NFL Evaluators Are Frightened of Josh Rosen For All the Wrong Reasons

Brent Sobleski@@brentsobleskiNFL AnalystApril 3, 2018

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 26:  Quarterback Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins looks on up prior to the Cactus Bowl against Kansas State Wildcats at Chase Field on December 26, 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Kansas State Wildcats won 35-17.  (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

Josh Rosen is the boogeyman to old-school NFL evaluators who want draft prospects to devote their entire lives to football. He's an intelligent young man who's unafraid to discuss taboo subjects, whereas NFL teams seemingly would prefer a roster full of automatons rather than human beings.  

Instead of concentrating on Rosen's positives as a player—such as his NFL readiness, ability to absorb information and picturesque throwing mechanicsquestions about his personality and commitment continue to linger.

Former UCLA head coach Jim Mora, who recruited and coached Rosen, fanned the flames of predraft persecution last week during a segment on NFL Network's Path to the Draft (via NFL.com's Dan Parr). He stated USC's Sam Darnold is the best fit for the Cleveland Browns with the No. 1 overall pick, in part due to his "blue-collar, gritty attitude."

The connotation speaks volumes.

Mora then attempted to clarify his remarks in an interview with The MMQB's Peter King, but he only dug a deeper hole.

PASADENA, CA - NOVEMBER 19:  Injured quarterback Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins and Head Coach Jim Mora on the sidelines before the game against the USC Trojans at Rose Bowl on November 19, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images
Harry How/Getty Images

"He needs to be challenged intellectually so he doesn't get bored," Mora said. "He's a millennial. He wants to know why. Millennials, once they know why, they're good. Josh has a lot of interests in life. If you can hold his concentration level and focus only on football for a few years, he will set the world on fire. He has so much ability, and he's a really good kid."

Those comments feed directly into the negative perceptions already built into the cacophony of Rosen evaluations. 

"He wasn't the guy everyone rallied around in college, and you don't have to dig around for too long to find people who said he was hard to coach," an NFL executive told NFL.com's Lance Zierlein. "He's definitely talented. Nobody questions that. But he's going to have to get grown men to buy into him as their leader. That is not a given."

Meanwhile, a "top NFL personnel guy" told former NFL scouting director Greg Gabriel that Rosen needs to drop the "entitlement attitude" to realize his potential. 

"Can he fit into a locker room?" another anonymous NFC personnel executive wondered, per The MMQB's Albert Breer. "He's considered aloof...so he has to prove he's a leader of men, he has to get people to buy in."

Last summer, a scout told Bleacher Report's Matt Hayes that Rosen lacked "a certain fire and passion." 

The narrative surrounding Rosen borders on character assassination.

Yes, he had a hot tub in his freshman dorm. He grew up in an affluent family and developed certain political views. He called out the NCAA's hypocrisy regarding amateurism. During the Cactus Bowl media day, he even told reporters"I'd rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher one at the wrong team."

NFL teams should take all of that into consideration, but not to the point of stagnation regarding his evaluation as a person or player. A person can grow beyond who they were upon entering college. 

"I think that you have to be yourself, you have to be authentic and you have to show that you've learned and grown over the years," Rosen said at the NFL combine, per SB Nation's Adam Stites. "I'm trying to show who I really am, not who I'm trying to be. I want them to draft me. I don't want them to draft someone they think they're getting and then not get that guy. I think that's also what your teammates want. Your teammates don't want a fake shell of yourself."

Rosen's teammates rallied around him over the last few months, defending his character and personality.

"It drives me insane," UCLA offensive lineman David Quessenberry said at the combine (via Stites) when asked about the negative perceptions of Rosen. "I have a really good relationship with Josh, and I think he'll tell you the same thing about me, and we talk. And for him to get the rap that he gets, it's B.S. because of the type of guy that he is and the type of stand-up human being that he is and the type of pro that he's going to be. He's a great dude, I love hanging around him and being with him, and whoever gets him is extremely lucky. They're getting a once-in-a-millennium talent, in my opinion."

Others took to social media to further defend or congratulate their quarterback, as Go Joe Bruin's Danielle Alvari relayed: 

Danielle Alvari @DanielleAlvari

People who say Josh Rosen is a bad teammate: not his teammates People that say Josh is great: his teammates https://t.co/rk0v97UHW3

This isn't some overdramatized Kevin Costner movie where no one showed up to the top quarterback prospect's birthday party. Rosen is worthy of the No. 1 overall pick, character questions be damned.

Mora's comments about Rosen aren't any different than how the New England Patriots coaching staff handles Tom Brady, as NFL Network's Jim Trotter noted: 

Jim Trotter @JimTrotter_NFL

Btw, here is McDaniels’ quote to Breer ... https://t.co/D2H5LKQOTH

Rosen is clearly the draft class' most natural passer, given his advanced mechanics and understanding of pre-snap reads. Mora asked his quarterback to make more NFL-caliber throws than any other prospect. 

Rosen frequently dropped back, hit his back step and let the ball rip to the correct receiver, as Eliot Crist of Pro Football Focus showed: 

Eliot Crist @EliotCrist

Lets start by talking about his mechanics. It's like he was built in a lab to play quarterback. No wasted motion, great feet, quick release, is able to drive off his back leg and throw with power. Great footwork on drop backs as well. https://t.co/eSwscrcp6S

Darnold, Wyoming's Josh Allen, Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield and Louisville's Lamar Jackson are more mobile than Rosen, but the UCLA product navigates the pocket with nimble footwork he learned as a tennis prodigy during his youth: 

Eliot Crist @EliotCrist

Rosen does a good job feeling pressure, especially from blindside. He will miss it at times when it comes from his front side. He is very good at navigating the pocket, buying extra time to allow receivers to get open. https://t.co/llzAhqUjPp

Standing tall in the pocket and delivering isn't a problem for Rosen, although his decision-making is more of a question mark since he threw 26 interceptions in 30 games. His 0.87 interception-per-contest ratio ranks last among this year's top five quarterback prospects. 

NFL Network's Patrick Claybon compiled all 10 of Rosen's interceptions from this past season:

Patrick Claybon @PatrickClaybon

All 10 of Josh Rosen's 2017 regular season interceptions https://t.co/IHfMEdwCQr

Rosen struggled at times with post-snap reads and became prone to ill-advised throws. His confidence in his arm also led him to attempt multiple tight-window throws he couldn't complete. 

However, NFL teams can move past turnovers if they see translatable traits as part of a prospect's skill set. Does he process information quickly? How does he perform under pressure? Does he show above-average anticipation and accuracy? Is the prospect's overall arm talent adequate to exemplary?

After all, Darnold and Allen have issues with turnovers as well, but they're both considered top-five prospects. 

Rosen's real concerns revolve around his frame and durability.

At 6'4" and 226 pounds, the UCLA quarterback has the requisite size to play the position. However, a surgery on his throwing shoulder and a pair of concussions in the last 17 months should have teams concerned.

Rosen is willing to absorb a hit from an oncoming defender to complete a pass, which is part of the problem. Since he isn't as mobile as others, the number of hits he takes may have an adverse effect on his long-term potential. 

Mayfield, Darnold and Jackson didn't miss a game during the last two seasons, whereas Allen is bigger and more athletic than Rosen. Building an argument against the UCLA prospect should start with his durability, not his supposed attitude problems.

Every NFL team should want an intelligent young man who craves more knowledge and wants his coaching staff to push him. Instead, Rosen's former coach perpetuated confirmation bias among those who believe the 21-year-old doesn't have the mettle to be a quality NFL starter. 

Football guys want fellow football guys. There's no point in a prospect thinking for himself and expressing his opinions when they're only going to be held against him as part of the evaluation.

Brent Sobleski covers the NFL draft for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @brentsobleski.