I was highly impressed when comparing him to some other QB prospects, who were pretty hectic and showed happy feet. I’d like Jackson to widen his base a little and load up his backside more, but that is much easier to teach, than telling my signal-caller to improve his pocket presence, which is at least to a large degree an innate quality.
However, Jackson’s release is pretty high and I still think he can improve his accuracy by shortening the motion, but I certainly don’t believe you have to change his entire fundamentals. At times he doesn’t fully step into the throw and follow through if the pocket is being pushed into him, leading to him flicking it more than pushing it. Jackson starts losing his rhythm at times when things go wrong and he gets frustrated, which leads him to lose accuracy. More importantly, he gets a little disconnected between his eyes and feet. He hasn’t taken that step from getting the ball to his receivers to winning with ball-placement. Jackson eats on in-breaking routes and slants, but doesn’t quite push it the right way to the outside. The biggest concern however, might be durability questions. While they didn’t come into play during his time with the Cardinals, Jackson’s slim body-build makes you a little nervous.
I truly believe Jackson is the most dynamic player – not just quarterback – in this entire draft. Every time I put on Louisville on Saturdays, I got to watch fireworks go off. While you can’t just put your entire playbook in his lap and ask him to make all the throws right away, I think his ability to win from the pocket is criminally underrated. His future offensive coordinator will have to commit to his style of plays and his coaches will have to teach him how to protect himself, but the payoff might be enormous. Jackson is a homerun threat on any given play with his legs or feet.
5. Josh Allen, Wyoming
Nobody really knew who Josh Allen was a couple of years ago, but this son of a farmer has been climbing up people’s draft boards in this process. Allen didn’t receive any interest from FBS schools coming out of high school, so it took a year at community college for Craig Bohl to find the young talent and recruit him to Wyoming. Those two had some good moments together, but Allen’s brightest days as a player might come in the pros.
Allen stands big and sturdy in the pocket. He has one cannon of an arm, which shows up when he drives balls on out-routes all the way towards the opposite sideline, or when he just rips it on a post route in-between the safeties and linebackers. He has also shown glimpses of excellent anticipation. Allen can’t only throw fast-balls, but also deliver with touch. He is at his best when he can take the snap, get his feet into position and fire it quickly. The former Cowboy shows a good base and readiness to throw the ball. In addition to that, he displays great escapability for a big guy. He can run around and just zip it 50 yards downfield off balance, like he did week one versus Iowa, where his receiver dropped a perfect pass. Allen is super tough inside the pocket and as a runner, even though he will have to work on taking less shots to survive at the next level. He also cares about his team, as he came back from an injury that held him out for two games, just to return to a rather meaningless bowl game, a lot of guys nowadays sit out, even if they’re fully healthy.
When everything comes together from the feet up to the shoulders, the ball comes out beautifully. The most important part for Allen is to clean up his footwork. He does a great job reducing the shoulder when stepping up to avoid edge rushers grabbing onto his pads. Much has been made about Allen’s completion percentage at 56 percent, but you have to understand that Wyoming doesn’t have any automatic completions built into their offense and he we asked to push the ball down the field a ton. Allen didn’t nearly have the kind of running game he had in 2016, his pass-catchers let him done a lot with drops and early on in the season, they missed several key starters. You can’t look at the numbers and question him going forward, but the tape tells the story. He is not nearly perfect at this point, but he has all the measures and tools you want to see in a franchise QB.
If you want to see how good Allen can be, watch him show out in the Idaho Potato Bowl versus Central Michigan. You saw the complete package – arm strength, mobility, anticipation and just feel of the game. The obvious comparison is Carson Wentz with almost identical measurements and the same college coach, but Wentz put up big numbers and carried North Dakota State to consecutive FCS titles, while Allen is all about potential. Yet, he’s probably even more talented than the Eagles QB, if you believe it or not. He just has ways to go, but he probably has the most arm strength and quickest release I’ve seen from anybody in the country.
Yet, his eyes drop too often when a rusher is in his peripheral vision and he loses patience, leading to him evading the pocket and his poise suffering. Allen rushes his feet and the entire throwing motion to a degree that he can’t do at the NFL level. Neither can he be this reckless in thinking he can fit throws into windows that simply aren’t there. He scrambles as soon as a rusher is in his vision to any capacity, when often times, he just needs to step up and rip it, and he ends up running away and making bad decision, Allen is late with a lot of throws, as he wants to see them be open, instead of trusting the receiver to seperate when the ball gets there. Therefore, he relies too heavily on his arm strength, instead of getting the pass off on time and with touch. Against the best three teams the Cowboys played last season – Iowa, Oregon and Boise State – Allen completed just 48 percent of his passes for an average of 123 yards with one touchdown compared to five interceptions. And they lost all three games. I don’t doubt he can be more accurate in the NFL or throw with better anticipation. The concern for me is his feel for the pocket. I’m not quite sure if anybody in the league can teach him how to gain that, because it is an innate trait, you can’t just learn, like throwing a skinny post 50 straight times to get the timing perfect.
Allen has risen in this pre-draft process like no other quarterback. Even though he had an uneven Senior Bowl week, he showed that he has the arm talent to make some ridiculous throws on the run. Then he went to the combine and had some evaluators drop their jaws when they saw him uncork 70-yard bombs. Finally, he looked to have tightened up his footwork and showed much better touch at his pro day. The one thing he has a head-up on some of those other prospect is the fact he has experience operating in a pro-style offense. I’m not sure about his poise and pocket presence, but Allen has all the talent in the world and someone will pull the trigger on him early. Maybe even the Browns at number one.
6. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Rudolph operated in a super-explosive offense for the last three years. He had the best receiving corp in the country and got all that talent involved. His 65 touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions since the start of his junior year, have put his name into the conversation for the top QBs in the country since then. Rudolph’s numbers improved every single year and last season, he completed 65 percent of his passes for 4900 yards on 10 yards per pass attempt, including 37 TDs.
At 6’5’’, 235 pounds, Rudolph possesses elite size for the quarterback position. While the spread-scheme produces many wide-open targets and doesn’t demand a lot of pre-snap adjustments, Rudolph has displayed tremendous accuracy, touch and command of the offense. He has a good base and shows subtle movement inside the pocket. At some point he will get into a groove and then simply looks unstoppable, especially against some of those soft Big 12 defenses. Rudolph keeps his eyes downfield, while sliding around in the pocket and allows his receivers to run free. The timing and ball-placement just look perfect and that was on display to its fullest in a shootout with Oklahoma and Baker Mayfield.
The big kid lost some traction as that forgotten guy in the upcoming draft, because OSU was out of the conference championship race. However, he can sling it as well as anybody and keep his team scoring over and over again. Rudolph showed a lot of improvement with his accuracy. He didn’t run a pure one-read spread offense, but rather he actually worked his way through progressions on a multitude of plays. Rudolph might have been the best deep-ball thrower in the country for the last two years and he is not hesistant to take shots down the field. He delivers that pass over the top with the necessary arc and touch, to allow his receivers to run under it. In totality, ten percent of his attempts went for 25+ yards and he impresses with crisp shoulder fakes. Rudolph can spin out of traffic and shift his eyes back downfield, despite being a pocket passer. He has shown he can move around, has and he scored 16 rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons
Rudolph was a tremendous passer in a conference, where you are used to throwing to open receivers, but at the next level, he will have to learn how to throw his guys open. He also benefitted from a bunch of layups built into the offense. Too often, the former Cowboy wouldn’t bring his lower body with him and really drive the ball, which is especially apparent on those throws at the line of scrimmage. Rudolph has no problem with taking off and taking what is there, but at 22 years old, he already looks like Ben Roethlisberger in the open field. He has no experience whatsoever from under center and I even saw him take a knee from the shotgun. I haven’t seen any full-field reads and due to an injury, he didn’t have a chance to show out at the Senior Bowl either.
Despite being used to throwing the ball almost 40 times a game, I think Rudolph will be at his best in a play-action heavy system, with him taking a bunch of deep shots. He gives his play-makers a chance to make things happen and with him standing tall in the pocket, he can see the entire field. I certainly don’t believe Rudolph will be able to translate the same kind of success to the NFL, but he has some of the traits scouts and coaches are looking for in a signal-caller.
7. Mike White, Western Kentucky
This young man started his career at South Florida, after leading his high school team to a state title and had his chances to prove himself as a starter for the Bulls. With disappointing performances and Quinton Flowers arriving at campus, White decided to transfer to WKU. After redshirting his first year with the Hilltoppers, he got another chance to show what he’s capable of, once Brandon Daughty entered the draft. In his two years as a starter there, White attempted 976 passes for 8540 yards, 63 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, while being named second-team All-Conference USA twice.
White stands tall and strong in that pocket, flung it around quite a bit in a wide-open offense, but can throw with anticipation and push the ball down the field. He makes nice deliveries and is more than just a guy, who uses the space defense give him underneath. The QB transfer shows excellent arc on the ball on throws over the top and puts some air under the ball on drag and flat-routes, to allow the recipient of the passer to run under it. At the same time, he has the arm strength to drive the ball towards comeback routes on the opposite hash.
The former fastball specialist, during his high school pitching days, displays a quick release and even quicker processing of information. I thought he was very impressive with his ability to look off defenders and deliver the ball with accuracy, when watching him perform at the Senior Bowl. When I put on the tape, I saw him not just holding safeties on one side of the field, but being able to manipulate underneath defenders and making them turn their hips, plus he can throw the ball off platform and basically change his throwing motion amidst his windup.
White had his completion numbers boosted through several quick screens and check-downs. He doesn’t always step into his throws and follow through completely. He got locked into his primary target at times and stared him down, but improved in that aspect with more experience. White takes his eyes down to see the rush on too many occasions and even though they move back downfield, the pictures he takes mentally of the play and coverage developing, is modified. Even though he suffered from horrific protection, some of those sacks are on his account.
I thought you could really see White grow mentally and he got much better at processing information in connection with reacting accordingly. The arm talent and football IQ are definitely there, but I have some issues with his pocket presence and loss of mechanics throughout games. However, I really like the overall package. I think White is definitely a player, who you can work with and can still grow. He would probably best served to sit a year behind a veteran and learn from him, before taking over the reigns.
8. Luke Falk, Washington State
Falk started three games in his freshman season for the Cougars and never looked back, running Mike Leach’s offense to perfection. In 2015 he was named first-team All-Pac-12 and received second-team all-conference honors the following year, due to better competition. As a senior, Falk kind of took a step back and had a couple of sub-par performances, but he is now leaving for the pros with several Pac-12 records.
The 6’4” signal-caller ran an Air Raid offense at Wazzu, but made full-field reads and can put up monster numbers. He is a very accurate thrower of the football, especially within ten yards from the line of scrimmage, and shows nice touch over the top of underneath coverage. Falk wins with anticipation and timing from within the pocket and he excels on back-shoulder throws to the outside. He doesn’t try to force balls into tight windows and doesn’t mind taking a sack if the play isn’t there. Falk always was given credit for managing his team at the line of scrimmage and checking them into the right play.
His numbers were pretty similar throughout his career as the Cougars’s starter at close to a 70 percent completion percentage and a touchdown-to-interception ration slightly above three-to-one. Those numbers should have probably been even better, had his receivers not dropped a bunch of passes. I thought even at the combine, with guys he doesn’t know, Falk showed he’s throwing to a spot – not a man, showing the ability to let the ball arrive at his target, right out of the break of the receiver. Falk maximizes the space he has in the pocket and displayed a ton of toughness, getting up after some devastating shots. He also took off several times for a couple of yards to keep his offense on schedule, after scanning the entire field.
Falk spends a long time in the pocket due to that and will need to learn to get rid of the ball quicker. He threw five picks at Cal in 2017 and while three of them were pretty unlucky, I saw some other potential ones go off the hands of defenders in the Colorado game and others. His other two worst performances came against Washington, which had great corners, who could man up against their receivers and force Falk to beat them with his arm. It shows that he just doesn’t have the throwing power to push the ball down the field and keep the defense from sitting on his passes. Falk can’t drive the deep ball enough, which allows DBs to turn around and make a play on it. He has been somewhat of a checkdown captain, with almost 74 percent of his passing within ten yards. He pretty light and lean, without a whole lot of mobility. That’s a concern in today’s league. So are his minus 400 rushing yards, with sacks counting as negative run attempts. Falk also made some questionable throws, when he needed to get rid of the ball and attempted kind of a jump-pass, to where a defender was already sitting.
Falk has been one of the most consistently accurate quarterbacks in college football, but a heavy dose of his passes came around the line of scrimmage. I don’t see the type of mobility or arm strength to make defenses respect either department, which would allow them to sit on underneath stuff. I believe you can improve throwing power to some degree and he can succeed if you surround him with playmakers, who just need someone to put the ball in their hands with good placement and go to work. I’m a big fan of Falk not being afraid of standing in the pocket with the rush right in his face, but he needs to get rid of the ball quicker. If he does so and stays healthy in the process, I think he could be a decent starter.
9. Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
Another rising name in the pre-draft process, Lauletta played in four games as a reverse in 2013 and then redshirted the next year. Since then, he has been a very functional and productive quarterback for the Spiders, with over 10000 passing yards and 83 total touchdowns in three season: He wrapped up his FCS career by receiving the trophy for Colonial Player of the Year and has been a hot topic since his performance down at the Senior Bowl.
Lauletta is an efficient passer with excellent precision and a tight spiral, who works his progression and gets rid of the ball. He has a bounce to his step and good feel for the pocket, keeping quiet feet when dropping back and working through his progressions. Lauletta functions very well in rhythm, but can also make plays outside the pocket. He owns the anticipatory skills, that allow himself to not have to wait for a throwing window to open up or a receiver to run free. Lauletta understands body-positioning and leverage, which tells him where the put the ball and that leads to several sweet back-shoulder throws. He gets the ball out quickly on short routes, while being patient with letting things develop downfield.
At 215 pounds, Lauletta has a trunky lower body, which allows him to get rid of the ball even when completely wrapped up and he has a gift of escaping the pocket. He is a decisive, physical runner, who doesn’t mind lowering his shoulder on a defender. His coaches called several quarterback draws and he efficiently picked up yardage on them. Lauletta really rides the back on play-action fakes and displays a sudden pull of the ball, to set himself up to deliver the pass. The coaching staff also used his athleticism on rollouts and naked bootlegs, which bodes well with his ability to throw on the run. From the interceptions I saw on tape, almost all of them came off tipped passes, and at the same time I saw several drops by his teammates.
The obvious shortcoming in his game is the arm strength he possesses. Lauletta can push the ball deep and fires some strikes over the middle, but I’m not sure if he can consistently win outside the numbers. Due to that lack of pure throwing power, he needs to put everything he has into a couple of vertical attempts and overshoots some of his targets. While he can anticipate and manipulate, I also saw a few snaps, where he honestly looked at one receiver for a full three seconds and just didn’t come off that read.
While some might argue, that he faced inferior competition during his time with Richmond, Lauletta was the most impressive quarterback in the Senior Bowl game, with three touchdowns and all different kind of throws, en route to receiving MVP honors. He shined the brightest of any of the signal-callers down in Mobile, despite the likes of Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen being there. Lauletta doesn’t have any elite traits, but he does everything pretty well. He has experience from under center, pistol and the shotgun, in addition to making checks in protection and with his receivers. He might not earn a starting spot once he arrives at training camp, but I can definitely see him get a chance a couple of years down the road.
10. Kurt Benkert, Virginia
Benkert started his career at East Carolina as a backup, coming off a redshirt year. After earning the starting spot in the upcoming fall, Benkert injured his knee and didn’t win back his job the following season. That forced him to transfer to Virginia and turned around his career. After a solid first year with the Cavaliers, he broke Matt Schaub’s school record for single-season passing yards as a senior. Benkert finished with an overall touchdown-to-interception ratio North of two-to-one, but he completed just 57.7 percent of his pass attempts during his collegiate career.
At 6’4’’, 215 pounds, Benkert has a strong build and an NFL-calibre arm. He displays quick feet and nice balance inside the pocket. In general, Benkert is extremely athletic for a quarterback and he can launch the ball 50 yards off the wrong foot. At Virginia, he worked his progressions very well in a more horizontal pass game. When defenses started coming up, he hurt them down the seams, Benkert only had 100 rushing yards per game to complement him as a senior and surpassed 500 pass attempts that season.
The former Cavaliers starter can throw some rainbows, that will have you gushing. He’s not afraid to make any throw and doesn’t look like he’s straining on some bombs over the top. Benkert displays sudden shoulders and hip rotation to keep defenses from reacting to where he actually wants to go with the ball. He was outstanding for most of their matchup with Miami, completing 18 of his first 19 passes for 288 yards and four touchdowns, but his 20th pass went for a pick-six and turned around that game.
His timing and accuracy were off by quite a bit versus Virginia Tech with an injured hand. Early in the second quarter of that game he had his outside receiver wide open off two clearout routes to the inside, but he decided to spin around and ultimately take a sack instead. Overall, at some points Benkert just doesn’t trust what he sees and pulls the ball down, even though I think he should get rid of it, and at other points, he will force some throws, that you shake your head about. Moreover, he has some serious consistency issues with his accuracy. That might be some degree due to him now swinging his back-leg through after releasing the ball and rushing some of his throws. Benkert needs to figure out when to drive the ball and when to put air under it, as he seems to casually choose his spots. Moreover, he stares down some of his receivers and fails to recognize blitzes at moments.
When his pocket is clean, Benkert can throw on time and target, which gets things done. His feet get tangled up occasionally on his dropback, but that’s nothing coaching and practice can’t fix. The big question marks are the accuracy and decision-making. I think getting him to fully perform his throwing motion every single time and making him throw with his entire body, instead of just flicking the ball, will help to some degree in that department. You can also get him to trust his reads more, but there is a lot of work still to be done before he is ready to go out on an NFL field.
Just missed the cut:
Logan Woodside, Toledo
Woodside had a rough start to his career, seeing playing action early on, before losing his starting job in 2015 to an Alabama transfer. When he took back over for the program the next season, he was outstanding, completing 69 percent of his passes for 45 touchdowns, compared to only nine picks. His numbers took a dip in 2017, but he was a first-team All-MAC selection once again. Woodside plays with a chip on his shoulder and great understanding for coverages. He was the centerpiece of a quick-shooting offense, throwing on time and target. He plays with bouncy feet and active eyes. The former Rocket puts good arc on his deep balls and knows how to put the ball over the underneath coverage. Watching his tape, I can tell that he suffered from a crazy amount of drops by his teammates. Woodside has no problem standing in that pocket and taking shots, while releasing the ball, and he is a solid scrambler. I thought he had an excellent performance versus Miami in their season-opener and kept his team in the game with his play. Unfortunately, Woodside doesn’t have the biggest arm and he lets some of his passes outside the hashes float in the air. Several of his attempets just come from a flick of the wrist and he doesn’t follow through with his lower body. At 6’2’’, 206 pounds he doesn’t really have NFL size or the arm, but Woodside is a tenacious competitor, with the ability to defeat zone with football IQ and man with ball-placement.
Chase Litton, Marshall
Litton has prototype size at 6’6’’, 230+ pounds. He put up pretty consistent statistics throughout his three years as a starter with the Thundering Herd, averaging a completion percentage around 61 percent, seven yards per attempt, 24 touchdowns and ten interceptions. Litton has a quick release and a live arm. When he sees man-coverage and feels like his receiver has a step on the DB, he is not afraid of launching the ball deep. He does a good job lofting the ball over the top of underneath coverage and recognizes stack-technique, which he counters with back-shoulder throws. On the goal-line, he puts air under the ball to give his playmakers a chance to win high. Litton shows some solid mobility and keeps his eyes downfield while scrambling. Moreover, he displays high football IQ, recognizing blitz and adjusting his protection pre-snap. However, he tends to stare his receivers down on some occasions and leads the safety towards the throw. I think he does some excellent things before the snap, but once the play is on its way, he lets some of those downfield throws hang up there for the taking. Unfortunately, he finished the season with 12 touchdowns compared to 11 picks. Litton is still a pretty raw prospect at this point, but there are definitely some tools, to develop him into the player he is actually capable of being. If his future coaches can turn that potential into actual production, he might be a steal some time on day three.
John Wolford, Wake Forest
This guy had an unbelievable turnaround from his first three seasons with the Deacon Demons to his 2017 campaign. After throwing 30 TDs and 35 INTs to start his career, he recorded 29 TDs and 6 INTs his senior year, plus another ten scores on the ground. That all came with the transition to a fast-paced offense, that includes a lot of RPOs and runs over 90 plays per game. Wolford never stopped pushing. His early struggles only fueled his work ethic and he turned into a different player. The 6’1” signal-caller diagnoses matchup advantages quickly and can make some things happen when the pocket breaks down. Despite taking a beating over his first three years, he is going to stand in the pocket, let things develop and make plays late, even with guys barreling down on him. Wolford displays excellent footwork and ball-handling He trusts his arm to just set his feet and fire the ball to the opposing sideline. He is deceptively fast and definitely tough as a runner. He had several quarterback draws called for him and can kind of squeeze through traffic to escape the rush. The four-year starters knows when to put to ball behind his receiver, when that guy is running towards a defender, to save him from a big hit. He puts his deep balls over the top and out in front every single time, in addition to bringing some hard pump fakes to the table. Wolford showed me a lot of toughness and heart in the Belk Bowl versus Texas A&M, when he finished the game on a banged up ankle to pull out the W. He also outplayed Lamar Jackson last year, by throwing for 461 yards and scording six total touchdowns against Louisville. Wolford definitely won’t fit any system and just comes in with size limitations, but I’m rooting for this kid.
The next guys up:
Nic Shimonek (Texas Tech), Riley Ferguson (Memphis), Quinton Flowers (USF), Kyle Allen (Houston), J.T. Barrett (Ohio State), Austin Allen (Arkansas)