[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Ten down, ten to go. In this group of passers we start to get into quarterbacks who I expect to become starters in the NFL. All five of these quarterbacks are graduating seniors, all of them were multiple-year starters, and four earned Senior Bowl berths while the fifth earned a spot in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. For the four players who were in Mobile, they are usually looked at as being in this tier of passers, while the fifth player is likely higher on my board than any consensus board – but it only takes one team. For the previous installments you can find the first five (20-16) here, and the next five (15-11) in this article.
10. Mike White, Western Kentucky
Early in his high school career Mike White was focused on a promising baseball career, one that saw him named a Louisville Slugger All-American as a junior when he posted a 9-2 win-loss record as a pitcher with a 0.42 ERA. But then White’s gridiron career took off, and he led his high school team to a Florida state title. White parlayed that into an offer to the University of South Florida and he was a starter for a few games for USF, until he lost his spot and decided to transfer to Western Kentucky. He was behind Brandon Doughty for a season, but then took over a high-powered offense and produced very impressive numbers, completing 66.4 percent of his passes for 8,540 yards and 63 touchdowns against only 15 interceptions during his time at WKU.
Strengths: White is a two-year starter in an up-tempo, spread-based passing attack and is among the more intriguing options in the second tier of quarterbacks in this draft. His potential diversity as a passer should endear him to many teams. Over the past season he grew in terms of processing speed in the pocket and can even be decisive at times in the pocket. Teams looking to push the football downfield would be wise to take a look at White on the second day of the draft, as his fit in a downfield passing game is likely best for him and he could contribute quickly in such an offensive system. White shows very good footwork in the pocket. While a predominately shotgun and/or pistol quarterback, he shows solid three- and five-step drops in those situations. He is good mechanically, with a quick release and a speedy throwing motion. He shows good velocity to all levels of the field, and when pressured off the edges White can click and climb but he also has the athleticism to evade and extend. He can also slide around the pocket fairly well when pressured in the interior. A very good example of this comes early in his 2017 bowl game against Georgia State, when he spins away from pressure but also has the presence of mind to reset his feet to make the pass easier to execute. He also shows an ability to speed up his process, moreso in 2017, when facing the blitz. There is an example of this also from his bowl game against Georgia State when he cuts his drop short to replace the blitz with the ball.
White can make off-platform throws well, and in those situations he maintains both accuracy and velocity. He is very willing to take checkdowns and/or what the defense gives him, which should be viewed as a positive and will be by many NFL coaches. He is usually patient on deeper route concepts, and is accurate on deep crossers and vertical routes along the boundary, and these traits make him a pretty good fit for an Air Coryell/Arians type of offense. He can make full-field reads when asked. He also is good with respect to ball-handling, and he does a good job of carrying out play-action fakes and post-handoff fakes/rolls well.
Weaknesses: Processing speed was a big question mark on him coming into 2017 but he made great strides in that aspect of his game over the past season. His final regular season game against Middle Tennessee State is a prime example, as he faced a 3-3-5 defense that did different things up front and required him to make quick decisions and process quickly post-snap. For more on this you can see the First Sound video on him. Missed some protection calls against Memphis (2016) that raised some concerns about his ability to read defenses up front and be cognizant of protection calls. Bird dogs routes and his accuracy can dip when making anticipation throws. Anticipation throws do need work, but in his game against Middle Tennessee State you can see the NFL arm on display as he throws a deep out route from the right hashmark to the left sideline. Makes ths throw with good velocity and when climbing the pocket, but could anticipate it better.
Scheme Fit: White has the potential to be a scheme-diverse quarterback, and could fit in a number of different systems. I think he could work best in a hybrid West Coast system that also incorporates vertical elements.
One- and Three-Year Projection: White has the potential to push for the backup job as a rookie, and should be secure in that role and pushing the starter by then of his third season.
Round Grade and Draft Projection: Round 5 – Round 4
Teams to Watch: Los Angeles Chargers, Los Angeles Rams, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens
Resources: First Sound
9. Luke Falk, Washington State
Luke Falk leaves campus as one of the more prolific passers in Pac-12 history. During high school Falk earned playing time as a sophomore and despite splitting time with an upperclassmen, he produced enough that he received a chance to play for a prestigious high school in California. The family moved from Utah, Falk earned the starting job and a scholarship offer from Florida State came almost immediately after. But after just three games Falk and his family came to the realization: They were happier back in Utah. So the family moved back to the Beehive State, Florida State stopped calling and Falk was without a college offer. But late in the process Mike Leach reached out with a chance to walk-on at Washington State. After redshirting as a freshman, Falk saw significant playing time his redshirt freshman season and became the team’s starting QB the following season. He leaves Pullman with a number of records under his belt, including both conference and school career records for passing yards (14,486), total offense (14,086), passing touchdowns (119), pass completions (357), pass attempts (534) and total plays (2,306).
Strengths: Falk comes from an Air Raid system that requires some quick processing and looks to stretch defenses both horizontally and vertically. He shows a good understanding of coverage and alignment; he runs Leach’s offense very well. He displays the ability to both speed up his process, particularly in the red zone, as well as to remain patient and poised in the pocket in the red zone to allow route concepts to develop. He moves and slides fairly well in the pocket, and shows pretty good play strength for a quarterback. There were many times in the past few season when he showed an ability to fight off defenders in the pocket and then either make a downfield throw or pick up yardage with his legs. He is a pretty accurate passer, to all levels of the field but best when attacking short and intermediate levels of the playing surface. He shows good touch on seam routes to inside receivers on both sides of the formation. He has good downfield vision and the ability to manipulate second- and third-level defenders with his eyes. For an example watch his 2016 game against Washington. On a 3rd and goal play he opens to the left and gets the free safety to flip his hips outside, then Falk throws a post route to the other side for a touchdown. He is best against zone coverage, and shows more of a willingness to attack narrow throwing windows that some other quarterbacks in this class. When he is confident in the concept he can show good processing speed even when the defense rolls coverage. In his game against Washington (2016) on a 2nd and 5 early in the contest he throws a slot seam route against a rolled coverage that displays great understanding of the concept, coverage and overall scheme. Same goes for a throw against Stanford (2017) on a Scissors/Divide Concept that was rolled at the snap.
Weaknesses: Quicksand. Falk has a tendency to succumb to quicksand. If he makes a mistake, such as throwing a bad interception or missing a big play downfield, it might take a drive or two for him to rebound. He’ll need to be stronger mentally as he transitions to the NFL. Bird-dogging routes is a pretty big problem right now, as is accuracy on throws deeper down the field. Those were causes of many of interceptions the past two season. While his downfield vision is generally solid, there are times when he misses wide-open receivers. It is unclear whether that is due to receivers simply not being in his read structure on a given play, or if it is emblematic of a deeper problem with his mental process. Despite his athleticism and ability to extend plays with his legs, there are times when his accuracy dips when throwing on the move. While his displays good processing speed at times, if the post-snap look from a defense is wildly different than what he expected pre-snap, his processing speed dips dramatically. General accuracy is good for him, but ball placement could be better. His arm strength is sufficient but not in an upper tier. Leach did bench him for a stretch in 2017 due to ineffectiveness. He’s effective against blitzes and pressure when he can identify it pre-snap or early in the play and can get to his hot throws quickly in those situations, but unschemed pressure or late pressure in plays can work against him. More of a see it, throw it passer right now.
Scheme Fit: With his ability to diagnose in the pre-snap phase and make quick decisions even when pre-snap and post-snap looks do not matchup, Falk projects best to a West Coast-based passing offense that also incorporates some of the passing concepts he is familiar with coming from Mike Leach’s Air Raid system.
One- and Three-Year Projection: Falk is likely a third-string QB as a rookie but in the right system he could push for the backup spot. He should be locked into that role by his third season with an eye toward taking over as the starter.
Round Grade and Draft Projection: 4th Round – 3rd Round (Falk is one of the players I think my view and the league’s view might be different)
Teams to Watch: New York Jets, New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, New England Patriots
8. Logan Woodside, Toledo
Here we find one of the quarterbacks I am likely higher on than others in the draft evaluation world. Woodside is another very experienced passer who was one of the premier high school quarterbacks in Kentucky but was not given many scholarship offers. He took to the preseason camp circuit to display his talents and finally, after fielding offers from multiple schools, he settled on Toledo. Woodside appeared in four games as a true freshman in 2013, including one start, before facing a quarterback competition in 2014 with Alabama transfer Philip Ely. The transfer won the job but after suffering an injury, Woodside stepped into the lineup and played well. But that was not enough the following preseason, when Ely won another preseason camp battle and the coaches decided to redshirt Woodside.
After sitting out the 2015 season, Woodside came back in 2016 and won the job. The rest is school history, as he leaves campus with school records for passing yards (10,514), touchdowns (93) and passing efficiency (162.87), as well as 300-yard passing games with 17.
Strengths: Woodside is an experienced quarterback who operates in a spread-based passing attack. He has good footwork in the pocket and he is very adept at moving and climbing the pocket, and he consistently keeps his feet under him and in perfect position to get the ball out of his hands. His accuracy can be spotty, but he is able to make accurate throws in the short area of the field with velocity, and can make rhythm/timing throws to the more intermediate level of the field. Very adept at identifying leverage advantages pre-snap and exploiting them, whether on RPO plays or on straight drops. Good ball handler, and carefully takes care of the football with his off hand while sliding in the pocket. Shows good processing speed.
Very good footwork in the pocket. His drops (whether three- or five-step) are quick and crisp, and his is always on the balls of his feet in the pocket, sliding and moving in response to pressure, and shows an advanced ability to click and climb in the pocket while reading progressions and/or evading defenders. Shows a good feel for pressure in the pocket, including the proverbial “eye in the back of his helmet.” For a great example of this you can see the First Sound video listed below. Accurate in the short area of the field; can make rhythm and timing throws along the boundary and in the intermediate areas of the field. Can make deeper throws using touch, but the downfield game is not his strength. Arm strength is sufficient. Can throw deep (55+ without the need to crow-hop – watch Northern Illinois game from 2017) but lacks the velocity to drive into tighter windows down the field. Good processing speed, particularly on RPO concepts. Functional athleticism, can throw pretty well on the move and can extend with his feet, and pick up yardage with his legs when the situation and defense provide an opportunity.
Weaknesses: Has some size concerns. Hand size might be an issue. Struggled in the rain against Central Michigan and seemed to be pushing the football rather than throwing it. Will need to get stronger and he’ll need to add some velocity as arm strength is merely sufficient, and he also lost some fumbles as a ball carrier. Lacks plus arm strength. Accuracy can be spotty over 15-yards downfield, and can even be streaky at times on shorter throws. That might be an indication of him being too risk-averse, and trying to avoid mistakes and being too careful with the football.
Scheme Fit: Woodside is somewhat limited schematically as he lacks a power arm to push the ball vertically on a consistent basis. He is best suited for a rhythm-based offense, similar to what New England runs, as his footwork on both drops and in the pocket is solid, and he shows the ability to make throws on time and in the overall structure of the play.
One- and Three-Year Projection: Woodside is more of a developmental option than some of the other quarterbacks in this tier, and in all likelihood I am higher on him than the league is. I think he can push for the backup job as a rookie but is likely a third-string quarterback on the practice squad. In the right system and with some development, he can be a backup by his third season and can become a starter in this league.
Round Grade and Draft Projection: Woodside is the player that gave me the idea to add this component to the reports this season, as I believe he might be the player (similar to Brad Kaaya last season) that I end up much higher on than the league. 4th Round – 6th Round
Resources: First Sound
7. Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
Similar to Woodside, Lauletta had an interesting path as a college quarterback. He appeared in six games as a true freshman in 2013, including completing 6 of 9 passes in the season opener against Virginia Military Institute (VMI). But Lauletta also redshirted a season later, and when he came back the starting job was his. Lauletta started every game in 2015 and was a second team All-CAA selection. His junior year was perhaps his best while at Richmond, as he and the Spiders were off to a tremendous start and were one of the top teams in the FCS, but he suffered a knee injury in the regular season finale which sidelined him for the playoffs. However, Lauletta returned for his senior year and enjoyed a great final season, setting the school’s single-season record for total offense. Lauletta wrapped the year with 3,827 yards, including 3,737 through the air, the second-highest single-season total in program history. He was a standout player at the Senior Bowl, earning the Senior Bowl MVP award thanks to his three touchdown passes in the game itself. Once a quarterback known only to the deepest of draftniks, such as Nick Martin (@themicknartin) and WIll Stevenson (@stillweavin), he’s becoming a household name.
Strengths: Lauletta is a quarterback who is very active in the pre-snap phase of each play, and is a quarterback who is very experienced, having played under four different offensive coordinators during his time at Richmond and in four different offensive systems. On film you can see him making adjustments and protection calls at the line of scrimmage, as well as using hand signals and other means of changing plays and/or route concepts. He is adept at identifying leverage and coverage in the pre-snap phase as well. He is primarily a shotgun/pistol quarterback, but showed at times the ability to operate under center. He is experienced in running the boot-action game, and would be a fit in an offensive system similar to Kyle Shanahan’s. For examples of this in action watch his 2017 game against William & Mary, or the First Sound video where I break down that entire game. He is athletic enough to make plays with his legs, and is skilled at moving around in the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. Lauletta has been successful in scramble drill situations, and throws well when moving right or left. He displays okay velocity in the short- and intermediate-areas of the field, and can dial up velocity on longer boundary throws as well. He shows good timing and rhythm on many route concepts, and his footwork and eye movement times up well with many route concepts. He is very accurate in the short- and intermediate-areas of the field, and can challenge smaller throwing windows over the middle of the field. On tape and down in Mobile for the Senior Bowl, he displayed the ability to make pinpoint back-shoulder throws, as well as perfect timing and placement in the red zone fade game. Very clean mechanically, with a crisp release, good footwork on the throwing motion and a tight release.
Weaknesses: Lauletta’s situational awareness can be poor at times. His tape shows examples of poor clock management, as well as poor decisions with respect to situation, down, distance and score. While his processing speed is sufficient for the quick game, as well as on spread/RPO concepts, it does slow at times, especially in pressure situations. Lauletta showed good anticipation skills at the Senior Bowl, but on tape his accuracy and placement on anticipation throws seemed to dip. His decision-making was generally sound, but it was poor as outlined previously and/or when facing pressure, and he needs to speed up his process in response to defensive pressure schemes. One thing to note is his tendency to have passes tipped at the line of scrimmage, this happened far too often in 2017. Although to his credit he did seem to learn from this. A great example can be found in this First Sound video where he has a pass tipped, and then immediately makes an adjustment on an ensuing play to avoid the same mistake.
Scheme Fit: Here is where the questions about velocity come into view. Lauletta is a fairly scheme-diverse quarterback who projects well to either a West Coast-based offense, or a timing and rhythm offense usually associated with the Erhardt-Perkins offensive tree. He has the processing speed, accuracy and arm talent to be successful in those schemes. A more vertical-based system would not be the ideal fit for him, but with some development he could make it work. In addition, as explained in this piece, even more vertical-based offenses only attack downfield (defined as throws 20+) around 18% of the time, so Lauletta could operate in a system that schemes those throws by design.
One- and Three-Year Projection: Lauletta is an accomplished quarterback coming from the Football Championship Subdivision who has the processing speed, athletic ability and arm talent to succeed as a backup early in his NFL career. Lauletta should earn the backup job as a rookie in the NFL, and should be in position to compete for a starting job his second year, in the right offensive system. Lauletta should be a starting quarterback by his third season in the NFL and has the potential to develop into a mid-tier starter by the end of his rookie contract.
Round Grade and Draft Projection: 3rd Round – Late 2nd Round (I think we see quarterbacks pushed up boards, and as a result Lauletta comes off a bit earlier than expected).
Teams to Watch: New England Patriots, Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals, Jacksonville Jaguars
6. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
It would be tough to find a quarterback with a more impressive collegiate resume than Mason Rudolph (although two quarterbacks yet to be ranked might have a case on their own behalf). He came to Oklahoma State after a strong high school career in South Carolina, where he lead his high school team to two-straight state title games and took home the hardware as a senior. He was a finalist for the Mr. Football Award in the state, and was the MVP of the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas, the oldest high school all-star game in the nation.
Rudolph was slated to redshirt as a freshman, but an injury to starting quarterback Daxx Garman forced the team to turn to the newcomer. Rudolph never looked back. He led the Cowboys to a bowl game as a true freshman, and that was just the start to a prodigious career that saw him leave Stillwater with over 50 school records to his name. In his final game in an Oklahoma State uniform he topped Brandon Weeden in passing yards in a season (4,904) and yards per game (377.2). In 2017 he also won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the “most outstanding senior quarterback” as well as the Sammy Baugh Trophy, given to the nation’s “most outstanding passer.” Oklahoma State was 32-10 in games where he was the starting quarterback.
Strengths: Rudolph operated a predominately spread-based offense, almost exclusively from the pistol and/or shotgun. He displays solid drops and the ability to make throws on time with three-step and hit drops as well as three-step and hitch drops. He shows pretty clean mechanics with a three-quarters to over-the-top release point, and good ball carriage in the pocket. He functions best when he can attack zone coverage and/or off man coverage looks, and has the ability to identify weaknesses in zone coverage looks and rule throws in or out before the play. He shows pretty good touch on the deep ball and was successful throwing down the field, perhaps due in part to having receivers like James Washington and Marcell Ateman to throw to. He shows average to above-average ability manipulating the pocket, and is athletic enough to extend plays with his legs while keeping his eyes downfield to make throws. He can make anticipation throws, but usually when he identifies off-coverage in the pre-snap phase and can easily time up those routes with his footwork in the pocket. Early throws against the University of Texas (2017) are an example of this. In those situations, his timing and ball-placement on those routes (such as out routes, comeback routes and hitch routes) is very good. He shows a good feel for underneath coverage, and can manipulate underneath defenders such as linebackers or box safeties with his eyes on those throws. Fared fairly well playing in elements, put up good numbers at West Virginia in 2017 on a cold and rainy day.
Very adept at attacking zone coverage looks or off-coverage looks along the boundary. Shows an ability to attack downfield in the vertical passing game and shows good touch on “bucket” throws. Anticipates and times boundary throws such as curls, comebacks and hitches very well, best against off coverage. His deep ball against TCU is one of the better throws made by a quarterback this draft season and his ability to operate in a vertical-based offense is present on that play. Shows some competitive fire, in his bowl game against Colorado (2016) he tried to run a defender over in the open field on a screen pass, and you don’t see that from many QBs.
Weaknesses: Rudolph is generally an accurate passer when throwing toward the boundary, but his accuracy does dip when he attacks the middle of the field. He has a tougher time attacking smaller throwing windows as well as man coverage, as he is a much more accurate and successful passer attacking zone coverage looks. This calls into question a bit his arm strength, as it seems sufficient for life in the NFL but perhaps not overly powerful. In the pocket there are times when he is slow to get through reads, particularly when the post-snap look adjusts from his pre-snap expectations. When facing pressure, that hesitation in the pocket is compounded, and he would be served well by learning to speed things up in those situations. At times he makes some curious “no-throw” decisions, where he reads the coverage correctly and has an open option in the passing game, but for whatever reason he freezes and does not pull the trigger. This is apparent when he has open options in the middle of the field in the passing game, even against zone coverage looks. There are times when he forgoes throwing receivers open over the middle or attacking smaller throwing windows in the middle of the field, and these are the throws he will need to make in the NFL. For an example watch a 1st and 10 play against Oklahoma at about the 4:45 mark of the first quarter. Rudolph has the dig route coming open against a soft Cover 3 look with the linebackers pinched, but instead of making an anticipation throw, he checks the ball down.
Scheme Fit: Rudolph can function in an Erhardt-Perkins system based on timing and rhythm, or in a vertical-based passing attack that uses a lot of play-action.
One- and Three-Year Projection: Rudolph could come in and earn the backup job as a rookie, and should be pushing for the starting job by his second season. He can become a lower-tier starter in this league, but he has a very solid floor as well as a long-term backup/spot starter.
Round Grade and Draft Projection: 2nd Round – Late First? (Rudolph could potentially sneak in the the later part of the first round if we see an early run on QBs, which we all expect)
Teams to Watch: Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, New York Giants
Resources: Interceptions Breakdown
Now we are through 15 quarterbacks, with five left to go. My top five is probably going to be anti-climatic, as it’s been out there for a while. But here at ITP, we run through the tape. But I’ll have more on the guy at the top of the list in time for the grand unveiling.