The Jets likely will need to find their franchise quarterback early in the 2018 NFL draft. That makes the next dozen or so Saturdays just as important as Sundays, as college football’s top passers show their stuff in front of fans and NFL scouts.
Each week, Newsday will track how some of the top draft-eligible quarterbacks fared in their games. Could one of these players be wearing green and white this time next year?
Sam Darnold, USC, Soph.
Darnold, the early favorite for the No. 1 pick, didn’t quite live up to the lofty expectations in USC’s 49-31 win over Western Michigan. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound redshirt sophomore completed 23 of 33 passes for 289 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions against an underrated Broncos defense (though he did run for a TD). Those stats are a little misleading, however, as Trojans receivers dropped four passes, including two on third down.
Josh Rosen, UCLA, Jr.
If you turned off UCLA’s game against Texas A&M at halftime, your assessment of Rosen would have been very different than that of someone who watched the whole game. Rosen lit up the Aggies in the fourth quarter, throwing for 292 of his 491 yards and all four of his touchdowns in the Bruins’ improbable 45-44 comeback win. The 6-4, 218-pounder showed off the kind of toughness teams look for in a franchise quarterback, withstanding a relentless Aggies rush and completing a few in-the-bucket throws to tight end Caleb Wilson. He wasn’t without his flaws. A few of his throws, including one of the touchdowns, went through defenders’ hands. If he can carry his fourth-quarter play over the rest of the season, he’ll be right in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick.
Josh Allen, Wyoming, Jr.
Allen, like Darnold, didn’t have the game he hoped for in Wyoming’s 24-3 loss to Iowa. The junior completed 23 of 40 passes for only 174 yards and two late interceptions (though he did have a 36-yard touchdown pass dropped in the third quarter). Allen is one of the more intriguing quarterbacks in this potential draft class. He certainly has the size (6-5, 240 pounds) and arm strength, but he completed just 56 percent of his passes last year and threw 15 interceptions against lesser-caliber opponents.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State, Sr.
Rudolph completed 20 of 24 passes for 303 yards and three touchdowns in Oklahoma State’s 59-24 drubbing of Tulsa. The 6-5, 230-pound senior looked at home throwing to his usual targets, including two long touchdowns to fellow potential first-rounder James Washington. Rudolph hasn’t been mentioned often with the likes of Darnold, Rosen and Allen, but he does have quite a few traits that translate well to the NFL.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville, Jr.
The defending Heisman winner was his usual electrifying self against Purdue, with 378 passing yards, two passing TDs and 107 rushing yards in a 35-28 win. More importantly, though, the 6-3, 211-pound junior looked good in the pocket and showed some touch on his throws. That’ll be the key to his NFL transition. His rocket arm and scrambling ability evoke comparisons to Michael Vick, but he’ll need to show that he regularly can get the ball where he wants it in order to be considered among the top draft-eligible passers.
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