Ranking the Top Quarterback Prospects After the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine

Brad Gagnon@Brad_Gagnon NFL National ColumnistMarch 5, 2018

Ranking the Top Quarterback Prospects After the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine

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    The quarterbacks have left the building. More specifically, they've departed Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis after running, jumping, talking and—in some cases—throwing. 

    Some stocks rose, some stocks fell and other stocks remain in limbo. Still, we do know more about this deep but question-riddled quarterback class than we did last week.

    With that in mind, let's rank the top 10 signal-calling prospects with the NFL Scouting Combine in the rear-view mirror and the draft now just seven weeks out.

1. Josh Rosen, UCLA

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    The good news: Coming from a pro-style offense in the Pac-12, Josh Rosen is this draft's quintessential pure passer. His numbers steadily improved over the course of his three years as a starter at UCLA, and he's probably polished enough to start from the get-go at the NFL level. The 6'4" 21-year-old is particularly fun to watch because his mechanics are close to perfect, and he spins it like few men on the planet can. 

    The bad news: There are questions about Rosen's durability after he missed time the last two years due to shoulder surgery and concussions. He also doesn't shy away from controversy and has become a media lightning rod

    Combine notes: Rosen handled himself well in his interview with the media, which means something in this case. He also threw some beautiful deep balls in passing drills and held his own in measurable drills thanks to a strong result in the vertical jump (ranking fourth at 31 inches). 

    Why he's ranked No. 1: Intangible factors matter at quarterback because it's a cerebral position that requires great discipline on and off the field, but nobody is claiming Rosen is a wild child. Being outspoken—or even disliked—shouldn't be enough for a draft stock to drop. The injuries and the turnovers are more legitimate potential concerns, but there's no perfect quarterback prospect this year, and Rosen's combine performance shouldn't hurt his stock.

2. Sam Darnold, USC

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    The good news: Sam Darnold looks and feels like an NFL franchise quarterback. The poised two-year starter at USC is a 6'3", 221-pounder with strong leadership qualities and the ability to make every throw. He has a squeaky-clean reputation on and off the field, and he's mobile enough to extend plays with his legs. 

    The bad news: Still only 20 years old, Darnold turned the ball over 22 times as a redshirt sophomore in 2017. He could have solidified his spot atop the 2018 quarterback prospect table with a strong 2017 campaign, but he took a bit of a step backward. Now some will wonder if he'll face Jameis Winston-like turnover issues early in his career. 

    Combine notes: He obviously took some heat for opting not to throw, but Darnold can make up for that at USC's pro day. Besides, he put up a solid 4.85-second 40-yard dash and was one of the top quarterbacks at the three-cone drill (ranking fifth at 6.96 seconds). Oh, and his hands measured a solid 9 3/8 inches, which helped answer some questions there.

    Why he's ranked No. 2: Darnold's numbers and measurables don't jump off the page, but he possesses the tangible and intangible attributes of a potential franchise quarterback. If he can become a little more disciplined in ball security, the ceiling is high. But first, he has to deliver at that pro day on March 21. 

3. Josh Allen, Wyoming

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The good news: Josh Allen has a howitzer, which on its own wouldn't usually be enough to be considered a future franchise quarterback, but he's also 6'5", 237 pounds, and extremely mobile. He's the most athletically gifted quarterback in this class, and when you watch him on tape it's hard to believe he isn't considered a surefire top-five pick. 

    The bad news: As a two-year starter in a second-rate conference, the 21-year-old managed to complete just 56.3 percent of his passes at Wyoming. That's on his supporting cast to an extent, but while Allen did decrease his interception rate in 2017, his yards-per-attempt average plummeted from 8.6 to 6.7. 

    Combine notes: Allen outshined Rosen in passing drills while also running a 4.75-second 40-yard dash. He ranked in the top three at the quarterback position there, and he also dominated the position at the vertical and broad jump (33.5 inches and 119 inches, respectively, both of which ranked first by a solid margin). 

    Why he's ranked No. 3: As a redshirt junior coming out of the Mountain West Conference, he'll probably need some time to prove he has the accuracy and decision-making ability to excel as a starting quarterback. That leaves him behind his Southern California-based counterparts, even though his stock rose in Indy. 

4. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

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    The good newsHe doesn't have a big body or a big arm, but Baker Mayfield has Russell Wilson-like improvisation skills and strong playmaking ability. The soon-to-be 23-year-old tore it up as a four-year starter in the Big 12 (three years with the Sooners, one at Texas Tech), completing 68.5 percent of his passes and posting a 131-to-30 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He's deadly accurate, which is the first requirement when you're looking to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. 

    The bad news: He's 6'1", which isn't ideal for an NFL quarterback. That still makes him taller than Wilson and Drew Brees, but those guys are anomalies because of their special abilities in the pocket, outside of the pocket and through the air. Does Mayfield have what it takes to overcome his lack of size? He could become another Wilson, but he could also become another Johnny Manziel. It doesn't help that his footwork remains messy and that he often feasted on bad competition in college.

    Combine notes: The measurable drills aren't Mayfield's forte, but he came through with a strong performance in passing drills. He looked stronger than I expected and was consistently hitting receivers in stride on short-to-intermediate routes. Mayfield reinforced the idea that he's the most accurate thrower in this draft class.

    Why he's ranked No. 4: Mayfield's personality could be viewed as a pro or a con, depending on the source. On one hand, he's a fiery leader. On the other hand, he has at times gone overboard and displayed a lack of maturity. He's almost an inverse of Josh Allen, which is why both are clear boom-or-bust prospects. It's a close call, but I'll take Allen's potential over Mayfield's intangibles and arguably inflated statistics.

5. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The good news: Mason Rudolph has the size (6'5", 235 lbs), the experience (three years as a starter at Oklahoma State) and the numbers (63.2 completion rate, 9.4 yards-per-attempt average, 92-to-26 touchdown-to-interception ratio) that you want in a top-flight quarterback prospect. It also helps that he's a good decision-maker who rarely makes big mistakes. 

    The bad news: His arm doesn't blow anyone away, he's often a bump on a log in the pocket, and he accumulated those big numbers as part of a spread offense against often weak competition. 

    Combine notes: His lack of athleticism came through when he finished dead last among quarterbacks with a 26-inch vertical, but he did prove in passing drills he has the arm strength to chuck it at the NFL level. That's more important.

    Why he's ranked No. 5: Rudolph appears to at least have what you want in a backup, which is why he'll probably have a long NFL career. That said, look beyond the numbers and there are some question marks. 

6. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The good news: Nobody has made a bigger impact in college football since the start of 2016 than Lamar Jackson. He won the Heisman Trophy with over 3,500 passing yards and over 1,500 rushing yards two years ago and then was a finalist again in 2017 thanks to more than 3,600 passing yards and 1,600 rushing yards. He improved steadily over his three years as a starter in the ACC and is one of the most dangerous offensive weapons in this draft. 

    The bad news: Some—mainly Bill Polian—are attempting to typecast him as a dual-threat quarterback better suited to play another position, such as wide receiver. But the guy won the Heisman as a quarterback, not a receiver, so that's a silly notion. That being said, it's fair to ask whether Jackson can become/remain consistently accurate enough to cut it as an NFL starter. He completed only 57.0 percent of his passes in three years in the ACC. Beyond that, his footwork still leaves a lot to be desired.

    Combine notes: Kudos to Jackson for not participating in measurable drills amid misguided chatter that he should consider selling himself as a potential wide receiver. Problem is, that left us with only an inconsistent, sometimes erratic passing performance to go off.

    Why he's ranked No. 6: It's still fair to ask whether he has what it takes as a passer. He isn't as polished as you'd hope for a guy with that resume. 

7. Kyle Lauletta, Richmond

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The good news: Momentum was on Kyle Lauletta's side after a strong performance at the Senior Bowl, and he didn't lose ground in Indy. Beyond that, he improved steadily during his three years as a starter at Richmond, and NFL.com's Lance Zierlein points out that he's been "heralded by scouts as team leader and elected team captain twice."

    The bad news: He doesn't have a big arm, he remains a bit of a mystery coming out of the FCS, and his numbers weren't as strong as you'd hope considering the competition (he threw 35 interceptions the last three years). 

    Combine notes: Lauletta displayed tremendous accuracy during passing drills and put on a show in every measurable drill he participated in, ranking sixth in the 40 (4.81), fourth in the vertical (31 inches), fourth in the broad jump (113.0) and fourth in the three-cone drill (6.95). He also had the fastest 20-yard shuttle (4.07) at that position. 

    Why he's ranked No. 7It would be one thing if he were taller or had an impressive arm, but it'll be hard for Lauletta to move much higher than this mainly on the power of solid mechanics, strong leadership qualities and pre-draft buzz. Still, his stock continues to rise, and he's become the top quarterback outside of the "big six" above.

8. Mike White, Western Kentucky

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The good news: Former high school pitcher Mike White put his cannon of a right arm on display often during a phenomenal 2016 season in which he went over 4,300 yards while throwing 37 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions. It's a cliche, but he can make all the throws. 

    The bad news: White probably wishes he entered the draft following that big 2016 campaign, because his numbers fell off across the board in his senior season. In fact, his adjusted yards-per-attempt average plummeted from 11.5 in 2016 to 7.7 in 2017. He doesn't have a strong pocket presence, and he has a tendency to struggle under pressure. 

    Combine notes: White's lack of athleticism was evident in measurable drills (his 5.09-second 40 time was the slowest at the position, and he ranked in the bottom five in the vertical, broad and three-cone), but he didn't hurt himself in passing drills. He displayed plenty of touch and was accurate on short-to-intermediate attempts.

    Why he's ranked No. 8: He needed to regain some momentum at the combine, but it doesn't appear as though that happened.

9. Luke Falk, Washington State

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    The good news: When healthy, Luke Falk did everything asked of him within Mike Leach's high-scoring offense, completing 68.3 percent of the 2,054 passes he threw during his four years in the Pac-12. He's strong, accurate, tall and mechanically sound.

    The bad news: He was arguably a system quarterback at Washington State, which means there'll be a learning curve as he tries to get acclimated to an NFL offense. He's coming off a tough year, he may need to beef up and he lacks mobility. 

    Combine notes: He didn't do much except throw, and he was inconsistent when doing so. 

    Why he's ranked No. 9: This is the first quarterback on the list who it's tough to envision as a regular starter in the NFL. The ceiling is low, and there wasn't much he could do at the combine to prove he'll be able to run a pro-style offense. There's a better chance Falk slides out of the top 10 than there is of him moving into the top eight. 

10. Tanner Lee, Nebraska

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The good news: Tanner Lee has major arm talent, he can make every throw and he put together a strong performance at the combine. 

    The bad news: He completed just 55.2 percent of his passes in college, and he threw 16 interceptions during his lone season at Nebraska. 

    Combine notes: Only Allen beat him in the vertical (32 inches) and the broad jump (115 inches), and his three-cone drill was solid (ranking seventh at 7.00 seconds). We also confirmed he has huge hands (10 1/2 inches). 

    Why he's ranked No. 10: The final spot was up for grabs prior to the combine, and Lee tested a little better than counterparts Chase Litton and Logan Woodside in Indianapolis.