Breaking Down the Top 4 Quarterbacks in the 2018 Draft-Josh Allen

Wyoming’s signal caller has a cannon for an arm-but so did JaMarcus Russel. 

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(USA Today Sports)

Josh Allen has gained momentum as the next small school quarterback to be drafted early after the rapid ascension of Carson Wentz from unheralded prospect to Number 2 pick and MVP candidate in just two seasons.

Like Wentz, Allen fits the physical profile of a franchise QB a tall country boy with a rocket launcher attached to his right shoulder. But Allen comes with many of the same concerns Wentz did-and those concerns be warranted in Allen’s case.

As a small school quarterback, it’s tough to gauge how Allen will perform against NFL caliber athletes. Although the Mountain West is an FBS division and a clear step up from Wentz’s North Dakota State schedule, it can be difficult to differentiate between carving up the University of New Mexico’s secondary and throwing darts through tight windows against NFL caliber talent.

Watching Allen’s tape, his arm is uncanny. Every conversation begins around that arm strength-and it has to. Allen will sit in the pocket for a couple seconds, then meander outside of it to his right, with defenders closing in all the while. Then, a big shuffle step and Allen will uncork a throw with the flight pattern of a long fly ball, wobbling precipitously all the while. Miraculously, it’ll land in the hands of a jubilant wide receiver in the endzone, with the entirety of the state losing their collective minds as Allen grins like he knew it all along.

And so NFL scouts see that arm, consider the possibilities with some NFL coaching, and envision the country boy flinging shots into places no one else can in a conference championship game. They see Wentz and Brett Favre, small school QB’s with big time arms. They see gunslingers like Carson Palmer and Matt Stafford leading long downtrodden squads to the promised land.

But for every Wentz and Favre, there’s a Brandon Weeden and Jeff George. Arm strength is not everything in the NFL, and in his limited opportunities against Power 5 teams Allen has looked shaky and inconsistent against the ramped up pace of play.

The combine and pre-draft process is crucial for Allen. That’s where Wentz separated himself from a big arm with no pedigree to a legitimate contender for the first overall selection.

Allen is worth keeping an eye on-arms like that don’t grow on trees. But to draft him first overall, or even in the first round, would be a mistake based on the information currently available.

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Breaking Down the Top 4 Quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft-Josh Rosen

Four signal callers are in contention to be first round selections. Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield.

Josh Rosen, UCLA

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(Gary A. Vasquez/USA Today Sports)

Josh Rosen has been the star of the show since high school-the former five star recruit won the starting quarterback job as a true freshman at UCLA, and has consistently produced whenever healthy.

Rosen’s signature moment was a thrilling comeback victory over Texas A&M early this season. Trailing 44-10 late in the third quarter, Rosen and the Bruins offense posted an unanswered 28 on the scoreboard in the fourth to lead UCLA to an improbable win. Time after time he sat in the pocket and zipped big time throws with pinpoint accuracy into narrow windows in critical moments. The magnitude of the moment didn’t faze him. With seconds remaining, Jordan Lasley dropped an easy catch on third down that would have resulted in a first down. Rosen didn’t blink an eye and converted on 4th and 6 with a precise wheel route to his running back. Then, conjuring shades of the legendary Dan Marino, Rosen faked a spike and lofted a perfect ball to Lasley in the back corner of the endzone, which Lasley snatched over a TAMU defender to redeem himself and win the game.

“The Rosen One” has got gumption, and the arm to match. He’s been the guy at every level since high school, and is sure to be in for a rude awakening of some sort in the NFL-all rookies are.

Rosen is terrific as a pure thrower-the accuracy, arm strength, poise, and spin of his throws are on par with elite NFL quarterbacks. He has the height coaches require, standing at 6’3, and most importantly, has shown the ability to progress through his reads and make smart decisions with the football. The combination of arm and brain talent makes him a favorite to be the first overall pick in the draft in April.

UCLA’s signal caller is not without his flaws, however. While tall, Rosen is slight of build relative to other top QB prospects, and his long term durability is in question. After an electrifying freshman year, Rosen was injured during a subpar sophomore campaign. Then, this season, despite being healthy and putting up numbers, Rosen led a Bruins team with college football playoff aspirations to a sub .500 record. Some pundits doubt his ability to carry his team, and worry that although he may possess the talent to be a franchise quarterback, his demeanor will hold him back.

Rosen’s ideal comparison would be a fellow Californian who plays across town-LA Rams QB Jared Goff. Goff and Rosen have similar builds are faced questions about their ability to lead, given that their college teams often under-performed. Goff struggled mightily in his rookie campaign, hamstrung by Jeff Fisher’s decrepit offense and bizzare play calling. This season, with Sean McVay’s innovative offensive system installed, Goff has thrived and even garnered MVP consideration.

The ball sure looks pretty coming out of Josh Rosen’s hand, and his motion and mechanics nearly mirror those of Goff, whose tall, slender frame and smooth motion makes for an easy comparison.

The concerning comparison, given what some perceive to be an arrogant (which I would argue you almost need to be a successful NFL QB) and lackadaisical attitude from Rosen, would be Jay Cutler, a guy who has all the arm talent in the world but struggles to be anything more than a mediocre QB.

Rosen’s proven in crunch time, and you can’t teach arm talent like that. It would be tough for anyone to thrive in Cleveland right now, but he might be the answer to the question of Eli Manning’s successor in New York. Bank on Rosen being gone in the first five picks of the draft.

The final evaluation of a QB, despite hand size, Wonderlic tests, and whatever other metrics they have to evaluate these days, is the age old question: “Can he sling it?”

Josh Rosen can most definitely sling it.

Up Next: Wyoming QB Josh Allen.