The 2017 NFL season hasn't even started yet, but it's never too early to discuss the incoming talent for next year's NFL draft. Major media outlets are hyping quarterbacks Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen as the headliners for the draft, but Mason Rudolph deserves similar hype.
Why does he deserve such high praise? Why doesn't he already have it? It's a more complicated answer than one may think.
The Oklahoma State star has played 28 games for the Cowboys. Rudolph completed 597/958 (62.3 percent) passes, for 8,714 yards on 9.1 yards/attempt, for 55 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. One trait that stands out about Rudolph is that he’s a winner. His record is 22-6 as a starter; leading the Cowboys to eight comeback victories when trailing in the second half. He also owns 11 passing records at Oklahoma State. He’s a hard worker who studies endlessly in the film room, and rarely gets rattled on the field.
Strengths: He’s calm and collected in the pocket, and has excellent command of the spread offense. He throws to the sidelines with excellent velocity and accuracy, making many NFL-type throws. He’s a big-bodied athlete at 6’5” and 230 pounds.
His mechanics and throwing motions are smooth and consistent, and he’s able to use his feet to slide and keep a balanced base. He’s quick to recognize one-on-one mismatches when diagnosing defenses, and his maturity shows with his ability to make appropriate audibles and pre-read snaps. He finds holes in zone coverages and leads his receivers to them.
Rudolph’s arm strength is above average thanks to his clean mechanics and release. He knows when to extend a play or abandon one by checking down to his fallback options, but he won’t outrun many defenders.
He has very good accuracy when throwing to all sides of the field, with excellent anticipation and touch on his throws, and can put a ton of air underneath them. He allows his targets ample time to run underneath vertical throws. There were many examples on film of him giving his receivers a wide catch radius to adjust to throws, which is a skill that many young quarterbacks don’t have.
Weaknesses: He’s a bit of a gunslinger who trusts his arm to make throws that shouldn’t be made. While he throws a highly effective deep ball, he overshoots his targets by throwing to the wrong areas. He blindly threw off his back foot when evading pressure a few times, which won’t fly at the next level. Rudolph forced some under thrown deep balls into man coverage with the safety present; failing to drive the ball over the defender into the tight window of the receivers hands. He inexplicably sailed some throws on quick comebacks or receiver screens. He goes through his progressions well, but stares down his primary targets for too long, occasionally telegraphing passes. He possesses average athletic escapability, and is an overall average athlete.
Overall assessment: Mason Rudolph has the potential to be a good passer in the NFL. He’s not completely polished — especially playing in a spread offense — so it remains to be seen if he can handle an offense under center. The inaccuracy on short routes is a head-scratcher and will raise questions about his timing and accuracy on potential three-step drops under center. His size and build is what NFL franchises are looking for, and his adequate arm will translate sufficiently at the next level. His deep-ball is among the best in college football, and when he’s given time to throw deep, he’s deadly. He’s a mature, smart and hard working guy who wants to succeed. He won’t be a top 10 quarterback in the NFL, but if he can learn how to handle an NFL offense, he can win your team ball games.
Prediction: Top 20 pick.