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NFL Draft Report: On potential, Josh Allen is cream of the quarterback crop

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Grading the top QBs in the 2018 draft class

Wyoming v Iowa
Josh Allen
Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

The NFL Draft Report takes a look at the “Fantastic Five” - the top-rated college quarterbacks who are considered to be potential first round draft selections.

While 32 general managers will give you a different name when asked who the top quarterback in this year’s draft class is, all will agree that as many as five passers could be taken in the opening round. That list includes a quartet that could all be done walking to the podium within the draft’s top 10 selections.

It is obvious that the Cleveland Browns have the most pressing need at quarterback. With the first and fourth overall selections, they have a great chance for finding their coveted franchise quarterback, or do they? After Penn State’s Saquon Barkley dazzled those in attendance at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, general manager John Dorsey has a very important decision to make with his first selection - grab the best running back to come out in this draft, or opt for a passer like Josh Allen or Josh Rosen.

Dorsey also covets North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb, but he hopes that the edge rusher is still around at No. 4. If Dorsey does take the Nittany Lion tailback with the top choice, the Giants, picking next, have all those quarterbacks ripe for the picking, but does general manager David Gettleman have other ideas? He has stated that Eli Manning will be the starting quarterback for Big Blue in 2018, so is the future now, or later at that critical spot.

A quarterback-needy team like Denver or Arizona could try to entice Gettleman with an offer he could not refuse to move down and surrender the second selection.

Cream of the Crop -- Josh Allen, Wyoming

While Allen is likely to go high in the draft, this projection is based on his pro football potential. Yes, there are still quite a few rough edges to work out, and those that compare him to Carson Wentz are missing the boat (Wentz is much more advanced), but he does have a Joe Flacco-like arm and the Matt Ryan ability to change a game with his arm. All he needs is patient coaching.

Allen Critical Performance Factors

Body Structure...Allen has a natural build with good arm and leg length, a thick frame with broad and developed shoulders and chest, good bubble with thick thighs and calves. His frame might be at maximum growth potential, as more bulk could impact his overall quickness.

Athletic Ability...Allen has possibly the strongest arm in this draft class, but has yet to learn how throw with touch and finesse. He has good throwing mechanics and a quick release, but needs to do a better job of speeding up that release when executing underneath tosses and on crossing patterns (receivers tend to work for those throws). He can be accurate throwing on the move, but will get lazy and throw off his back foot, at times, and is best when given time to set his feet and step into his throws from the pocket. He has adequate athletic ability when scrambling, but he needs to show better balance when throwing across his body. He does show quickness in his pass set up and is known for his lively arm, but must learn to not throw off his back foot so often. He has enough quickness to roll out and elude when flushed out of the pocket, but loses accuracy and touch (forces throws) on the move. He has the body control and balance to move the chains a bit in the short area, but not enough speed to be a threat into the second level. He does move well in the pocket and shows the arm strength to throw deep, but is inconsistent when he fails to step into his throws (from the left hash, he loses some accuracy when rolling out to that side compared to the right hash). Still, with his arm strength, he can make things happen and is a good improviser who just needs a patient coach to tweak his footwork.

Football Sense...Allen has good football instincts, but is a bit of a gambler who will force the ball into tight areas in attempts to make the play rather than throw the ball away, leading to some costly interceptions during his career (see 2017 Iowa, Boise State games). He is a good student of the game, putting in extra hours in the film room. He shows good poise in the pocket and is calm and collective under pressure, but when he is flushed out, he does not show the consistency going through his progressions as he does when protected in the pocket. Sometimes, he looks too programmed and must show better consistency looking for secondary targets. Still, he is a smart athlete who can sense pressure in the pocket. He tries to buy time with his feet, but must do a better job of throwing the ball away, as he does get caught in the backfield and takes a sack more often than he should (see 2017 Iowa, Boise State, Utah State, Central Michigan games). He does an adequate job of protecting the ball when flushed out, but sometimes, you have to question his instincts, as he does not make good adjustments after reading the pre-snap. He is quick to digest a complicated playbook and has no problems taking plays from the board to the field. He just needs to do a better job with his reads and checks.

Pass Set-Up...Allen tends to throw off his back foot, especially when forced out of the pocket. He does show good quickness getting to his throwing point, but you would like to see him consistently sprint back (when he is late, he will display sloppy footwork and throw off his back foot, losing accuracy). When he drops back directly from center, he can get the ball off with good timing on his three- and five-step drops, but lacks the same foot fundamentals when throwing on the move. He sometimes does not set his feet in time in order to throw the ball on the move, causing some of his passes to wobble. He has very good throwing mechanics with a quick, effortless over-the-top motion, but is best when he steps into his throws to generate velocity. He has the foot speed to move and set up, but perhaps due to adequate protection up front, he just did not seem confident sitting in the pocket for too long the last two years (see 2017 Iowa, Utah State, Air Force games), even though he has better follow-through when he steps into his throws.

Reading Defenses...Allen will try to force his throws into tight areas, but with his arm strength and vision, he does a nice job of scanning the field. When given time in the pocket, he is very effective at going through his progressions, but he can get a bit lazy executing quickness behind his screens passes. He shows good accuracy pushing the ball up field, but for some reason, he seems to slow down rather than speed up when attempting to go underneath. He eyeballs his primary target too much, but does seem to have confidence in his wideouts. Given room to operate, he can deliver good timing on underneath routes, shovel passes and dump-offs, but he will make his living off his deep ball accuracy and timing when airing out the ball. When flushed out of the pocket, he will either hesitate to throw and take a big sack or toss the ball up for grabs, resulting in the interception.

Release...Allen has a nice, compact delivery with classic over-the-top throwing motion. He generates very good velocity when throwing long and puts very good zip when threatening the deep secondary. When he holds the ball too long, it will lead to costly sacks, as he does not like throwing the pigskin away, but he has a smooth, effortless motion and does a nice job of resetting his feet to generate better accuracy stepping up in the pocket. He carries the ball high and shows good hip rotation to deliver the ball over his shoulder. When he steps into his throws properly, he has the arm action along with the torque to put his body into the toss. He used to carry the ball chest too low and this resulted in a bit of a windmill action on his deep outs (held the ball at the hip). He is prone to throwing off his back foot and opening his hips too much, but he was still able to toss a tight spiral on long throws. He can adjust his release with very good quickness, and with his high release, he flicks it out quicker than he did as a freshman. He looks more comfortable with an over-the-top delivery, which lets him generate the ideal trajectory to prevent the pass deflection or interception (most of those came on underneath screens and crossing routes).

Arm Strength...Allen gets too reliant on his arm strength at times and this leads him to either try to force the ball into tight areas or simply throw it up and hope for the best (will revert to doing this when pressured out of the pocket more so than when having time to scan the field). No quarterback in this draft has the arm power he displays, though. He can make all the throws, but you would like to see better quickness on screens and crossing routes. He rarely overthrows working down field, doing a nice job of stepping into those attempts. He has the ability to hit the receiver in stride, but needs to show better touch on short patterns, as he tends to throw off his back foot when trying to fit the ball in tight areas. As a junior, despite playing behind a suspect offensive line, he did a much better job of putting power behind his deep attempts (see 2017 Gardner-Webb, New Mexico games), generating excellent trajectory and zip. He is very effective at hitting his targets coming out of their breaks on long outs and shows enough touch on his deep throws to get the ball over the receiver’s outside shoulder. He can make all the throws with good precision, but must learn how to drive into his throws and not rotate his hips so much. When he throws off his front foot, he will not hang the ball throwing deep.

Accuracy...Allen does not show great accuracy on underneath passes or crossing routes as he does when airing out the pigskin. When he gets too confident in his arm strength, it ends up with his receivers having to break off their patterns and work back for the ball. He needs to do a better job of leading his target without forcing them to gear down in order to run under his throws. He does throw a tight spiral and can make all the throws, as he is the type that shows the patience to take what the defense gives him. He might no be as effective at hitting his targets in stride when working underneath, but does a great job of getting the ball over the outside shoulder of his target on long tosses. He shows much better accuracy and touch in the deep outs than in the short area. When he goes deep, he will usually put the ball where the receivers like it when working down field. He has more than enough arm strength to play the vertical game, but underneath, he seems to misfire more often here because of marginal footwork (has an adequate 56.3 percent pass completion rate).

Touch...Allen has good touch to lead his receivers, but does get into a rhythm where he gets too over confident with his awesome arm strength and attempt to fire the ball into tight areas, which generally will lead to turnovers (see 2017 Iowa, Boise State games; 2016 Nebraska, BYU contests). He has great trust in his receivers and is patient standing tall in the pocket waiting for them to get open. He displays excellent timing and anticipation in the pocket, where he is more comfortable and effective hitting his receivers coming out of their breaks. He has confidence in his ability to take something off his ball to make the easy throw and knows how to loft and feather his pass over the defender and let his target run under it. He the ability to put good touch on the ball, firing with consistent accuracy on deep outs in Mobile (Senior Bowl) and Indianapolis (Combine) , as he seemed much better in anticipating the receiver coming out of the break than he did in the past. He is not the type that will wait until the last second before unloading, as he did this as a senior and it resulted in pass deflections or interceptions. He has also shown improvement on his timing patterns later in 2017 than he did in the past, but this is still a work in progress. He has better ability of keeping the receiver in the route on long throws than he does when going short, but he just needs to know when to slow it down and speed it up to make the easy tosses underneath.

Poise...Allen is not the type who will panic under pressure. In fact, he is too cool, at times, taking the sack rather than throwing the ball away, as he will spend more time than he should waiting for his targets to get open. He has the nimble feet to avoid pressure and senses when the pocket is going to collapse (just lacks great accuracy and footwork throwing on the move). He has good foot slide to step away from pressure, as he is cool and calm waiting for plays to develop. When he is rushed, his passes will tend to sail high when he fails to set his feet. He has the speed to avoid pressure, but when he takes too long to decide what to do with the ball, he is more often than not caught behind the line of scrimmage and has to eat the ball.

Pocket Movement...Allen is no world class sprinter, but he does have surprisingly nimble feet for a player of his bulk (4.76 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the Combine). He does a nice job of stepping up and finding throwing lanes, as it is rare to see him fall away from his throws. He will take a sack rather than throw the ball away, but displays good lateral slide to escape pressure. He is much better as a drop back passer than one who can roll and throw. He seems to have a better feel for the pass rush and showed in 2017 that he can be capable of doing the job with his reads and checks at the pre-snap to spot the blitz. He tries to escape when flushed out of the pocket, but while he has good quickness, he will never be a threat running with the ball. He has learned to step into his throws better and step up in the pocket more often rather than retreating so much to try and make the throws (no longer takes seven-step drops). He just needs to show he has the NFL-caliber ability to see plays develop and work to adjust.

Compares To...Matthew Stafford-Detroit Lions...Like Stafford, Allen displays excellent arm strength. He is nimble moving around for a player his size, but is best throwing from the pocket than on the move. He could have used another year of college ball to work on improving his accuracy on underneath and crossing patterns and will never be a threat with his feet. He will get too confident in his superb arm strength, but he can make all the throws and when he steps up in the pocket. A team that loves the vertical passing game could get the same success that the Rams and Eagles enjoyed from their sophomore quarterbacks in 2017.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl - USC v Ohio State
Sam Darnold
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Blue-chipped prospect -- Sam Darnold, USC

There is no questioning Darnold’s pedigree, but there are a few “chips” appearing on his blue chip armor - poor ball security and questionable deep throws into traffic that have resulted in costly interceptions. Still, he is a humble type who works hard at his craft, displaying that Philip Rivers quiet gunslinger’s attitude. He hits the playbook more in a day than Mark Sanchez will do in a lifetime, but those turnovers seem to show more Carson Palmer comparisons. Hopefully, that can be fixed quickly. His high ceiling is as one of the NFL elite, but if 2017 is to be the norm, he will fall into the Blake Bortles realm.

Critical Performance Factors

Body Structure...Darnold shows good upper and lower body bone structure, with solid chest, shoulder and arm thickness. He has a strong bubble and thighs, with well-defined calves and a frame that could develop to 235 pounds with no loss in quickness.

Athletic Ability...Darnold displays good quickness and mobility for his position. He is equally effective throwing on the move as he is standing in the pocket. He has good flexibility and leg drive moving back from center to his past set point. He has functional playing speed and while he won’t win many foot races, he does show good balance to break arm tackles on the move. While not fast, he does show adequate change of direction agility and good strength. He runs with a normal stride and shows good movement retreating in the pocket. His balance and body control allow him to throw on roll-outs and he displays good lateral agility, evident by the way he slides to avoid pocket pressure. While more of a drop-back passer, he has the arm strength to throw on the move. With his feet, he did produce five touchdowns, but his ball security issues are alarming - 21 fumbles in 27 games, with the opposition recovering fourteen of those miscues.

Football Sense...Despite having just two seasons as a starter under his belt and a bit of inconsistency in his play calling, he is a good student of the game, raised in a pro style passing attack during both his prep and college playing days. There is no question that he could have greatly benefited with another year in college, but he is a smart passer with keen eyes scanning the field, doing a nice job of making reads and following through with his progressions, but he needs to protect the ball better on the move and not try to force the ball into tight windows, as most of those attempts result in costly interceptions. He has good, innate instincts, along with developing decision making skills that makes one feel he can handle a pro offense in a short time (with patient coaching). He can be called a “student of the game,” as he is the type who will shut off the lights in the film room, but those risky chances he takes airing the ball out into small windows needs to stop. He does well in school and should not have problems digesting a complicated play book. Darnold reads coverage well and makes proper checks, showing football savvy and field smarts. He is quick to retain plays and takes the plays from the board to the field with no problems.

Pass Set-Up...Darnold shows good balance and body control driving back from center, displaying the quick feet to get into position to make all of his throws. He has good upper and lower body mechanics, as he also displays enough functional strength to break arm tackles on the move. He is a classic drop back passer, most comfortable in a five-step drop. He does a nice job of scanning the field and looks comfortable setting up in the pocket and executing his follow-through. He shows good fluidity and quickness when he sets up and is a pretty athletic mover. Despite a lack of sustained speed to go long distances, he sets up quickly and is ready to throw in an instant. He shows the ability to reach his throwing point while maintaining body control and his balance allows him to stand tall in the pocket (see 2017 Stanford, Texas and Utah games).

Reading Defenses...Darnold is capable of handling the mental aspect of the game, but needs to stop trying to force the issue and protect the ball better (see 2017 Western Michigan, Oregon StateUtah and Ohio State games). He is a quick decision maker and even when he makes the wrong move, he does not allow his mistakes to linger. He is a good field technician, knowing how to operate within the framework of the offense, which is predicated on him making quick reads and getting the ball out to his receivers even before his targets are able to break, as this prevents the opponents from getting into position to defend. His problems occur when he tries to force the ball into a crowd, or hold on to it too long, as that has led to a costly fumbles after he is sacked. Usually, he is good at reading defenses and when he shows patience, he can pick apart zones. When he forces some into coverage, it is because he holds the ball too long, and he needs to learn when to look for his secondary targets. The thing that stands out is his ability to throw with touch and good timing. When flushed out of the pocket, he has enough agility to throw on the run, but will more often force the pass into traffic than throw it away, for some strange reason, in 2017.

Release...Darnold has that classic over-the-top, smooth delivery with a high release. As soon as he gets to his throwing point, he is ready to throw. His overall throwing mechanics are very good and he shows good quickness and snap in his release. Because of his solid mechanics, he can launch the ball with accuracy, even when he does not have his feet set. With his compact, quick delivery over the top and a smooth motion getting rid of the ball, defenses have little time to settle under his throws, as he excels at hitting his receivers before they come out of their breaks.

Arm Strength...Darnold has good arm strength to make all his throws, even when firing on the move or throwing off his back foot. He is very good at varying the speed on his tosses, showing good zip firing into tight areas, but he needs to be more selective when doing so. His ball speed is excellent, as it comes off his fingertips easily and receivers don’t have to make too many adjustments, as he leads his targets well. He generates a lot of velocity and ball speed, doing a nice job of throwing the ball across his body while displaying good hip flexibility. He has very good accuracy going long and a lively snap on the short tosses. He demonstrates very good arc on his long outs, as receivers settle over those throws to effortless secure over their outside shoulder. The thing he does best is to generate velocity behind his long throws, as he has a very easy and smooth release.

Accuracy... Darnold not only completed 63.13% of his passes in 2017, 192-of 303 completions produced first downs. He has very good touch and velocity on short and intermediate throws. When playing the vertical game, he leads the receivers well, giving them the space they need to adjust. He is accurate at all levels both from the pocket and on the move. He throws a catchable ball with zip or touch, making it easy for his receivers to be successful without breaking off their routes. He will generally throw a tight spiral with good zip on his deep throws and does a nice job of hitting his receivers in stride, as he knows how to adjust the velocity on his short tosses so his target does not have to work back for the ball. He gets good touch and has improved his trajectory on his deep throws, along with showing the ability to stick the ball in tight areas, but his high interception rate in 2017 was the result of overconfidence in trying to “thread the needle” through a slew of defenders.

Touch...Darnold excels at anticipating the receivers routes and knowing when they will come open. He has very good overall timing and knows when to throw the ball. He will not hesitate to tuck and run with it when his receivers are covered. He knows when to take some heat off his short throws, resulting in better accuracy. His timing is good from the three- and five-step drop backs, but when he holds on to the ball a little too long at times, it will result in sacks (see 2017 Ohio State, Arizona State, Notre Dame and Texas games) or he when then force the ball into a crowd, resulting in an interception (see 2017 Western Michigan, Stanford and Texas games). He gets good trajectory on his deep throws and displays the ability to anticipate and made adjustments at the line to challenge the soft areas on the field.

Poise...Darnold is cool under pressure and will never be confused for a player with “happy feet” (won’t run at the first sign of pocket pressure). He is never flustered, even when having to hold the ball and throw in the face of a fierce pass rush. He does a nice job of setting his feet so he would not sail his deep passes high. He knows he does not have the foot speed to tuck the ball and run with it, so he stands tall in the pocket and will absorb the hit. He keeps his cool when forced to roll out, but has to learn when to throw the ball away if it takes too long for his targets to get open rather than force the pass into a crowd.

Pocket Movement...Darnold moves well in the pocket, but even though he scored five times and generated 17 first downs on 75 carries in 2017, he will never be confused for being a scrambler. He has a good feel for pocket pressure and knows when to step up or escape when his protection breaks down, as he does a nice job of buying time with his feet. He was sacked 29 times in 2017, resulting in twelve fumbles (nine recovered by the opposition) mostly due to protection breakdowns behind a young offensive line, but he also coughed up the ball nine times behind much better protection in 2016 and needs to do a better job of securing the pigskin when on the move. He maintains his focus downfield, feeling the pressure well. He is more comfortable when dropping back, but has enough arm strength to roll out and throw.

Compares To...Philip Rivers-Los Angeles Chargers/Carson Palmer-ex-Arizona Cardinals...Why the two-player comparison? Well, the jury is out on the Trojan - is he the rising star that he showed in 2016, or is the ball control issues from 2017 a peek at his future pro career? Most experts feel his early and late 2017 season woes were the result of trying to do too much and that Darnold is just starting to come into his own. He was groomed in a pro-style offense since his prep days and while he might lack the game experience of Philip Rivers or the Chargers passer’s incredible arm strength, he does show a lot of moxie on the field, along with good patience and excellent timing and touch. He needs to be in a strong vertical attack, as he is best when firing the ball deep, where he does a great job of anticipating his receivers before they come out of their breaks. That is, if he does not try to thread the needle getting the ball forced through traffic. Like Matt Leinart, is this the next Trojans’ boom-or-bust passer? If teams can not get those questions answered before the end of April, Darnold might slide to the bottom part of the Top Ten draft boards.


The top 10 hit selections

Analysts are predicting that as many as five quarterbacks could be selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Teams in need of a franchise type quarterback will usually become enamored with a player who has less to offer than another athlete at another position. While our staff would not draft the two quarterbacks listed below in the first part of the opening round, the consensus is that this pair will be off the draft boards during the first 10 selections.

Arizona State v UCLA
Josh Rosen
Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Josh Rosen - UCLA

Body Structure...Rosen has an NFL-caliber frame, but needs to add more strength in order to absorb punishment at the next level. His arms are of adequate length and he has large hands. While he has decent mobility, he is not the type that needs to be accounted for running with the ball. He has decent upper body muscle development with good shoulder and chest thickness to carry additional weight. His lower body frame shows decent thigh and calf thickness.

Athletic Ability...Rosen has a strong, lively arm, showing good accuracy on short-to-intermediate throws and is capable of throwing the ball down the middle of the field (see 2017 Texas A&M, Memphis, Stanford, Colorado and Arizona State games). He needs to work on his footwork trying to step away and avoid the pass rush, as he has just adequate ability to roll out and throw from the right and left hashes (finished with negative rush yards in seven of eleven 2017 appearances). He does not have exceptional timed speed and can be caught from behind when he tries running with the ball. He has decent upper body range of motion and enough footwork to slide and while he’s not really a statue, he’s never going to be a threat running with the ball. He moves effectively when not forced to go long distances and has an athletic throwing motion and quick release that compensates for a lack of great foot speed (4.92 seconds in the 40-yard dash).

Football Sense...Rosen seems to come alive when trying to rally the team. He shows good fire and confidence in his throwing ability, but as a junior, he did not displayed much patience waiting for his targets to get open than he did in the pass, rather forcing the issue that resulted in thirteen turnovers by him last year. He shows good ability with his progression reads and has the field vision to locate secondary targets. He is a good student who takes plays from the chalkboard to the field with minimal reps. He just seems to lack that innate instinct to recognize backside pressure and will get caught often in the backfield (see 2017 Texas A&M, Arizona, Washington, Southern California and California games). He does require special quarterback treatment, as he is best served when he’s the “coach’s pet,” rather than when challenged, though. He is poised and confident, but sometimes borders too close to cockiness and he can be a “clubhouse lawyer,” which can impact his leadership development, as NFL veterans will not stand for his antics.

Pass Set-Up...Rosen has good footwork, getting to his pass set point with quickness and balance. He has enough body control and foot speed top step up in the pocket, but has shown ball security issues when he’s on the move (see 2017 Texas A&M and USC games; 2016 Arizona State contest) and must do a better job of protecting the ball. He shows the feet needed to separate from under center with consistent back-foot pop-up. He will never be a threat running with the ball, but he generally gets himself into good position to make his deep throws. The thing you see on film is that he demonstrates the feet and balance needed to drive back from center, set up and be in position to unleash the ball in a timely fashion. He has the body control to take the snap, drive off with his back foot and get to his set point before the defense can properly digest the backfield activity. He is quick to set his feet when he drives out from under center, doing a fine job of maintaining balance when retreating. He displays proper body mechanics, but for some reason, he is not as consistent throwing on the move as he is from the pocket.

Reading Defenses...Even with ten interceptions in 2017, Rosen no longer tries to force the ball, letting the flow of the game come to him rather than try to create something out of nothing, like he did his first year at UCLA. His judgment appears to be solid, when protected, but he needs to do a better job of dumping the ball off, as he is not effective at avoiding sacks (see 2017 Texas A&M, Arizona, Washington and USC games). He also needs to do a better job of keeping the ball away from the defender when on the move, as he’s fumbled twenty times in thirty games. You could see his marked improvement going through progressions and reading defenses in 2017, as there were questions about his overall vision in the past, but that no longer seems to be an issue. Can he run a high percentage passing offense? Yes, unless he reverts to forcing the ball into coverage, but he appeared very decisive delivering the sphere to his secondary targets as a junior. He just needs to not get too brave, like he did in the past, as this led to him lofting up clunkers every now and then. He demonstrates patience waiting for his targets to get open and excels at making the progression reads, as it is very rare to see him lock on and throw to a receiver in coverage. When he delivers the ball, he does it in a very decisive nature. He is a high percentage passer with excellent touch on his long throws, despite just average arm strength.

Release...Even though I am not much of a fan of players that rely on a ¾-release, the ball comes out of his hands with very good quickness and wrist flick. He can drive the ball down field when he sets his feet, but the long ball will flutter when having to throw on the move. He just seems to have trouble with his follow-through when forced to throw running out of the pocket. When he does roll out, he tends to drop the ball a little in his motion and the result is that his tosses can be a little bit long. He is smooth and compact, for the most part, when given time to set his feet and adjust to pocket pressure. He can be systematic in his approach, getting the ball off quickly, but you can see a bit of a long wind-up when he throws long with a lower release point. Still, he has the arm strength to get a lot of accuracy on his long tosses. When he throws with a high release, he demonstrates good quickness. He can throw across his body effectively, but needs to show that he can improvise better when on the move.

Arm Strength...Rosen can make all the throws, when given time and remains in the pocket, but you can see deficiencies when he has to uncork the ball when on the move. He does a good job of stepping up in the pocket and firing up the middle, but if he’s flushed out, he tends to lower his release point, failing to load up and throw off his back foot properly. He shows very good velocity on his intermediate throws, but he will never be confused for having a cannon for an arm. He must work on improving the zip on his throws when having to get them there from the opposite hash (struggles some with the 15-yard hitch).

Accuracy...Rosen displays good balance driving back from center and has the footwork needed to step into his throws. He must learn how to vary his speeds better and take something off his intermediate throws, as receivers do need to adjust to them too often. He gets a bit over confident with his arm strength (good, but not elite) throwing into tight windows (see 2017 Memphis, Stanford and Arizona games), lacking a bit of touch. He tries hard to put the ball where receivers have a chance to get to it while also keeping it away from defenders. He can get a bit high with his tosses to the boundary, but has improved his ability to generate the placement needed when firing down the seam. He shows good zip on his short throws, but when he fails to set his feet, he will get into a rhythm where the receiver will have to accelerate in order to get to his tosses, as he will over-lead at times.

Touch...Rosen needs to work on crossing patterns, as he can over-lead or get the ball behind, at times (inconsistent timing, especially on shallow crossers). He gets decent zip on his long throws, knowing he needed to give his receivers the chance to compete, doing a nice job of hitting the targets coming out of their breaks. When he sets his feet properly, he is effective at throwing the easy-to-catch spiral with a good arc. In 2017, he did a much better job of feathering the ball over his target’s outside shoulder and away from the defender. Sometimes in the short area, he would throw the pigskin too early, failing to hit his targets coming out of their breaks, but he refined his release a bit (more over the top) and improved in that area as a junior. He just needs to continue to work hard to vary the speed on his throws to make the completion, as he does display the timing and consistency to make all of his throws.

Poise...Rosen has that mentality to know that he can make all of his throws, but possibly due to his lack of great speed, he is not the type that will get “happy feet” and run with the ball too early. Unlike in the past, he now shows that he rather throw the ball away than force it into traffic. He might get impatient when the pocket collapses and rush some of his throws then, shuffling his feet too much to put the zip behind the tosses, as needed. When throwing on the move, his long ball will die some, losing zip and steam.

Pocket Movement...Rosen has good footwork dropping back from center, but is not even close to being a threat running with the ball. He lacks a good feel for backside pressure and while he improved as a junior, he still gets caught for too many sacks by waiting too long to get rid of the ball. He shuffles his feet well in the pocket and has adequate escape-ability and slide, doing a decent job of keeping his eyes down field. He shuffles his feet well to avoid low tackles and will not hesitate to step up in the pocket to make the completion, but will lose balance and arm strength when having to throw on the move.

Compares To...Jay Cutler-Miami Dolphins/Tim Couch-ex-Cleveland Browns...Rosen has the talent level to be a winning quarterback in the NFL, it is his “free form” approach away from the game that could lead to big locker room distractions. I see his arm getting Jay Cutler-like attention from teams, but will the finished product be a Cutler or Couch? I do not think he matches up to comparisons from other analysts - Matt Ryan and Jared Goff. Athletically, Rosen has the tools to be an effective starting quarterback and he has more than a lot of confidence in his game, but mobile quarterbacks are more of a premium in the NFL and his lack of feel for backside pressure concerns me. Like Couch, he might look good on film, but he is just an average athlete who can’t throw well on the move and while he is a good decision maker, he is not going to be coddled in the NFL like his former coach did at UCLA.

Reese's Senior Bowl
Baker Mayfield
Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Baker Mayfield - Oklahoma

Body Structure...Mayfield is a shorter-than-ideal passer with adequate arm length, good-sized hands, muscular and solid legs, good bubble and nice shoulder definition, but his frame might be at maximum growth potential and any additional bulk could affect his impressive quickness. He is built a little bit like a running back, as he has the upper body muscle development and thick, strong lower body to break arm tackles when on the move (18 touchdowns rushing in 48 games).

Athletic Ability...Mayfield is a highly productive player, whether lining up under center or in the shotgun. He is a playmaker and the clear leader and sparkplug of the team, but he does not have NFL caliber arm strength to be effective with the deep outs. Still, much like Bob Griese, he is savvy enough to know how to move the chains. He can throw on the run, showing good timing and accuracy firing from the outside hashes, thanks to his timing and placement skills, especially when he sets his feet. He keeps plays alive with his mobility and has decent quickness to deliver the ball. He is a dangerous runner with better timed speed than most at his position. The thing you notice on film is his ease of movement in and out of the pocket. He might lack arm strength, but shows good velocity on his short-to-intermediate throws. He is able to move around the pocket to avoid and escape and is a valid threat running with the ball in the open field.

Football Sense...Mayfield is like a chess master on the field, as he will take what the defense gives him and once he spots a weak area, he will attack it instantly. He is a smart athlete who easily retains plays and is quick to pick up coverage. He can see plays develop and is the type that has no problem making adjustments on the fly. He plays with the natural football instincts and awareness needed to deliver the ball on time, as his short area receivers rarely have to break stride. Mayfield makes a lot of checks on the field and understands the game, as he has complete command on the field. He is very tough, with excellent agility, balance and playing speed. He scans the field and recognizes defensive formations, making very decisive moves to counter. He is an overachiever of sorts, who will put in extra hours in the film room and even sits in the coaches’ meetings. The thing you notice about him is his ability to quickly adapt to the changes on the field.

Pass Set-Up...Despite a lack of ideal size, Mayfield shows good balance and quick feet on the times he needs to drive back from center. He does play better out of the shotgun predominantly, but has good ability throwing off his back foot and getting the ball into the receiver’s hands without having his target break stride. He does have much of a windup, and defenses have a hard time telegraphing his moves when going deep, though. He has that Drew Brees ability with his feet taking the ball and throwing on the move. In the pro-set, the Sooner shows above average quickness and fluidity when he drops and sets up. He has above average body mechanics and excellent avoidance skills, along with displaying a smooth, almost effortless set up to get to his drop-point quickly.

Reading Defenses...Mayfield is the type of performer who has a keen understanding of coverage packages and he reads defenses well. He is a touch passer who comprehends even the most complicated of defensive coverage and is an instinctive performer who will get into trouble at times, as he will not hesitate to run with the ball when his receivers are covered. He’s done a very good job of improving his ball security issues (three fumbles as a senior, six in 2016, four in 2013, but nine as a freshman in 2013). He checks down effectively and generally makes quick decisions, especially when rolling out of the pocket. Mayfield makes lots of line calls when operating out of the shotgun, and with his rushing ability, he will run with the ball when pressured rather than try to force the ball into a crowd (only six interceptions on 404 pass attempts in 2017 and holds the school record with 200 consecutive passes without a pass theft). In the NFL, he is going to be required to make quick progression reads, as he does look to run more often when his primary target is unavailable. He sees the field better operating out of the shotgun and might have problems doing so under center, due to a lack of height. Still, he is good at anticipating opportunities, leading to 131 touchdown passes as a collegian. Most of his interceptions have been the result of his long ball lacking great trajectory or when he fails to see the linebacker underneath.

Release...Mayfield he has a good, quick, snappy overhead release. He carries the ball low at times, but still has enough arm snap to prevent it from slowing his delivery. When he comes over the top, his release is high and very consistent - just lacking power to get the ball deep all the time. At Texas Tech in 2013, he would unleash the ball more at a cocked motion (10:00) rather than over the top, but when he got to Oklahoma, the staff refined those mechanics, as it had led to a lot of low trajectory interceptions and balls getting deflected at the line of scrimmage (had 69 passes deflected on 340 attempts in 2013, but that decreased to 31 on 395 tosses in 2015; 29 on 358 throws in 2016; 31 on 404 chances in 2017). He has become conscious of setting his feet, as he no longer looks off-balanced stepping into his throws. He just seems to lack much follow-through on his deep tosses, making him a bit of a liability when trying to air the ball out. He still needs to learn how to keep his elbow up, as he looks like he is just slinging the ball, at times, especially when throwing off his back foot.

Arm Strength...Mayfield generates good zip on short and underneath routes, but he lacks the strength to air the ball out much. He tries to push the ball and lead the receivers on deep routes, but more often than not, they have to break off their route and come back for those tosses. There are doubts that he will be able to put the ball on the line at the next level, as he does not have anywhere near the success throwing downfield as he does working underneath. He cam throw the 15-yard dig on a rope, but even when he sets his feet, you won’t see much velocity when trying to unleash the long bomb.

Accuracy...Mayfield is better suited moving the chains than threatening the deep secondary. He has one of the better touch ability working underneath than most players in this draft. He will struggle to get the ball out when throwing from inside the pocket and any thing past the intermediate area turns into an “adventure.” He did complete 68.54% of his passes, but most were “dink-&-dunk” types. He can put the ball in the back shoulder to fit between defenders in the short area, but there are big problems ahead if a team needs him to throw the fades or go routes.

Touch...If kept to throwing underneath or on short routes over the middle, Mayfield is good at moving the chains. He shows good touch to the outside shoulder, leading the receivers well when dumping it off, but he lacks the arm strength needed on timing routes and will be late, at times, when having to air out the sphere. He has good accuracy on the perimeter, but turns the receiver around too much when trying to drop it in over the outside shoulder on deep routes. Still, he’s found great success as a high percentage passer with good accuracy at the short-to-intermediate levels. He is very effective at changing up the speed on his tosses to make the completion. His timing is good on the move, but much more consistent when standing in the pocket. He does an excellent job of placing the ball into his target’s hands where they can get additional yardage after the catch in the short area and few show the short touch he displays, again drawing comparisons to Drew Brees in this category.

Poise... Mayfield shows good toughness and poise in the backfield, but because of his size, is better off working out of the shotgun than under center. He is not the type that will get rattled under pressure, but there are times he will take his eyes off his target and try to bolt when he should just be stepping up in the pocket. He has the footwork to buy extra time when flushed out. He gets good depth in his three-step drop, but until he starts to show better backside awareness, he is going to pile up sacks on himself (sacked 73 times as a Sooner; 97 times for losses of 564 yards during his career). He displays very good poise and composure and doesn’t panic or force the ball when pressured. He wants to throw to his targets, but will not hesitate to tucking the ball and running with it when he can’t locate any receivers. It is as if he has a distain for defenders, as they never rattle him or take him out of his focus.

Pocket Movement...Mayfield played in a system perfectly suited for his athletic skills – short passes over the middle and operating out of a shotgun/no huddle format. He goes through his progression check-downs and knows how to use his feet to scramble and buy time. He has the balance and body control to avoid and escape pressure, but perhaps due to his short stature, there are times when he is not alert to the backside charge. With his quick feet, he’s had good success making plays running out of the pocket or shotgun. The thing I like is that Mayfield has a feel for stepping up or sliding away from the rush. He has solid instincts and presence, showing a great knack for feeling when the pocket will collapse, as he suddenly steps up to make the completion. His linebacker’s mentality will sometimes cause him to stand in the pocket a bit too long, but he is quick to bounce off tackles and still maintain concentration on the receivers through their routes.

Compares To...Drew Brees-New Orleans Saints...Yes, both are lacking in size, but both take the logical approach - you only need ten yards to record a first down. In a West Coast/Spread offense, Mayfield has the moxie to excel. Some liken Mayfield’s skills to that of former Arizona and Denver QB Jake Plummer, but Plummer had much better arm strength and that uncanny feel for backside pressure, two areas that Mayfield is lacking. He’s strictly a spread offense quarterback who has very good intangibles for a West Coast offense, but might not be the perfect fit you look for if you are running a pro-style system.

Louisville v Kentucky
Lamar Jackson
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Lamar Jackson - Louisville

Body Structure... Jackson displays solid muscle tone and upper body definition. He has a good bubble, thick thighs and calves, a big frame with broad shoulders. He demonstrates good strength to absorb punishment as a pocket passer, with very good arm length, big hands, impressive chest thickness and developed quadriceps. He is also quite mobile for a player in the 216-pound range and he has room on that athletic frame to add at least another ten pounds of bulk to better absorb punishment at the professional level.

Athletic Ability...Jackson has impressive speed to escape pressure and enough arm strength to make all the throws. He is a more than just a scrambler, as he has the body control to be highly effective operating in the spread, as he excels when having to throw on the move. He can be sudden in his movements and shows the presence needed to buy himself time when his protection breaks down, as he is one of the most highly effective ball carriers in the college game at his position (50 touchdowns and 4,132 yards rushing, just one of two FBS players to ever run for 4,000 yards and pass for 9,000 yards in a career). He has a strong arm that allows him to deliver the long ball with touch and accuracy (see 2017 Clemson, North Carolina, North Carolina State and Syracuse games). He has the ability to put the ball where the receiver can catch it and shows good balance throwing on the move. One thing you notice is that he has the avoidance quickness stepping up in the pocket and the strength to pull away from pass rushers when pressured, but needs to work on ball security (25 fumbles in 38 games) and improve his lower body mechanics (quick, but will run into spots and struggles to redirect). He shows above average elusiveness on the run but needs to improve his change of direction agility, even though he shows the quickness to slide and move around the backfield. Do not be confused about his high amount of rushing yardage - he is not the type that will look to run at the first sign of pressure, but he can make plays with his feet, as he does a solid job of running with a normal stride and good balance.

Football Sense...Jackson is the type of quarterback that won’t make the same mistake twice. Even with mediocre protection up front (101 sacks in 38 games, including 46 in 2016), along with injuries that would sideline most any other quarterback, he showed incredible vision and patience. He has outstanding pocket pressure presence and good field vision. Things come naturally for him with the ball in his hands, but despite that ability, he still considers himself to be a student of the game, as he will put in the extra hours and effort to improve in every aspect of his game. He has the ability and intelligence to recognize coverage on his pre-snap scan of the field and in his pass drop. But, at the Combine, teams said he failed to impress in interviews and also during chalk sessions. His coaches dispute that, saying Jackson has no problem taking plays from the chalkboard to the playing field. He is field savvy, doing a very good job of making checks. He plays with good awareness and is a quick decision maker with the ball in his hands, but needs to throw the ball away when his targets are covered (most sacks are credited to poor offensive line play, but Jackson tries to get too creative and when he holds the ball too long and pressure is generated, a sack/fumble is likely).

Pass Set-Up...Jackson moves his feet very well to escape pressure, but has bare minimal snaps out of the pocket and scouts wonder how effective he will be when asked to set up and drive away from center to his pass point. He shows exceptional balance and body control in his movements and has more than enough foot speed to roll out and makes all his throws on the move. He is quick to scan the field and has that smooth, effortless follow-through to get the ball to his targets without having the receivers adjust (see 2017 North Carolina, Murray State and Virginia games). The thing you see on film is his ability to keep his feet under him while maintaining that balance. He can reach his throwing point with a normal stride and has good body control and agility, but can those skills also translate when he needs to drive back from center quickly at the NFL level?. When he steps into his throws, he is ready to unleash in an instant, doing a nice job sliding in and out of the pocket, but there are times where he struggles pushing away from the line of scrimmage in his drops, despite solid athleticism and ease-of-movement skills (needs to improve lower body mechanics).

Reading Defenses...Because of his youth and enthusiasm, there are times when Jackson will force the ball for the sake of making the play, evident by his low tosses vs. Kent State in 2017 (two pass thefts) and his meltdown vs. Mississippi State as a passer in the Taxslayer Bowl (13-of-31 passes with four interceptions, six sacks and six passes deflected). In the shot-gun, he demonstrates good field vision and poise, doing a nice job of locating his secondary targets rather than just lock on to primary ones and wait for something to happen, but when his protection breaks down, it looks like his hair is on fire, as he tries to make things happen with his feet. He has improved at anticipating the route’s progression and has a knack for hitting his receivers in stride. He has a nice shoulder pump fake to get the deep secondary to bite and does a fine job making pre-snap adjustments out of the spread. He does a nice job with his timing and touch, especially when attempting to get the ball over the coverage. He has no problem taking a sack or throwing it away, but there are times he relies upon his feet and he does have ball distribution concerns that led to 25 fumbles in 38 games. While he has the athletic ability to rely strictly on his strong arm, he has to learn how to make proper reads and stay within the frame-work of the offensive scheme better in order to be successful at the next level.

Release...When not operating under center, Jackson gets rid of it quickly with a smooth throwing motion. He will revert to more of a ¾ release point than going over the top (much like Phillip Rivers), but even with his lack of great height, he has the “big mitts” (9 1/2-inch hands) and long arms (33 1/8-inch arms) to have very good success in get his passes over the defenders, but when he reverts to that 3/4 release, a high amount of his tosses are defended (130 were broken up and 27 were intercepted on 1,086 attempts - 14.46% of his tries). You can see on film (see 2017 Purdue, North Carolina, Kent State and Kentucky games) that his short throwing motion is ideal at generating the speed to get the ball out in a hurry. He sets his feet well and throws with a tight spiral, displaying a fluid, natural motion on short-to-intermediate tosses. He has the quick feet to get to his throwing point, which is evident by his ability to almost instantly get to the area he needs to be ready to unleash the sphere. He can carry the ball medium/high and flick it out either with a high ¾ delivery or over the head. He has a compact release to unload the ball quickly and good mechanics when launching the ball long. He has improved his over-the-top release point, which allows him to generate better quickness with his tosses. When he throws with a long arc, he doesn’t always follow through, evident by his 69/27 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Arm Strength...Jackson has confidence in his arm strength, knowing he has the ability to fire the ball into tight places. He puts very good zip on his tosses, especially when firing it into the intermediate areas. He also has the power to throw the ball deep without much effort (see 2017 North Carolina, Kent State and Boston College games). He puts very good zip on all of his throws, especially in the intermediate area or when going long. He can throw in the seam with consistency and it is rare to see him deliver with a long arc on his deep outs. He just needs to be more conscious of setting his feet in order to put more power behind his tosses, even though he does throw the deep ball with good ease. He also knows how to vary his velocity on the ball when needed.

Accuracy...Because he was under constant pressure, Jackson developed this mentality where it was “him against the world” on most occasions. During his first two seasons, he only completed 60% of his passes in 10-of-25 games. He showed better ability to take something off the ball to make the easy throws in 2017, hitting the 60% completion mark seven times in thirteen appearances, but he seemed to lack the same good accuracy on his throws and failed to set his feet when under constant pressure, leading to some “clunkers” on the field last season (five sacks and an interception vs. Clemson; fumble led to a Kent State touchdown and two interceptions in that game; two fumbles recovered by Florida State for touchdown; six sacks, four interceptions, six pass deflections vs. Mississippi State, hitting on 41.9% of his passes). He throws a catch-able ball underneath and it is rare to see those receivers having to adjust. His long ball accuracy is evident by the way he can lead the receivers by putting the ball on the outside shoulder of his targets. While he gets good velocity and timing behind his throws, unless he sets his feet better and improves his lower body mechanics, you wonder if he can lead the receivers going deep and can put good touch on those throws operating out of the pocket at the NFL level.

Touch...Jackson has good eyes when at scanning the field, locating secondary targets and distributing the ball when not pressured. However, when he does not have much time to throw, he seems to lack the same touch and a quick wrist flick, along with losing some trajectory, which allows defensive linemen to have success batting down his throws at the line of scrimmage (48 in 2017; 41 in both 2015 and ‘16). If given time, he has the feel and anticipation ability of the receiver through the route’s progression and good overall timing and touch. He plays with good awareness, field smarts and athletic agility to slide or step up, but when flushed out, it turns into a five-alarm fire. Even though he does not operate under center much, he has the speed to take a three-step drop, but due to his lower body mechanic issues, at the NFL level, you wonder if he may hold the ball a little too long when he takes a longer (five-step) drop. He has developed a nice feel and awareness to anticipate when the receivers are coming out of their cuts and he makes good adjustments, but he needs total lower body refinement at the next level to be a Russell Wilson type, rather than an RG III disaster.

Poise...Jackson has very good poise and seems unflappable, but you wonder if all that pocket pressure has taken a toll on him - 101 sacks that resulted in losses of 672 yards and 25 fumbles. When well-protected, he can take his time scanning the field for the right target rather than try to force issues. When he is rushed, he has to do a better job of setting his feet throwing on the move. He has confidence in his athletic ability to buy time and even when he has to throw under duress, he will never get flustered by pressure. The thing I love about this guy is his moxie, as he has no problem holding the ball and throwing it in the face of a fierce pass rush (see 2017 Mississippi State, Wake Forest, North Carolina State and Clemson games).

Pocket Movement...While some NFL teams might want Jackson to be more of a drop-back passer than one who can easily roll out and throw, he has no problem making plays on the move – in fact, some of his best passes have come when under pressure and forced to improvise. He has excellent speed carrying the ball (except for ball security/distribution) and he has the vision and strength to make things happen with his feet. He can slide and avoid pocket pressure, doing a nice job of escaping and buying time. He is very mature and alert when maintaining focus down field, even under heavy pressure. He has some of the best movement skills for any quarterback in this draft class, especially when it comes to avoiding and eluding the pass rush, but there were some “leaks” in ball security (see 2017 Florida State and Virginia; 2016 Wake Forest games). He has the delivery timing needed to throw into windows and can keep the play alive by stepping up and finding lanes when avoiding the pass rush.

Compares To...Randall Cunningham-ex Philadelphia/Minnesota Vikings...Some scouts liken him to Michael Vick, but Jackson is not that type of riverboat gambler. Others compare him to Drew Brees, but I doubt that he will ever have that impeccable accuracy of the Saints standout. Jackson might be the best athletic quarterback in this draft class, but he is also one that will need a patient coach, especially one who can help improve his lower body mechanics. He’s a confident leader who knows how to take command in the huddle and is very mobile moving around in the backfield. Jackson puts very good zip behind the short and mid-range passes and shows veteran-like field judgment and keen field vision. He has a take-charge attitude and is very cool under pressure. He excels and connecting with receivers in motion with impressive velocity.