Matt Miller's Scouting Notebook: Best Fits for Draft's Top Quarterbacks

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterNovember 17, 2017

USC QB Sam Darnold could be the top pick in the 2018 draft if he declares.
USC QB Sam Darnold could be the top pick in the 2018 draft if he declares.Associated Press

The 2018 quarterback class had the potential to be the best since 2004 when evaluating the class over the summer. Top names like Josh Allen (Wyoming), Josh Rosen (UCLA) and Sam Darnold (USC) all returned to school with the tools and upside to be great prospects. Each has had his struggles this year, and none are giving us the feeling of another Eli Manning, Philip Rivers or Ben Roethlisberger, but while the Big 3 have left us with more questions, the 2018 draft class' depth at quarterback is starting to impress.


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If you're reading this and are a fan of the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Jacksonville Jaguars or even a team like the Los Angeles Chargers, you're probably wondering how the quarterback class looks because you want a new passer for your team—either now or in the near future. And make no mistake about it, the number of teams needing an upgrade or future plan at quarterback will drive up the stock of the available players in the 2018 draft class. In that way, think of this quarterback class like the housing market in San Francisco. There's a big demand, and there are teams flush with cash and draft capital to spend.

This week I wanted to do something different and not just tell you who the best quarterbacks are but also assign them to their best fit in the NFL. This isn't a mock draft—meaning it's not a prediction of where these players will be drafted—but it is a look at the best fit based on their tools, personalities and readiness to play in the NFL. Josh Rosen may end up the first pick in the draft to the Cleveland Browns, but that doesn't necessarily make that his best fit in the pros.

Listing the top quarterbacks, including those rumored to be on the fence about deciding (Sam Darnold), here's where I'd place the passers in a dream scenario.

       

Sam Darnold, USC

Redshirt sophomore | 6'4", 225 lbs | No. 2 overall prospect

Darnold has had his ups and downs this season, and even though he currently leads the FCS in turnovers, I still love him. Darnold's mistakes need context, and while some are 100 percent on him trying to do too much with an average arm, there are also times when his receiver drops or tips a pass that goes straight to a defender. Stats need background, and for Darnold, the tape shows an accurate, poised, smart quarterback who is hitting his rhythm well with a young USC offense around him. And remember—last year at this time, a lot of people were upset about Deshaun Watson's interception numbers. He looked pretty good in his rookie NFL season before injury.

Best NFL fit: New York Giants

Darnold's arm strength isn't the best for a cold-weather situation, but his leadership, character, personality and accuracy are what the Giants should be looking for as the team prepares to move on from Eli Manning. This could be a whole new front office and coaching staff in 2018, but the Giants are a premier franchise and Darnold would be a seamless fit there.

      

Josh Rosen, UCLA

Junior | 6'3", 210 lbs | No. 6 overall prospect

UCLA's Josh Rosen has all the tools to be an NFL franchise QB.
UCLA's Josh Rosen has all the tools to be an NFL franchise QB.Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

Rosen makes everything look pretty as a passer. Physically, he reminds me of Jared Goff with a lean frame but beautiful footwork and a clean, compact stroke as a passer. The downside is that he's struggled with injuries in college (knee, shoulder, concussion), and there are rumors out there among NFL scouts that he's not well-liked by his coaching staff. All that must be weighed throughout the draft process, but if teams are comfortable with Rosen's personality, they could get a truly elite passer with touch accuracy and the field vision from the pocket teams generally die for.

Best NFL fit: Cleveland Browns

We don't know who will be running the Browns next season or what that offense will look like, but I see Rosen as having the personality to walk into the locker room and believe he's the man to turn this franchise around. I told a Cleveland radio station this week that Rosen's confidence and personality could make him the Troy Aikman of the Browns.

        

Josh Allen, Wyoming

Junior | 6'5", 240 lbs | No. 7 overall prospect

Josh Allen entered the year as my top-ranked prospect overall based on the potential in his arm strength, athleticism, size and football IQ. He's struggled this year on a young Wyoming team and was just sidelined last week with a strained AC joint in his shoulder. There are numerous questions about taking a quarterback who is a project, but I see Allen in the same light as I did Patrick Mahomes last year. Mahomes went No. 10 overall in a trade up by Kansas City. The information I receive from NFL scouts and executives is that Allen will too.

Best NFL fit: Pittsburgh Steelers

Allen is the least NFL-ready of the top-ranked quarterbacks and needs a situation like Mahomes has where he can sit, learn and work out some of the bad habits he's learned behind the Wyoming offensive line. The Steelers have to live in constant fear Ben Roethlisberger will retire with no plan behind him. Allen solves that problem and is a perfect fit for the current Pittsburgh offense.

        

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Redshirt Senior | 6'1", 210 lbs | No. 14 overall prospect

No player has moved up my draft board this year like Baker Mayfield. The small, energetic quarterback has improved his arm strength, accuracy and has learned to play more from the pocket while continuing to show the same athleticism and big-play ability that made him a star in 2016. Mayfield will have to answer doubts about his size, the level of competition in the Big 12 and the offensive scheme he plays in, but I see a player like Russell Wilson with the poise and clutch gene you don't bet against.

Best NFL fit: New York Jets

The New York Jets have likely played their way out of a top pick to acquire one of the top quarterbacks, but they could be sitting pretty in the middle of the round to steal Mayfield. Combine his confidence with a young, cocky roster, and the Jets look like a different team in 2018.

          

Lamar Jackson, Louisville

Junior | 6'3", 205 lbs | No. 40 overall prospect

Louisville QB Lamar Jackson has rare athletic ability for the position.
Louisville QB Lamar Jackson has rare athletic ability for the position.STEVEN CANNON/Associated Press

The reigning Heisman trophy winner has had a better season in 2017 as a passer and has answered many questions about how well he'll translate to the NFL. I still have concerns about Jackson's size given how often he runs the ball and his deep accuracy, but I would not be surprised to see a team fall in love with his lightning-fast delivery and dual-threat skills in Round 1.

Best NFL fit: Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals could look completely different in 2018 depending on what Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald and Bruce Arians decide to do. General manager Steve Keim still needs to identify a quarterback of the future (no, not Blaine Gabbert) and start grooming him. Jackson's skill set would open up the Arizona offense and pair well with David Johnson.

            

Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Senior | 6'4", 235 lbs | No. 41 overall prospect

The lone senior on this list, Mason Rudolph has incredible numbers operating in Mike Gundy's wide-open Oklahoma State scheme. He carried a Day 3 grade into the season but has shown improved accuracy, decision-making and pocket presence. He also has the most experience of all the quarterbacks listed here.

Best NFL fit: Jacksonville Jaguars

If you follow Bill Parcells' quarterback rules, you'll love Mason Rudolph. Of Parcells' four rules, Rudolph checks the box on all of them. You know who follows Parcells' rules? Tom Coughlin. Rudolph is the type of smart, accurate quarterback the Jaguars need to balance out a great run game and dominant defense.   

          

Here's what else is going on this week:

  • Top five matchups to watch in Week 12
  • Top-ranked offensive tackle returns
  • #Grumors
  • Stick to Football Episode 32: Alvin Kamara and updated Big Boards

      

The Scout's Report

• Have the New York Jets identified their quarterback? A league source told me this week the team "loves" Josh Allen. I followed up with a source at the school who said the Jets have done the most work on the junior quarterback.

Josh Allen is one of the most polarizing QBs of the bunch.
Josh Allen is one of the most polarizing QBs of the bunch.Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

• Speaking of Josh Allen, he left last week's game against Air Force with a strained AC joint in his shoulder but is expected to be day-to-day without any structural damage, according to a team source.

• Texas left tackle Connor Williams is expected to make his return this week against West Virginia. Williams, my top-ranked tackle, has been out since Week 3 against USC. Folks expecting Williams to snap right back into his 2015-16 form should be patient. Coming back from a knee injury (albeit one that didn't require surgery), Williams will need time to shake off the rust.

• The San Francisco 49ers are on a bye this week after getting Kyle Shanahan's first win in Week 10. Said one rival executive about Shanahan's team: "Just wait until year two. Kyle inherited a much worse team than Sean [McVay] did. The Niners will scare people next year."

• Last week I highlighted Iowa cornerback Joshua Jackson (h/t Stick to Football co-host Mello), and he went off with two pick-sixes and a forced fumble in the team's loss to Wisconsin. Jackson has moved up to the top-ranked cornerback on my board.

• Clemson head coach Dabo Sweeney announced this week that junior defensive tackle Christian Wilkins would be honored on Senior Day. Traditionally, this means the junior will declare for the draft. Wilkins has a top-15 grade on my board currently.

Ohio State has a roster loaded with future NFL talent and I'm told by a team source that four juniors are expected to declare: DT Dre'Mont Jones, LB Jerome Baker, CB Denzel Ward and DE Sam Hubbard. All carry a top 40 grade currently.

• No surprise here, but an LSU source told me this week the team is prepared for running back Derrius Guice, defensive end Arden Key and cornerback Donte Jackson to declare for the draft. Guice has a Round 1 grade, but Key has recently dipped to Round 2 on my board due to injuries and off-field concerns.

      

5 Matchups to Know

5. Texas vs. West Virginia

The return of Connor Williams is worth the price of admission alone, but you'll also want to watch the West Virginia offense against this athletic Texas defense. Quarterback Will Grier, running back Justin Crawford and wide receivers David Sills and Ka'Raun White facing this tough group will be the best scouting test they've seen all season. Safety DeShon Elliott and linebacker Malik Jefferson are the key defenders to watch for the Longhorns.

       

4. Kansas State vs. Oklahoma State

OK State WR James Washington is one of the biggest playmakers in football.
OK State WR James Washington is one of the biggest playmakers in football.Brett Deering/Getty Images

Cornerback D.J. Reed has the tough task of taking on one of the Oklahoma State stud receivers all night. James Washington and Marcell Ateman are both tearing up Big 12 defenses this season and have the look of future NFL starters. And of course you'll want to keep an eye on quarterback Mason Rudolph against an always tough Kansas State defense.

      

3. UCLA vs. USC

Sam Darnold. Josh Rosen. The top two quarterbacks on one field. I'm also going to be watching UCLA tackle Kolton Miller against the USC pass rush featuring Uchenna Nwosu and Rasheem Green to see what they can do against Rosen. Throughout the last three years it's seemed like you can't rattle Rosen by hitting him, but USC will definitely try.

    

2. Michigan vs. Wisconsin

It's been a down season for Michigan, but there are still quality players to scout in this matchup. Offensive lineman Mason Cole against the pass rush of Wisconsin, featuring T.J. Edwards, is a good one. Also, defensive tackle Maurice Hurst against a Badgers offensive line led by Michael Deiter should be fun.

    

1. Nebraska vs. Penn State

Saquon Barkley needs to get his numbers up for a shot at the Heisman and will get a chance to do that against the Cornhuskers. There are still rumors out there among NFL scouts that Nebraska quarterback Tanner Lee may declare for the draft. Lee against the Penn State secondary with Marcus Allen leading the way should give us all a solid look at his potential.

           

Parting Shots

9. One thing I don't do enough of is promote the play of good NFL players who I feel are flying under the radar. This week I wanted to use this spot to try it out, and maybe it'll become a regular feature.

Up first is Green Bay Packers cornerback Damarious Randall. On the year, he has three interceptions, four tackles for a loss and has allowed just 13 catches (my charting) while improving on a weekly basis. A former first-round pick, Randall has come into his own now that he's playing more slot than years past (hence the TFLs). 

When it's Pro Bowl-voting time, don't be shy about putting Randall's name up there. I know I will be.

      

8. So, Jamal Adams is good.

The rookie safety has wasted no time making his mark on the NFL and has been a huge part in the Jets' culture change on defense. And this isn't just my opinion; the numbers back it up. Adams should be in the conversation as a Pro Bowler.

I would still place Marshon Lattimore ahead of Adams in the Defensive Rookie of the Year vote, but both should be seeing some postseason hardware and honors.

      

7. Can we stop with the Saquon Barkley hating?

Here's what we know: He's an elite running back prospect with speed, size, vision, balance and excellent three-down skills. He's a high-character person with a great work ethic. He's a top-tier athlete who performs in the weight room like he does on the field. He will be a top-10 pick. 

Penn State RB Saquon Barkley is a rare and unique RB prospect.
Penn State RB Saquon Barkley is a rare and unique RB prospect.Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

You can nitpick his numbers, but that just tells me you aren't watching him. Barkley has struggled to put up 100-yard games because entire defenses are keyed to stop him. Just like Alabama did against Leonard Fournette for two seasons. Fournette's doing OK in the NFL, right?

Barkley has the traits to be the top player in the draft. If you want to argue that he doesn't run through contact like he should at 230 pounds or that a running back shouldn't go first overall, I'll have that talk with you, but let's stop pretending like he's not good. He's good. In fact, when you take everything into consideration, he's the best running back prospect I've seen.

      

6. The Buffalo Bills benched starter Tyrod Taylor at quarterback for rookie fifth-rounder Nathan Peterman. I liked Taylor and still can't really figure out why this move was made given the Bills are still in the playoff hunt with a 5-4 record. That said, here's what I thought of Peterman before the draft:

       

POSITIVES

Originally signed at Tennessee, Peterman transferred to Pittsburgh after failing to land the starting job for the Volunteers. With the Panthers, he started for two seasons in a pro-style, run-heavy offense. Peterman was famously benched after two series against Florida as a true freshman after throwing two interceptions in 11 attempts. Since then, he's developed into a quick thinker and tough player. Peterman has an NFL arm, understands touch and timing and can adjust his velocity for the moment. His eyes as a passer are very good, and he's able to work to second and third progressions. He's athletic enough to move around the pocket and shows the athleticism to make passes to intermediate and deep areas from the go. Peterman is ready to play in the NFL right now thanks to his vision, arm strength and accuracy on intermediate and deep balls.

        

NEGATIVES

Peterman completed just over 60 percent of his passes in the last two seasons. Accuracy normally doesn't get better in the NFL once you face faster defenders. Mechanically, Peterman's legs get him into trouble. He's very inconsistent as a strider and often throws without his base under him. Arm strength questions mostly come from Peterman not driving the ball with his hips and stepping into throws. Mixing that should eliminate some of the floaters he throws over the middle of the field. There are games (Clemson) when Peterman looks like a future NFL starter, but there are also stretches where his spot accuracy and touch simply aren't good. He's a project but could very well start early in his career.

PRO COMPARISON: Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots

FINAL GRADE: 6.45/9.00 (Round 3—Future Starter)

      

5. With Tyrod benched, the good news for fans outside of Buffalo is that a very solid quarterback is about to hit the free-agent market at just 28 years old. Taylor isn't a great quarterback, but he's shown in Buffalo that he can win games and move an offense, and if given a little help, he could be a successful player. I would expect a team like the New York Jets or Jacksonville Jaguars to give him a long look.

       

4. What do Elvis, Obama and Ric Flair all have in common? They're audibles used by the Los Angeles Rams. Jared Goff was mic'd up this week, and the NFL Films crew caught some hilarious audible use by the second-year quarterback. I have no idea how Goff keeps a straight face here.

      

3. We are getting so close to draft season, but the draft order is still a mess because so many teams are sitting at 3-6, 4-5 or 5-4. Here's the order after Week 10.

1. Cleveland Browns (0-9)

2. San Francisco 49ers (1-9)

3. New York Giants (1-8)

4. Indianapolis Colts (3-7) 

5. Cincinnati Bengals (3-6)

6. Denver Broncos (3-6)

7. Los Angeles Chargers (3-6) 

8. Cleveland (from Houston Texans 3-6)

9. Chicago Bears (3-6)

10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6)

11. New York Jets (4-6) 

12. Baltimore Ravens (4-5) 

13. Arizona Cardinals (4-5)

14. Oakland Raiders (4-5)

15. Washington (4-5)

16. Miami Dolphins (4-5) 

17. Dallas Cowboys (5-4)

18. Detroit Lions (5-4) 

19. Buffalo Bills (5-4) 

20. Green Bay Packers (5-4) 

21. Atlanta Falcons (5-4) 

22. Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) 

23. Tennessee Titans (6-3)

24. Buffalo (from Kansas City Chiefs 6-3)

25. Seattle Seahawks (6-3)

26. Carolina Panthers (7-3)

27. Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2)

28. Los Angeles Rams (7-2) 

29. New England Patriots (7-2)

30. Minnesota Vikings (7-2)

31. New Orleans Saints (7-2)

32. Philadelphia Eagles (8-1)

      

2. Stick to Football Episode 32 is ready for download—and if you haven't already, go ahead and subscribe and leave a 5-star review!

This week, Connor and I are joined by New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara to talk Drew Brees, his role in the offense and how tough the move was from the SEC. After that, we go head-to-head sharing our updated 2018 NFL draft Big Boards. To close it all out, we take your questions in our "Draft on Draft" segment with our intern, Kennedy.

                

1. In case you missed it: Stick to Football expanded to two shows per week with Stick to Football Fridays launching last week. In our second show, Mello and I fixed the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, listed our Questionable Calls of the Week and tried to find an NFL team that he can call his own.

     

Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.

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