When the Senior Bowl hits next week, it will be the first chance for a lot of NFL teams to get hands-on experience with some of these college prospects — and certainly, the Buffalo Bills will have a vested interest in what’s to come.
And by all means, the quarterback position is the top draw for fans — and certainly a large consideration for Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott in their attempt to build a sustained winner in Buffalo.
In all, there are nine quarterbacks that will be in Mobile, but only eight will participate in the week of work. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph has an injury, and will not do on-field workouts. However, by all accounts, he will be in attendance.
So with all these names, I thought it was a perfect time to take a look at all the film of these players and bring you my rankings of the signal callers at the Senior Bowl. My ranking of all nine players:
1) Josh Allen, Wyoming
- There isn’t a more perplexing player in the NFL Draft. At 6-foot-5 and 233-pounds, you look at Allen and immediately check the box of him looking the part. Then, you see the ease that the ball comes off of his arm, the velocity it’s thrown with, and it makes all those tough NFL throws look easy because of it. That, friends, is the equivalent to the most addicting candy that exists to NFL general managers and scouts alike. The arm is where you start with Allen, but there are a few other things I really liked with him, which is why it got him to the top of the list. First, in the eight games that I watched, I’ve seen more than enough evidence that he sees the full field and goes through his progressions. It’s not just a quick glance over to the other side to keep the safety honest, it’s a genuine progression to find the open man. He also looks really comfortable in the pocket and doesn’t look to evade prematurely — which is another plus. Then, if things break down, his strength to get out of trouble and take contact and avoid sacks — and then to rush down the field for positive yardage, or at worst, throw it away, makes him all the more intriguing. He’s quite quick for a bigger quarterback, which combined with that strength can also make him a weapon in the read-option game. Now, the negatives. There are times, specifically earlier in the season for Wyoming, where you ask yourself, “Josh, what the heck were you thinking there?!” He makes some asinine decisions to try and push the ball down the field, or to force it into a window with a neighboring second defender, or to throw off his back foot when it just really isn’t necessary. All of that is a byproduct of him knowing he’s got an incredible arm, which is a double-edged sword. I’d also like to see him throw it before the break of the wide receiver more consistently. He didn’t always throw with anticipation, but of course, the arm strength makes up for it in college. Further complicating matters, there were plenty of times his teammates let him down, but he was also going up against a lower level of competition in his conference. I liked that as his season went on, he got better, but the completion percentage and reckless decisions at times will be a sticking point for some. I look at him the same way as I did with Patrick Mahomes last year. They aren’t the same prospect by any means, but when you have a quarterback that routinely makes incredibly difficult throws look easy, you work with them to iron out the rest — and along with Allen’s pocket comfortability, it will get teams to flock to him. He’s got franchise quarterback potential, despite all his warts.
2) Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
- This was an easy slotting for Mayfield, who is a much more enticing prospect than Mason Rudolph, in my opinion. Allen easily has the best arm in Mobile, but don’t you dare sleep on Baker Mayfield’s arm strength, either. Four inches shorter than Allen at 6-foot-1, Mayfield packs a heater when he gears up on his throws, and that helps him with the ability to throw the ball to the boundary. His accuracy to hit his receivers in stride is something that made Oklahoma as explosive an offense as they were this past season. I also rather like Mayfield’s patience in letting plays set themselves up. Especially against zone coverage, he’s shown a clear ability to manipulate a defender to a certain side, waiting until the perfect moment for a crossing receiver to clear that zone and getting it in his hands with the potential for more yards. I also rather enjoyed his improvisational skills and creativity when scanning the field, which will be important when he gets to the NFL where the pass rushers are that much better. You add in the toughness and the running ability, and he’s got a lot to his game that can help him overcome the lack of height. As for his negatives, the biggest one for me is his deep ball accuracy. He’s got the arm, but it’s almost as though he doesn’t trust what he sees fully, hesitating just a tad, delivers the ball late, and that throws his timing with the receiver off. That needs to be a point of emphasis for whatever coaching staff gets him. He also has a bit of recklessness to him, but you don’t want that totally out of his game because that’s part of what makes him a good prospect. The other thing that needs refinement is his happy feet in the pocket. He’s always moving, and that creates some incompletions by sailing throws over the hands of the intended receiver — and potentially a turnover against the right defense. Lastly, there weren’t enough tight window throws for my liking in the games I watched, and a lot of those receivers he hit were wide open with room to roam. However, I like Mayfield a great deal, and he’s got the first-round ability. He needs to go to a team with a creative offensive coordinator that won’t try and put him in the same box that most quarterbacks are in. He’s unique and should be treated as such by the team that drafts him.
3) Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
- Like Allen, at 6-foot-5 and 230-pounds, Rudolph has the prototypical size that teams look for at the position. You have to really appreciate his ability to keep his eyes down the field no matter the situation in the pocket, which is his strongest attribute. He’s mobile enough to escape pressure, reset, and then keep scanning down the field for an open target. His biggest strength is on most of the underneath routes where his accuracy shines, and the intermediate slant over the middle of the field — which is the security blanket of his throws. He’ll give his receivers a chance to make a play, which risk-averse quarterbacks will not do. However, like Mayfield, my biggest hesitation on Rudolph is his deep ball — but it’s for a different reason. While Mayfield has the arm but just throws it late, Rudolph’s lack of arm strength really hurts him in this area. He doesn’t drive it down the field well enough, almost putting an arc to the majority of his deep passes. This lessens the accuracy and gives the defender a chance to get right under the ball and to make a game-changing play. The arm strength is really his biggest detriment, and I saw quite a few times where his throw on an out route hung in the air just a little too long, which savvy NFL cornerbacks will gobble up for an interception. For those reasons, it drops his stock down a bit. There is certainly a lot to like with Rudolph, but I think he is well behind Allen in terms of being a pro prospect.
4) Mike White, Western Kentucky
- For the draft community out there, White is a bit of a chic name among the quarterbacks. His size (6-foot-4, 225-pounds) is the starting point, and the natural arm strength with that frame comes along with it. When he has the time in the backfield, he’s always looking to push it down the field and to maximize the play. He’s quite accurate on all of the essential throws that are 10 yards are less. You also have to really like his ability to manipulate defenders with his eyes to open up his receiver down the field. He’s certainly a full-field scanner. However, when it’s not a clean pocket, White takes a lot of sacks — and has let the ball hit the turf for a fumble on a few occasions. His lack of true speed gets him into some trouble in the pocket, lacking the elusiveness that the first three on this list have. His offensive line was not good this past season, so that should also be considered with White. If he’s around in that third or fourth round range, you could be getting a quarterback that has some potential to start down the line if developed properly.
5) Kurt Benkert, Virginia
- Behind Allen and Mayfield, Kurt Benkert has the next strongest arm. He flings it around with ease, and like Allen, makes truly difficult throws look easy. The highlight of his season was how incredibly he played in the first half against Miami — making jaw-dropping throws that not many college quarterbacks can make. He’s a tight window thrower and drives the ball to the sidelines with ease. He will also throw the ball with anticipation to his target, further making his arm strength an asset. He also isn’t afraid to step into the pocket, deliver a throw, and take a huge hit. However, Benkert has some legitimate things to iron out in his game. He has been caught staring down his intended target, and it’s been quite costly for Virginia at times. I’d also like him to go through his progressions a bit more than he currently does, but he has shown that he can do it — he just needs to do it more consistently. With all the talent and the mobility that the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Benkert has, I like him as a Day 3 developmental type.
6) Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
- Arm strength is what stands out most for Lauletta, as was the offense he played in. It’s a very pro-friendly scheme and delivered his throws with confidence from the pocket. He does trust his arm a bit too much, and while he got away with some things at his level of competition, I fear that it isn’t strong enough to overcompensate for the speed and intelligence of NFL defenses. At this point, he looks like a day three pick in my estimation, although he could benefit from a big week -- especially if he shows that he can make the throws against some better competition.
7) Luke Falk, Washington State
- The stats for Luke Falk are incredible, but this might be a case of another Mike Leach quarterback benefitting from the offense that he plays in. Falk has the required size you look for, and when he has the time in the backfield he can throw a really pretty pass down the field. I also like that he has the poise, with time, to scan the whole field for a target. He’s also willing to take a hit and deliver a pass — but that isn’t always a good thing, especially with how much he panics in the pocket. When he’s under pressure, he can make some really poor decisions. His footwork devolves and he flings it out, and when combined with just a slightly above average arm strength, is a recipe for disaster. He struggled against zone coverage in the games that I watched, and although he does scan the whole field, he has the tendency to lock on to a target which will create plenty of opportunities for safeties to make game-changing plays. The stats are great, but Falk is nothing more than a Day 3 prospect to me. He needs a big week at the Senior Bowl.
8) Brandon Silvers, Troy
- The best thing about Brandon Silvers is his willingness to make tight window throws — as he does it routinely against some tight coverage. His short accuracy is pretty spot on and throws it with anticipation. The deep accuracy and lack of arm strength is the concern with him, which likely turns him into a late round pick or a priority free agent.
9) Tanner Lee, Nebraska
- A late addition due to the injured Mason Rudolph, Lee has good size, a live enough of an arm, and some patience in the pocket. He can make some really pretty throws. However, his accuracy and ball placement are inconsistent, he doesn’t always spot defenders in his throwing window, and he can make some truly bad errors within a game. He looks like an undrafted free agent at this point.