As the calendar flips to June, the first phase of scouting for the 2018 NFL Draft begins. Tape study for the upcoming season should focus mainly on seniors — especially at quarterback — but with this year’s crop of talented underclassmen, it’s easy to forget about some of the better fourth and fifth-year passers.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper published his early rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft, a list that should be taken in context. He hasn’t had a chance to study these guys closely yet. The rankings will change between now and the end of the college football season, and they should. Some players will have better years than Kiper is projecting while others will fall flat on their face in 2017.
At quarterback, Kiper tiers the senior quarterbacks as follows:
Underclassmen like Sam Darnold (USC), Josh Rosen (UCLA), Josh Allen (Wyoming) and Lamar Jackson (Louisville) may all end up with higher grades than Rudolph, who I also have as my top-rated senior at this point, but there’s a lot of football to be played between now and next spring.
Mason Rudolph shouldn’t be dismissed as a legitimate candidate to end this season as the top quarterback in the draft. He has prototype size, plenty of athletic ability to escape an NFL pass rush, and the necessary arm talent to make every throw on the pro level. What I like most about Rudolph is his fearless pocket presence.
Luke Falk has the most to gain — and lose — this season. He has a resume littered with experience and production, but his slight frame and underwhelming arm strength, combined with the Mike Leach quarterback-friendly offense, will make him a tough player to grade. He teetered off at the end of last season and needs to start and finish 2017 strong. Falk will be a prospect similar to Davis Webb, the third-round pick of the New York Giants this year.
Baker Mayfield is a fun player to scout and he’ll have a lot of fans in NFL war rooms. The biggest factor for his draft stock will be his height. If he can hit the position’s minimum requirements, his exciting playmaking ability should make him a candidate for early Day 2 status.