Quarterback prospects are always polarizing. Some talent evaluators loved Carson Wentz and were vindicated by his performance this season, while others loved Johnny Manziel who barely lasted two seasons in the NFL. With such variance in opinions on quarterback prospects, only time will tell whose evaluations prove to be accurate. This year there are four signal callers who have been rumored to be potential first-round selections. Here’s where I favor them at this point in time.
- Josh Rosen, UCLA: I think Rosen is the purest passer of the group. If all breaks right, I can envision a scenario in which Rosen is one day the best quarterback in all of football. That is not hyperbole. His arm strength and accuracy are off the charts. He also has a little moxie to his game that will serve him well in an NFL locker room. Rosen’s floor happens to be significantly higher than any of the other quarterbacks’ in this draft class. Each of the other prospects has a profound flaw in their game. Rosen is nearly unblemished, so it is just a matter of putting it all together. I believe that he will do just that.
- Sam Darnold, USC: Darnold is a coach’s dream. He’s a leader who will demand perfection from those around him. For that, he will garner his teammates’ respect. The former-Trojan can make any throw in the playbook. The one criticism of Darnold is that he trusts his arm too much: That gets him into trouble as he tries fitting balls into windows that simply aren’t there. When the rubber meets the road, though, this kid is a gamer. Intense competitive fire is often a trait that levels the playing field, and it’s a trait Sam Darnold has possession of.
- Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: If Mayfield were 6’3” instead of 6’0”, he would be neck and neck with Rosen for the premier passer in this class. I understand how ludicrous it sounds to penalize a player for being three inches too short, but what if Tom Brady was 6’1” instead of 6’4”? Or what if Aaron Rodgers was 5’11” instead of 6’2”? These things matter, especially when you are evaluating the best of the best. Drew Brees and Russell Wilson come to mind as quarterbacks who have thrived despite being undersized. However, they are exceptions to the rule. I like Mayfield and think he has an opportunity to be special if he finds himself in the right system (say, New Orleans), but I just can’t count on that.
- Josh Allen, Wyoming: I am not sure that there has been a quarterback in recent memory that has been as polarizing as Allen. He has all of the physical tools (6’5”, 240 pounds) and incredible arm strength, but his production this season just wasn’t there against the elite competition. In Wyoming’s two games against Power Five schools, Allen threw for a combined 238 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions. That didn’t prevent Mel Kiper Jr. from having Allen going first overall to the Browns in his initial mock draft. Allen has his believers, but I am not one of them.
An Under the Radar Name to Watch
Prior to last year’s draft, I was extremely high on Alvin Kamara who, after being selected in the third round by the New Orleans Saints, was named the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year. I see a lot of the same qualities that I saw in Kamara in another running back in this year’s draft. Who is that player? Georgia’s Sony Michel.
Michel didn’t garner the spotlight that many college superstars do (similarly to Kamara) because Michel shared the backfield with fellow NFL prospect Nick Chubb. While Michel didn’t get to display all of his tools on a regular basis due to the Bulldogs’ surplus of talent, he was able to preserve his body in the process.
Akin to Kamara, Michel is a duel-threat. He can kill you running, inside and out, and catch the ball out of the backfield. Once Michel possesses the ball in space, he has the ability to turn on the jets and elude the defense. At 5’11” and 215 lbs., Sony Michel is the ideal size for an NFL running back. Imagine the Eagles drafting Michel. He would add an entirely unique dimension to an already potent offense.
Whoever drafts Michel will get a player who will likely have the same impact in his rookie season that Alvin Kamara had with Drew Brees in New Orleans.
Kelly Hogan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.