The writing is on the wall for the New York Jets in 2017. With one of the worst rosters in the league (arguably the worst), Gang Green is pretty much a lock to land a top-five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Throughout the season, Joe Malfa will put together a weekly power ranking of college football’s top QB prospects. It will act as a sort of “down on the farm” piece, because odds are the Jets will come come away from the draft with one of the QBs on this list.
Here are the initial rankings:
The Top Dogs
1) Wyoming QB Josh Allen
After receiving only one scholarship offer (from Wyoming) and starting just one season for the Cowboys, Allen is considered one of the top QB prospects in college football.
His meteoric rise came after leading Wyoming to an 8-6 season in which he threw for 3254 yards, 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions while completing 56% of his passes.
The junior’s size (6-foot-5, 233 pounds) and arm strength are his best attributes. He sits atop my list of top QB prospects because of the potential I believe he possesses, but I am looking to see him improve upon his 2016 season before I anoint him the top QB in the 2018 draft class. Anyone can have one great season in college (see Christian Hackenberg), and Wyoming does not play the best competition on a consistent basis. The potential is there, but Allen needs to prove that 2016 was not a fluke.
Week 1 Matchup: 9/2 @ Iowa (12:00 kickoff on Big Ten Network)
2) USC QB Sam Darnold
In the same way that I need to see more out of Allen, I need to see more out of Darnold.
The redshirt freshman completed 67.2% of his passes for 3086 yards and had a TD/INT ratio of 31 to 9 in 2016. His season began in Week 4 when he was given the nod in favor of Max Browne, who was ineffective in USC’s slow 1-2 start. Darnold was efficient in his first start, throwing for 253 yards while completing 69.2% of his passes. He added another 42 yards and a touchdown on the ground in a 31-27 loss on the road against Utah.
This was the last time a Darnold-led USC would lose the rest of the season.
USC finished the season with nine straight wins, capped off by a 52-49 classic against Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Darnold’s two best qualities — his poise and his precision — were on display in this game. The Trojans opened the fourth quarter down by 14. Darnold was 10/10 for 135 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter, which was just the cherry on top of a stellar performance. He finished the game completing 33 of his 53 passes for 453 yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
He certainly looked like a potential top pick in 2016, but he needs to back it up with a strong 2017.
Week 1 Matchup: 9/2 vs. Western Michigan (5:15 kickoff on Pac-12 Network)
3) UCLA QB Josh Rosen
Rosen has the most experience of the bunch, having started for UCLA in 2015 and 2016. His 2016 campaign, however, ended prematurely when he sustained an injury to his throwing should that required season-ending surgery.
Mechanically speaking, Rosen is the most gifted of the top three QBs. I am eager to see if he can cut back on the mistakes in 2017, because he has shown a tendency to be careless with the football when pressured. It is also worth keeping an eye on whether or not the injured shoulder affects his play.
Character has been another question for Rosen. Bleacher Report columnist Matt Miller noted in April that “scouts, coaches and teammates” have told him of “[Rosen’s] personality, which can come across as ‘uncoachable, smarter than all of us and a prick.'”
Allen, Darnold and Rosen are currently considered the only three QBs in the race to be the top overall pick. Of those three QBs, I think Rosen has the best chance of falling back from the pack.
Week 1 Matchup: 9/3 vs. Texas A&M (7:30 kickoff on FOX)
More Names to Watch
4) Oklahoma St. QB Mason Rudolph — Week 1 Matchup: 8/31 vs. Tulsa (7:30 kickoff on FOX Sports 1)
5) Washington St. QB Luke Falk — Week 1 Matchup: 9/2 vs. Montana St. (10:30 kickoff on FOX Sports 1)
6) Louisville QB Lamar Jackson —Week 1 Matchup: 9/2 vs. Purdue (7:30 kickoff on FOX)
7) Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield —Week 1 Matchup: 9/2 vs. UTEP (3:30 kickoff on FOX)
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