With the 2017 NFL Draft firmly in the mirror, fans may be wonder “why the hell did my team not draft a QB?” The answer to that is simple: the 2018 QB Class looks absolutely loaded with talent at the quarterback position. Teams do look ahead at future Draft classes, it is important to remember that the scouting department inside NFL team’s scout prospects from the moment they enter the collegiate ranks, not just when they become draft eligible.
The Cleveland Browns are a franchise stuck in NFL purgatory until they eventually find their franchise signal caller – with so much Draft ammunition to move up and down the board, the Browns employed a strategy of stock piling Draft capital for 2018 while taking solid blue-chip prospects who will help improve their football team over the next half a decade (or maybe decade if the picks pan out). The New York Jets are also a team in desperate need of a Quarterback, yet with only 1 off the board, New York decided to draft a safety – all be it a very good one in Jamal Adams.
There is already a notion that teams may look to forfeit the 2017 season in order to draft high and try and take one of the classes premiere quarterbacks. In 2012 we had ‘Suck for Luck’, this year it could ‘Scam for Sam’ or for any of the other signal callers listed below. It is important to remember that a lot can change between now and the 2018 NFL Draft. Yet this season seems to be the first since 2014 when we entered the season with some big premier names at the QB position (Marcus Mariota at Oregon and Jameis Winston at FSU were creating buzz ahead of the 2015 NFL Draft). Over the past two years we saw Jared Goff and Carson Wentz then Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson, Patrick Mahomes and DeShone Kizer shoot up boards throughout the college season. This year it feels different, this year there seems to be legitimate buzz around a number of quarterbacks that we have not seen since Andrew Luck decided to play his senior year at Stanford or when Peyton Manning and before him John Elway came out. QB needy NFL teams who passed on quarterbacks in 2017 will hope that one of the names listed below goes on to shine in the upcoming college season and most importantly – declares themselves draft eligible. There would be nothing more crushing for a QB needy team than if a top QB prospect announces he is going back to college for his senior year (look at what happened to Buffalo in 2011, instead of getting Cam Newton they got Marcell Dareus as Luck went back to Stanford for his senior year). Here are the names football fans need to get familiar with before the college and NFL seasons kick off in September:
Sam Darnold, USC
Four months out from the start of the College season, Sam Darnold is the poster boy of the 2018 NFL Draft class. He was only a 4-star recruit and the Trojans wanted him to play Linebacker in his freshman year, Darnold declined and red-shirted due to Cody Kessler and Max Browne being ahead of him on the depth chart. Entering the 2016 season he was the second-string QB behind Brown and played a limited role during the first three and completed 14 of 22 passes for 2 TDs and 1 INT. Yet after a 1-2 start, Browne was benched with Darnold winning the starting job.
In Darnold’s first career start against Utah he completed 18 of 26 for 253 yards and recorded a rushing TD, yet USC lost 31-27. After this loss, the Darnold led Trojans did not lose a game for the remainder of the season, including a 26-13 upset over the #4 ranked Washington Huskies. USC’s offense averaged 37 points and 518 yards per game, while Darnold finished with 246 completions off 366 attempts (67.2%), 3,086 yards with 31 TDs and 9 INTs as a rookie. He had a QB rating of 161.1 and also rushed 62 times for 250 yards (4.0 average) for 2 TDs. Against Arizona and California he became the first QB in school history to record 5 TD passes in consecutive games and also threw for multiple TDs in 8 straight game. He was named the 2016 Pac-12 Conference Freshman Offensive Player of the Year.
Darnold’s impressive rookie campaign included a 52-49 Rose Bowl victory over Penn State where he completed 33 of 53 passes for 453 yards. He set Rose Bowl records in passing TDs (5) and total yards (473). He was awarded the Archie Griffin Award (college football’s most valuable player to his team throughout the season), the first freshman to ever win the award.
Darnold has proto-typical size for the QB position (6’4″) to compliemnt a strong arm that allows him to reach all levels of the field. He has shown he is able to hit receivers in stride and throw them open. He has excellent anticipation and trusts what he sees. He is a good athlete and can move in the pocket while also picking up additional yards on the ground. His accuracy is suspect at times but this is due to him throwing while off balance (easily correctable). He has a huge amount of raw talent and has shown he can win games and has the mental toughness needed to lead a winning programme. Darnold is currently the Heisman-favourite for 2018 and another strong showing should put him in the conversation to go no.1 overall if he decides to declare early for the NFL Draft.
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Rosen is heading into the 2017 season as the consensus No.2 in the ‘Big 3’ conversation (Darnold at 1, Allen at 3). Don’t let the low completion percentage fool you, Rosen is thorough-bred NFL-ready QB who has excellent footwork to compliment tremendous touch and accuracy. He has ideal size and arm strength to be successful at the next level and looks ready to start early on in the NFL . When the protections good, Rosen has flashed the ability to ‘look off’ and manipulate safeties then connect with his primary or secondary reads.
Rosen is an intelligent QB, however, when under pressure he needs to learn to throw it away. He has so far played behind a poor offensive line and routinely taken a beating. He missed the majority of 2016 due to a shoulder injury which I hope will be fully healed for the 2017 season. Rosen might have the best mechanics of any of this year’s top QBs and he can make pin-point accurate throws even when falling to the ground. Rosen has looked deadly accurate in college football and a strong showing in 2017 could have him pushing Darnold for the No.1 overall spot.
Josh Allen, Wyoming
I really, really, really like Josh Allen. He has Joe Flacco/ Matt Stafford type frame and arm strength but he’s more athletic than Carson Wentz/ Jameis Winston or Jared Goff. In Wyoming’s system, Allen spends a lot of time under center and runs a pro-style offense unlike others on this list who’s systems don’t translate to the NFL.
Allen has all the arm talent you look for in a top pick and can throw the ball on a dime while on the move. He’s also an extremely capable ball carrier and isn’t afraid to use his large frame (6′ 5″, 233lbs) to fight for extra yards by lowering his shoulder on defenders – something that fans love to see but Head Coaches and OC’s cringe at.
Despite all the hype Rosen and Darnold are rightly receiving – I love Allen and believe that with a great 2017 campaign and some more development, Allen could turn into the best of the bunch. He needs to be less aggressive and work more on his touch, but from a physical stand point he has everything you look for and can make throws that others on this list are unable to match.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner was the hottest QB in college football before the final 3 games of the season, when his Louisville Cardinals lost 3-in-a-row, knocking them out of the College football playoffs (enter stage left Deshaun Watson). Jackson was truly electrifying as a Sophomore in 2016 and should continue to create plenty of buzz in 2017. Jackson started 8 games as a true freshman in 2015. He finished with 135 completions off 247 attempts (54.7%), 1,840 yards with 12 TDs and 8 INTs. He had a QB rating of 126.8 and contributed 960 yards on the ground off 163 attempts (5.9 average) with 11 TDs.
He was even more impressive in 2016 registering 230 completions off 409 attempts (56.2%) for 3,543 yards with 30 TDs and 9 INTs. He had a QB rating of 148.8 and also added 1,571 yards on the ground off 260 attempts (6.0 average) with 21 TDS – a whopping 51 total TDs! Jackson won the Heisman trophy 1 month before he turned 20 years old, the youngest ever recipient.
Jackson is the most electrifying college QB since Michael Vick set the world ablaze at Virginia Tech at the turn of the millennium. Jackson’s extreme youth and unconventional style of play is likely to scare but also intrigue most Head Coaches. His odds of being drafted high are helped by how Carolina has built a shot-gun based offense round Cam Newton, Russell Wilson is excelling in Seattle and how Tennessee have constructed an RPO-based offense around Marcus Mariota. Jackson could be the next Michael Vick and be more successful than Cam Newton was in his MVP 2015 season. Yet like Vick he appears destined to be a UFO in the NFL and GMs, Head Coaches and Offensive Coordinators will likely be placing their heads on the chopping block if they select Jackson high and believe he can be a once-in-a-generation type player.
Luke Falk, Washington
Luke Falk’s draft stock will depend on two things:
1) How he performs during his Senior year at Washington State
2) How Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes fare in the NFL given the current bias against Air Raid system QBs.
Falk has all the arm talent any scout or general manger could wish for, the problem is that he plays in a system where he threw the ball 1,226 times the past two seasons (avg. 52 attempts per game). Falk has eye popping stats but they are expected from a QB who has total command of Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense.
Falk does not possess the massive arm that Patrick Mahomes had coming out of Texas Tech, however, Falk is more polished prospect than the Texan who went 10th overall this past April. Falk will enter the NFL with 4-years of college football under his belt and he is a smart quarterback who’s seen plenty of football. He throws with excellent anticipation and timing and possesses great pocket awareness which makes up for his lack of elite athletic ability. He has ideal height, weight, size and might be the biggest sleeper QB heading into the 2017 college season.
– Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
– Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
– Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
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