I think it's time to begin questioning whether or not Sam Darnold should (or will?) declare for the 2018 NFL Draft. Hear me out on this.
Last year, he was so good as a redshirt freshman, it seemed like an absolute no-brainer he'd go the Jameis Winston route and play two years of college ball before going pro.
He has thrown seven interceptions in five games this season. He had nine interceptions in 13 outings a season ago. I guess I'm also thinking back to Andrew Luck, a stud quarterback prospect who stayed in school after his sophomore season and ultimately went No. 1 overall.
But during big, high-drama wins early in the year, Darnold showed signs of a regression as a passer which culminated in a "blah" outing against Washington State on Saturday. Meanwhile, Josh Rosen has essentially looked more and more "NFL-ready" each week despite some losses and the lack of super-gaudy statistics.
Let's update where the top quarterbacks in college football rank and assess their draft stocks.
Rudolph was supposed to roast Texas Tech's defense, and he did. What was good to see from him in this game beyond the quarterbacking intricacies I always mention is that he got James Washington involved early and often. It's not like Rudolph has ignored his star wideout in the first quarter of games this season, but against the Red Raiders he looked for him frequently, and frequently connected.
The senior signal-caller made one clear-cut mistake on what looked like an overthrow near the end zone that ended in an interception. As per usual, he got the ball out quickly, maneuvered in the pocket well while reading through his progressions and lofted a few perfectly placed deep balls. He also had 11 carries for 50 yards with two scores.
After his worst game of the year against TCU a week ago, Rudolph responded well on the road. Yes, it was against a subpar defense, but his 376 yards on 27 of 38 attempts with three passing touchdowns came in front of a raucous Texas Tech crowd.
2. Josh Rosen, UCLA
To me, Rosen played his finest game of the season against an underrated Colorado defense late Saturday. It wasn't Rosen's most prolific outing stat-wise, yet he made an assortment of pinpoint accurate throws at all levels of the field, drifted away from almost all the pressure he faced, and limited the bad decisions. His pick came on an incredible play from the Colorado safety, who ranged from center field to snag the interception. Other than that, Rosen was completely in control.
UCLA used more play-action than normal, and it worked wonderfully. Their junior quarterback shredded Colorado over the middle all game, and he fired many passes through tight windows. Rosen also looked more calm than in past weeks when going through his progressions.
3. Sam Darnold, USC
Darnold was, well, not good against Washington State. The "NFL throws" were few and far between, his delivery got him into trouble on his interception, and the improvisational magic just wasn't there. Don't get me wrong, Darnold is an absolute gamer. He never quits on a play and isn't afraid to allow his receivers to make a play even when coverage is good. I like that about him. But against the Cougars, his unrefined pocket movement was very apparent as was his so-so accuracy down the field.
Jackson got a pass on Saturday playing against Murray State at home. That doesn't mean there was no use in evaluating his game. He was locked in on receivers when moving up in the pocket on a few downfield throws, which is important for him. Jackson didn't simply abandon the pocket when the short pass on his first read was covered. Clearly, Louisville doesn't have close to the same amount of talent as Clemson, but the Cardinals should be on-par with N.C. State, their upcoming opponent. If Jackson can avoid pressure from the Wolfpack defensive line, his stock should be on the rise again.
5. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Oklahoma had the week off, and the nuances Jackson demonstrated bumped him slightly ahead of Mayfield, who's probably No. 2 in the Heisman race right now behind Saquon Barkley. The Sooners face Iowa State at home then play in the Red River Showdown on October 14.
6. Luke Falk, Washington State
Falk distributed screens all over the field against USC, and he displayed nice deep touch on a few occasions. I liked his willingness to stick in the pocket and check four or five targets across the entire field. I didn't like his lack of pocket presence, which led to five sacks.
Honorable Mention: Jake Browning, Washington
The Washington quarterback had 43 touchdowns to just nine interceptions en route to leading the Huskies to a trip to the College Football Playoff last season. He completed 62.1 of his passes at 8.7 yards per attempt. This year, without John Ross, Browning has upped his completion percentage to 71.4, his yards per attempt to 9.4 and has 12 touchdowns and just three picks on the season thus far.
Against the significantly struggling Oregon State, Browning connected on 26 of 34 attempts for 276 yards and zinged three touchdowns to speedster Dante Pettis in Washington's 42-7 route of the Beavers. At 6-foot-2, he may not have prototypical NFL quarterback height; however, Browning has plenty of experience and is a proven downfield passer.