So the NFL Draft-covering media apparatus has been badly overhyping next year’s quarterback class (as usual). Before I get to the good passers of tomorrow, let’s review the trendy names and my thoughts on them.
Disclaimer: I put this together after binging through all the DraftBreakdown.com game cutups I could find last weekend, so people more knowledgable than me are out there and you should listen to them. The anonymous team execs and scouts who will get fired for being wrong about all of this next year are not those guys. That’s not entirely true, their input is just as valuable as anyone else who’s put in the work. I guess what I’m saying is don’t put them on a pedestal just because they know a guy who got them a job in the NFL. They’re just as fallible as me and you.
Another disclaimer: a number of these guys are young underclassmen and may return to school. I’m of the opinion that if they can stay in school, they should. A strong cautionary tale for them is former Miami Hurricanes passer Brad Kaaya, who was highly-recruited and left school too soon. Now he’s been drafted late, waived, claimed, and released again more times than I can count. All that said to say that names on this list may not actually end up declaring early for the draft.
- Sam Darnold needs another year at USC or he’ll be the next Blake Bortles. Too often he throws with his feet parallel to the line of scrimmage, leading to errant passes and painful turnovers. He has the nebulous “it” factor teams covet and carries himself with the confidence and humility you look for out of a leader. He just hasn’t seen enough football to become the face of a franchise.
- The other Los Angeles-area quarterback and the best Josh in this draft class, Josh Rosen, is actually pretty good. He’s got a great mind for football and seems to understand the game on a high level. Like Tony Romo, Rosen can smoothly comprehend all of the moving parts on the field and how they work together. There isn’t a throw he can’t make. NFL teams will have questions about his health and outspoken political views, but I would trust him to win a game for my team.
- Josh #2, Josh Allen out of Wyoming, is worse than Blaine Gabbert and evaluators making excuses for him are committing an injustice. He should grad-transfer to, like, the Wisconsin Badgers where he can learn to play behind a real offensive line and NFL scouts can see if he’s really as bad as his game tape and numbers suggest. I really hope they stop gassing this kid up so that he doesn’t get thrown to the wolves.
- Washington State quarterback Luke Falk is not good. I’m tired of watching him hurt my Coogs on PAC-12 games after dark. But if you liked Nathan Peterman or C.J. Beathard this past year you’ll probably like him, too.
- Mason Rudolph is effective in the Oklahoma State offense and I could see him being a Kirk Cousins-like guy at the next level. Or maybe he’s Andy Dalton. Either way I don’t see him being the reason you have a winning season, I’m just not sure what he does better than other prospects. His receivers seem to have to adjust to off-the-mark passes for him more than others but I don’t have any empirical evidence to support that.
- Two sleepers are West Virginia Mountaineers gunslinger Will Grier and NC State Wolfpack leader Ryan Finley. Both guys play with poise and have impressive arm strength. I wish we had a larger sample size of game tape for each of them, though. If you’re okay with waiting until the third round or later to pick a passer, these are the names to know.
Okay, so of that group the only guys I think might be pro-ready are Rosen, maybe Rudolph, and eventually Grier and/or Finley. Those are all acceptable choices. Here’s the two quarterbacks I’ll plant a flag and die on a hill for:
Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals (6-foot-3, 215-pounds)
The lazy comparison for Jackson is Michael Vick. The better look is Randall Cunningham. Cunningham (6-foot-4, 215-pounds) is a closer match to Jackson’s playstyle and listed measurements than Vick (6-foot-0, 210-pounds). Vick was a magician, making plays with his legs and throwing the football over them mountains, but Cunningham played with a confidence in the pocket nearer to Jackson.
A lot of the criticism surrounding Jackson as a prospect is coded language. “Can he pick up an NFL offense”, “better athlete for receiver than quarterback”, “can he read a defense”, and so on and so forth. That’s all malarkey thrown around by not-so-subtly racist analysts and decision-makers. It’s been said about everyone from Russell Wilson to Cam Newton, Jameis Winston to Tyrod Taylor, and every other quarterback of color. The sooner that kind of language is put in the garbage, the better.
The critiques about Jackson’s arm strength and accuracy are just as baseless as those leveled at young Houston Texans star Deshaun Watson last year. I’d love to see what plays Sean Payton would design for Jackson in consideration of his field vision and mobility. They would set the NFL on fire.
So, for the record: Jackson is the best quarterback in the draft and I’d love for the Saints to have him. He would be my first choice. I’m really hoping he won’t be available because the NFL isn’t as dumb as I fear and the Saints will be picking too far back (32nd overall, because they’re winning the Super Bowl this year).
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Sooners (6-foot-1, 224-pounds)
I’m going to post two scouting reports. One is written about Mayfield, and the other is about a quarterback who’s been playing for a while. Guess which is which:
Positives... Touch passer with the ability to read and diagnose defensive coverages...Confident leader who knows how to take command in the huddle...Very tough and mobile moving around in the pocket...Has a quick setup and is very effective throwing on the move... Throws across his body with great consistency...Hits receivers in stride and improvises his throws in order to make a completion...Puts good zip behind the short and mid-range passes...Shows good judgement and keen field vision...Has a take-charge attitude and is very cool under pressure...Hits receivers in motion with impressive velocity...Has superb pocket presence and uses all of his offensive weapons in order to move the chains...Has solid body mechanics and quickness moving away from center...Elusive scrambler with the body control to avoid the rush.
Negatives...Plays in the spread offense, taking the bulk of his snaps from the shotgun...Tends to side-arm his passes going deep...Lacks accuracy and touch on his long throws...Seems more comfortable in the short/intermediate passing attack...Does not possess the ideal height you look for in a pro passer, though his ability to scan the field helps him compensate in this area...Will improvise and run when the passing lanes are clogged, but tends to run through defenders rather than trying to avoid them to prevent unnecessary punishment.
And the other report:
Positives...A good athlete with mobility. Finds a way to wiggle out of trouble and can take off running for first downs. Not a sprinter but can’t be ignored as a runner...Solid arm strength. Demonstrated on multiple occasions that he can cut it loose down the field with enough velocity to hit receivers in stride...Shows quickness to get the ball out fast. No extra time taken when having to get rid of it. Serves him well when pressure is in his face...Accuracy and ball placement show up even when he’s on the run. Does a good job of not forcing his receivers to constantly adjust to the football in flight...Doesn’t lack for toughness. Took some pretty nasty shots in some games and kept getting back up for more. Teammates will approve of that...Can deliver some camera-juking pump fakes, indicating he likely has big hands. That will explain how he’s able to deliver the ball so well.
Negatives...Has lived in the shotgun his entire college career. Played in a classic spread offense. No idea how to play under center or take drops...Lack of size is going to be a concern. Though not extremely short, he’s giving up vital inches that will make vision and healthy primary questions at the next level...Somewhat reckless at times with his decision-making. Will throw into tight coverages, trusting in his accuracy that will lead to interceptions in the NFL...Can have a bad tendency to hold the football trying to keep plays alive. Opens him up to frequent hits and also fumbling the football.
If it wasn’t clear, the first report was written way back about Drew Brees when he was setting records for the Purdue Boilermakers. The second report was written earlier this year about Mayfield. It’s okay if you’re shocked by how similar they are.
Mayfield is torching every defense that lines up against him. He’s the most-accurate passer in college football and a fiery leader who will inspire guys to rally around him just like Brees has. Mayfield plays the game with a high degree of difficulty and would be a stellar fit in Sean Payton’s fast-paced offense.
For whatever it’s worth (probably very little), Mayfield’s high school is just 22 miles from Brees’ Texas hometown. It’s very possible the two have played on the same fields earlier in life and could share a stronger tutor-student relationship than Brees didn’t seem to have with Garrett Grayson, a relative outsider from the Pacific Northwest. Who knows?