The writing is on the wall for the New York Jets in 2017. Gang Green is pretty much a lock to land a top-five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the tank forged onward after a blowout loss against the Raiders.
Joe Malfa kept a close eye on the performances of college’s top quarterback prospects this week, since one may very well be the franchise’s savior (or next great bust).
Here are the rankings ahead of Week 4:
1) UCLA QB Josh Rosen (Last week: 1)
Result: 48-45 loss against Memphis
Stats: 34/56, 463 yards, 4 TDs, 2 INTs
Analysis: If you enjoy offense, UCLA-Memphis might have been your favorite game of the week. Rosen and Riley Ferguson (who may make an appearance on this list in the future) put on a show. Part of it was good quarterbacking, and part of it was just terrible defense by both sides. Because of the defensive ineptitude, it is important to not read too much into Rosen’s numbers. That’s not to say he was bad in this one, but he was not as stellar as the numbers indicated.
With the nationally televised noon kickoff, this was actually the first Rosen start I was able to watch all the way through. Two plays stood out to me from his performance, one good and one bad. The good was the first play of a 99-yard scoring drive. Lined up on the left hash at his own one-yard line, Rosen calmly dropped back and delivered a perfect back shoulder throw 22 yards down the far sideline where only his target could reach it. The bad was the interception he threw off his back foot under pressure in the red zone, which essentially sealed the victory for Memphis. Instead of heaving the ball into the first row and living to fight another day, he tried to do too much and cost his team the game.
Overall, I liked what I saw. Rosen was efficient, accurate, came up with big plays and continued to prove that he is the most NFL-ready prospect in college (though I still believe Sam Darnold has the higher ceiling and the intangibles that make him the first QB taken come April). Rosen has a big test ahead of him, as he visits the Stanford team Darnold carved up two weeks ago.
Next matchup: 9/23 @ Stanford at 10:30 p.m. (ESPN)
2) USC QB Sam Darnold (Last week: 2)
Result: 27-24 2OT win over Texas
Stats: 28/49, 397 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs
Analysis: Darnold started sluggish but put on a show in the second half and overtime, further proving that he plays his best football in the biggest moments. When Texas scored the go-ahead touchdown with 45 seconds remaining, I prematurely tweeted that they had won the game. Then I remembered who was quarterbacking the Trojans and quickly walked back my statement. It took Darnold 37 seconds to get from his own 32 to the Texas 13 to set up the game-tying field goal. The three passes he completed were perfect, including a Tebow-esque jump pass that caught the defense off guard. USC started the first overtime with the ball. All the Trojans needed was one play — a 25-yard strike from Darnold — to go ahead 24-17. USC went on to win 27-24, and Darnold sent social media into a frenzy as fans took to Twitter to gush over the 20-year-old gunslinger.
Darnold continues to display his arm, poise, touch and the all important clutch-gene. If he can cut down on the mistakes (two INTs in each of the first three games), he will find himself at the top of this list and draft boards across the league.
Next matchup: 9/23 @ California at 3:30 p.m. (ABC)
3) Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield (Last week: 4)
Result: 56-14 win over Tulane
Stats: 17/27, 331 yards, 4 TDs, 0 INTs
Analysis: The one list where Darnold’s name will not be featured at the top — at least not yet — is a Heisman watch list. That honor belongs to Baker Mayfield. In fact, many Vegas books recently adjusted their odds, and Mayfield is now the favorite to win the award. It was only Tulane and it was not even televised, but he continues to dominate and has yet to throw an interception. With another easy matchup this week against Baylor, look for him to add to an already crazy stat line of 1046 yards and 10 TDs in three games.
Next matchup: 9/23 @ Baylor at 6:30 p.m. (Fox Sports 1)
4) Oklahoma St. QB Mason Rudolph (Last week: 5)
Result: 59-21 win over Pittsburgh
Stats: 23/32, 497 yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT
Analysis: I advised you all not to forget about Rudolph just because he opened the season with easy opponents in games that were not nationally televised or highly publicized, but in case you did, he reminded you of his skill level early Saturday afternoon.
When noon came rolling around, I found myself flipping back and forth between UCLA and Oklahoma St. — Rosen and Rudolph. Luckily, Rudolph threw five TDs and gave his team a 49-7 lead in the 2nd quarter, so I was able to exclusively watch Rosen in the second half.
Rudolph’s first big test against a ranked opponent will come this week against #16 TCU. Expect him to continue his dominance. Given his talent and the roll he is on right now, there really is no reason to expect anything else.
Next matchup: 9/23 vs. TCU at 3:30 p.m. (ESPN)
5) Louisville QB Lamar Jackson (Last week: 3)
Result: 47-21 win over UNC
Stats: 21/42, 317 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT; 17 carries, 64 yards
Analysis: A drop to five after one bad week may seem harsh, but it was a combination of his poor play against Clemson and the stellar play of Mayfield and Rudolph.
Jackson had some accuracy issues and failed to make any major plays as a ball-carrier in this one. Yes, he played a great Clemson defense, but this matchup offered us a good look at how he may project at the next level. Clemson’s defense is about as close as you can get to an NFL-caliber defense — aside from Alabama — at the collegiate level, and the speed of the front seven proved to be too much for Jackson to handle. He has a lot of work to do if he wants to be considered one of the top QBs available and wind up as a top-10 pick.
Next matchup: 9/23 vs. Kent St. at 12:00 p.m. (ACC Network)
6) Washington St. QB Luke Falk (Last week: 7)
Result: 52-23 win over Oregon St.
Stats: 37/49, 396 yards, 6 TDs
Analysis: Falk bounced back in a big way after an odd week in which he was benched, inserted back into the game, then benched again. He played was a weak opponent and will do so again this week, but they will serve as tune-ups for the showdown that is just nine days away. Circle September 29 on your calendar. Washington St. vs. USC. Falk vs. Darnold.
Next matchup: 9/23 vs. Nevada at 6:00 p.m. (Pac-12 Network)
7) Wyoming QB Josh Allen (Last week: 6)
Result: 27-0 win over Gardner Webb
Stats: 9/24, 64 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT; 8 carries, 25 yards, 1 TD
Analysis: Yes… you read those abysmal numbers correctly. Allen had one more chance to prove his worth against a top opponent, but he struggled mightily yet again and completed his fall from the top of this list to the bottom in a matter of three weeks. It is unfair to expect him to be lights out against strong power-five opponents given the lack of talent surrounding him, but he still needs to do better. A quarterback of his caliber should elevate the team around him and put up a fight in games like this. He did not.
The level of hype surrounding Allen — which was probably much higher than it should have been — has taken a nosedive. The schedule gets much easier for him going forward so he should have no trouble putting up some gaudy numbers. Any future success against low-level competition, however, will likely be clouded by his early season failures against good competition.
Next matchup: 9/23 vs. Hawaii at 3:30 p.m. (CBS Sports Network)
Starting next week, since we will be a third of the way into the college football season and we will know a bit more about certain quarterbacks, this list will expand to 10 ranked QBs. Players like Nick Fitzgerald (Mississippi St.), Jarrett Stidham (Auburn) and Jake Browning (Washington) are potential draft prospects that I have not yet included in this weekly QB tracker, but they bear monitoring the rest of the way.
Photo Credit: USC.com