2018 NFL Draft: Matt Barbato’s early quarterback rankings

The New York Jets have their sights focused on the 2018 NFL Draft, which should feature a rich class at the quarterback position.

All offseason, the Jets have purged the roster of most worthwhile veterans in an effort to position themselves perfectly to land one of the top gunslingers in this highly-touted class. With that in mind, I decided to take a look at some of the top prospects in the class as the 2017 season approaches.

I studied six quarterbacks who could wind up being taken by the Jets at the top of next April’s draft and rated them on six qualities: Arm strength, placement and accuracy, poise, decision-making, mobility and athleticism and mechanics. Each category was graded out of five possible points, then added up into a total score.

These ranks will most likely change and be altered since none of these players have taken a snap in 2017. But Jets fans looking to keep a closer eye on the college ranks should keep these passers in mind on Saturdays this fall. There will also be separate profiles on each quarterback coming soon to nyjetfuel.com.

Matt Barbato’s preseason 2018 NFL Draft QB Rankings:

1. Sam Darnold, redshirt sophomore, USC

  • Arm Strength: 4.5 out of 5
  • Placement/Accuracy: 4.5 out of 5
  • Poise: 4.5 out of 5
  • Athleticism/Mobility: 4.5 out of 5
  • Decision-making: 4.5 out of 5
  • Mechanics: 4 out of 5
  • Total score: 26 out of 30

Darnold will enter the season as the most exciting prospect in this loaded class. His physical tools are outstanding, but what separated him from the rest was his uncanny ability to recognize pressure and stay calm in the face of it. Darnold is calm in the pocket and rarely panics. Watch his valiant performance against Penn State in the Rose Bowl as the best example of how Darnold never looks overwhelmed. The Trojans were down by 14 in the fourth quarter before Darnold staged a heroic rally. Darnold wisely knows how to deceive defensive backs with his eyes and rarely throws the ball in a spot where a defender can make a play on it. His ability to throw on the run might be the best in this class. His “Poise” rating was by far the best among his peers.

2. Josh Rosen, junior, UCLA

  • Arm Strength: 4.5 out of 5
  • Placement/Accuracy: 4.5 out of 5
  • Poise: 3.5 out of 5
  • Mobility/Athleticism: 3.25 out of 5
  • Decision-making: 3.75 out of 5
  • Mechanics: 4.5 out of 5
  • Total score: 24 out of 30

Rosen has the strongest resemblance to an NFL quarterback. You can tell he’s worked hard on his mechanics and he might be the most polished prospect entering the 2017 season. His raw tools are on par with Darnold. However, Rosen didn’t have a ton of talent around him and started only six games before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. Rosen also had a greater tendency to go haywire under pressure and my greatest fear is UCLA won’t offer him much protection or help in the playmaking department. When Rosen is comfortable, he’s arguably the best collegiate prototype there is at the position.

3. Josh Allen, redshirt sophomore, Wyoming

  • Arm Strength: 5 out of 5
  • Placement/Accuracy: 3.75 out of 5
  • Poise: 3.75 out of 5
  • Athleticism/Mobility: 4 out of 5
  • Decision-making: 3.5 out of 5
  • Mechanics: 3.75 out of 5
  • Total score: 24 out of 30

Allen might be the reincarnation of Brett Favre. He has a cannon for an arm, never says die on any given play and will make a few mistakes every now and then that will make you crazy. But Allen’s talent is for real and isn’t just a product of playing in the Mountain West Conference. Allen’s biggest concern is his decision-making and he could afford some polish as a passer. He threw five interceptions in a game against Nebraska last season, which was arguably the best competition he faced all season. When things go wrong, they tend to spiral for him. Allen will face an interesting test against Big Ten power Iowa to begin the 2017 season. Allen is a gunslinger, which means amazing plays and monumental mistakes are bound to occur.

4. Lamar Jackson, junior, Louisville

  • Arm Strength: 3.75 out of 5
  • Placement/Accuracy: 3.5 out of 5
  • Poise: 3.5 out of 5
  • Decision-making: 3.75 out of 5
  • Mobility/Athleticism: 5 out of 5
  • Mechanics: 3 out of 5
  • Total score: 22.5 out of 30

If Josh Allen is Brett Favre, then it’s fair to compare Jackson to Michael Vick. Jackson is an electric athlete who is unstoppable in the open field. He deservedly ran away with the Heisman Trophy race last year and shouldn’t be forgotten in the race this season. However, Jackson is too upright as a passer and throws primarily with his upper body. Better hip action and footwork could take him to the next level as a passer. His downfield accuracy was erratic, but improved as the season went on. My greatest concern is Jackson might be more of a threat with his legs than he ever is with his arm. He will be a top-notch athlete so long as he stays healthy, but the gap between the college ranks and the NFL isn’t quite as steep.

5. Mason Rudolph, senior, Oklahoma State

  • Arm Strength: 3.5 out of 5
  • Placement/Accuracy: 4.5 out of 5
  • Poise: 3.5 out of 5
  • Decision-making: 4 out of 5
  • Athleticism/Mobility: 3 out of 5
  • Mechanics: 3.5 out of 5
  • Total: 22 out of 30

Rudolph is a pure touch passer and his accuracy is among the best in this entire quarterback class. Rudolph throws a gorgeous deep ball and he rarely made silly mistakes for the Cowboys last season. However, Rudolph doesn’t have the strongest arm that can squeeze into tight windows. He also isn’t much of a runner.Sometime he reacts too slowly to pressure.  Rudolph throws a pretty rainbow, but he won’t beat you by throwing many darts. Mechanically, his delivery could use some shortening and his footwork needs improvement, particularly with his back foot. Occasionally, he throws the ball with his feet perpendicular to the sideline.

6. Luke Falk, senior, Washington State

  • Arm Strength: 3.75 out of 5
  • Placement/Accuracy: 4.25 out of 5
  • Poise: 3.5 out of 5
  • Decision-making: 3.75 out of 5
  • Mobility/Athleticism: 3 out of 5
  • Mechanics: 3.5 out of 5
  • Total: 21.75 out of 30

Falk’s arm talent is legitimate. He has good enough arm strength to make tight throws and throws outside the hash marks. He puts phenomenal touch on downfield throws and is extremely accurate, particularly in the red zone. His greatest mechanical flaw is his occasionally lagging footwork, which led to overthrows and interceptions. Falk’s greatest kryptonite his is tendency to overthrow targets. Other than that, he rarely misses. However, my greatest concern with Falk is that he holds onto the ball too long in the pocket. He seems slow to recognizing pressure and doesn’t have the athleticism to make up for the delayed reaction. The Washington State “air raid,” offense offers some progressions, but Falk needs to be more expedient in acknowledging when to tuck it and run, or throw the ball away.

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