Part 1: The Day One Selections
There comes a time in every person’s life when they have to push all their chips to the center of the table. When they have to just go all in, and lay everything bare for the world to see. Perhaps that comes when a person proposes marriage, and asks another human to spend a lifetime together. It might come when people become parents, and turn over their lives to the caretaking of another fragile soul.
I’ve experience both of those moments, but lately I’ve decided to experience another, and simply go all in on this Toto craze until the brand simply burns out, or fades away. Not a day goes by without someone sending some Toto references to me on Twitter, and here are just a few examples. First, the beheading meme, sent recently by Robert Ortiz:
— Yung Samson (@CoachOrtizOL) February 12, 2018
Here’s one of many great memes sent to me recently by Christopher Thornton, co-host of Locked On Jaguars:
— Christopher Thornton (@mistochristopho) December 21, 2017
One night a loyal listener to the Locked On Patriots podcast found various iterations of “Africa,” and sent some of the best my way:
— Captain Huggy Face (@CapnHuggyFace) February 7, 2018
Finally, and more relevant to our purposes today, was this tweet from Blake Murphy, which really got me thinking:
New scouting project suggestions for @MarkSchofield: comparing draft prospects to lyrics from “Africa” by Toto.
“THERE’S NOTHING THAT A HUNDRED MEN OR MORE COULD EVER DO” pic.twitter.com/EcqGXh6gId
— Blake Allen Murphy (@blakemurphy7) February 8, 2018
So, let’s do just that. Here’s the first QB Mock Draft of the 2018 Draft Season, with help from Toto lyrics. Four caveats to this mock. One, this is a “what I would do” mock and not a “what will happen” mock, because let’s just keep it real here friends, I do not exactly have a ton of sources in the league. If that’s your thing, there are great people out there much more connected than I am, and you can read their mocks… but then come back to this one of course, because my son Owen is growing like a weed and he needs new clothes almost every month…
Second, this is a “QB only” mock because that’s what I know and study. There are people much smarter than I am when it comes to other positions, or the entire draft, so I try and stay in my narrow little lane. Because I’m a man, I’m 41, and I’m not exactly learning many new tricks these days.
Next, I’m assuming here that Kirk Cousins, the big free agent QB domino, signs with the Denver Broncos, taking them out of the quarterback mix.
Finally, this was getting lengthy so I have broken it up into three parts, one for Rounds 1, 2 and 3, and one for the Day 3 selections.
So, without further ado, here we go…
Josh Rosen: Round 1, Pick 1 (1 overall) – Cleveland Browns
“I’ve got great expectations for now and forever”
Our first curveball! A lyric from Toto’s most recent album, Toto XIV, off the track “Great Expectations.” This is also a curveball in the sense that current expectations put Sam Darnold or even Josh Allen to the Browns with one of their first picks.
But for me, Rosen is the cleanest, most scheme-diverse quarterback in this class, and if I were a team that needed a quarterback Rosen would be the player I would covet. He shows accuracy and velocity to all levels, making him a quarterback that can function in any offense, and his mechanics and footwork are sound, almost textbook. The questions around Rosen are more “off-the-field,” from his concussion history to his attitudes about football as well as interests away from the field. Those do not concern me, but they might for some reason concern NFL decisions makers, which could see Rosen slide a bit on draft night. But from what I can study and evaluate, he’s the cleanest on-the-field quarterback, and the guy to build a franchise around.
One can also make the argument that the Browns do not need to address quarterback at all, given the presence of DeShone Kizer. This is an argument that Emory Hunt has advanced and it has a lot of merit. The Browns could address other needs with their first two picks, and really give the roster a boost of talent on both sides of the football if they add two different playmakers. In the end, the Browns desperately need to figure out the QB spot, so I do think it makes sense for them to get another quarterback early and really give themselves as many cracks at nailing down the position, and Rosen makes the most sense.
Sam Darnold: Round 1, Pick 2 (2 Overall) – New York Giants
“And get your feet back on the ground”
For the second-straight pick, we call upon another relatively unknown track from Toto’s collection, this line comes to us from “Hollyana” off of Toto’s 1984 album Isolation. With Darnold, there is a lot to like. He’s athletic, with an impressive arm and the ability to throw on the move very well, which, when combined with his aggressive nature, makes for a dangerous combination. He also shows the ability to throw with anticipation, perhaps more advanced than most other quarterbacks in this class at that trait.
But there are things to fix with Darnold. Many point to his upper body mechanics, specifically his looping throwing motion, as something he will need to address as he adjusts to an NFL career. But for me it is his lower body, specifically his left hip and foot, that need the most work. When I broke down all of his 2017 interceptions for the Inside the Pylon YouTube channel, I found some repeated mistakes, including his tendency to be sloppy with his left hip and foot, including stepping in the bucket as well as flaring that hip open early, both of which impact accuracy and velocity. I can live with the throwing motion, provided he cleans up the lower half. But with Eli Manning entrenched as the starter, Darnold will get the time he needs to work on the motion and clean up his mechanics. If he does, he could really flourish in the NFL.
Baker Mayfield: Round 1, Pick 6 (6th Overall) – New York Jets
“I was the man of the hour
I would claw and scratch my way,
Up to the very top of the tower”
On their 2006 album Falling In Between, Toto released the song “King of the World,” an ode to an older man’s realization that the 9-5 life he was leading gave him an inflated sense of purpose. That has little to do with Baker Mayfield, but this lyric, about a man fighting his way to the top of the world, does fit the former Oklahoma Sooner to a T. Mayfield plays the quarterback position with a righteous anger and fury, constantly slinging back at slights thrown his way, whether real or fabricated. I love that about him. He will forever be a walk-on, even when he gets drafted in the first round of the draft. Not to make a direct comparison, but Tom Brady will forever be pick 199 in his own mind, and not arguably the greatest quarterback of all time. The great ones often use such slights to drive them, to fuel them, and Mayfield has that mentality.
Mayfield will face questions about scheme fit in the NFL, but if the New York Jets’ offense under Jeremy Bates is similar to what it looked like under John Morton last year, with a mix of Air Raid and West Coast concepts, Mayfield can step right in and operate in that system almost immediately. I believe he has been growing as a passer, and has been improving in areas such as anticipation throws that will suit him well as a professional. This would be perhaps an ideal marriage of style, scheme and personality.
Josh Allen: Round 1, Pick 15 (15th Overall) – Arizona Cardinals
“You’re the one that keeps the boys dreamin’”
Now we’re having some fun.
From the track “Farenheit,” from the album by the same name, comes this lyric, which speaks to Josh Allen and the simple fact that he has some of the raw tools that evaluators love in quarterbacks: Size, athleticism and a cannon for a right arm. People watch some of his splash throws and believe that can mold that into a surefire NFL quarterback. Even those who might be down on Allen’s professional prospects cannot deny that he flashes those traits throughout his collegiate tape.
For me, I’ve long been of the mind that while Allen has those traits, he needs time to develop the other parts of playing the position. He’s a thrower, not a passer, right now. He needs to refine touch, feel, placement, and anticipation for example. If you need a quarterback to drop back and throw the ball through a brick wall, Allen is easily your guy. But there’s more to the position than simply throwing fastballs.
Arizona might be the perfect place for him if he is going to go in the first half of the draft. There will not be pressure to play immediately, given the presence of Blaine Gabbert and Drew Stanton. He’ll be playing for Mike McCoy, who has experience in all three schools of offensive thought, but has enjoyed the most success running a West Coast-based system – albeit with more vertical, downfield passing components, which suits Allen’s playing style. In this situation, perhaps the quarterback inside Allen could but unlocked, and all those dreams people have when watching his splash plays could be realized.
Lamar Jackson: Round 1, Pick 22 (22nd Overall) – Buffalo Bills
“Modern eyes, to see what you want to see”
This line comes to us from “Modern Eyes,” released on Toto XX: 1977-1997. It is a two-fold usage here, one referring to the debate over Jackson’s eventual NFL position and the other referring to his ability to keep his eyes downfield in pressure situations and continue to look for receivers, rather than simply tucking the football and escaping with his legs.
Some feel that Jackson’s quickest and cleanest path to NFL playing time is via a position switch, to wide receiver. That is based upon the explosive, dynamic ability he displays with the football in his hands. As a runner he is electrifying, with the ability to stop, cut and change directions on a dime that can be deadly on the playing field. But for me, that is just one piece to the puzzle. Jackson has been running a fairly complex offense under Bobby Petrino the past few years, and in my study he took a step forward as a pocket quarterback from his 2016-2017 season to his 2017-2018 season. He does have an issue with his throwing base, which can be too narrow at times, but playing in Buffalo might be the perfect fit. There will be some scheme familiarity, as new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll comes from an Erhardt-Perkins system similar to what Petrino was running at Louisville. He will have a solid running game to rely upon, and he’ll have some weapons around him to throw to in the passing game. Buffalo seems to be ready to move on from Tyrod Taylor, and it does not seem like Nathan Peterman is the long-term answer. Jackson may very well be that answer.
With the selection of Lamar Jackson with the 22nd pick, that closes us out for the first round. But fear not friends! We keep rolling now into the second round with my thoughts on the Day 2 choices.
Mason Rudolph: Round 2, Pick 16 (48th Overall) – Los Angeles Chargers
“Hold the line
Love isn’t always on time”
Toto debuted in 1978 with a self-titled album, and “Hold the Line” was their first big commercial hit single. This line also gets us on more familiar ground, perhaps, for the more casual Toto fans among us. For me, it also helps to illustrate one of Mason Rudolph’s strengths as a passer. When I studied him last summer, and then again over the fall, I came away impressed with his ability to take advantage of off coverage and/or one zone coverage looks. In those situations, Rudolph made some impressive timing and anticipation throws, getting the football out in concert with the receiver’s cut and break, and exploiting those soft coverages from the defense.
Rudolph has also flashed some potential as a downfield passer, although he does not have an overpowering arm. But he can make some touch and bucket throws, and with the Chargers he would get some time to develop as a passer, and perhaps add some velocity to his throws. There were times when he did not drive the football into windows like I expected to see, and there were also times when he left throws on intermediate routes, such as dig routes, a bit high. But he has a nice floor as a quarterback and I think even in the worst case scenario he has a lengthy career as a backup. But the Chargers might be the best spot for him to develop and perhaps grow into something more in the NFL.
Kyle Lauletta: Round 2, Pick 31 (63rd Overall) – New England Patriots
“I stopped an old man along the way
Hoping to find some old forgotten words or ancient melodies”
Yeah, that’s the stuff you all came here to find.
In the 16 drafts since the New England Patriots drafted Tom Brady, they have drafted eight other quarterbacks. You can almost guarantee that number hits nine this year, in the wake of the Patriots trading away both Jacoby Brissett and Jimmy Garoppolo. They need to find their successor to Tom Brady, and Bill Belichick has long-held the belief that it is better to be a year early, than it is to be a year late, when it comes to finding your next quarterback.
The Patriots might find that player by dipping into the FCS waters yet again, and taking the experienced Lauletta. The former University of Richmond Spider faces some questions about his upper end velocity, and it is true he does not have a powerful arm. But it is more than sufficient to run New England’s offense, which traditionally focuses on the short- and intermediate-areas of the field with the occasional deeper shot down the field. What will stand out to the Patriots is the processing speed and mental component to Lauletta as a passer. This is something mentioned by Benjamin Solak recently when he and I were talking about Lauletta. He played for four different coordinators in college, but knew each offense inside and out. He’ll get a chance to learn from one of the greatest behind Brady, and he would be an ideal fit for what the Patriots run offensively.
Mike White: Round 3, Pick 30 (93rd Overall) – Minnesota Vikings
“’Cause it’s never enough
It won’t be long until they run out of luck”
What’s the expression? If you have three quarterbacks you really don’t have one? Well the Minnesota Vikings are literally and figuratively living that life right now. When their season ended three talented quarterbacks were populating their quarterback room, Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford. But all three are free agents now. It is likely that the Vikings bring at least one, if not two, back for the 2018 season, however, it is also likely that the Vikings address the position in the draft as well.
With the hiring of John DeFilippo as their new offensive coordinator, you can imagine that the Minnesota offense will incorporate some scheme diversity in the upcoming season. With both Carson Wentz and later Nick Foles, the Philadelphia Eagles used a number of spread and even Air Raid concepts in their run to the Super Bowl. In White, the Vikings would get a quarterback that is rather scheme-diverse, as the former Hilltopper has the arm talent to operate in a downfield attack, but showed the processing speed (especially in his last regular season game, against Middle Tennessee State) to run a more West Coast-based offense. But coming from Western Kentucky’s spread attack, he would find some schematic familiarity in what DeFilippo looks to run.
This brings Part 1 of this two-part Mock Draft to a close. I trust that you all agreed with each and every selection, and more importantly with each and every lyrical choice. I’ll be back later with Part 2, perhaps arriving on a 12:30 flight…