Philadelphians, your Eagles are Super Bowl 52 Champs! What are you going to do now?
Well, we’ll tell you what you should do now. You should start thinking about the NFL Draft which begins in exactly ten weeks! By the way, did we mention it’s being held in Dallas this year? Dallas, a place, in which, the Cowboys reside. A place, in which, Roger Goodell will walk up to the podium, and announce, “With the 32rd pick, in the 2018 NFL Draft, the defending Super Bowl champions, the Philadelphia Eagles, select…” to a smattering of boos from local Cowboys’ fans. Talk about a real treat for us.
But with ten weeks remaining until the Cleveland Browns are on the clock, Eagles’ writer and Philly Sports Network founder, Liam Jenkins, and college football writer, Tyler Zulli, have decided to team up for a little NFL Draft crossover collaboration! For the next ten weeks, the pair will break down, position by position, a top five, all-inclusive rankings lists to give you everything you need to know about the first few rounds of the NFL Draft. The two will break down the strengths and weaknesses of each top tier player at each position in football, leading you right up to April 26!
Without further adieu, let’s begin this ten week process, and what better place to begin than the center of the game, and potentially four out of the first ten picks, the quarterbacks.
Tyler’s Top Five
5. Riley Ferguson, Memphis
You’re likely going to hear the terms “man crush” or “football crush” from Liam quite a bit over the next few weeks, so I figured I’d beat him to the punch here but starting my list off with my quarterback man crush, Riley Ferguson. Ferguson led a high powered Tigers’ offense to a 10-3 record in 2017, a year in which they lost to undefeated Central Florida twice. In his final two seasons at Memphis, Ferguson threw for almost 8000 yards, adding 70 touchdowns to just 19 interceptions. Three of those picks came in one loss to UCF, meaning Ferguson threw just seven interceptions in 11 other games this year. I understand that Ferguson quarterbacked against some less-than stellar defensive in the AAC, but he also had to compete with some very good ones, such as UCF and Navy. He also had to contend against his own defense, which allowed 40 or more points five times this past season. Ferguson completed 579 of 917 pass attempts in two years at Memphis, a 63 percent clip. The knock on Ferguson, much like many collegiate quarterbacks, is his one-read scheme, which allowed him to get the ball out quickly. While Ferguson isn’t considered a top tier quarterback this year, 6’4″, 210 field general certainly has the intangibles to compete at the next level. Whichever team grabs him in the 3rd-5th rounds could be getting a good one.
4. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
What’s not to love about Rudolph statistically? The three-year Cowboys’ starter tossed 92 touchdowns to just 26 interceptions in Stillwater. He also threw for over 13,000 yards in his four years, including 4,904 this year. He tossed over 300 yards in 11 of 13 games this season, including five games over 400 yards. The only game in which he did not throw at least two touchdowns was a 13-10 overtime win against Texas. The prototypical gunslinger also stands at 6’5″ 230 pounds and is built like a linebacker who can run when needed. Rudolph added 10 rushing touchdowns this year alone. The Rock Hill, South Carolina native threw the football nearly 500 times last season in 13 games, including four games in which he dropped back over 40 times. The knock on Rudolph is much aligned with Ferguson: he primarily played in a one-read passing attack. It was quick, efficient and dangerous, but it didn’t allow for Rudolph to learn to go through his progressions quickly. If he could get under the right tutelage, perhaps Drew Brees in New Orleans or Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, he could really thrive one day. I expect Rudolph to go somewhere between picks 33 and 100.
3. Sam Darnold, USC
Darnold is everything you want in an NFL quarterback when it comes to build. He’s 6’4″, 220 pounds and looks every bit the part. He finished the 2017 season with 26 touchdowns, giving him 57 for his two-year collegiate career. Darnold, undoubtedly, has the strongest arm in this year’s Draft class, and he knows it. He threw for over 300 yards in eight of 13 games this season. He played in, perhaps, the most pro style offense of all the NFL draftees this season, and his transition would be the shortest. What concerns me about Darnold, though, is his decision making. Over his last 20 games, Darnold has thrown 20 interceptions and fumbled ten times. I have an odd feeling about Sam Darnold. Darnold feels like one week he could become the next great NFL quarterback and turn around a week later and throw five interceptions. His ceiling is what gets him into my top five. His poor decision making at times puts him third and not higher. Darnold will likely be the first quarterback chosen, and could potentially be the number one overall pick, but I’m hesitant to put him higher on this list because of his long release and turnover-prone decisions. I still can’t see him going any later than sixth to the New York Jets.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
The man just wins. There’s really nothing else you can lead with when talking about Baker Mayfield. You could discuss his intangibles and his attitude, but at the end of the day, Mayfield put his Sooners into position to win the semi-final game this past season. Mayfield finished his career at Oklahoma throwing for over 14000 yards, 131 passing touchdowns,21 rushing touchdowns, and a Heisman Trophy. His completion percentage got better in each of his first three seasons, and dipped from 71 percent to 70 percent in 2017. He also threw just 30 interceptions in four seasons. His accuracy is undeniable. He threw at least two touchdowns in every game this season, and threw four or more four different times. Mayfield can run, but the greater danger is his ability to use his legs to simply extend the play. He is a quarterback who can run, not a running quarterback. Mayfield, of course, is knocked for his relative short stature as he stands at just six-feet tall. His offense at Oklahoma was benefited tremendously by the scheme it ran, which, much like the case for Ferguson and Rudolph, allowed Mayfield to make quick decisions. In terms of his style of play, much like Carson Wentz and Russell Wilson, Mayfield will look to extend the play instead of throwing the football away. Often, he’s successful, but sometimes, it leads to dangerous plays and sacks. Where Darnold is the intangibly-proven quarterback with a turnover concern, Mayfield is the exact opposite. I like his fire to propel him, however. You’ll find Mayfield likely drafted higher than he should be because of need, but I don’t think he’ll disappoint. He’ll go somewhere in the first round.
1. Josh Rosen, UCLA
Statistically, Rosen wasn’t better than the top quarterbacks in the Draft this year. Artistically, he’s easily the best. What I mean by that, is Rosen’s footwork and pocket presence is second-to-none. His motion from load to release is impeccable. Rosen’s most telling stat before we even get to the bulk of them is his 63 percent completion percentage when being blitz. This past season, Rosen threw 26 touchdowns to 10 interceptions, adding nearly 3800 yards in the process. He sat out the bowl game against Kansas State for Draft purposes, an idea that some have an issue with, but I have no qualms about. Four times Rosen tossed over 400 yards. He also had a stretch of four games where he threw eight picks. So the numbers can be drastically polarizing at times. Rosen may have been hurt by the talent around him, which wasn’t nearly as good as the other four on this list. As good as his footwork is inside the pocket, Rosen struggles outside of the pocket and on the move. His blitz pick up is tremendous, his completion percentage on the run is not. The poise puts Rosen over the top for me. I love him at the next level. He’ll be taken within the top five picks.
Liam’s top five
Okay, let’s start this off with a Mic-Drop or two. There’s one name who absolutely deserves to be in this conversation and simply isn’t without any logical reason as to why. But we’ll get to that shortly.
5. Josh Allen
Who else was predicting this Wyoming wildcard to make the top 5? Well, maybe not many prior to his Senior Bowl breakout. A huge arm and subtle tweaks to his touch on deep passes raised his profile significantly, and a 1,812 yard season with 16 touchdowns and just 6 picks didn’t exactly do him any harm either. The 6’4 quarterback also amassed 4 rushing touchdowns, proving that he can dance around in the pocket and make things happen with his feet.
Allen has all the tools needed to make the jump to the NFL, but he’s inconsistent. One minute, he’s throwing three touchdown passes against Texas State, the next he’s going 9-19 against Hawaii. A disappointing collapse in week 3 against Oregon showed just how much work there is to be done in Allen’s game, which will likely mean he is drafted in the second day of the proceedings. However, there’s no questioning he has all the arm talent in the world.
4. Lamar Jackson
This probably won’t be the most popular choice, but Lamar Jackson is easily the most explosive quarterback talent enlisting for the NFL. At 6’3, 227 lbs, many seem to revere Jackson as an incredible athlete who would be better suited to wide receiver. I would say that any man who can make a 70-yard throw seem effortless, dazzle with his mobility and complete 59.1% of his passes, throwing for 27 touchdowns and 10 picks is an NFL quarterback. Sure, Jackson has his setbacks, but the Heisman winner was one of the most electric players in the country during his time at Louisville, leading the FBS with a ridiculous 404.7 yards per game last year. While his decision making and turnover rate may be a little high, Jackson is a Madden-type quarterback with shades of Michael Vick and Russell Wilson and to suggest he’s anything other than a top-5 quarterback in this class is just a little bit silly.
3. Sam Darnold
From a mechanical standpoint, Darnold may be the most complete quarterback entering the draft. His throwing mechanics and anticipation are second-to-none and he’s easily one of the most accurate signal-callers in the draft. However, like many quarterbacks this season, he needs work.
A 63% completion percentage is by no mean’s bad, but 13 interceptions I 2017 is just too many. Fumbles and interceptions headlined a season plagued by turnovers, but his arm strength and stunning 316 yard, 4 touchdown game in the Pac 12 championship game showed he can do it on the big stage. Darnold for me is one of the more overrated prospects entering the draft, just because of the holes in his game when it comes to ball protection and decision making, but if these are ironed out, which they should be, Darnold could be a mainstay in the league for years to come.
2. Baker Mayfield
It’s so, so difficult not to put Baker Mayfield above our number one selection. Just, hear me out. I don’t care what the comparisons to Manziel say, or how his personality is regarded. I’ve spoken to a few sources about the perception of Mayfield and the consensus seems to be that he’s everything teams want in a quarterback, but he will just need to be reeled in a little at the next level.
I LOVE a quarterback who plays with heart. Not arrogance, but a certain amount of swagger and confidence that can inspire a team. Not only that, but completing 71% of his passes for 4,627 yards, 43 touchdowns (and five rushing) and 6 interceptions is just incredible. A gritty passer who slings it down the field with the best of them, Mayfield completely eradicates concerns about his size with his beautiful touch on the ball and ability to lead receivers into the open field. When you factor in his mobility as well, Mayfield is a do-or-die prospect. Someone who will either be the future of your franchise, or another quarterback drafted due to the pressures on team’s to find the next big thing.
There’s one thing we know for sure, quarterbacks need the elusive ‘IT’ factor and Mayfield has it in abundance.
Rosen is the most well-rounded quarterback prospect in this class for every reason Tyler mentioned. From a technical standpoint, Rosen displays all the characteristics needed to succeed at the next level. After breaking multiple school records, it was clear that Rosen was easily one of the most NFL ready of any player entering the draft. His poise inside the pocket goes hand-in-hand with leadership and if he is drafted into a rhythm based offense, he could well be the next Deshaun Watson.
My only concerns with Rosen are that when throwing on bootlegs or on the run, he can be a little sporadic and his game is almost built on his own confidence…which is fine until he runs into an elite NFL defense. However, this is a minor, minor concern when you consider just how efficient he is in the short/intermediate passing game and how well he is able to manipulate defenses with his eyes, even at the college level. If teams want a pro-ready QB to hang their hat on, Rosen is the safest bet.
Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports