A quarterback rich 2018 NFL Draft awaits the Cardinals
The good news is that the Arizona Cardinals desperately need a quarterback, and the 2018 NFL Draft class isn’t lacking in options.
The bad news is that Arizona, by finishing .500 on the year, will pick 15th overall in the first round, potentially after other teams make a run at the top quarterbacks in the class. The team will likely want to draft at least one quarterback to develop behind Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon.
The Cardinals enter the draft scouting more than a handful of quarterbacks. Six of them are potential first-round picks.
Here are those quarterbacks — and a few other notable ones — with analysis of each by those who know them, NFL Network’s Mike Mayock and some tidbits from ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. as they appeared on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.
Josh Rosen, UCLA (junior)
Rosen can make all the throws. He has all the natural talent. He has all the physical assets. But while he is a sure-fire pick to go in the front half of the first round, his off-the-field comments — including criticism of college football amateurism — have led to questions about his personality. That and his injury history might raise a few concerns.
As a junior in 2017, the 6-foot-4, 218-pound Rosen completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 3,756 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Kiper Jr.: “Issue there is durability and can he galvanize a football team? Is he a guy that loves and is passionate about the game of football? The interviews with him are as important as anything he does at a pro day or in a workout where he throws the football.”
Mayock: “You want to talk about a kid that’s a natural thrower of the football at all three levels with accuracy, he’s pretty to watch. If you’re in a 7-on-7 tournament, he’s going to win it for you. But I got to figure the kid out, I got to know who he is.”
Sam Darnold, USC (redshirt sophomore)
Projected draft position: Top-5 overall
A tad sturdier than Rosen, Darnold is considered option 1B for some NFL scouts and 1A for others. While his accuracy dropped off and his touchdown-to-interception ratio increased from 2016 to 2017, Darnold still completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 26 scores and 13 picks this year.
Scouts view him as a talented alternative to Rosen who might be more apt street-balling, making plays when plays don’t appear present.
Kiper Jr.: “He did not play well in three big games — a couple big games against Stanford he did play well. I liked what I saw of him against Texas early in the year but he struggled mightily against Washington State, did not have a great game against Notre Dame even though his stats indicated otherwise — he didn’t come up big when they needed him. And he had a key turnover. Of course, the Ohio State game, there was the unforced error, there was a fumble in the pocket, missing a wide open receiver by five yards and then having a bad read on a pick-six.”
Mayock: “The kid from USC, Darnold, is almost the opposite (as Rosen). He averaged 23 points a game in high school basketball. You can see he’s kind of an instinctive kid that’s a point-man that wants to distribute the ball. He’s athletic. He’s a little bit of a gun-slinger, throws too many interceptions.”
Josh Allen, Wyoming (redshirt junior)
Projected draft position: Top-15 overall
At 6-foot-5 and 233 pounds, Allen might be the most physically imposing quarterback on the board. With that frame comes a strong, unpolished arm that could lead some NFL teams to value him as a better get in the middle of the first round over one of the quarterbacks from the Los Angeles area schools going in the top-5.
Limited in his passing attempts this season, Allen threw for just 1,812 yards, 16 touchdowns and six picks but in the final four games played threw eight touchdowns to no picks.
Kiper Jr.: “With Josh Allen, it’s that 56.2 percent completion percentage career, even though Matthew Stafford was at 57.1 and Stafford’s had a heck of a career.”
Mayock: “I’m intrigued by the big kid in Wyoming, a little bit kind of like Carson Wentz in that he doesn’t have as many throws, not as many starts. People are going to take a shot at him for lower-level football. But he’s 6-5, 240 with a huge arm, but he only completed 56, 57 percent of his passes. You need to get through that tape to figure out why. But he’s intriguing. He can make every NFL throw there is.”
Lamar Jackson, Louisville (junior)
Projected draft position: First-third round
The Heisman winner in 2016 improved his accuracy from 56.2 percent to 59.1 percent spanning his sophomore and junior seasons. At 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds, Jackson has the tools but is still fighting the stereotype that he’s not as far along as a pocket passer compared to the other quarterbacks atop draft boards.
Jackson passed for 3,660 yards as a junior in 2017 and threw 27 touchdowns to 10 picks. He also backed up his rushing marks from his Heisman campaign, rolling up 1,601 yards on the ground on a 6.9-yard per carry average with 18 touchdowns.
Mayock: “If you thought Michael Vick was a first-round pick and the first overall pick in the draft, this kid is every bit as fast, he’s got every bit as big an arm, he makes plays, but again, he’s like a 56-percent guy and his accuracy and location, you have to figure that out.”
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (senior)
Projected draft position: First-second round
He put up numbers last year. And after losing a considerable amount of skill player talent around him, Mayfield only improved this year en route to winning the Heisman Trophy. As a senior, Mayfield completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 4,627 yards (11.5 yards per pass attempt) with 43 touchdowns to six picks. He rushed for another 311 yards and five scores.
At 6-foot-1, his size will hold him back. He’s respected for his fire more than for his skillset, and a partial-game suspension, among other on-field incidents, will lead scouts to digging into his personality. Is he a fiery winner or too explosively emotional to tame?
Kiper Jr.: “In addition to being (6-foot-1). For every Russell Wilson and for every quarterback like Drew Brees, Michael Vick, there are hundreds that didn’t make it under 6-2 and make it big.”
Mayock: “I watched four hours of his tape about three weeks ago, and I’ll be honest, I went into it kind of skeptically, and I came out going, man, this kid has a bigger arm than I thought. He extends plays to throw the ball, not to run the ball, but he can run if he needs to.”
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State (senior)
Predicted draft position: Second-fourth round
Rudolph sniffed 5,000 passing yards on the year and at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds, he’s in the form of a prototypical NFL pocket passer. As a senior, he threw for 37 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2017, completing 65 percent of his passes.
Mayock: “He’s 6-5, 230, he’s accurate, I just don’t know about his escapability in the pocket in the NFL.”
Kyle Lauletta, Richmond (senior)
Predicted draft position: Fourth-seventh round
Showing out in his last two college seasons, the 6-foot-3, 215 pound quarterback has the intangibles as a leader and the ability to play mistake free football that shows in his 52 touchdowns to 20 picks over his junior and senior seasons. With reasonable mobility, he’s patient and poised. His arm strength could be a concern in making accurate deep throws.
Mayock: “There’s six names that could conceivably be first-round guys. And right on top of that: Luke Falk from Washington State, Kyle Lauletta from Richmond. Mike White played his butt off in the Senior Bowl. There’s three more. There’s quality at the top and depth throughout.”
Richmond head coach Russ Huesman: “A leader, a competitor, a guy that loves football. All the intangibles, what you want a quarterback to look like, play like, lead like. I think for one, the players like him; he loves his teammates. There’s that connection, that trust. Kyle just kind of commanded the football team in a way that was never belligerent to his players. He never made excuses. He brought people with him — he was always grabbing the wideouts and the running backs each night, ‘Come on in and let’s watch film together.’ It wasn’t ‘hey guys, watch film.’ He would bring them in on his own.”
Luke Falk, Washington State (senior): The former walk-on burst onto the scene in Mike Leach’s prolific Air Raid offense and in November became the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer. But after throwing for 38 touchdowns in his sophomore and junior seasons, Falk struggled with consistency as a senior. He threw for nearly 1,000 fewer yards (3,593) as he did in 2015 and 2016 and tossed just 30 touchdowns to 13 interceptions while finding himself curiously benched in some games during the Pac-12 schedule.
Riley Ferguson, Memphis (senior): Running the offense constructed by former ASU offensive coordinator Mike Norvell, Ferguson completed 63.1 percent of his passes for 4,257 yards, 38 touchdowns and just nine picks in 2017. His thin frame and height at 6-foot-4, 210-pounds are a concern.
Mike White, Western Kentucky (senior): Groomed by head coach Mike Stanford, who coached Andrew Luck at Stanford before stops at Boise State and Notre Dame, White passed for 4,177 yards, 26 touchdowns and eight picks this past season despite taking 44 sacks. A year prior, the 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback threw for 4,363 yards (67.3 completion percentage) with 37 touchdowns and seven picks.
Kyle Allen, Houston (redshirt junior): The Scottsdale Desert Mountain High School product made a surprising declaration after two up-and-down seasons at Texas A&M and one year playing for the Cougars. He lost his job to Kyle Postma, who in turn lost his job to D’Eriq King, who played well enough to lead to speculation of Allen transferring once again. Allen completed 76.2 percent of his 105 pass attempts for 751 yards, four touchdowns and four picks this season.
Tanner Lee, Nebraska (redshirt junior): Lee didn’t surpass 2,000 passing yards in his first two seasons with Tulane, but he improved in his first year playing at Nebraska. The 6-foot-4 junior completed 57.5 percent of his passes but threw just 23 touchdowns to 16 picks in 2017.
Virginia’s Ken Benkert, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald, Troy’s Brandon Silvers and Marshall’s Chase Litton.