2018 NFL Draft QB Stock Watch: Lamar Jackson has arrived as legit NFL QB prospect
Through two games, the Louisville quarterback has shown passing improvement NFL scouts will love.
Heading into the season, the race to be the top quarterback prospect in the 2018 draft class seemed to be a three- or maybe four-horse race between Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Mason Rudolph and to some, Josh Allen.
Lamar Jackson is unequivocally in that race now.
One could use an entire story to outline the supercharged Mike Vick-like things he's done in his first two games of 2017, but strictly from the "can he translate to the NFL?" angle, Jackson has made vast improvements in many areas.
He went 25 of 39 for 389 yards with three passing touchdowns and no picks against North Carolina, consistently hung in the pocket, and threw accurately to all areas and at all levels of the field. Jackson has had back-to-back games with a completion percentage higher than 64 to start his junior season, something he had yet to do in college.
Let's rank the top quarterback prospects and examine their draft stocks after a fun Week 2 in college football.
1. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
It was another ho-hum game for Rudolph. He went 25 of 38 for 335 yards with three touchdowns. And yes, there was another connection with James Washington that went for a long score, but it was mostly because of yards after the catch. (disclaimer: Washington is good) More important, Rudolph once again presented NFL-caliber intricacies of playing the quarterback position. Despite operating a spread system that creates plenty of massive passing lanes, the senior quarterback didn't simply lock onto his first read each play -- although it seemed like the 10-yard dig was wide open all evening.
He routinely read through his progressions quickly -- sometimes across the entire field -- to find secondary and tertiary targets and delivered on-target passes. On a few occasions, he drifted away from pressure, kept his eyes downfield and made an accurate toss. Some of his completions came on slightly high throws, and he overthrew an easy seam touchdown, but that's nit-picking. Rudolph was impressive against South Alabama.
2. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
It's time to take Jackson seriously as a legitimate, first-round prospect. Not that the idea was totally out of the question after last season -- you know, when he won the Heisman -- but his passing weaknesses were plenty and clearly not translatable to the NFL. Through two games in 2017, Jackson has been more committed to the pocket, thrown much more accurately while inside in it, and still delivered a handful of highlight reel runs and lasers on the run all of which don't seem real.
3. Sam Darnold, USC
How does a quarterback's stock not improve when he completes nearly 81 percent of his passes against a quality ranked opponent? Two interceptions will do the trick. Darnold made his typical array of "wow" tosses, many under duress or after he scrambled from the pocket, as USC's handled Stanford at home.
But his picks are a growing concern, as they have been a combination of bad decision-making and poor accuracy. Darnold set the bar super high last season and has yet to eclipse the effectiveness he showcased as a redshirt freshman. Make no mistake about it though -- he was good against the Cardinal, just those few blips keep his stock steady.
4. Josh Rosen, UCLA
After three brutal quarters to start the season, Rosen has been darn good in his past five. Against an over-matched Hawaii defense, the UCLA quarterback had only three incompletions on 25 attempts and piled up 329 yards while tossing five touchdowns. Rosen is a blast to watch when he's in rhythm.
Everything, from his footwork to his release to his spiral are textbook. He made it look too easy against the Warriors defense on Saturday.
Mayfield didn't have a game loaded with what many would dub "NFL-caliber" throws, yet he boasted his Manziel-ian improvisational acrobatics on the national stage against an Ohio State defense overflowing with former five-star recruits and future professionals. On the evening, in Oklahoma's beatdown of the Buckeyes in Columbus, Mayfield went 27 of 35 for 386 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Mayfield's style of play won't be for everyone, but the guy exudes confidence and is unafraid to make any throw from any platform from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage. That makes him -- and the Oklahoma passing game -- extraordinarily difficult to defend.
Falk left the game on multiple occasions against Boise State. Down 31-10 in the second half, his Cougars pieced together an amazing comeback win, as they secured a victory in triple overtime. However, Falk had an uninspiring performance. He completed 24 of 34 passes for only 193 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. You can tell Falk is well-coached, though. He's a technician with his footwork and pocket drifting. It's just that he had problems getting comfortable and appeared more tentative than usual.
7. Josh Allen, Wyoming
Against non-Big 10 competition, Allen was scintillating. The strong-armed quarterback had 328 passing yards on 22 of 32 passing with two touchdowns. In terms of raw, as some like to call "arm talent," Allen is the most impressive quarterback in this class. A huge test awaits against Oregon, at home, next week.
Three years ago, 247Sports ranked Grier as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback recruit in the country. Now, after leaving Florida, he's found a home at West Virginia. Despite losing the opener against Virginia Tech, Grier threw for 371 yards with three touchdowns and a pick. In the Mountaineers' victory over East Carolina on Saturday, he had 352 yards and five touchdowns and wasn't intercepted. Grier is a quarterback to monitor while in Dana Holgorsen's explosive offense.
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