Written By: Blake Hymel
It’s unlikely that all of the top 5 quarterback prospects will be a bust, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling that way. Each prospect has some major red flags that could prevent them from becoming a franchise quarterback. The only quarterback I feel comfortable with being a success isn’t even a top 5 qb prospect according to most (Mason Rudolph). From character concerns to fundamental problems, the worries for each quarterback vary. But one thing is the same for all– they have the potential to be the next NFL-1st round bust.
The best feature of Josh Rosen’s attitude is that he isn’t Baker Mayfield. Rosen’s attitude issues have mostly flown under the radar due to the media attention Mayfield has gotten throughout the season. After all, it’s not like Josh Rosen is grabbing his crotch on live TV. But Rosen’s issues may be more concerning. He has had a slew of off-the-field issues that indicate entitlement and immaturity. I can forgive a college kid being a college kid, so I don’t mind the hot tub incident (images deleted) or when he got his friends to arrange a neighbor’s lawn-ornaments in suggestive positions.
What concerns me is that he’s a constant distraction for the rest of the team. Outside of his “college kid antics”, he’s been criticized several times for voicing his opinions on social media. In April 16th 2016, he wore a “F**K Trump” hat while golfing at a Trump golf course. A little over a month later, he tweeted “Gotta love nonprofits” in response to a UCLA and Under Armour deal that brought in $280 million for the college. Later in 2017, a month before the season, Rosen commented that “school and football don’t go together.” Each of these issues brought negative attention to his team. He even went as far to say if the Browns end up with the #1 overall pick (they eventually did), he may stay in college for another year.
Most people read his comments and think “so what? It’s free speech, and he brings up good points.” And I’m inclined to agree. But what happens when he inevitably disagrees with his future NFL team about something? Can any team really trust that Rosen will keep it “in the locker room”? No team wants their future franchise quarterback to run to social media to air dirty laundry if he doesn’t get his way.
Rosen’s history of injuries goes back to a shoulder injury against Arizona State in 2016, where he missed the rest of the season. He ended up having surgery on the shoulder and it didn’t seem to affect his ability in 2017.
My bigger concern is Rosen’s history of concussions. He had two concussions during the 2017 season only a month apart from each other. He missed a game in November due to a concussion, and in the last regular season game he suffered another. He was kept out of the bowl game due to concussion concerns. With the NFL’s heightened focus on head injuries, each concussion brings players closer and closer to an early retirement.
There’s a lot of things to like about Josh Rosen on the field, but his athleticism isn’t one of them. For another article I wrote, I compared 10 quarterbacks and their athleticism. Josh Rosen performed in the bottom 3 of each stat researched. He’s one of only three quarterbacks researched that finished under the NFL average in touchdowns per rush attempt (at 4%). He averages -1.94 yards per attempt, while no NFL quarterback averaged less than -1 last season. He also loses a big chunk of yards per sack (at 7.85), which puts him last out of the 10 quarterbacks. This will put much more pressure on Rosen to make plays with his arm, as he’s not a running threat by any stretch of the imagination.
Sam Darnold has an elongated, awkward throwing motion. He drops the ball incredibly low, almost in line with his hip, and then brings the ball up in a half-arch motion. Sam has worked on it throughout his college career, but hasn’t been able to improve it. In March, before the draft, he said “I’m not trying to change my throwing motion at all. I think I get the ball off pretty quick. There is kind of a wind-up, but I think I get it off quick and that’s what matters.” It’ll be up to NFL teams to decide if they’re willing to pick a quarterback that has a faulty throwing motion and is either unable or unwilling to change it.
Darnold has thrown an interception in 10 of his 14 games in the 2017 season. In 3 games he threw 2 interceptions, and he also fumbled the ball in 7 of his 14 games last season, twice against Oregon State and three times against Utah. His problem with fumbling goes back to 2016 as well, when he fumbled 9 times, twice against UCLA and Cal, and three times against Colorado.
Turnovers seem to plague Sam Darnold. His interceptions can be attributed to a few things. He has a long throwing motion, throws off of his back foot, and struggles with getting the ball out to the sideline with zip. One of the more unique problems Darnold has is his decision making when it comes to what kind of pass to throw. He had a few times where he zipped the ball into an area that needed a softer pass, and used a softer pass when the ball should have been thrown stronger.
I could write a completely separate article detailing Baker’s off-the-field issues. He doesn’t seem to have any emotional maturity and loses control of his actions quickly. In 2017, he was arrested for public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest. A year later, he got into an argument with a drunk Ohio State fan, and then planted the Oklahoma flag at midfield after the game as retribution. Later the same season, he got into a verbal argument with a Kansas fan and antagonized the Kansas sideline by grabbing his crotch on national TV. After each incident, Mayfield delivered a hollow apology and then went on to do another boneheaded thing.
Mayfield may struggle moving to an NFL style offense. He completed 71% of his passes in 2017, which looks good on a stat sheet. But what you don’t see is that 27% of those completions were planned quick routes that were caught within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage. Slants, flare, and hitch routes where Mayfield knew he didn’t need to throw the ball down the field. This doesn’t even include the short completions that Mayfield made once plays broke down and he dumped the ball off. This is what many scouts said about Blake Bortles when he was drafted 3rd overall by the Jaguars in 2014. While Bortles was able to lead the Jaguars to the playoffs in 2017, his highest completion rate in his 4 year career has been 60.2%.
Mayfield will need to step into a role in the NFL that he isn’t comfortable with– the pocket passer. Mayfield’s biggest weaknesses are the things he’ll need to do well to be successful. He has an abundance of fundamental problems and leaves the pocket too quickly when pressure comes, and when it doesn’t he gets happy feet. He doesn’t look off safeties or work through his progressions. He makes up for this with incredible athleticism, great arm strength, and good accuracy. The only question is, will that be enough against NFL defenses?
Josh Allen’s accuracy issues are well documented leading up to the draft. What’s surprising about his accuracy percentages aren’t that he’s consistently turning in decent yet subpar games, but that his games vary widely between 70% completion rates and sub 50% games. He finished 2017 with a 56% completion rate. In 3 games, his completion rate was 68%, 69%, and 72%. But within the same season, he had 3 games where his rate was 44%, 47%, and 37%. The rest of his games are around 58% with one at 50%.
This isn’t an issue with only 2017 numbers, as he averaged 56% in 2016 as well, with 4 games above 65% and and 4 under 55%. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how big you are or how strong your arm is, your best quality in the NFL is consistency. And Allen is not consistent.
Allen has the same problem with decision making that Sam Darnold has. He doesn’t use the correct throws. This is highlighted in the Boise State game, where he had a receiver open in the seam and could have zipped a ball in for a completion, but instead put too much touch on the pass, allowing the safety to make up space and intercept the ball. Later in the game, he had a receiver with one-on-one coverage down the sideline. Instead of getting air under the ball and giving his receive a chance at a 50/50 ball, he tried to sling it into a hole that wasn’t there and was intercepted to seal the game.
As athletic as Lamar Jackson is he still has a ways to go to improve his footwork. His plant foot creeps up and settles too close to his front foot when he makes throws, causing his passes to sail high. When pressure is in his face he throws off his back foot, also causing high passes. When he scrambles behind the line he rarely resets his feet before making a pass. Jackson leans heavily on his ability to escape with his feet, but hasn’t given the attention to what to do with them when he’s in the pocket.
Jackson is irresponsible with the ball when he’s running, undermining his incredible athletic ability. Jackson fumbled in 6 out of his 12 games in 2017, and twice in two games. He holds the ball too far away from his body when he’s changing directions. Even when running in a straight line he fails to secure the ball well. During the bowl game in 2016 against LSU he was running in a straight line, and a defender was able to punch the ball out with very little effort.
Refusal to slide
The fact that Jackson hasn’t gotten hurt more is amazing, as he’s taken far too many hits than necessary. He doesn’t seem interested in sliding to avoid contact, and needlessly exposes himself to possible injuries. Going into a league that is faster and hits harder, Lamar needs to focus on protecting his body at all times.