NFL Column: A look at the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft

UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen, left, passes before being hit by California's Tony Mekari during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

With four AP top-10 matchups on the same Saturday for the first time in 44 years, this past weekend was monumental for college football. And with 13 weeks of the NFL season in the books, it’s beginning to come together as to where this year’s college stars may land in the draft.

There are a number of teams in the league that are a quarterback away from competing. Look at Jacksonville (although the case could be made for Blake Bortles), Buffalo, Denver and Kansas City (we really think Alex Smith is good? Come on.) Cleveland will once again be in the market for a quarterback after DeShone Kizer failed to live up to expectations.

So who’s out there?

UCLA’s Josh Rosen is widely regarded as the best available quarterback. He certainly started the year off with a bang, completing a comeback after finding himself and the Bruins down 44-10 in the third-quarter to Texas A&M. In the win, Rosen completed 35-of-58 passes for 491 yards with four touchdowns.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound junior finished his season completing 62.5 percent of his passes for 3,717 yards with 26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and a passer rating of 146.3. Rosen has been touted as the prospect with the best mechanics, with scouts noting his availability to play under center, which has been a rarity in recent years with college quarterbacks. His mobility is certainly lacking, but he looks to be the most polished, pro-ready prospect of the bunch. I expect him to find himself in Cleveland or as the new quarterback of the New York Giants.

For teams missing out on Rosen, they’ll most likely just look at the other big college football team in California. Southern Califonia’s Sam Darnold is another pocket passer that could perform well at the professional level. The 6-foot-4 sophomore finished two seasons at USC with 6,548 yards, 55 touchdowns, 21 interceptions and a passer rating of 153.9. Not too shabby.

Darnold showed he could win as well as he led the Trojans to eighth in the CFP rankings and a PAC-12 championship. He does have some concerns with turnovers, but I expect his stock to skyrocket if he leads USC to a win over Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl.

Just so we’re all on the same page, this article is 400 words in without mentioning last year’s Heisman winner or this year’s eventual Heisman winner. I say that to say this…there’s a lot of good quarterbacks out there folks.

Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is once again a Heisman finalist after taking home the prestigious award last year. With his Cardinals set to take on Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer Bowl, Jackson has already thrown for 3,489 yards with 25 touchdowns to six interceptions. The best dual-threat quarterback in the draft has also rushed for 1,443 yards and 17 rushing touchdowns this season. The man is a video game and it’ll be interesting to see how his game translates to the NFL level.

My Heisman pick this year is Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. He led the his Sooners to the number two spot in the College Football Playoff rankings while throwing for 3,489 yards, 41 touchdowns and a 71 percent completion percentage. He’s a big game quarterback that plays with a lot of passion, and sometimes too much.. Scouts have noted that his footwork is “terrible” and he’s a tad undersized for the position. I think a team takes a chance on Mayfield; he’s proven he can win and teams may believe in his “it” factor.

For those teams missing out on these prospects, (New England will eventually need a quarterback to replace Tom Brady when he retires at 50 years old), take note of Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State and Ryan Finley out of NC State.


Connor Donahue is the digital editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at connor.f.donahue@uconn.edu. He tweets @conn_donahue.