2018 Quarterback Big Board: Top-5

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1. Josh Rosen — UCLA

NFL Comparison: Matt Ryan

What I like:

Labeled “The Chosen One” as soon as he stepped foot onto campus at UCLA, Josh Rosen entered his collegiate career with lofty expectations. Some will say he’s delivered, while others will say he’s failed.

Regardless of their opinions, Rosen’s traits are undeniable.

Throwing mechanics are the first trait that many evaluators look for in quarterback prospects. The UCLA signal-callers mechanics are squeaky clean.

He has a sharp and quickly delivery, while also demonstrating proper footwork.

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As shown above, this may seem like a routine perimeter throw, but let’s dive deeper.

Many times with collegiate QB prospects they rely heavily on their natural arm strength and not enough of their overall mechanics. That is not the case with Rosen.

Similar to a shortstop in baseball, notice how Rosen flips his hips and puts his body in the proper position to throw the ball directly to his intended target.

Pointing your front toe to your target area is always rule no. 1 with quarterbacks, and Rosen shows that he is capable of naturally doing that on multiple throws.

What I don’t like:

With college offenses evolving mostly to spread concepts, going through progressions and full-field reads seems to be a lost art once QBs get to the NFL. That is a big reason why we see young prospects struggle early on in their professional careers.

Rosen’s offense he’s currently in has some variances of spread concepts, but they utilize the tight end more than most spread teams. With that being said, the biggest flaw I see from Rosen is his eye discipline.

Eye discipline with quarterbacks is their ability to successfully read coverages and advance through progressions based on what the defense presents on a given play.

On passing plays, throwers are presented with multiple options — sometimes up to four depending on the formation.

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Rosen has a bad tendency of sticking to his first option and hoping the target comes open opposed to moving to the next option and advancing through the rest of his progression.

Another issues you see with him is that he fails to identify where the safeties are on the back-end of the defense. Many of his interceptions have come where he just lacks in this area.

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2. Sam Darnold — USC

NFL Comparison: Tony Romo

What I like:

Coming into the season, even though he only started in 10 games, Darnold was seen as the consensus no. 1 overall pick in 2018. Some say that has changed, while others are still on the Darnold bandwagon.

We now have a bigger sample size of Darnold, which is what we wanted to see. “Poise” is the one word that I would use to describe the Trojan leader. Whether it’s the situation within a game or pressure in the pocket, nothing ever seems to rattle him.

He has the rare trait of being able to keep his eyes downfield and not look at the chaos that is surrounding him in the pocket.

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A huge problem among young QB prospects is that they glance down at the pass rushers in front of them and take their eyes off of the routes that are developing downfield.

This is not a problem with Darnold, as he always shows poise and the ability to maneuver within the pocket while still keeping his eyes on his primary reads.

What I don’t like:

Darnold’s overall ability to drive the ball on throws outside of the numbers isn’t consistent. He leaves a lot of throws in this area inside.

You can blame his arm strength or his long, loopy release — whatever it may be, he leaves a lot to be desired in this area.

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Throwing an out-route to the opposite sideline is not an easy task, but it is a throw that potentially will be required of Darnold on the next level.

He has a tendency of leaving these types of throws short and inside of the numbers.

A mistake of this magnitude usually ends up in points for the defense. NFL cornerbacks will pick up on this flaw and begin to sit on throws made to the field from Darnold.

Is it something that can be fixed? Yes.

Darnold has to improve his timing and violence on these throws knowing that he not only has an elongated delivery, but also average arm strength.

He can win with these types of throws by speeding up his mental processing and timing of the throw.

 

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3. Lamar Jackson – Louisville

NFL Comparison: Randall Cunningham

What I like:

Lamar Jackson is a quarterback. I repeat, Lamar Jackson IS a quarterback.

By far the most polarizing draft prospect that we’ve seen in quite some time will be the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner.

There are mixed opinions and reviews about the stock and potential of Jackson, but there is plenty to like.

The first thing you notice about Jackson is his electricity. He has big play potential every time he touches the ball. He puts so much stress on a defense, whether that’s throwing or running the ball.

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He has shown tremendous growth throwing the ball. Overall accuracy was the biggest knock on Jackson coming into this season, but he has shown to have better accuracy at all three levels of the field.

Last season (2016), Jackson finished with a 56% comp. pct., that number has already improved to 62% at this point in the season. He’s clearly shown that he can be a lethal weapon from the pocket.

What I don’t like:

When things go bad, Jackson has a bad habit of trying to play “hero ball” and doing too much.

When plays break down or there’s a critical situation in the game, Jackson shows a lack of trust in his surrounding talent and tries to put the entire game upon his shoulders. This was evident in losses to N.C. State and Clemson this season.

Everyone knows that Jackson generates a majority of the Louisville offense, but he must learn to just operate within the system like he usually does.

It is a trait that can be developed over time and something that he will come to realize as he gets to the NFL.

Another area that I don’t like about Jackson is his initial footwork. His footwork needs to be rebuilt from the ground up — starting with the first-step on his drop back from the shotgun.

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He has a natural bad tendency of taking a huge step back with the wrong foot (left) first. When throwing quick passes on the perimeter this could result in him being late and inaccurate.

 

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4. Josh Allen – Wyoming

NFL Comparison: Jay Cutler

What I like:

There’s no denying Allen’s physical traits. Standing at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, and possessing uncanny arm strength, his natural skill-set is off the charts.

When you watch film on Allen, the ball naturally jumps out of his hand with plenty of velocity and accuracy.

He has the ability to make every type of throw from various types of platforms. Rolling out to the right and launching deep balls seems to be something that he is very comfortable with and also effective.

Allen’s release is quick and very violent, which explains why there is so much power behind his throws.

If he could ever put it all together, his upside is tremendous, which is one of the biggest reasons why he is a huge favorite on many early draft boards.

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There are many questions about Allen’s surrounding offensive weapons at Wyoming and why it is one of the reasons for his early season struggles.

Allen is reportedly on track to graduate this semester, and I’ve said repeatedly that the Reese’s Senior Bowl could be a huge asset for Allen, as he could show his true skill-set being surrounded by some of the best talent in the country.

With his tools, Allen is sure to be a highly debated prospect as we get closer to April.

What I don’t like:

Despite his physical tools and superb arm strength, there is some to dislike about Allen as well. His play against Power-5 schools is a bit alarming:

DATE
OPPONENT
PASS COMPLETIONS
PASSING YARDS
TOUCHDOWNS
INTERCEPTIONS
Sept. 16 2017 Oregon 9-of-24 64 0 1
Sept. 2   2017 Iowa 23-of-40 174 0 2
Sept. 10 2016 Nebraska 16-of-32 189 1 5

Being that he’s at a lower tier FBS school in Wyoming, scouts will go back to his track record and performances against upper tier competition.

Decision making is another area where Allen needs to vastly improve. Making questionable decisions is a huge knock on him as was evident in his games vs. Nebraska (2016) and Iowa (2017).

 

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5. Luke Falk – Washington State

NFL Comparison: Kirk Cousins

What I like: 

The 2017 season has been a roller coaster for Falk. From nearly getting bench, to playing at an extremely high level in his past four games (Oregon State, Nevada, USC, Oregon), this season perfectly describes Falk’s draft stock.

He has thrown 16 TDs-to-1 INT in his last four outings and looked like the QB many expected him to be.

The senior has quickly seen his stock rise and many are using the Kirk Cousins comparison for the signal-caller.

Falk does not have the arm strength that many other prospects in the 2018 class possess, but he’s smart, accurate and seems like he always knows where to go with the ball.

What standouts out with Falk is that he understands his limiations, he’s never going to force the ball, and he also understands the importance of his check-down throw to sustain drives.

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It may seem minimal, but this is a 3rd-and-6 situation. Falk doesn’t seen anyone open and he quickly comes to his check-down, which results in getting a first-down.

Similar to a Cousins-like situation, Falk could become a Top-75 pick that potentially results in being one of the better picks of the entire draft.

What I don’t like: 

Seeing things before they happen seems to be where Falk struggles. Being that he’s in an Air Raid offense, there are a lot of reads/targets that are designed to be wide open.

Falk seems to have become comfortable with seeing intended targets wide open opposed to anticipating and throwing them open at times.

NFL windows are extremely small and there are only rare occasions where targets are wide open. In order to have success, Falk must improve upon this aspect.

Speed through progressions is another characteristic that Falk must improve.

This once again centers around him waiting too long on targets to become wide open instead of noticing that that particular option isn’t open and advancing to the next option.

 

For NFL news and draft analysis, follow J.R. on Twitter @JReidDraftScout.

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