2018 NFL Draft Prospects: Top 5 Quarterbacks: How Far Does Sam Darnold Fall?

by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)

The NFL Draft is months away, but that doesn’t mean that we aren’t looking ahead and trying to determine the potential draft order.  Obviously a lot can change between now and then, whether it’s due to performance, injury or a decision to stay in school.  With that in mind, let’s take a look at how our Top 5 quarterback prospect rankings shake out:

 

1) Josh Rosen – UCLA
Rosen had a poor game recently (219 yards, 0 TD, 3 INT against Arizona), but bounced back nicely against Oregon (266 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT).  That was extremely important to see, as he’s taken a step forward across the board improving his completion percentage (63.5%) and yards per attempt (8.32).  It also is easy to point towards his 19 TD as a positive, but 13 came across the first three games of the season (6 TD throws in his past four games).

That said this scouting report from Walter Football helps to support his presence as the top quarterback prospect for the coming draft:

“Rosen has the best mechanics and is most natural pocket passer. He throws a tremendous ball and can really spin it. Rosen’s tight spiral helps him to get his passes through tight windows and beat good coverage. He has serious arm talent along with field vision and pocket presence. Rosen also works under center, which has been rare to see with college quarterbacks in recent years.”

 

 

2) Lamar Jackson – Louisville
There were questions regarding Jackson heading into the season, as he completed just 56.2% of his passes and took 46 sacks as a sophomore.  He’s looked like a different passer this season, increasing his completion rate to 60.3% (and that’s dragged down by a rough two game stretch, including a 48.7% completion percentage against Boston College) and only taking 14 sacks.  Doing that while showing the same explosive play making with his legs (868 rushing yards, 11 TD) and throwing 5 INT is highly impressive.

There are always going to be concerns about this type of quarterback and how their play will translate to the NFL, as the risk of injury is high (just look at the career path of Robert Griffin III).  That said you also can’t ignore the positive steps he’s taken.  He has the arm strength and the athleticism, so if he can prove that he can thrive from inside the pocket the potential will be massive.

 

3) Sam Darnold – USC
Darnold has struggled with interceptions this season, already throwing more (10) than he did all of last season (9).  He’s also taken significantly more sacks (14, after only 6 last season) and seen his completion percentage (67.2% to 63.5%) and YPA (8.43 to 7.96) take a step back.  For a player who many expected to be the first selection in the 2018 draft, calling it a disappointment would be an understatement.  The question is if it is due to him or if the supporting cast around him has taken a significant step backwards.  As Mel Kiper of ESPN recently said:

“USC’s offensive line has also been subpar and had some injuries. The losses of Zach Banner and Damien Mama have been significant. You can see that Darnold is trying to make plays when they’re not there, and he just needs to throw the ball away. But that’s no excuse — Darnold just has to be more consistent.”

The rumblings are starting to come that he’s not quite ready for the NFL, and as a redshirt sophomore there’s a chance that he opts to stay in school for another year (and that’s the current talk).  That said the upside remains and he is a premier prospect, but the stock has taken a hit.

 

4) Mason Rudolph – Oklahoma State
The numbers across the board have been impressive, completing 66.4% of his passes to go along with a 10.95 YPA, 19 TD and 4 INT.  He’s also done a good job of avoiding sacks, with just 10.   Like many college quarterbacks there is going to need some adjustments, as he needs to get acclimated working under center, but he has the size and arm strength and has taken a step forward in his development.  There’s a clear gap between the Top 3 options and all the rest, and while Rudolph currently sits at #4 we should anticipate significant changes as the draft grows closer.
5) Luke Falk – Washington State
We aren’t going to knock him too much for his 5 INT game against California, as he was under consistent pressure (as it is he was sacked 9 times).  He’s shown that he can be an accurate quarterback, completing nearly 70% of his passes for three straight seasons (68.7% thus far in ’17), and has the size that team’s look for (he’s listed at 6’4” and 223 lbs.).  He’s going to be a work in progress and need time to develop, as he will have to adjust from Mike Leach’s offense to the NFL game, but there is upside.

 

Just Missed – Josh Allen – Wyoming
There’s upside, but after completing 56.0% of his passes in ’16 he’s followed it up with 55.7% thus far in ’17.  He also has topped 219 yards just once while throwing just 8 TD vs. 6 INT.  Part of his struggles could be due to a poor supporting cast, but he needs to improve his play if he wants to be included among the Top 5.

 

Sources – ESPN, Walter Football

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