Friday, March 9, 2018
FantasyLabs (a part of The Action Network) is a fantasy tools and real-time analytics platform that enables daily fantasy players to test theories and construct customized lineups with the same Tools and Models used by co-founders Jonathan Bales and Peter Jennings (CSURAM88). This season, Editor-in-Chief Matthew Freedman is providing NFL prospect analysis in advance of the draft. In this piece, Matt looks at the five top players in his quarterback rankings and sorts through their ranges of outcomes to provide player comps based on biophysical profile, college production and expected draft position.
No. 1: Sam Darnold, Southern California
Redshirt Sophomore | 6’3″ and 221 Pounds | Born June 5, 1997 (Age: 20) | Projection: Round 1
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.85 sec | bench: DNP | 3-cone: 6.96 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.4 sec | vertical: 26.5 in | broad: 105 in
In a quarterback class loaded with underclassmen who have declared early, Sam Darnold might have the most promise. A locked-in first-round pocket passer who is still developing, Darnold is the youngest professional passing prospect ever. Over the past 25 years only six first-round quarterbacks have finished their rookie campaigns at the age of 21: Five of them were selected No. 1 overall. Regardless of the team that drafts him, Darnold looks like a 10-year quarterback thanks to his size, age, and production: His 64.9 percent career completion rate is respectable given that he started for just two years, his 8.7 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A) indicates that his ability to accumulate yards and touchdowns has outweighed his penchant for throwing interceptions, and his rushing average of 2.4 yards per carry (including sacks) indicates that he has decent maneuverability even though he’s a slow runner. Some scouts dislike aspects of his passing mechanics, but he — like a number of prior first-round quarterbacks with unorthodox deliveries — has still managed to get the ball where it needs to go. Of all the quarterbacks in the class, he has the highest floor in his range of outcomes. Aptly, the player to whom he’s most comparable is entering his 10th year in the league and was a 21-year-old rookie.
No. 2: Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Redshirt Senior | 6’1″ and 215 Pounds | Born April 14, 1995 (Age: 22) | Projection: Round 1
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.84 sec | bench: DNP | 3-cone: 7.0 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.28 sec | vertical: 29 in | broad: 111 in
The 2017 Heisman winner, Baker Mayfield is sometimes lazily compared to Johnny Manziel. It’s true that both are shorter spread-system quarterbacks who grew up in Texas and at times displayed some immaturity both on and off the field in college — but Mayfield and Manziel are significantly different in that Manziel is smaller (6’0″ and 207 pounds) and more of a run-happy quarterback (2,169 yards in two seasons vs. 1,083 in four for Mayfield). Mayfield is mobile enough to navigate the pocket and scramble when needed (2.7 yards per carry including sacks), but he’s above all a passer: In his three final seasons, Mayfield had an absurdly elite mark of 11.9 AY/A. A vocal leader and gritty competitor with high-end locker-room influence, Mayfield before transferring from Texas Tech became the first true freshman walk-on quarterback in Football Bowl Subdivision history to start a season-opener. A four-year starter, Mayfield is perhaps most comparable to another short and run-capable high-energy accurate quarterback who peaked in college after transferring schools.
No. 3: Josh Rosen, California-Los Angeles
Junior | 6’4″ and 226 Pounds | Born February 10, 1997 (Age: 21) | Projection: Round 1
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.92 sec | bench: DNP | 3-cone: 7.09 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.28 sec | vertical: 31 in | broad: 111 in
A cerebral player, Rosen was a top high-school recruit who started as a true freshman in a Power Five conference. Although his career completion rate of 60.9 percent is average for a prospect, he improved as a passer each year of college, going from a 7.5 AY/A in his first season to an 8.5 in his final campaign. While Rosen has significant upside as a three-year starter, he also has some downside: He’s reportedly resistant to the idea of playing in Cleveland, saying that he’d “rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher at the wrong team.” There are also some “personality issues” that might turn off decision makers, as Rosen is reportedly more of a free thinker and questioner than a yes-man. On top of that, there are questions about Rosen’s durability, as he missed over half of his sophomore campaign with a season-ending shoulder injury, and as a junior he suffered two concussions, which caused him to miss two whole games and parts of two others. Finally, for all his strengths, Rosen is an immobile pocket-bound passer who for his career averaged -1.4 yards per carry including sacks. A long-touted college quarterback with average production, subpar mobility, and a desire not to play for a team that could draft him: Sound familiar?
Player Comp: Eli Manning
For more, see Rosen’s player profile.
No. 4: Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Junior | 6’2″ and 216 Pounds | Born January 7, 1997 (Age: 21) | Projection: Rounds 1-2
Combine numbers: 40-yard: DNP | bench: DNP | 3-cone: DNP | 20-yard shuttle: DNP | vertical: DNP | broad: DNP
Of any quarterback in this class, Jackson could have the largest and most immediate fantasy impact due to his Konami Code rushing ability. While Jackson opted not to participate in any of the non-throwing drills at the combine, the over/unders for his 40-yard dash set by offshore sportsbooks ranged from 4.35 to 4.45 seconds: His athletic capabilities as a quarterback are elite. At the age of 19, Jackson became the youngest Heisman winner in history, and like Darnold and Rosen he will play his rookie season as a 21-year-old. It might be easy for some to compare him to Deshaun Watson, given that both are dual-threat Davey O’Brien-winning ACC multi-year starters, but the Watson comp isn’t quite right. Whereas Watson completed 67.4 percent of his career pass attempts and had ‘only’ 1,934 yards rushing, Jackson has a completion rate of just 57.0 percent and rushed for 4,132 yards. Watson is a passing quarterback who can run; Jackson is a running quarterback who is still learning to pass. In that sense, as a prospect he is less similar to Watson than he is to another run-oriented Heisman winner with generational athleticism, a low completion percentage, and a rookie campaign at the age of 21.
Player Comp: Michael Vick
For more, see Jackson’s player profile.
No. 5: Josh Allen, Wyoming
Redshirt Junior | 6’5″ and 237 Pounds | Born May 21, 1996 (Age: 21) | Projection: Round 1
Combine numbers: 40-yard: 4.75 sec | bench: DNP | 3-cone: 6.9 sec | 20-yard shuttle: 4.4 sec | vertical: 33.5 in | broad: 119 in
Allen has been comped as a non-major conference prospect to Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Wentz, but the available data don’t support that stance: Allen has great size, but not every big quarterback from a middling program becomes an NFL starter. While Allen has the body and arm strength of a prototypical passer, he doesn’t have the accuracy. In his three collegiate seasons as a starter (from first to last), Roethlisberger completed 63.3, 63.3, and 69.1 percent of his passes. In his two starting seasons, Wentz had 63.7 and 62.5 percent completion rates. Allen, though, has rates of 49.0, 56.0, and 56.3 percent — and his first season was at Reedley Community College: Allen didn’t complete even 50.0 percent of his passes at junior college. In total, Allen has a horrid career completion rate of 54.2 percent. Without question, Allen is a raw project player who could benefit from at least a year on the bench at the beginning of his career. As a physical specimen, he has above-average size, speed, explosiveness, and agility for the position, so he’s an intriguing boom-bust prospect, but all of his attributes also make him highly comparable to another athletic boom-bust passer — the last first-rounder to enter the league with a career completion rate of less than 60 percent (54.0 in this case) — and that guy turned into one of the most disappointing draft picks of the last decade.