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 was only so-so against Texas through most of regulation, but he came up clutch late in USC’s thrilling 27-24 double-overtime win. The 6-4, 220-pounder led the Trojans to a tying field goal in the final 45 seconds, then threw a 25-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the first overtime. He finished with 397 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, so he still has a bit to refine, but his ability to put an uneven start behind him and rally the Trojans back to a victory could resonate well with NFL teams.
Josh Rosen, UCLA, Jr.
Rosen and UCLA got into a shootout with Memphis, which the Bruins ended up losing, 48-45. The 6-4, 218-pound Rosen threw for 463 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions (including one pick-six). He brought UCLA back from a 10-point, third-quarter deficit, but admitted after the game that he got involved in some “hero ball” that hurt UCLA’s chances. That kind of up-and-down decision-making is a double-edged sword, one that might be tougher to get away with at the next level.
Josh Allen, Wyoming, Jr.
Allen’s biggest issues entering this season were accuracy and lack of elite competition, and he didn’t do much to allay those concerns in Wyoming’s 49-13 loss to Oregon. The junior completed just nine of his 24 attempts for 64 yards, no touchdowns and an interception (though he did rush 10 yards for a first-quarter score) with a reported 16 teams in attendance. At 6-5, 240 pounds, Allen’s measurables are enticing, and he doesn’t have the best supporting cast around him, but he now has thrown one touchdown and eight interceptions in three career games against Power Five schools. He also has completed 56.3 percent of his passes this season, in line with his .560 completion percentage last season.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State, Sr.
Rudolph continued to impress with a huge game against Pitt. The 6-5, 230-pounder was 23-for-32 for 497 yards, five touchdowns and an interception in Oklahoma State’s 59-21 rout. All five of Rudolph’s touchdowns came in the first half, as did 423 of his passing yards. It helps that he has another potential first-rounder to throw to in James Washington, but Rudolph has shown some quality traits so far this season.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville, Jr.
Jackson, the defending Heisman Trophy winner, was frustrated by the Clemson defense in Louisville’s 47-21 loss. His final stat line (21-for-42, 317 yards, three touchdowns, one interception; 17 rushes, 64 yards) was inflated by a garbage-time fourth quarter. The 6-3, 211-pounder had trouble finding open receivers downfield — partly due to a very stout Clemson defense, partly because Jackson is continuing to evolve as a passer.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, Sr.
Mayfield didn’t let up after last week’s big win over Ohio State, throwing for 331 yards and four touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 56-14 rout of Tulsa. The 6-1, 220-pound Mayfield is one of the top early Heisman contenders because of his stats and big-play ability, but draft-wise, he’s more of a midround option because of his smallish size.