It is inevitably tempting to wheel out the usual clichéd platitudes about Linehan – the son of Scott Linehan, OC of the Dallas Cowboys – being a coach’s son, a cerebral player etc. When you watch him on tape, however, his ability to move through his progressions is one of his least impressive traits – he tends to become fixed on his initial read. In the 2017 season opener for the Vandals, against Sacramento State, it looked to me as if Linehan was trying to address this but, as a result, he held on to the ball far too long and took some hefty hits. There are, however, things to like about Linehan as a prospect. He throws a very catchable ball and shows good touch and awareness. He leads his receivers very well on the deep ball and, in general, his ball placement is good. He will never make anyone mistake him for Mariota or Vick, but he has enough athleticism to buy himself time in the pocket. He is, however, a streaky thrower; when he goes cold, he goes very cold indeed and often misses high in an attempt to over-compensate. His arm strength is probably average, although his mechanics are good. I see Linehan as a developmental prospect, who could well stick as a back-up in the NFL – his ceiling, however, is not particularly high, which is why I have nothing more than a Day 3 grade on him.
Briscoe won the Walter Payton award (FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy) after a record-breaking 2016 season, in which he threw for 4602 yards and an eye-watering 57 touchdowns. I was struck by his completion percentage of 62.6% , however, which, given these gaudy numbers, struck me as a little bit on the low side. Looking at the tape, you can see exactly why he put up the numbers he did. Briscoe is essentially a risk-taker; he frequently throws to covered receivers, trusting in their athleticism and ability. Much of the time, it pays off, as the Sam Houston players are often a lot more talented than their opponents. When he faces better competition, however, his accuracy becomes erratic. His best throws tend to be when he leads his receiver – he is very good at this. When he has to throw to a fixed spot, however, when a receiver has sat down in a zone, he is much less reliable – particularly when throwing to the middle of the field. In general, he looks far more comfortable throwing the ball outside the hash-marks. His arm is by no means elite but I think it’s just good enough to earn him a living in the NFL. He goes through progressions pretty well and I was impressed by his ability to look off defenders. He’s not a dynamic athlete but he’s quick and nimble enough to enable him to escape pressure. One area where he will definitely have to improve, though, is ball security – too often, relatively innocuous blows caused him to fumble the football. Briscoe has the size (6-2, 225) and the stats to get a look from NFL teams but I would see him more as a developmental prospect, whose NFL ceiling is probably as a back-up.
There’s a lot to like about Rudolph. He throws a very catchable ball, demonstrating fine touch on intermediate passes, both down the seams and to the sidelines. He is excellent at taking care of the football – he is less of a risk-taker than some of his peers in the 2018 class and will cheerfully throw the ball away when there’s nothing there. As one might expect, given the OSU offensive scheme, he throws a lot of tunnel screens and swing passes, so I was interested to examine his long ball game. I was really impressed; he doesn’t go deep often but, when he does, he can put the ball on a sixpence – his throw in the 2016 bowl game v Colorado to James Washington and over 2nd round pick Chidobe Awuzie (2Q, 8:59) was a thing of beauty. In general, ball placement is a strength. It’s not all sunshine and pina coladas, however; he is a pretty limited athlete and, when he’s forced to scramble, he resembles an elderly gentleman, caught in a heavy shower of rain and trying to scuttle for shelter. He doesn’t have the quickest feet in the pocket and can be somewhat statuesque back there at times. In the NFL, however, these aren’t huge concerns and I’m happy to put a strong 1st round grade on Rudolph – he looks a really good prospect.
Darnold can make some properly breathtaking throws. His anticipation, field vision and ability to use his feet to create time in the pocket mark him out as a prospect of enormous potential. He has also demonstrated the ability to put his team on his back at crucial moments – his performance in the Rose Bowl was the stuff of legend. What I like most about Darnold, though, is his touch in the short and intermediate passing game. When he has to caress the ball in, he can do that; when he has to rifle the ball in, he can do that. He’s not an elite athlete like Cam Newton but he’s quick enough to escape from the pocket when things break down and shows toughness and desire in running to convert 3rd down situations. There are some mechanical eccentricities in his release; he has an idiosyncratic wind-up which an NFL QB coach will want to address pretty quickly. He also still needs to work on his deep passing game but, for a redshirt freshman, he showed a huge amount in his freshman year and, at this point, should he decide to come out, he has a very strong chance of going high in the first round.
Rosen is accustomed to a pro-style offense – he takes snaps under center and in the shotgun and appears equally comfortable in both situations. He clearly possesses an NFL arm and gets rid of the ball quickly, showing some ability to go through his progressions – he is very good at holding DBs with his eyes. He looks the part in every way and can fit the ball into tight windows – he has the ability to make throws that take your breath away and that, we know, will have scouts drooling. He can make the throws that make covered receivers open – see, for example, the back shoulder TD throw to Thomas Duarte in the second quarter of the 2015 USC game. He shows a good touch when necessary and, given that his WRs generally don’t get a huge amount of separation, he works pretty well within the confines of the talent around him. Rosen is more mobile than he appears – if a play breaks down, he definitely has the mobility to turn not much into something. He also takes care of the football – his streak of 246 passes without an interception left him 2nd only to Marcus Mariota in NFL history. He’s composed when he breaks out of the pocket and, on the whole, I’d be fascinated to see what he could do behind a more serviceable O-Line and with more dynamic and athletic receivers. A 1st round pick.
Mayfield runs the Oklahoma offense very effectively but the 70% completion percentage is misleading given that a lot of his throws are either behind or within five yards of the line of scrimmage. He operates pretty much exclusively out of the shotgun and will need to adjust to a pro-style offense. He tends to lock on to his initial target and, if that target is not there, he hops around like a squirrel that’s lost a favourite nut. He has quick feet and is a good, if unexceptional, athlete, who can create things when the pocket breaks down – escapability is better than average. He is mechanically flawed – he throws off his back foot a lot and his arm strength is average at best. The interception he threw against Baylor in 2016 with 1:40 left in the 2nd quarter is clear testimony to his lack of physical tools – and, indeed, judgement, given that he lobbed it gently into double coverage. He runs fakes and play actions pretty convincingly and appears to be in complete control of his offense. He throws to covered receivers far too much and is the beneficiary of generally superior talent at Oklahoma. At this point, he looks to me like a late Day 3 prospect at best – potentially an UDFA on my board.
Allen is a fascinating prospect – the comparisons to Brett Favre coming out of Southern Mississippi are as inevitable as they are irresistible. He possesses the sort of gunslinger mentality that will make fans and teammates love him but which will also get him in trouble at times. He has superior – even elite – arm strength and flashes real NFL potential but is still very raw and will make some poor decisions. Nevertheless, he has already shown the ability to go to his second progression – will be interesting, in his junior season, to see if he can make it to his third. He was performing behind a ropy O-Line, which made him jumpy in the pocket – nevertheless, he is certainly mobile enough to be a threat when he takes off. The 56% completion rate is certainly a concern but, in mitigation, he didn’t have much by way of a supporting cast and, on tape, some of his very best throws resulted in incompletions due to drops. I love his competitiveness – Allen is consistently willing to take a hit, in order to convert big 3rd or 4th downs. His mechanics under pressure will need a lot of work – he floats the ball off his back foot and throws back across his body when the pass rush is upon him. Although it sometimes worked in the MWC, it’s a recipe for disaster in the NFL. Allen has loads of talent but would benefit from sitting for a year. Arizona or Pittsburgh would be ideal landing places. I see him as a Round 2 guy in terms of value but that will almost certainly mean that he bounces contentedly into Round 1.