By John Blair | @QBcoachjblair
The past few weeks, Inside the War Room has focused on players who are underrated going into the bowl season. In this edition, we turn our attention to the top player in the draft in UCLA’s Josh Rosen. We also highlight a few players to watch at the smaller school level this weekend, a safety who is being overrated and a look at what the top-10 overall picks could look like come April.
THE TOP PICK IN THE DRAFT
Now that the college football season has officially wrapped up, one of the biggest questions in college football is who will be the number one pick in the draft. While players like Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, and even Quenton Nelson are receiving first overall draft pick consideration, it would be a big shock if a quarterback was not taken with the first overall pick. This brings up the question of who is the top quarterback in the draft and the answer to that question is UCLA’s, Josh Rosen.
What makes Rosen the leader to be the number one draft pick is his potential as a franchise quarterback at the next level. Rosen is the prototype pocket passer as he has all the skills to be one of the top-five quarterbacks in the NFL. These skills including outstanding arm strength, which allows him to hit the long ball consistently or fire a pass into tight coverage. He is also not the type of player who can only throw a fastball, as he shows nice touch on his passes when needed. Despite, being more of a pocket passer he does show the athletic ability to slide in the pocket or take off and gain yards when he is forced to. One more positive with Rosen is his NFL caliber size coming in at 6-4 218 pounds.
The biggest concern with Rosen is that he may not have the leadership skills to lead a pro franchise. There have been countless people who have said Rosen is cocky, and might not have the full support of his own teammates. This is definitely a concern that NFL personnel will have to evaluate when meeting with him, and also when talking to his teammates and coaches. Another concern with him is that he does force the ball at times over-relying on his arm strength, which leads to interceptions or pass deflections. The last concern with this prospect is that he took 26 sacks this year and may have hung onto the ball too long on a few of these sacks.
As it stands now the Cleveland Browns will have the number one pick, and would be extremely wise to take Rosen with this pick. This would be a wise choice for the team as they need a building block on offense as John Dorsey starts to rebuild this team. Rosen would be a good fit for Cleveland coach Hue Jackson who has been able to produce with big-armed quarterbacks as an offensive coordinator including Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton. This move also makes sense for the Browns as Jackson has been begging the team to draft a quarterback in the first round the the past couple of season, and Dorsey has had no problem drafting quarterbacks high in the draft.
Like the Cleveland Browns, another team with a very high pick that will need a quarterback is the New York Giants. This is due to the fact the new regime in New York is likely to move on from Eli Manning, who will be 37 next season and has had a very rocky season this year. Even if the team does not move Manning this offseason to a team like Denver or Jacksonville they will still likely take a quarterback high to replace Manning in a year or two. The player that would make the most sense for the team assuming Josh Rosen is already off the board is Sam Darnold.
This coming weekend will be one of the biggest weekends for small school college football as it is the semifinals for the FCS playoffs and the championship game for Division II. An offensive player to watch for in the FCS playoffs is South Dakota State wide receiver, Jake Wieneke. Despite being overshadowed by his teammate in tight end Dallas Goedert, Wieneke is a player who should get day three consideration as he has impressive size, production, and reliable hands.
On the defensive side of the ball, an intriguing prospect to watch is North Dakota State linebacker Nick DeLuca when he takes on the Sam Houston State. DeLuca has already earned an invite to the Senior Bowl due to his strong play over his career for the Bison. His strongest year was in 2015 when he led the team with 135 stops, and was named to the All-Missouri Valley Football Conference. Unfortunately, he did miss most of the 2016 season with a shoulder injury. While he was not able to live up to his 2015 production this year he did have a solid season registering 61 tackles and 9 tackles for loss.
A player to watch in the Division II championship game is Texas A&M University-Commerce quarterback Luis Perez. This season Perez had one of the better seasons of any quarterback in college football as he completed 70% of his passes for 4,678 yards and 44 touchdowns. When evaluating Perez the first thing that stands out is his impressive accuracy as he shows the ability to consistently hit his strike point. He has good size as well coming in at 6-3 220 pounds and moves well for someone his size as well. The biggest question with him is does he have the arm strength to thread the needle in the NFL.
Roquan Smith, MLB, Georgia
The top middle linebacker possibly in this class is Georgia middle linebacker, Roquan Smith. Smith showed why he is so highly regarded in his latest game against Auburn in the SEC Championship where he had a season-high in tackles with 13 including two tackles for loss and a sack. Smith also was able to win the Butkus Award and be named First Team All-SEC this season, and will likely be a top-15 draft pick.
Nathan Shepherd, DT, Fort Hays State
A Division Two defender starting to rise up the charts is Fort Hays State defensive tackle Nathan Shepherd. Last week, he was named to the AFCA All-American team and also earned a trip to the Senior Bowl. Shepherd shows surprising agility and burst off the ball for someone 6-5 300 pounds. He displays nice versatility as well, as he can play either defensive end or defensive tackle in the NFL. On the downside, he does lack great strength and would be pushed around as a rookie if he plays inside.
Michael Joseph, CB, Dubuque
Another small school player to earn an invite to the Senior Bowl, and named to the AFCA All-American team is division three’s, Michael Joseph. This past season Joseph had eight picks and 16 pass deflections. As a prospect Joseph shows impressive size coming in at 6-1 180 pounds, and he uses this size to outmuscle must small school receivers. The biggest question with him is his speed, but if he is able to run a solid 40-yard dash time look for him to get serious interest in the 6th or 7th round.
Derwin James, S, Florida State
Entering the 2017 season Florida State safety Derwin James was getting hype as being a top-5 pick, despite missing most of the 2016 season with a knee injury. James was unable to live up to this hype in 2017 though as he struggled with missed tackles, playing high in coverage, and only showing average ball skills. With that being said he should still get mid first round consideration due to his impressive athletic ability and overall potential.
Mason Rudolph, QB, Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph entered the season with a late first-round draft grade, but now carries more of a day three grade. The biggest concern with Rudolph is that he may be a system quarterback who lacks the skill set to transition his outstanding college production into the NFL. Rudolph may be able to change people’s mind with a strong Senior Bowl performance however.
Kalen Ballage, RB, Arizona State
Yet another prospect who entered the season with high marks that didn’t live up to the billing is Arizona State running back Kalen Ballage. People were in awe of Ballage’s size and ability to contribute in the running game and passing game. However, they failed to realize his potential didn’t transfer into on the field production as he never rushed for even 700 yards in a season and only has 81 career receptions. Look for some team take a flyer on Ballage in the fifth round area of the draft.
This week’s closing list gives a mock draft of the top ten teams picking in the draft. This mock draft assumes all of the top underclassmen declare for the draft.
- Cleveland Browns- Josh Rosen, QB, UCLA
- New York Giants-Sam Darnold, QB, USC
- San Francisco 49ers-Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
- Indianapolis Colts-Connor Williams, OT, Texas
- Cleveland Browns-Minkah Fitzpatrick, S, Alabama
- Denver Broncos-Quenton Nelson, OG, Notre Dame
- Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Bradley Chubb, DE, North Carolina State
- Chicago Bears- Calvin Ridley, WR, Alabama
- Cincinnati Bengals-Mike McGlinchey, OT, Notre Dame
- Arizona Cardinals- Josh Allen, QB, Wyoming
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