2018’s best quarterback prospects

Harrington Gardiner | Contributing Writer

It’s that time of year where franchises around the league analyze college football prospects to prepare for the future. We’re several weeks removed from pro days, and the nation’s top quarterbacks are getting non-stop attention.

With loads of talent on both offense and defense this year, the quarterback position seems to be the main focus of this year’s NFL Draft.

Each of the top five QBs projected to go in the first round have had tremendous success in college.

The collegiate accolades are great and all, but NFL scouts and general managers want to know which QB will take their team to a higher level.

It’ll be interesting to see the QB that comes off the board first on draft day.

Josh Allen – Wyoming

Allen has everything you want in today’s NFL QB. He’s got the stature, arm strength and the ability to lead an offense.

Allen has a cannon of an arm, and he also performed well at this year’s NFL Combine where he threw a deep ball nearly 70 yards downfield during a drill.

Despite his intangibles, people question whether he’s worth a shot so early in the draft due to the fact that he played at Wyoming, a small school with very little competition.

During his time at Wyoming, he also never had a completion rate of over 56 percent and was wildly inconsistent with his throws.

Allen has the skill set and athleticism to be a decent quarterback, but whether or not he’s an NFL starter is a question that is still running through the minds of NFL scouts.

Sam Darnold – Southern Cal

Darnold played at one of the most popular football schools in the country. With that being said, the competition level isn’t really a question; Darnold has played against some very tough teams during his time with the Trojans. He has decent size for an NFL QB and can read defenses well.

Another one of his strengths is that he’s confident under pressure. NFL teams would love to have a QB that can deliver great passes while under pressure in the pocket.

When it comes to weaknesses, Darnold turns the ball over way too much. A lot of these plays come from him trying to make something out of nothing, and most times, he ends up taking more hits than he should.

NFL executives call Darnold the most complete QB in the draft, but he has to limit fumbles and interceptions. If he can do that, then Darnold has the best makeup to be a good pro.

Josh Rosen – UCLA

Another PAC-12 standout is Rosen. This guy is also getting very high praise from scouts for his ability to stay in the pocket and deliver beautiful passes. He’s also extremely smart  and skilled in field mechanics.

However, Rosen is not very durable, his decision making is questionable and his arm strength is below average. Rosen had a tremendous upside and can make a wonderful first impression, but he has to work to develop a better skill set and become a starter for a team that needs a QB.

Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma

Heisman Trophy winner Mayfield had an outstanding year. He played in many big games during his time at Oklahoma and was one win away from playing in the national title game before losing to Georgia in the Rose Bowl.

Mayfield is probably the most competitive player in college football, and he’s also tough as nails. His teammates rally around him, and he brought tremendous energy to the Sooners.

Another strength of his is that for his size he is very athletic and he uses his mobility to buy time to make spectacular plays. Despite his strengths, scouts are hesitant with Mayfield because of his antics on and off the field.

He has run into trouble with the law before, and his competitiveness has led him to act unprofessionally in some instances.

Another question that teams have is about his footwork and tendency to throw off of his back foot way too often. Mayfield has had the most success out of every one of these quarterbacks, but NFL executives are still skeptical of him.

Lamar Jackson – Louisville

The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner had many highlight reel plays. He used his versatility to get an edge over defenders, and many people compare him to Michael Vick. Jackson has the open-field instincts of an elite running back, and he is decent when throwing on the run.

Unfortunately, due to his size, he is more susceptible to getting hurt after big hits. These hits often come from his ability to get down field in an instant. NFL executives worry that with the speed of the NFL being tremendously different from college, the adjustment will be too large to make.

They’ve also seen that Jackson underthrows deep balls and has a high turnover total. No one’s doubting that he has the potential to be a dangerous dual-threat quarterback, but Jackson must develop into more of a pocket passer to be sufficient in the NFL

Teams adjust entirely too quickly for him to make the absolutely insane plays he made in college. So, if Jackson can get better with his accuracy and standing tall in the pocket while occasionally using his speed, he can be a great pro quarterback.

The NFL awards

Roderick McClean | Staff Writer

The NFL season is coming to an end, and awards are up for grabs. There have been many surprises this season. Teams that were expected to be lackluster proved doubters wrong by making the playoffs and eliminating teams thought to be on top.

The Coach of the Year Award is completely up for grabs, with the top candidates Sean McVay (L.A. Rams), Doug Pederson (Philadelphia), Mike Zimmer (Minnesota), Doug Marrone (Jacksonville) and Sean Payton (New Orleans). Each coach has something different to offer.

McVay completely turned the Rams around. Last year, under Jeff Fisher, they finished 4-12. However, this year has been completely different. The first-year head coach has brought in a new culture for the team and it is clearly showing, as the Rams finished 11-5.

Marrone is another coach deserving of the award. The Jaguars finished a flat 3-13 in 2016. This year, they not only went 10-6 but also won their division and went to the AFC Championship Game.

McVay and Marrone are most likely the frontrunners for the award.

However, there are some underdogs. You can’t count out Bill Belichick (New England), Payton and Zimmer.

When it comes to the Offensive Player of Year, it comes down to three main players, and the Pittsburgh Steelers have two of them. Antonio Brown was just incredible this year. The Steelers’ wideout led the league in receiving yards all while missing the last two games of the season.

Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell will be another contender for the award. He ended the season in third for total rushing yards and racked up 655 receiving yards as well.

The Rams’ Todd Gurley caught the attention of fans, too. Gurley had 279 carries, 1,305 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Notable nominees for Defensive Player of the Year are Calais Campbell (Jacksonville), Demarcus Lawrence (Dallas), Aaron Donald (L.A. Rams), Everson Griffen (Minnesota) and Jalen Ramsey (Jacksonville). Despite the numerous nominees, it appears that Campbell should get this award. After all, Campbell finished the season with 67 tackles, 14.5 sacks and 3 forced fumbles.

Many players have had an MVP type of season, including Carson Wentz (Philadelphia), Tom Brady (New England), Drew Brees (New Orleans), Russell Wilson (Seattle), Brown and Gurley.

The MVP race for the 2017 season changed multiple times as injuries haunted the NFL’s top players. Players like Wilson and Brown were clearly leading the pack, but injuries hurt their chances. Wentz looked to be the easy pick, but he was injured as well, tearing his ACL in week 14.

Now, it looks as if the fallback guy will be who many consider the greatest player of all time, Brady. The Patriots quarterback had another stellar season, leading the league in passing yards while throwing 32 touchdowns.

Voters will decide the winners for each award Feb. 3.