“You know nothing Mark Schofield.”
Let’s just pretend this whole piece did not happen, okay? NEVER HAPPENED.
If you were a quarterback prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft season on Friday night, or a draft analyst who stakes his career on analyzing quarterback prospects, Friday evening was a long…long night. After five quarterbacks came off the board in the first round, the entire second round flew by without a single signal-caller hearing his name called. The Oakland Raiders drafted a nose tackle from Sam Houston State, but nary a QB was to be found in the second round. Not Mason Rudolph, who I thought might come off the board at 40. Not Kyle Lauletta, who I thought might hear his name called at 63 to the Patriots.
Then, it finally happened.
One of the most accomplished passers in college football history finally heard his name called in the third round, when the Pittsburgh Steelers traded up in a deal with the Seattle Seahawks to acquire the 76 overall pick, which they used on Rudolph.
At first blush, this is perhaps the ideal landing spot for Rudolph. Schematically it fits with his strengths. The Steelers are expected to run a more downfield passing game, such as the offense that Todd Haley installed over his time as Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator. Incoming offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner has been in this system for years as well. I expect there to be continuity between Haley’s designs and the 2018 offense.
That would fit Rudolph well, as his vertical passing game was one of his strengths as a quarterback. Rudolph will also find a familiar face in Pittsburgh; in the second round the Steelers drafted James Washington, who was on the receiving end of many passes from Rudolph over the past few seasons in Stillwater.
Then, there is the chance to watch and learn from Ben Roethlisberger. Rudolph compared himself to the current Pittsburgh quarterback during the draft process, and indicated that he tried to model his game after Roethlisberger. Their playing styles do have some similarity, so that potential mentorship makes a great deal of sense.
This has been an interesting draft for the Steelers, who reached on a safety in the first round, then drafted a prolific WR/QB duo with their second and third picks. In Rudolph, they might have their eventual successor to Big Ben, along with a comfortable target for him to look for if and when he takes over.
And *checks notes* that’s it, that’s the list.
In the piece that crashed and burned, linked above, I predicted that Kyle Lauletta, Mike White and Luke Falk would hear their names called in the second or third rounds, with Logan Woodside as a darkhorse option to sneak in as well. But I steel my nerves by remembering that I only had a second or third-round grade on Rudolph and Lauletta, and remember that this is all supposed to be fun. We’re having fun out here!
Let’s look ahead to Saturday.
Coming out of the Senior Bowl, Lauletta was the talk at the quarterback position in almost every draft-related conversation. He played himself firmly into the second tier of QBs and some even put him above players like Josh Allen in their rankings. But questions about his arm strength linger, even after his velocity numbers at the combine were perhaps better than expected for him. Yes, he lacks an elite arm and does not have the pure velocity of other passers in this class, but he makes up for that “deficiency” with his quick processing speed and his ability to make anticipation throws. Plus, when you remember that most offenses function in the shorter areas of the field (20 yards and less) Lauletta can run an NFL offense.
He’ll hear his name called early on Saturday afternoon. The Patriots have the fifth selection in the fourth round and I have to believe he is firmly in play with that pick. If not, teams like the Bengals and Browns, who pick a bit later in the fourth round, are options.
After Lauletta, Luke Falk stands as the next likely quarterback to find a professional home in the draft. His best systematic fit is in an offense running a hybrid West Coast/Air Raid passing game, and the Miami Dolphins under Adam Gase make a great deal of sense. Watch for Falk to come off the board midway through the fourth round to the Dolphins. Yes, I predicted this in the third round, but I’ll just be a round off I guess from that prediction. This would be right in line with my grade on him, so if it happens I can fall back on that and call it a win. I need a win right now…
Along similar lines, I thought White would come off the board on Day Two, but he was another quarterback that fell down into the third day of the draft. If my view of his development over the past year is in line with the NFL’s view of him, he should hear his name called in the fourth round. It is true that the Los Angeles Chargers added Geno Smith in this off-season to a quarterback room that already contains Cardale Jones and of course Philip Rivers, but the fit with the Chargers continues to make sense to me.
Getting that Brad Kaaya vibe…
I was higher…much higher on the former Miami Hurricanes quarterback than the NFL was, and I’m wondering if something similar is playing out with my ranking of Logan Woodside. Numbers, as well as film, tend to backup Woodside being a solid developmental option at the next level. I love his level of experience, his backstory, and his footwork in the pocket. I also think what he does well (footwork, timing, rhythm and anticipation) projects perfectly to either an Erhardt-Perkins system or a West Coast-based offense. I still think he hears his name called, perhaps not in the fourth round like I expected, but more likely sometime in the sixth round. The Houston Texans seem like a good fit in the later rounds, provided the Patriots address quarterback with another player.
Benkert’s stellar performance against the University of Miami was not enough to play him into Day Two, and he joins this list of quarterbacks keeping their fingers crossed, as we look ahead to Saturday. I like his aggression, his pocket toughness, his ability to read and attack the blitz, replacing it with the football, and his athleticism. He projects best to an offense that incorporates some Air Raid and West Coast designs, and thankfully for him that puts him on the radar of a number of teams. Looking at how this draft has unfolded I like his chances late in the draft with the Kansas City Chiefs, as further insurance behind Patrick Mahomes.
What could have been. Remember, I am fully aboard Team Development is Not Linear, but looking ahead to the 2019 class (yes, that process is well underway) Litton had the potential to play himself into the QB1 mix next season had he stayed in school. But he chose to come out with a very strong group, and now is waiting to hear if his name is called on Day Three. He has a live arm and some athleticism, and shows some great awareness in the pre-snap phase of the game. I still think he gets drafted and a team takes a shot at developing him into something down the road. The team to watch is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as we get into the sixth round.
It is tough to come in and replace a living legend, but that was the task in front of Nic Shimonek as he took over for Patrick Mahomes at Texas Tech. In his stead Shimonek threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns, helping the Red Raiders to a berth in a bowl game. Similar to the next quarterback, he flashed in the downfield aspects of the position and projects best to a downfield passing game. The Dallas Cowboys do not have an immediate need at the quarterback position and they do like Cooper Rush, but Shimonek would be a good fit for what they do offensively and he can push Rush for the backup job in the years ahead. Watch for Dallas later in the sixth round.
McGough drew attention late in the evaluation process, perhaps due in part to an injury he suffered in his bowl game that occurred on the opening drive of the game for Florida International University. That delayed his draft process, and he was forced to play catch-up along the way. But he is a strong-armed quarterback with four years of experience as a starter at FIU. I liked his creativity outside of the pocket, his ability in the downfield passing game as well as his ability to make velocity throws to all levels, even with pressure in his face. There are a few teams to watch, but I think the Jacksonville Jaguars make sense early in the seventh round. He can come in and learn and perhaps push Blake Bortles in 2019.
Barrett put together a storied career at Ohio State, leaving school as the only three-year captain in school history. There are deficiencies in his game to be sure, particularly play speed and processing speed. He left a lot of plays on the field during his time in Columbus in the passing game, and needs to get faster in that area. However, I’ve long felt that an offense like Carolina’s would be an ideal fit for him. Obviously Norv Turner can be expected to install a vertical-based passing game, but with Cam Newton as the unquestioned leader of your offense, Turner likely implements some spread and RPO elements into the playbook. That is the perfect setting for Barrett. Look for Barrett to come off the board in the seventh round to the Panthers.