We've heard all the hype around the new golden boy, Sam Darnold. We've seen the intense style of play by the best college football player in years, Lamar Jackson. We've pushed aside the idea of Oklahoma having a good quarterback who we really don't want to like, Baker Mayfield. We've forgotten who was Sam Darnold before Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen.
But now that teams are seeing how their rosters are shaping up to be and college football is only a few weeks from ending, draft season starts now. This week is rivalry week in college football, so that means teams like Alabama, Ohio State, and Notre Dame will be put to the test in their biggest games of the year (and I can make a case for Notre Dame that this game is more important than against Miami, y'all can fight me on it), which are all schools where numerous amounts of top prospects are annually pulled from, especially in this year's draft. Teams are going to be heavily scouting these games, but it seems that this year is going to be the year of the quarterback, and rightly so I might add.
The NFL releases QB rankings every week, but I've learned that they are meaningless and are don't reflect anything but mere stats. They don't reflect performance, which is very different from stats. Baker Mayfield may put up polished stats, but they're built on check downs and prayed-on deep balls that aren't all that pretty. Josh Rosen may not have the nicest stat line, but he shows off an NFL ready skill set that begs the sparing of Cleveland. Basically, I don't care for the NFL's QB rankings, which don't prepare readers for the draft. J.T. Barrett was the top ranked QB at one point, but we all know (and you Ohio State fans know very well, too) that Barrett is not fit for the NFL at any rate.
That being said: this QB Ranking doesn't just focus on the stat sheet, but the mere factors that lead up to that stat sheet and the skill set that we can see in the players and that we can't see, but we know it's there (when I get to Darnold, you'll see what I'm talking about).
1. Lamar Jackson- Jackson is going to be picked by the Browns at number 1 overall. I said four months before the 2015 NFL Draft that the Chargers were picking Joey Bosa and I was right while NFL analysists and the everyday Joe were wrong. I can see this one coming. It's almost way too easy to assign this pick to Cleveland, which is bad news for Jackson. The Browns have waited too long to pick a QB and can't afford to miss here, as Myles Garrett is probably going to leave Cleveland first chance he gets.
His strong arm is a very nice tool, but his ability to make plays when there isn't anything there is what sets him apart from the rest. Most college QB's would escape the pocket and run, but Jackson has learned that there are other ways to make big plays when out of the pocket, like pulling an Aaron Rodgers and chucking that ball down the field. He also has the field vision to make smaller plays if he has to, resulting in a 4% jump in his completion percentage from last year. He plays like Marcus Mariota, but has a touch of Russell Wilson in him, too. Louisville isn't necessarily a stacked team from head to toe, so it's understandable that the Cardinals don't reflect his performance. But for him to carry the offense on his back and rack up the stats he does is incredible. He is the best playmaker in the draft and has proven it time and time again (put your hands down, Penn State fans, I said he's the best in the draft. Barkley's been bottled up all year long, even against mediocre defenses).
2. Josh Rosen- When Rosen was recruited, he had about the same amount of hype to him as Sam Darnold did, even being referred to as "The Rosen One". Rosen may not have the playmaking ability that Darnold has, but Rosen has a cannon for an arm and makes some of the best throws you'll see. He may have the best arm in the entire draft when you account for how far he can throw and how often he makes throws to where he wants the ball to go. UCLA has struggled as a whole, not having the playmakers on defense as last year and having an offense that doesn't always click. This is the first year that Rosen has finally lived up to the hype and it's most likely going to be his last at college, as his skill set has definitely thrown him into the mix for the first name taken off the board.
He isn't the most mobile QB in the draft, but if he goes to a pass-heavy offense (cough cough Giants), then he won't have to worry about making plays out of the pocket. He can still get a good run here and there, but his arm is too valuable to not use. My guess is he goes to the Giants and learns from Eli Manning either off the bench with the occasional start here and there or is the starter from day 1 and picks up some tips along the way, keeping the spot until the very end. Eli is going to be replaced next year and I can almost guarantee it'll be Rosen.
3. Sam Darnold- The Golden Boy. Darnold was an okay quarterback going into 2016, but when he finished you would've thought Tim Tebow came back as a blonde California boy. No player has ever had so much hype surrounding him in the past decade, and that's including the idiotic Johnny Manziel, the headhunting Jadaveon Clowney, or the Trojan Warriors of Reggie Bush and Matt Leinhart. His arm is fantastic and he makes some of the most beautiful throws you'll ever see. Not great or wowing, but sheerly beautiful, something only Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady are able to do (maybe a stretch? I don't care, dudes great). Darnold does, however, have a problem with the ball; he doesn't like it and wants the defense to have it. He makes a few messy turnovers, but more importantly, he makes enough to where he's atop the nation in turnovers committed. with 19 by 11/22.
Nonetheless, Darnold has the most coveted tool a QB can have. Running backs want this. Wide receivers can't have this. Defensive players are stymied by this. Darnold has it. The it factor is the most mysteriously awesome thing a QB can have. No one knows what the hell it is, but you can tell when a QB has it. Russell Wilson is probably the only QB who has it in the league, and that's including Drew Brees, Tom Brady, and Aaron Rodgers (Rodgers may have it, but there's no mystery to his game, he just knows what the hell he's doing and does it better than anyone). Darnold is able to make magic happen on the field, marveling with his throws and catching you off guard with his small gains on the ground. He's still young, but I think Darnold would benefit immensely by staying at USC for another year. His draft stock is high, yes, but if he were to plunge into the NFL already, he'd get eaten alive. He doesn't need to stay to improve his stock, he needs to improve his game, as he's not ready for the next level competition just yet.
And I swear, real or fake USC fans, ESPN writers who "can't get enough of that Darnold kid!", and anyone with the last name Darnold better not scuff at that decision, I want him to succeed! That is exactly why he needs to go back and face more of the competition he'll see, as his schedule has shown that he can't handle tough competition just yet. He needs to work on completing his throws and making better decisions with the ball.
4. Baker Mayfield- I'll admit, I'm trying to like Mayfield. I think he's a good player and could eventually become a quarterback who can do it all. But after the display he put on against Kansas, I can't stomach watching or paying attention to Mayfield anymore. Oh, I don't mean his stats, he had a great game. If you didn't watch the game, get a notification, or be a football fan at any level since last Saturday, let me catch you up. After the coin toss, Mayfield and the other captains went up to shake the team captains hands from Kansas, who didn't do a good job as captains themselves, refusing to shake Mayfield's hand or the other Oklahoma captains. This was definitely a fault of the Kansas players, but Mayfield took it personally, getting fired up and making the game strictly personal. Then, at one point in the game, while on the sideline, he made an inappropriate gesture that involved a part of the body that's pretty south (just look it up, I don't want to explain this). That was definitely Mayfield's fault, but that's also an understatement. Being the captain of the team, Mayfield let his emotions get the best of him and reacted poorly to another team's issue. He deserves to be benched for this last game and is going to be, which he reacted to with a lot of emotion. I give credit to his passion to the game, but his maturity needs to be handled by a team who can teach him to be a man instead of just a football player...or the more plausable option is he gets drafted by the Steelers who don't really care about maturity issues at this point.
Based on skill, Mayfield has a good set of tools with him. He doesn't trust his arm very much, however, being more fond of shorter passes than deep ones. He does have a good arm though, which will come in handy in the NFL. He is able to get the job done on the ground or through the air, but his future isn't as a duel threat QB. He has a similar stature to Drew Brees, being undersized and not very broad. But he definitely is going to have to work his way up to the Drew Brees name. In my eyes, as I'm typing this, I think Mayfield has the potential to be just like Drew Brees, but whether or not he finds the right guidance to get there is to be seen in the draft.
5. Mason Rudolph- So this Rudolph kid has jumped up lists as of late, even being placed as the top pick in the draft by some mock draft (I forget who, but the mock was awful). Rudolph is a fine player and has shown flashes of potential, but I'm definitely not going as far as to say he's a first round player, let alone the first overall pick. Rudolph is surely going to start his career on the bench and not as a starter, so he's probably going to go to a team that either needs a future starter but not one right now or needs a QB who can potentially be a starter in year one, but hasn't shown that he can just yet. His arm is great and he makes fairly good decisions, but he doesn't make spectacular plays, something he needs to make happen if he wants to be an NFL QB. By that I mean he needs to throw the deep ball with success, not just occasion. He has a top deep threatin James Washington, who he needs to utilize both for Washington's benefit and his own. Rudolph will be an intersting option in this draft, as his landing spot is largely unknown. As a Chargers fan, however, I'd want my front office to consider drafting Rudolph to soon take over for the Hall of Fame and heaven sent Rivers (heaven sent is a bit much, but he's my quarterback and is the best in the league...yes there's bias here, back off).
The rest of the QB's are all going to land in the later rounds, but I'd only give the spotlight to Clayton Thorson, who seems to be a hidden gem in the draft that completes less than half his throws on occasion. Sorry not sorry.