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 ESPN Insider, Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay debate NFL outlooks for best 2018 quarterback prospects - Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson

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PostSubject: ESPN Insider, Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay debate NFL outlooks for best 2018 quarterback prospects - Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson   Sun Oct 15, 2017 7:37 pm

OCT 11

Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay debate NFL outlooks for best 2018 quarterback prospects - Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson

by Mel Kiper Jr.Todd McShay on (original: http://www.espn.com/nfl/draft2018/insider/story/_/id/20970541/mel-kiper-jr-todd-mcshay-debate-nfl-outlooks-best-2018-quarterback-prospects-sam-darnold-josh-rosen-josh-allen-lamar-jackson)

Does your favorite NFL team need a quarterback? You might be in luck next year.

After only three QBs went in the first round in this year's draft, ESPN NFL draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay both believe the 2018 QB class is one of the deepest in recent years -- with high-end starters at the top. In fact, both have three quarterbacks among their early top four overall prospects.

So we decided to ask Kiper and McShay for early season verdicts on their top QB prospects and how they project for the 2018 draft. They go back and forth on six of college football's best signal-callers -- Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield -- and hit on a few other guys to keep an eye on.

One note before we get started: Darnold, Rosen, Allen and Jackson are all underclassmen and could still return to school. There's a long time between now and the 2018 draft.

More 2018 draft coverage: Kiper's latest Big Board | McShay's latest Top 32

Sam Darnold, USC

2017 stats: 136-of-210 passing (64.8 percent) for 1,705 yards with 12 touchdown passes, nine interceptions; three rushing touchdowns; 68.5 Total QBR (No. 37 in FBS)

Kiper: Let's start with the interceptions. Darnold has already matched last year's total of nine -- in only six games. The number is concerning, especially when one of his strengths in 2016 was his supreme accuracy. But I think it's also misleading, even though his mechanics get a little sloppy at times. What do you think, Todd?

McShay: I'm not concerned about Darnold's picks. Several were well-thrown balls that simply bounced off his receivers' hands. I still have questions about his mechanics and his three-quarters launch spot, but his accuracy has been tremendous from what I've seen on tape. I also love Darnold's ability to manipulate the pocket and keep his eyes downfield, and he does a terrific job of going through his progressions.

Kiper: USC's offensive line has also been subpar and had some injuries. The loss of Zach Banner and Damien Mama has been significant. You can see that Darnold is trying to make plays when they're not there, and he just needs to throw the ball away. But that's no excuse -- Darnold just has to be more consistent. He has the arm talent, athleticism, size (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) and makeup of a top-tier quarterback.

McShay: He was No. 1 on my Top 32 heading into the season, and he has remained there throughout. He'll be just fine.

Kiper: He's still No. 1 on my board, too, and I think he'll be right there next spring.
Where Darnold projects in the draft

Kiper: Top five.

McShay: Top five.
Josh Rosen, UCLA

2017 stats: 159-of-245 passing (64.9 percent) for 2,135 yards with 17 touchdown passes, five interceptions; one rushing touchdown; 72.4 Total QBR (No. 28 in FBS)

McShay: A lot of my questions from Rosen's injury-plagued 2016 campaign have been answered so far. UCLA can't stop anyone on defense and can't run the ball consistently. Rosen has to carry the team -- he leads the FBS in passing yards.

Kiper: You're absolutely right. Rosen has been fantastic. He has rare arm talent. There aren't many quarterbacks who can make the throws he does. He's 6-foot-4 and a little thinner than Darnold.

McShay: He has a huge arm but isn't the running threat that Darnold is, and he's not as athletic. I have been impressed by Rosen's improved accuracy, especially since he's averaging 49 passing attempts per game.

Kiper: The pre-draft process is going to be especially important for Rosen. He has been in the headlines too much for all the wrong reasons, and he's going to have to answer tough questions from coaches and evaluators. Bruins offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch has repeatedly talked up Rosen's intelligence, but teams are going to quiz him on everything. That's the NFL's equivalent of a job interview. It's a huge investment to take a quarterback in the top five.

McShay: Rosen's grade has improved slightly (92 to 93), and he has raised his draft stock -- he's up to No. 4 overall in my Top 32. If there are multiple teams picking in the top five that need a quarterback, Rosen has a chance to come off the board very early.

Kiper: The gap has closed between Darnold and Rosen at the top of my board. It's close. I think you're going to see some teams that like Rosen over Darnold next year.
Where Rosen projects in the draft

Kiper: Top five.

McShay: Top 10.
Josh Allen, Wyoming

2017 stats: 77-of-139 passing (55.4 percent) for 877 yards with six touchdown passes, three interceptions; one rushing touchdown; 48.4 Total QBR (No. 85 in FBS)

Kiper: Let's start with what Allen does have. At 6-foot-5, 233 pounds, he has great size. He has a great arm -- I think he and Rosen have the best pure arms in this class. What he doesn't have is much talent around him. The Wyoming offense lost 47 touchdowns from last season's team, along with its center. That's tough to overcome. I think his numbers will be much better in an NFL offense with NFL players around him.

McShay: I hate to keep agreeing with Mel, but Allen will be better as a pro. I think he has the best arm in this class. He can make strong throws from any platform. That has gotten him into trouble at times; he has some bad turnovers and pedestrian overall numbers.

Kiper: One comparison I've made on Allen's college career: Jay Cutler, who didn't have much talent around him at Vanderbilt and didn't win many games -- he went 7-15. Now, Allen is a different kind of player than Cutler. But Denver took Cutler No. 11 overall in 2006, and Allen is going to be picked high, too. Fans are going to look at Allen's numbers and try to downgrade him.

McShay: Cutler is an interesting comp. Allen is more naturally gifted, I think.

Kiper: So where do you have Allen ranked, Todd? I've got it Darnold, Rosen, Allen at the top of my board, with Penn State star Saquon Barkley sandwiched in between at No. 2 overall.

McShay: I have Allen slightly ahead of Rosen right now. They're battling for the No. 2 quarterback spot. But we're still a long ways from the combine and pro days.
Where Allen projects in the draft

Kiper: Top 15

McShay: Top 10.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

2017 stats: 117-of-173 passing (67.6 percent) for 1,909 yards with 16 touchdown passes, four interceptions; five rushing touchdowns; 88.0 Total QBR (No. 2 in FBS)

McShay: Rudolph's numbers might be inflated because Oklahoma State has the best set of pass-catchers in the nation. He gets some help. But he's in total control of that offense (33 starts) and is the most experienced QB in this group. Rudolph is also an underrated athlete.

Kiper: Rudolph doesn't wow you like Mayfield and Jackson do. He doesn't have a huge arm, and he's not a runner, though he can move in the pocket. He's just a steady player. He has improved every season. He has the size -- 6-foot-5, 230 pounds -- that teams covet, and I love that he's not afraid to take shots down the field.

McShay: Steady is a fair description. He knows where to go with the ball and is a good decision-maker. The pre-draft process -- combine, pro day and Senior Bowl, if he plays -- will be important in getting a closer look at him. Right now, he's my fourth-ranked quarterback, on the fringe of the first round.

Kiper: He's right there with Jackson on my board. Rudolph is probably more ready to play right away than Jackson.
Where Rudolph projects in the draft

Kiper: Late first or early second round.

McShay: Late first or early second round.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville

2017 stats: 138-of-222 passing (62.2 percent) for 1,990 yards with 14 touchdown passes, four interceptions; seven rushing touchdowns; 80.4 Total QBR (No. 9 in FBS)

Kiper: Before the Heisman ceremony last year I said Jackson hadn't shown consistent NFL-level passing skills at that point. I said I was going to label him as an athlete until I saw that. Well, if you hadn't noticed, I put him on my Big Board about a month ago. His accuracy is way up, his delivery looks more fluid and he has put on some good weight. And he's still the same athlete who won the Heisman Trophy. Didn't you compare him to Michael Vick last year, Todd?

McShay: I did. Jackson is extremely dynamic with the ball in his hands and is as fun to watch as any player in college football. I wanted to see whether he improved throwing from the pocket. His 2016 completion percentage -- with much better weapons than he has now -- was just 56.2 percent.

Kiper: He really is a gifted athlete, but it's going to take some time before he's ready to start in the NFL. He's the most raw of these quarterbacks.

McShay: Agreed. He's not a guy who should be counted on to start on day one. He needs time to develop his entire skill set. We know he's a great athlete, but he has to get more reps from the pocket. Everyone in the NFL is a great athlete. Also, he looks a little bigger, but he still has a slight frame. He's listed at 6-foot-3, 211 pounds.

Kiper: I could see a team stashing him and redshirting him, like the Chiefs are doing with Patrick Mahomes II right now. Jackson has tremendous upside, but I don't think he's a lock to be a first-round pick.

McShay: He's actually my seventh-ranked quarterback. I have him behind Rudolph, Baker Mayfield and Luke Falk, too. I still need to see more from him before I'm comfortable moving him up. Remember: it's early. There's a long time until the draft, and Jackson has plenty of time to make a move.

Kiper: He's the No. 4 quarterback on my board. It's going to be a fun class.
Where Jackson projects in the draft

Kiper: Late first or early second round.

McShay: Day 2 or early Day 3 pick.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

2017 stats: 100-of-134 passing (74.6 percent) for 1,635 yards with 15 touchdown passes, zero interceptions; one rushing touchdown; 92.7 Total QBR (No. 1 in FBS)

McShay: I really love watching this kid play because of his toughness and grit. He's a competitor and you can tell his teammates love him. I was very impressed with his Week 2 performance against a tremendous Ohio State defense.

Kiper: Mayfield is the toughest of these quarterbacks to evaluate for me. Is he just a great college quarterback? Does he benefit from having one of the best offensive coordinators in the country in Lincoln Riley? You have to love his numbers, though. He's completing 72 percent of his passes with 55 touchdowns and eight interceptions (zero this season) over the past two seasons. That's spectacular. He throws a nice ball and plays with a chip on his shoulder

McShay: The issue for him is that he doesn't have the ideal measurables of an NFL starter -- he's listed at 6-foot-1, 220 pounds -- and he doesn't have an elite trait to compensate, like Russell Wilson's scrambling ability or Drew Brees' accuracy. I still have him ranked ahead of Falk and Jackson, though, and he will stick somewhere in the league, at least as a backup.

Kiper: I also see him bailing out of the pocket too much on film. Scouts would like to see him climb the pocket instead of scrambling, though he's fun to watch when he does. He's a Day 2 pick at this point.
Where Mayfield projects in the draft

Kiper: Second or third round.

McShay: Day 2 or early Day 3 pick.
Best of the rest

McShay: Which other quarterbacks are on your board, Mel?

Kiper: You mentioned Washington State's Luke Falk earlier -- he's right there with Rudolph and Mayfield for me. He might be an early sleeper as someone who could sneak into the first round if he has a great pre-draft process. He's the best of these quarterbacks at working the pocket, but he's also probably the least athletic. You have to be impressed with 19 touchdown passes to only two picks. He has started 34 games for the Cougars.

McShay: Yeah, I'm a fan of Falk as well. He's my No. 6-ranked quarterback right now. I also like the upside of Mississippi State's Nick Fitzgerald, but he should return for another season, regardless of how the rest of this season goes. And Riley Ferguson is an intriguing guy at Memphis, but he will have a steep learning curve from that offense and can be a little erratic throwing the ball.

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Kiper: A few more on the radar for the 2018 draft: Seniors Brandon Silvers (Troy) and Mike White (Western Kentucky) have had great seasons. Will Grier (West Virginia), Kelly Bryant (Clemson) and Ryan Finley (NC State) are intriguing draft-eligible underclassmen. Like you said earlier, there's still a long time until the draft.
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PostSubject: Re: ESPN Insider, Mel Kiper Jr., Todd McShay debate NFL outlooks for best 2018 quarterback prospects - Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson   Sun Oct 15, 2017 8:09 pm

I think the Steelers should use a first round pick on Jackson tbh.
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