The 2018 NFL draft is closer than we think — April 26th to be exact. While a handful of NFL franchises are preparing for the playoffs, the rest of the NFL is already looking ahead to the offseason to improve and polish draft big boards.
Despite the dream for most college football prospects to be selected No. 1 overall, UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen isn’t interested in being forced into the glorified first-pick status if the fit isn’t right.
"I'd rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher at the wrong team," Rosen said on Tuesday, per ESPN's Josh Weinfuss.
This comment adds to the other eyebrow-raising comments he’s made during his college career. Rosen's comments come two days after ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Bruins star "would be hesitant" to declare for the upcoming draft if he knew the Cleveland Browns were going to select him with the top pick.
While some teams may consider this a red flag and avoid selecting Rosen, others may benefit should Rosen fall down the draft board. Additionally, if some teams think Rosen is bluffing with his request, history suggests otherwise: just ask Philip Rivers and Eli Manning.
The Cleveland Browns secured the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft with a 20-3 loss against the Chicago Bears on Sunday. The Browns are no strangers to selecting first overall, as this is the second straight year they will have the first pick after taking defensive end Myles Garrett in 2017.
But what if Rosen refuses to play for the Browns? What other teams may be in play for arguably the best quarterback in college football? If the NFL draft were tomorrow, the New York Giants (No. 2 pick), Denver Broncos (No. 6 pick), New York Jets (No. 7 pick), Cincinnati Bengals (No. 10 pick) and Miami Dolphins (No. 12 pick) could all be destinations for Rosen.
It’s highly unlikely Rosen will fall past the Giants at two, the Broncos at six or the Jets at seven, let alone to the Dolphins at 12.
Yet, the Philadelphia Eagles were never expected to be a major player for Carson Wentz in the 2016 NFL draft, until the Eagles stole him away from the rest of the NFL by trading up to the No. 2 spot with the Browns — who coincidentally find themselves still needing a QB two years later.
The Eagles have found their franchise quarterback, proving that sometimes you have to trade up to select the diamond in the rough. Taking the conservative approach to every draft doesn’t pan out well, but taking an aggressive one may not either — hence Dion Jordan’s departure from Miami.
But this situation isn’t like the Dion Jordan disaster. It’s slightly different for Miami, as Ryan Tannehill will step in as the starting QB next year even if the Dolphins were to land Rosen, giving him time to sit and learn the playbook. There’s no expectations for Rosen to perform in his first year, and head coach Adam Gase, a proclaimed quarterback guru, can slow the game down for Rosen who was surrounded by a lack of talent at UCLA, despite Rosen throwing for 3756 yards, 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. UCLA’s offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch deserves a lot of credit in improving Rosen’s pocket presence and accuracy, leading him to career highs in completion percentage (62.6) and passer rating (147) for his junior year.
Trading up in the draft for Rosen won’t be easy, and trusting Miami’s front office to pull it off without mortgaging the entire well-being of the franchise seems daunting. But if Mike Tannenbaum, executive Vice President of operations, and company are able to trade up into the top three for Rosen, what type of quarterback are they getting?
A franchise-changing one.
Rosen has terrific footwork and a clean, compact release as a passer. A truly elite passer with touch, accuracy and vision from the pocket allows him to make every NFL throw teams look for. The game-winning throw versus Texas A&M was a perfect example of that. His frame (6-foot-4, 218 pounds) is what every team looks for in a quarterback, and his mechanics are beautifully polished for any pro-style system. He’s not going to outrun many defenders, but he’s elusive, quick and smart enough to make people miss for short rushing gains. The Bruins star has carried the team on his back throughout his college career, and his knack for extending the play and “throwing his receiver open” even if they’re covered. The Dolphins haven’t had a quarterback like this in over a decade. He doesn’t have a rifle for an arm, but he still throws with enough velocity and touch to fit balls into tight windows and hit his receivers downfield.
Rosen is a bit lean and has struggled to stay healthy in college (knee, shoulder, concussion). His decision making is very good, but he needs to avoid trusting his arm too much. During his college career, he tried to thread the needle or make something out of nothing and paid for it. This can be attributed to his lack of supporting cast, but he needs to avoid making college decisions in the NFL. Additionally, it has been rumored he isn’t the easiest teammate to get along with. People will form an opinion about him, but it’s important for him to mature off the field and become a great leader and teammate. There have been prospects who come out of college and transform into an adult and a leader, but have also been those who never mentally leave college. Rosen must avoid that — and Gase won’t stand for negative attitude.
Rosen may not be ready to take a snap in the NFL yet, but there’s no question that his talent can lead him to a strong future. If he can better himself in the locker room and be patient in his development on the field, Rosen has elite potential. The king’s ransom for Rosen will be a hard pill for any front office to swallow.
But the reward Rosen can bring an NFL franchise can propel them into a serious contender for years to come — something Miami has failed to be since the days of Dan Marino.