Best 2018 NFL Draft prospects: quarterbacks

It is still a long ways away from the start of college football and even further away from the 2018 NFL Draft. There are however, some great quarterbacks that are worth watching in the 2017 season, who can be good NFL players. These players have a chance to showcase their talents this upcoming football season and could be selected early in the NFL Draft process.

Josh Allen, Wyoming

Allen has created a lot of buzz, despite playing for Wyoming. He has the prototypical size of an NFL quarterback at 6’5″ and 222 pounds. Scouts have said that he may have been the first quarterback selected in the 2017 NFL Draft, had he elected to come out. He only completed 56% of his passes last year, but flashed his potential in his lone year as the starting quarterback.

Josh Allen (Photo by: trib.com)

He will have to improve his accuracy this season especially because he doesn’t play the best competition week in and week out. One of the most underrated parts of his game is his speed as he has been clocked at a 4.61 40 yard dash. Allen has the size, speed and arm strength to draw scouts’ eyes, but needs to start getting better results.

This season Allen will have a few chances to prove himself against good competition. The Cowboys start the season at Iowa and also play Oregon and Boise State. If Allen can improve his efficiency and pull of some big wins for Wyoming, he will likely go early in round one.

Sam Darnold, USC

At the start of last season, Darnold was a backup. He didn’t have to wait too long to get his shot as a redshirt freshman and led USC to nine straight victories to end the season, including a Rose Bowl win over Penn State. The best thing about Darnold is his accuracy, as he completed 67.2% of his passes. His arm strength is good too and he can make a lot of NFL level throws. He also helped lead the Trojans to big wins during the regular season, the most notable coming over Washington.

Darnold does need to work on his mechanics because he has a windup in his throwing motion. He also threw nine interceptions and didn’t start a full season, so he needs to keep that number down. The main thing for Darnold is to have a strong second season and avoid a sophomore slump.

He will be on national television a lot this year with USC playing Notre Dame and Texas out of conference and have some tough games in conference as well.

Luke Falk, Washington State

Falk will have to prove that he is more than a system quarterback, but he is already on a lot of NFL radars. He completed 70% of his passes last season, while also leading the cougars to eight straight wins in the middle of the season. One thing that Falk won’t be short on for NFL scouts is reps. He has over 1,520 passing attempts in his career already.

With being in a system, the most important thing for Falk is to prove that he can complete passes down the field that will be expected of him in the NFL. The problem is that he loses his two top receivers in Gabe Marks and River Cracraft.

The Cougars have games against Boise State, USC, Stanford and Washington to get one final year of good tape for NFL scouts.

Deondre Francois, Florida State

Not everyone is as high on Francois, but he has a chance to have a breakout sophomore season. Last year, he was one of the toughest quarterbacks in college football, as he was continually hit. He still managed to complete 59% of his passes. That isn’t great, but when you consider how much he was under pressure and the fact that he was in his first year starting, it is way better than expected. He also only threw seven interceptions showing his ability to protect the football through the air.

Deondre Francois (Photo by: scout.com)

While they did lose to Louisville, North Carolina and Clemson, Francois stayed poised and helped lead the Seminoles to two big wins over Florida and Michigan to end the season. He didn’t have great games against these teams, but getting the win is worth something. He adds the ability to run, which is a nice asset he will have to use if his offensive line doesn’t improve.

Francois has the chance to show his stuff early this season, when the Seminoles play Alabama in week one. With Florida, Clemson and Louisville all still on the schedule, Francois will have every opportunity to improve his stock.

Josh Rosen, UCLA

After a great freshman season, Rosen only played in six games as a sophomore due to a shoulder injury. He has a nerve issue in his shoulder, which is cause for concern, but if he can play well this season and be cleared by doctors, he can be selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

The most important thing for Rosen is to show he has shaken off the rust and effects from the injury. He also needs to improve his efficiency. Rosen has all the talent you want in a quarterback prospect, but does have things to give NFL scouts to think about with injuries and quirkiness off of the field.

His biggest games of the season are against Texas A&M, Stanford, Washington and USC.

Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State

Rudolph is another quarterback who has great size for an NFL quarterback at 6’5″ and 235 pounds. He had a great season last year and only threw four interceptions while attempting 448 passes. These stats are good and they are even more impressive because he threw for over 4,000 yards. Yes, these stats are mostly against Big 12 defenses, but it is impressive nonetheless.

Mason Rudolph (Photo by: scout.com)

With so many great quarterbacks in this class, Rudolph gets overlooked, but he has the potential to be the number one pick. He needs to put up similar stats to last season to reach that goal and it is definitely possible.

Pitt will be their big matchup in the nonconference schedule and they will have a light Big 12 schedule to go through with one big game against Oklahoma. Rudolph will have a chance to put up some big stats this season.

Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

Stidham had an impressive season at Baylor when he filled in for Seth Russell, but decided to transfer to Auburn. In his one season of playing so far he has 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. He completed 69% of his passes in his limited action at Baylor.

He is going from Baylor to a much tougher SEC. A lot is unknown about Stidham and he really has to get more reps for NFL evaluators to rate him, but he can put up some big numbers under Gus Malzahn.

There will be plenty of chances for Stidham to prove himself this season with games against Clemson, LSU, Georgia and Alabama.

 

Check back at the end of the season to see where these quarterbacks are in the 2018 NFL Draft positional rankings.

 

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Dark Horse Candidates for the 2017 Heisman Trophy

The Heisman Trophy is an award that has a lot of favorites every year, but usually the winner of the award is someone that is unexpected. Last year Lamar Jackson won the Heisman with 50/1 odds. For the 2017 season there a lot of players who can win the award that don’t have any listed odds (Baker Mayfield not listed for off the field issues). This year the race is wide open and these are the guys to look at that are under the radar:

 

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

Stidham has experience playing at Baylor two seasons ago. He filled in for the injured Seth Russell and played 10 games. In those 10 games Stidham completed 68.8% of his passes for 1,256 passing yards. He had 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions. With Russell coming back and a lot of allegations going around the Baylor program, Stidham decided to transfer to Auburn.

Jarrett Stidham (Photo by: Gridironnow.com)

The past few seasons Auburn has had a talented team, but has been missing a quarterback. Enter Stidham. In Auburn’s offense, he has a chance to have a real impact. The running game, led by Kamryn Pettway, should open up the passing game for Stidham. Pettway rushed for 1,220 yards at 5.9 yards per carry last season. If teams try to stack the box, Stidham will hit the open receivers as a result.

Part of winning the Heisman is being on a good team. Auburn has a chance to compete for the SEC West and if they win some of their big games, can get Stidham in the Heisman talk.

Jacob Eason, QB, Georgia

Eason flashed his potential during his freshman season and now has room to improve on that. He threw for 2,430 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions, which will need to be increased.

Nick Chubb is listed highly on Heisman lists, but Eason could be the one getting all the attention if Georgia wins some big games. Chubb and the running game will help set up Eason. Eason will stretch the field with his great arm strength and make plays.

The Bulldogs had a bit of a down year by their standards, but in a weak SEC East, Georgia can pick up some easy wins. They do have big games for Eason to make his mark, including: Notre Dame, Auburn and Florida.

Brandon Wimbush/Josh Adams, Notre Dame

One of two players from Notre Dame could win the Heisman in 2017, depending on how the offense will run. Wimbush is the new quarterback, who was a good recruit, but struggled in the spring game. Adams has been sharing time in the Notre Dame backfield for two years and now will get his chance to shine. He has accounted for 2,006 total yards in two seasons and will have the rushing stats to pair with some decent receiving stats this year.

The key to both of these players winning the Heisman is an experienced and good offensive line. With Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson electing to return to school, despite being projected to get drafted highly, will make Notre Dame great in the trenches. Put them with a bunch of good recruits and the Fighting Irish will have a physical offensive line.

Notre Dame players will surely get the benefit of the doubt when entering the Heisman discussion, but there are some big games where these playmakers can make their mark. The Fighting Irish play USC, Stanford, Georgia, Miami and North Carolina, all games that should garner a lot of attention.

Royce Freeman, RB, Oregon

Freeman was limited by injuries last season, but still almost ran for 1,000 yards. He is an accomplished college running back with 4,148 rushing yards in his career. Had he not gotten injured he would have been in range to be the NCAA all time leading rusher.

Royce Freeman Heisman

Royce Freeman (Photo by: fishduck.com)

With a new coaching staff and a young quarterback, Freeman will have to carry the offense for Oregon to do well. If he is healthy he should expect a heavy work load. If he plays like he did in 2015, when he rushed for 1,838 yards on 6.5 yards per carry, he will likely be a Heisman Finalist.

Oregon has the chance to have a successful season, with an easier schedule, but they still leave a few games for Freeman to make his mark. Their biggest out of conference games are Nebraska and Wyoming, which are OK, but not a marquee games. The games against Washington and Stanford will be huge for Freeman’s Heisman campaign.

Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State

J.T. Barrett will likely get all the publicity if Ohio State is winning, but Weber has a solid freshman season to build off of. If Barrett throws too many interceptions or has some bad performances in wins, the public favor will be shown to Weber. Weber averaged 6.0 yards per carry and ran for over 1,000 yards in his freshman season.

Ohio State will likely want to have Weber carry the ball more to prevent Barrett from carrying it too many times and getting injured. The problem is that running with Barrett works. Weber will have to raise his production to make this happen and find the end zone often.

The Buckeyes are favorites to end up in the College Football Playoff once again, but they do have some tests that should give Weber a chance to see the national spotlight. Ohio State plays Oklahoma, Penn State and Michigan. If he can have big games in those match ups, Weber can find himself in the Heisman talks.

Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington

Gaskin is another running back that might be overshadowed by his quarterback, but with a good season can also find himself in contention for the Heisman. He has two straight seasons of 1,300 rushing yards and will just need to improve his production a little bit to be in consideration.

Myles Gaskin Heisman

Myles Gaskin (Photo by: zimbio.com)

The Huskies’ lost their deep threat in John Ross, which may change the offense for this season. Gaskin will be required to do more because Washington won’t have so many drives ending in big plays by John Ross for touchdowns. Gaskin will be asked to score more than 10 touchdowns on the ground, improving his Heisman chances.

Washington’s schedule is ridiculously easy, meaning Gaskin has to put up a lot of stats. He will get his chance at a big game and Heisman moment against Stanford.

 

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