2018 Senior Bowl: What each quarterback prospect needs to prove in Mobile
Each signal-caller can help to silence his critics during a week spent in Mobile, Alabama
The Senior Bowl is a small piece of the NFL Draft evaluation puzzle, but each year we see prospects stocks improve or dip after time spent competing in the marquee prospect all-star game.
This year's quarterback group in Mobile is the most intriguing in a long time.
We'll see Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and a collection of underrated signal-callers square off during a week of practice and in an exhibition game scrutinized by general managers, scouts, coaches and media members.
So what can the quarterbacks do to help themselves at the Senior Bowl? Here's what each needs to prove during their time spent in Mobile next week.
Note: Mason Rudolph was initially scheduled to play in the Senior Bowl before an injury cropped up. As a result, we've removed him from this article and included Nebraska's Tanner Lee.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
The majority of what Mayfield needs to show to scouts -- and maybe most importantly the Broncos coaching staff roaming the sidelines in Mobile -- is how he handles his teammates, the week of practices, and the game on Saturday from maturity and leadership aspects. We heard nothing but positive reviews from Oklahoma teammates and coaches about Mayfield's sometimes controversial overtly passionate behavior during the season. This is different though. New players. New coaches. New environment. If his charisma wins over his teammates and the Denver coaches, it'll help to quell concerns about him not possessing the proper attitude to become a franchise quarterback.
Josh Allen, Wyoming
Accuracy and decision-making
Allen is capable of firing the best throws of any quarterback who'll be in Mobile -- or anyone in this class, really. One gigantic caveat -- he's also capable of making the worst throws too, and many of those are compounded by a bad decision, which altogether lead to some ugly incompletions and turnovers. Allen's plus athleticism is a luxury, when its harnessed and not being used to overextend a play. To fortify himself as a first-round pick -- which he'll probably end up being anyway -- Allen has to reduce the forced passes downfield and improve his accuracy.
Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
He can play with the big boys
Lauletta completed 63.5 percent of his passes at 8.8 yards per attempt with 73 touchdowns and 35 interceptions in his Richmond career. He was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Year this past season. There are many reasons he'll be in Mobile. As is the case every year for at least one small school quarterback prospect, Lauletta just needs to show he belongs. Jimmy Garoppolo wasn't the star of the 2014 Senior Bowl, but he had a fine week at the East-West Shrine game then held his own in Mobile, which helped to boost his stock en route to being a second-round pick.
Tanner Lee, Nebraska
A late add after news surfaced about Mason Rudolph's foot injury that'll keep him from on-field work, Lee was somewhat of a surprise entrant into this year's draft. He graduated but had one year of eligibility remaining. Anyway, the 6-foot-4 Lee looks like an NFL quarterback and has an impressive, pro-caliber arm. But his lack of accuracy plagued him in his collegiate career, which began at Tulane. He completed 55.2 percent of his throws in three years, including just 57.2 percent for the Huskers in 2017. He must display some semblance of accuracy to start chatter about him being a draftable signal-caller.
At his size -- 6-4, 215 -- with a strong arm, quality command of his offense, and some mobility, Benkert is capable of looking like an NFL quarterback in some instances. In Virginia's loss to Miami, he completed 28 of 37 passes for 384 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. However, his lack of consistency is one of his biggest red flags. He went 39 of 66 for 259 yards in an early-season defeat at the hands of Indiana, and in the bowl-game loss to Navy, Benkert completed just 16 of 36 attempts for 145 yards with an interception. He doesn't need to be flashy. He needs to be steady at the Senior Bowl.
Comfort in new offense
At Washington State, Falk operated Mike Leach's yards-after-the-catch predicated offense, a scheme in which shovel passes and a variety of screens are true extensions of the basically non-existent run game. Per Pro Football Focus, just 37.5 percent of Falk's 2017 passing yards came in the air, the fifth-lowest percentage among 144 qualifying quarterbacks. Falk must demonstrate he's capable of running a non-gadgety offense during his time in Mobile.
Ability to stretch the field
Like Falk, the 6-foot-3 Silvers was heavily reliant on his receivers running after the catch in 2017, as only 39.7 of his passing yards came in the air. His interceptions were down, but he didn't make a noticeable step forward in terms of overall efficiency from where he was in 2016. With a strong performance, especially on deep throws, Silvers' draft stock could see a slight boost.
He's truly a sleeper
Losing speedster Taywan Taylor clearly hurt the production of White and the Western Kentucky offense this season. The quarterback's yards-per-attempt average dropped from 10.5 in 2016 to 7.5 in 2017. However, there are still many that like the redshirt senior as the sleeper in this quarterback draft class. White possesses a quick release and demonstrated pinpoint downfield accuracy when Taylor was on the roster. If the Senior Bowl isn't too big for him, chatter will increase about him being a quality value pick later in the draft.
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