#1 best-selling author Mark Schofield reveals his list of the top quarterback prospects for the 2016 NFL Draft. Schofield, who wrote 17 Drives – a chronicle of the 2015 college football season – has ranked Jake Rudock as his 14th ranked prospect. Click here to look at all of his work on the 2016 QB class.
An veteran signal-caller with experience in two different Big Ten programs, Jake Rudock is one of the more interesting prospects in the 2016 quarterback class. After two seasons at Iowa, where he led the Hawkeyes to two-straight bowl appearances, Rudock left Iowa City for a final year of college football in Ann Arbor, under new head coach Jim Harbaugh. His debut for the maize and blue was a rough one, throwing three interceptions on the road in a season-opener against Utah. His struggles continued through the early part of the conference schedule, but as the wins kept mounting for the Wolverines, he began to settle into Harbaugh’s offense and by the end of the season he was putting up impressive numbers for Michigan. He threw for a career-high six touchdowns in an overtime win over Indiana and threw for three touchdowns in Michigan’s bowl victory over Florida.
One of the first things that stands out watching Rudock is his footwork, whether operating out of the shotgun formation or working under center. He is very adept on three- of five-steps drops in each situation, and shows an ability to execute quicker one-step drops when the scheme demands such a design. Rudock also handles the pocket fairly well, with ability to slide around in the pocket and distance himself from danger, while keeping his eyes downfield scanning for a target.
Rudock also has an NFL-caliber arm, with the arm strength to deliver throws to every level of the field with sufficient velocity. He can challenge smaller throwing windows in college and has the arm strength to challenge the tougher windows he will face when he is playing on Sundays. He also has the ability to anticipate a route coming open, and is able to deliver anticipation throws and move his receivers open. Rudock is not a quarterback who needs to see an open route to pull the trigger. Generally speaking, he is an accurate passer who delivers throws in the short- and intermediate-areas of the field with accuracy, putting the football on the correct shoulder or hip.
When asked, Rudock has the ability to work through progression reads, and can work through multiple options to find the open man. He also has sufficient athletic ability to extend plays with his feet and pick up yardage when he has no available options downfield. In the downfield passing game, he has sufficient accuracy as well as the ability to put touch on throws to drop the ball into the arms of his target, and over underneath defenders. Additionally, both during his time at Iowa and at times during his days at Michigan he was involved in the pre-snap phase, changing the play and / or protection at the line of scrimmage.
At times his decision-making process was flawed, particularly early in the season at Michigan where his thought process needed to speed up to function in Harbaugh’s West Coast-based system. There were times early in the season when he didn’t pull the trigger quickly enough, placing the offense and the play in question in peril. As he grew into the offense this was less of a concern, but is definitely something to keep an eye on as he transitions to the NFL. He was also prone to some very head-scratching decision, both during his time at Iowa and at Michigan, when he either failed to see underneath coverage or stared down a receiver too long, leading to a bad turnover. He also needs to work at remaining calmer in the cauldron against the blitz, as he often rushes his entire process too much against pressure leading to poorly-placed throws and flawed decisions. The first play of Iowa’s 2014 game against Michigan is a prime example. Even though he has the arm talent to challenge narrow throwing windows, there are times when he plays too conservative and passes up opportunities for a safer option. He’ll need to remain aggressive and challenge these windows at the next level.
Given the growth under Harbaugh’s system in one year, as well as his general accuracy in the short- and intermediate-passing game, Rudock fits best in a West Coast-based system.
Some of Rudock’s more impressive traits, including the ability to slide in the pocket and away from pressure, as well as making a nice touch throw, are on display in this 2014 throw against Michigan:
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After making some adjustments at the line before the snap, Rudock retreats into the pocket using a fluid five-step drop with precise footwork. He keeps his eyes trained on the center field safety, knowing that his tight end is working against man coverage in this scheme. He then subtly slides in the pocket, climbing toward the line of scrimmage before dropping in a nice touch throw to his TE, showing a bit of anticipation as well.
Late 5th – Early 6th
One- to Three-Year Projections
Rudock has the tools, traits and poise to be a solid backup very early in his career, and his floor in the NFL is that of a long-term backup in this league. It might be easy to state that the growth he showed in one season under Harbaugh was more a function of coach rather than player, but Rudock showed some impressive traits during his time at Iowa as well, and enough to lead me to believe that if given a chance, he can become a capable starter in the NFL. His developmental arc is not quite as steep as some of the other players I have ranked below him in this class, and the upside is there as well.