2018 NFL Draft QB Class | Potential stars and question marks

Photos courtesy of Icon Sportswire

Only 10 quarterbacks were selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, but the 2018 class might be a much different story (to put it in perspective, 15 were taken in the 2016 draft).

Heading into the college football season, three potential top picks are garnering plenty of attention: UCLA’s Josh Rosen, USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. However, there is much more talent in this group beyond them. Let’s take a deep dive on what some of the 2018 class has to offer.

Potential Stars

Josh Rosen, UCLA

The former highly-touted recruit and true freshman standout suffered a setback in 2016 when much of his season was lost due to a shoulder injury. Even after becoming the forgotten man, Rosen possesses immense raw talent with a “love me or hate me, I don’t care” personality.

He has as much natural arm talent as anyone in this class with an extremely smooth release and above-average processing speed. If he returns to full form, he’s the projected top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft no matter what anonymous scout quotes come out next year.

Sam Darnold, USC

This has been the summer hype train: Potentially returning to school after this season became a national headline. Darnold will win every character and intangibles contest in this class and it’s no secret he can rip it in the intermediate game.

Like all young quarterbacks, Darnold has to limit the gambles he takes. He had a lot of interceptable passes dropped last season that made his numbers look much better.

Heading into the year as the projected starter will not only mitigate turnovers, but also improve his timing with the Trojans’ weapons. Darnold will rightly be a top-10 pick if his season goes as expected.

Josh Allen, Wyoming

Allen is the classic case of a “physical traits” award winner no matter who else rises in this group. He’s enormous at 6-5, 240 pounds with the athleticism to throw on the run and pick up yards with his legs. He has a cannon of an arm and can make any throw, but he has to become a more consistent player in every aspect of his game.

His offensive line got him battered at times in 2016, when he started for Wyoming as a redshirt sophomore. If his accuracy can go up and turnovers down, he’s the type of player NFL front offices will love for his potential, similar to Patrick Mahomes this year (No. 10) to the Chiefs. He’s a “must watch” player to track this season with a wide spectrum of “potential top-10 pick” to “middle of Day 2 prospect.”

Lamar Jackson, Louisville 

Speaking of gigantic draft spectrums, I’m not sure any quarterback’s spectrum is as big as Jackson’s for one reason: Apparently the NFL isn’t entirely sold he is a quarterback prospect. That said, it is way too early to write off the most electric college football player in the country who just won the Heisman Trophy in his sophomore season.

Jackson’s legs put him on the map, but he throws with good velocity and fits passes into tight windows. He spent much of his brilliant season running for his life with a poor offensive line in front of him, but his scrambles were reminiscent of Mike Vick at Virginia Tech. The young, lanky (not small, he’s 6-3) signal-caller needs to throw with a better base to improve his accuracy and consistency, but he has legitimate superstar potential.

Question Marks

Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Rudolph surprised a lot of people when he returned to Oklahoma State for his senior season, but there were rumors he received a round four projection from the NFL Draft advisory board. Throughout his college career, he has consistently improved in all facets of his game, most importantly his decision making.

He has an average arm, but it rarely limits his ability to make any necessary throw. In 2016, Rudolph displayed tremendous ability to work all three levels of the field with an elevated understanding of when and how to throw. He utilized his checkdown options more and aired it out when necessary. His biggest strides began in a Week 9 victory over a West Virginia team that was undefeated at the time. Previously known for struggling immensely when pressured, Rudolph hit eight of his 11 attempts for over 100 yards and a touchdown when the heat was on. Can he take that late 2016 momentum and run with it throughout his senior year? If so, he’ll leave that projected round four grade behind for way greener pastures.

Luke Falk, Washington State

The senior quarterback is consistently praised for accuracy, which is understandable when looking at a player profile that features a 69.4 completion percentage in 2015 and 70 in 2016. The problem: Mike Leach’s air raid system has aided Falk’s numbers and could hurt how NFL-ready he will be as a prospect.

There is a lot to like about Falk, from his mental makeup to the ability to consistently move the Cougars’ offense down the field with poise and accuracy. His skill set will be slightly limited at the next level, projecting him as a mid-round pick and long-term backup right now.

Deondre Francois, FSU

In a class that can feature quite a few mobile passers, Francois has seemingly flown under the radar after his first year starting for the Seminoles. His offensive line had him on his back way too many times, but he consistently hung in tough and made big-time plays.

Francois gets the “dual threat” label, but his arm is extremely impressive. He throws with great velocity, especially when he rolls out of the pocket and fires on the move. The young quarterback took a lot of vertical gambles last year that became near interceptions or actual turnovers, but he should grow this year as one of the better complete signal-callers in college football. He might not declare with a large amount of more experienced pocket passers currently ranked higher in this class, but he’d be one of my picks for biggest risers.

Jake Browning, Washington

Washington had a brilliant 2016 season on a roster loaded with top NFL talent. While it’s unfair to claim Browning was along for the ride, he certainly was aided by great pass protection and weapons that included a top-10 pick, wide receiver John Ross.

The best comparison for him right now is a poor man’s Kirk Cousins. He does a good job of commanding his offense, but his physical ability is limited. He has a below-average arm and isn’t the mobile threat the majority of this list is. His IQ could project him as a backup and Day 3 selection, but declaring in this potentially loaded class would be a mistake.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma 

Erratic with a flash of brilliance is the best way to describe the undersized Oklahoma Sooner quarterback. Mayfield is a lot of fun to watch with Johnny Manziel-esque plays at times, but he also misses a lot of throws he needs to make when given a clean pocket.

Playing in the Big 12 has elevated Mayfield’s numbers, but there are flashes of brilliance on film that can’t be ignored. That said, he will be one of the biggest question marks in this section until he proves he can control his impulses. He can’t control the size knocks he’ll get when being evaluated by NFL teams, but he can improve on his poise to work his way into being a late Day 2 pick.

Quinton Flowers, South Florida

The 6-0, 210-pound senior quarterback is slightly undersized, but his style of play is dynamic and exciting to watch. He does his best work on the ground, where he ran for well over 100 yards in eight of his 13 games last season. Flowers has enough arm strength to air it out and make huge plays:

His game reminds me of Trevone Boykin (undrafted, 2016 class), who is now Russell Wilson’s backup in Seattle. Boykin took similar knocks as Flowers will for size and being erratic at times, but his raw tools make him an exciting prospect with backup potential in the right system.

Potential Surprises

Brandon Wimbush, Notre Dame

This is essentially the Mitch Trubisky section, either under-the-radar players with some starting experience or players like Wimbush who will finally get a crack at starting and could thrive immediately.

The Notre Dame signal-caller was a state champion quarterback in New Jersey with not only tremendous speed, but a cannon of an arm. He’s only around six feet tall, but carries a thick 220-pound frame. Expect him to thrive with the plethora of weapons the Irish offense has, accompanied by stud offensive line prospects Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson in front of him.

Brett Rypien, Boise State

The 2016 Broncos’ captain returns with much more pressure on his shoulders. Boise State lost three starting offensive linemen, a starting running back and three of four top receiving targets from last season. Fortunately, the talented Rypien should be up to handle the task.

The 6-2, 200-pound junior has a leg up in one key area in comparison to the rest of this group: He has already started two seasons. His completion percentage dropped from 63.5 to 61.9 last year, but he showed much less hesitation in pushing the ball down the field. He turned the ball over in only four of Boise State’s 13 games last year, leading to an All-Mountain West first team selection for the second year in a row.

Logan Woodside, Toledo

The 6-2, 210-pound senior had possibly the most underrated 2016 season out of any quarterback on this list. He threw for 45 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. Woodside lit up the same BYU defense that tormented Wyoming’s Josh Allen, completing 30 of his 38 passing attempts for 505 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions against them. He gets the ball out extremely quickly with accuracy and touch to all three levels of the field.

Woodside displays complete command of Toledo’s offense and is very underrated at extending plays with his feet with the ability to reset his base and fire. He doesn’t have the strongest arm out of this group, but his accuracy and placement make him an extremely intriguing prospect who should have an enormous 2017 season.

Malik Zaire, Florida

The former Notre Dame quarterback’s transfer to Florida is official, giving the Gators a long-needed (but short-term) answer at the quarterback position they’ve been seeking. Zaire is another undersized signal-caller, but his ability to get out of the pocket and either throw on the run or be a nightmare in the open field makes him a dangerous threat.

Even with his size, velocity never seems to be a problem. He’s one of the most confident prospects in this group and could get his name back on the map with a fresh start in Gainesville.

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