2018 NFL Draft QB Stock Watch: Lamar Jackson jumps Darnold after FSU game
Jackson's huge outing in a win over the Seminoles leads to vital change in the rankings
Because of those developments -- along with some other quarterback-related developments over the past few weeks -- I've decided it's time to move the Louisville signal-caller ahead of the USC signal-caller in my quarterback rankings. Darnold has disappointed in three of his last four games and Jackson has performed admirably throwing the ball despite an unfavorable supporting cast and has been tremendous as a runner.
They're two youthful, supremely talented college quarterbacks with stocks headed in opposite directions right now.
Here's a look at the updated stocks of the draft's top signal-caller prospects.
OK, I can't be the only person who thought there was something wrong health-wise with Rudolph against Texas on Saturday, right? Oklahoma State ran the football 51 times in the overtime win. Fifty-one times. A Mike Gundy-coached team ran the ball 51 times in a single game. And coming into this one, Texas had the No. 101 pass defense in the country based on yards per attempt. The Cowboys quarterback left the field for a second in the third quarter only to come back in when a penalty led to Oklahoma State keeping the ball. He did admit to having a "very minor" injury after the game. So there's that.
Rudolph threw his usual strikes at the intermediate level but was uncharacteristically shaky against pressure -- two of his offensive linemen were injured -- and didn't hit the big play down the field. The distance between him and the No. 2 quarterback is now razor thin.
2. Josh Rosen, UCLA
UCLA finally uncovered its run game against Oregon, and it really helped Rosen. The junior quarterback had his most "game-manager" outing of the season -- which isn't a negative, by the way -- as he didn't toss an interception and had two passing touchdowns. His 7.4 yards-per-attempt average wasn't spectacular but shows decent efficiency. We know Rosen has the tools and can piece together the 400-yard outing in a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair. But more methodical, "clean" games like the one he had in the win over the Ducks will actually help his stock in the long run.
3. Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
Stock Up Slightly
Clearly Lousiville head coach Bobby Petrino knew Florida State would have no answer for Jackson keeping on the read option. The Cardinals repeatedly called the designed run for their electric quarterback. He ended the day with 23 rushing attempts for 178 yards with one score on the ground. He was workmanlike through the air and, as per usual, was hurt by his pass-catchers, who had far too many drops on perfect passes. One occurred on a fourth down in the end zone with the game tied with under six minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
Overall, Jackson has made a colossal leap as a passer from where he was in 2016, and he's gradually improving each week, minus the hiccup against Clemson. Also, Jackson is a rare collegiate quarterback whose rushing ability will almost fully translate to the NFL level. Don't forget too: he's only 20 years old.
4. Sam Darnold, USC
Darnold is a gamer, no question there. But he's just not ready for the NFL right now. He could change my mind if he goes on an unbelievable run like he did last year; however, the finer details of playing quarterback elude him right now. And that's fine. He's a redshirt sophomore. Darnold had two more turnovers against Notre Dame, and his accuracy was out of sorts, particularly down the field. Most of his 229 yards passing came on yards-after-the-catch scampers by Deontay Burnett and Steven Mitchell Jr. on quick comebacks and screens.
Darnold's shown the capability to create amazing plays outside the structure of the play, but it's been a few weeks now that he's been overly antsy inside the pocket, which has led to premature improvisation and sacks.
5. Ryan Finley, NC State
Finley and his NC State club were off this weekend and head to South Bend to take on an impressive, well-rounded Fighting Irish team on Saturday. After that: a home contest against Clemson. Huge opportunities await for Finley.
Stock Up Slightly
[Mugatu voice] "Baker is so hot right now." He's recently been the talk of #DraftTwitter, and with good reason. Mayfield is fresh off a 32-of-41, 410-yard, two-touchdown, one-interception performance. The Oklahoma senior has 19 passing touchdowns and three rushing scores on the season and is averaging a whopping 11.6 yards per attempt. So why is he at No. 6? I just haven't seen enough "NFL-caliber" throws and plays in general from him. The vast majority of his completions have been to completely wide open receivers, and the Sooners' offense is predicated on yards after the catch.
Occasionally, Mayfield will fire a laser on an out-route toward the sideline -- his arm is strong relative to his smaller stature -- but those passes are few and far between. The running around is fun to watch, yet I think he's improvised too much, and currently is more Johnny Manziel than Russell Wilson. Mayfield's going to be a polarizing prospect over the next few months. The huge game for him is against TCU's vaunted defense on November 11, which comes after a trip to Stillwater.
Honorable Mention: Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier and his talented pass-catchers shredded a young, rebuilding Baylor defense on Saturday in Waco. Five of the former Florida Gator's 26 completions went for touchdowns, and he accumulated 375 yards passing on the day. When he can stand and survey in the pocket, Grier looks like a mid-round quarterback who throws with assertiveness and impeccable downfield touch. He does have a bad tendency to loft a few prayers off his back foot each game, and he runs hot and cold drifting way from pressure. But the rest of his game is workable.
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