What a difference a few days makes.
A lot has happened since I released my first NFL mock draft. The Miami Dolphins have presumably gone from retool to rebuild in a matter of days. Rumors swirl while the roster purge continues under Executive Vice President of Football Operations Mike Tannenbaum and head coach Adam Gase.
While the changes are far from over, one might ask: Does this roster move forward with Ryan Tannehill as their quarterback beyond this year? All signs point to yes.
The trigger-happy gunslinger of transactions can never be counted out for a dramatic trade that leaves fans in utter shock and disbelief. Tannenbaum has a track record of winning offseasons with acquisitions and roster facelifts, and this offseason certainly looks like it’s heading that way.
Or perhaps it’ll be the made scientist himself, Gase. Entering his third year with the Dolphins, Gase has walked the path of “My way or the high way” with great conviction. He pushed Jay Ajayi, Jarvis Landry and Ndamukong Suh out of town — dating back to his claims of needing more from his star players this past season.
Gase wants players who want to play football his way, in his system. Until then, management won’t hold him accountable for the team’s results. He’ll bring his guys in and convince you he’ll win with them.
Stop me if you’ve heard that motto before, Dolphins fans.
This sounds eerily similar to former head coach Joe Philbin, who tried to incorporate a no-nonsense attitude to the clubhouse, and sent players packing who didn’t buy in. In the end, Philbin’s modus operandi proved to age as poorly as his vanilla-style offense.
However, with the right to reserve judgment on Gase’s plan — we have no choice regardless — let’s assume he moves forward with Tannehill for one or two more years, while grooming a young QB to take his place.
For the sake of the argument, let’s also assume this Baker Mayfield-Adam Gase private engagement and love affair leads to a wedding at pick 11 for the Dolphins. This is where Gase could have Dolphins fans buy in to his rebuild; a potential future divorce from Ryan Tannehill.
Whether Tannehill deserves another shot or not is a debate for another day. He’s been horrendously mismanaged — as has the pieces around him — but the 30 year old has failed to produce at a consistent high level. Two major knee injuries and a roller coaster career doesn’t rile up a gloomy fanbase who can hardly express their disappointment with words. Just about everything that could go wrong, has gone wrong for this seemingly cursed franchise. Tannehill wouldn’t be stripped of starting duties this season, as Gase has claimed multiple times.
Which begs more questions.
What if Gase wants to draft a QB but Mayfield is gone before Miami’s pick?
With the recent roster purge, one could suggest there are needs at nearly every position. If quarterbacks are taken highly in the draft, the Dolphins are likely to benefit from an exceptional defensive talent dropping into their laps: Derwin James, Vita Vea, Roquan Smith and Tremaine Edmunds to name a few.
What if Mayfield is gone, and the Dolphins are still interested in a quarterback?
It’s seeming more and more likely that Miami must trade up in order to select Mayfield. However, the Dolphins will still have a chance at a quarterback. Lamar Jackson should still be available at 11. Do they pull the trigger on him? Sitting Jackson behind Tannehill could be an ideal situation for the young quarterback. Yet, there have been no reports that the Dolphins would consider drafting Jackson at 11.
Miami’s commitment to Tannehill suggests they’ll be more likely to fill another need such as linebacker, tight end or defensive tackle.
However, come draft night: Anything is possible.
What are the differences between the five quarterbacks who all have first-round talent?
Sam Darnold (6-4, 225 pounds) is a smart, poised and accurate quarterback who is rarely rattled. The only game he looked out of rhythm was in USC’s meltdown against Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl. Most would look at that game as a product of trying to do too much with too little. Darnold’s arm is above average, but not elite, thus causing him to trust it too much -- which could the main reason for leading the FCS in turnovers.
When he’s on his game, his tape shows great accurate and exceptional anticipation on his throws. He also shows excellent footwork when feeling out the pressure in the pocket. He steps up and makes precise throws under pressure at the toughest moments of the game.
His escapability is impressive here, dipping in and out of the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield.
He also shows escapability that can scramble for yardage if need be.
He has the tools to be a great QB in the NFL, but he needs time to still reach that potential. His mechanics sometimes dip out of proper technique, and his release is a bit slow at times. His wind up motion could be his Achilles’ heel at the next level. However, through coaching this can be polished into a quicker release.
Without diving too far into his poor outing against OSU, Darnold showed an ability to see the field fully. He assumed his players would be in the right place at the perfect time, but got burned quite often against the Buckeyes’ speedy defense.
It's as if Sam Darnold is already playing for the #Browns#CottonBowl pic.twitter.com/hQDdtaigjA— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) December 30, 2017
Darnold has all the ability in the world, but if he’s to reach his potential, he must clean up the few inconsistencies in his game.
Josh Rosen (6-4, 226 pounds) is the most gifted thrower in the entire draft.
But after another injury-riddled season, followed by an underwhelming combine performance has damaged Rosen’s stock. He could go anywhere from No. 2 to No. 15 overall without any certainty.
When Rosen has time, he shows terrific footwork and mechanics that allow him to deliver passes on time with outstanding touch. Rosen is arguably the most accurate quarterback in the draft.
With time, Rosen delivers dimes.
Like Darnold, Rosen has an above average arm that lacks exceptional strength. Rosen’s escpabaility is below average, and he isn’t a very fluid athlete when on the run. The former Bruin has the pocket poise, accuracy and intelligence to become a special quarterback, but he needs to go through his progressions and avoiding forcing errant throws. Like Darnold, he relied too heavily on himself to make a play when nothing was there and paid for it.
He has the ability to make every NFL-throw but can he stay healthy and focused? He’ll need to convince teams that he truly loves the game and can be the teammate every coach desires. There have been multiple reports claiming he’s a headache on and off the field, leading some to believe he’s the second coming of Jay Cutler. Rosen also needs to prove he can take a hit and come back for more -- his body didn’t prove it during his college career.
Despite the character concerns and injury concerns, Rosen is the most NFL-ready out of the QB class given his mechanics and tools.
It’s no secret that Josh Allen’s arm strength is elite. He can fling it 50+ yards with a flick of his wrist, or he can drop back and rifle it from the opposite hash line to the far sideline 20-yards downfield. He can make any throw, anytime.
Combined with athleticism, (Allen 6-5, 233 pounds) has the ability to improvise and create plays by scrambling. In addition to scrambling, he shows excellent accuracy when throwing on the run — especially when throwing to the outside boundaries.
Not many quarterbacks in the NFL can make this throw.
The former Wyoming QB needs to improve with his mechanics and timing. Under pressure, his technique abandons him and he becomes twitchy. At times, Allen has crumbled in the pocket and fails to progress through his reads. Allen’s accuracy, anticipation and footwork disappears as the pocket collapses, and he has a bad habit of scrambling, stopping and then inexplicably launching it to a heavily contested target.
Allen was way too careless with the ball last season.
These two forced throws should raise serious concern for whatever team mortgages their future on him.
Despite his powerful arm, he has a tendency to miss throws on deep balls. He often overshoots his target, throwing the ball in a different zip code by the time it hit the ground. He needs to develop more touch on his throws and avoid throwing his fastball on every opportunity presented.
While his decision making was spotty, Allen was under pressure for 41 percent of his snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. A quarterback running for his life can hardly have time to stop and scan the field clearly.
With all the arm talent in the world, Allen must learn to step up and embrace pressure, rather than making a last second twitchy decision. If he can read the field more consistently and stay true to his mechanics, Allen’s upside is off the charts.
Perhaps the most polarizing athlete in the draft, Baker Mayfield brings fire and passion that teammates follow and opposing players hate. At 6-1, 215 pounds, Mayfield is a bit undersized for a prototypical NFL quarterback, but he finds ways to beat a defense regardless. He produced a Heisman Trophy-winning performance in 2017, passing for 4,627 yards, 43 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Mayfield doesn’t have as strong of an arm as Allen or Rosen, but he has enough velocity and touch on throws to make nearly every throw with precise accuracy.
One thing Mayfield excels at is throwing receivers open. He feasts off defenses using timing, trajectory and anticipation to fit balls into windows that don’t seem available. His escapability from pressure is among the best in the draft, and he is one of the best at making a play out of nothing available. While he can beat defenses for impactful yardage using his feet, he isn’t going to scramble for 100 yards like Lamar Jackson can. Mayfield throws one of the most catchable balls in the draft, and shows outstanding touch and ball placement on intermediate to deep throws.
He shows smooth footwork and mechanics when he has a clean pocket.
The former Oklahoma Sooner has raised questions about his character with his off the field issues. While many from OU have raved about Mayfield’s character, he still needs to prove he can excel in any environment and avoid conflicts that Johnny Manziel ran into.
Mayfield should be an exceptional NFL quarterback if he’s able to model his game after Drew Brees. They’re not the same QB and never will be, but they both have similar mechanics to beat defenses with accuracy and trajectory, rather than launching it downfield like Ben Roethlisberger. Mayfield finds himself in trouble when he trusts his gunslinging arm over his brain.
Mayfield is a gamer and leader who wants the ball in the fourth quarter to lead your team to victory. And he wants to grab his junk and mock the other team while doing so. For one franchise, he could be adored. For 31 others, he could be hated.
The most explosive athlete in the draft should fall to Miami at No. 11, but does Miami want him?
At 6-3, 205 pounds, Lamar Jackson has the potential to be an elite dual-threat quarterback. Not receiver. Not defensive back. Not running back. Quarterback.
Jackson has elite quickness, agility, escapability and scrambling ability.
An underrated aspect of his game is how he always keeps his eyes downfield when scrambling. He’ll gladly beat you with his legs, but he’ll find an open man if there is one. His arm may be the second strongest in the draft behind Allen’s, as Jackson can sling it downfield with ease.
While his intermediate to deep ball is very accurate, his short passes are inconsistent — which is odd to say for a quarterback. Usually it’s the other way around. However, Jackson has shown he can beat a defense with touch and accuracy downfield, and the lack of short range accuracy is a product of inconsistent mechanics. He stands a bit too upright and tries to tightly aim the ball right than smoothly release it. His throws under pressure in the pocket on slants, comebacks and 10-yard outs were sometimes way too high or wide.
Jackson’s vision of the field is under appreciated and he often beat defenses with timing and anticipation while extending the play outside of the pocket. Jackson isn’t a guy who will stand in the pocket for 40+ throws a game; he’ll have to have an offense designed around him to succeed ala Michael Vick.
If Jackson is surrounded by an athletic offensive line who can move around to buy Jackson time outside the pocket, he’ll punish defenses. If not, Jackson could struggle to do too much when nothing is there; a problem he dealt with at Louisville when facing elite competition.
He needs to get rid of the ball at least five seconds earlier here.
Whatever team grabs him must sit him for a year and let him truly learn more about playing quarterback. He’s a very smart, bright athlete who can succeed in the NFL, but he must be patient and allow himself to fully grasp the speed of the NFL. He was electric, and at times, unstoppable in college, but NFL defenders are different beasts who won’t take it easy on Jackson’s lean frame.
Jackson is a dynamic talent who’s also a project. He isn’t ready to start day-one in the NFL, but a run-pass option offense designed for him to succeed in and out of the pocket, could be lethal in the NFL.