In every draft class, quarterbacks usually end up being the bulk of the conversation. The position is known for having the best chance of changing an organization from its troubled past to its bright and promising future. With names like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson, the 2018 NFL draft does not appear to be any different than in previous years. However, many believe that there is no "sure thing" in this year's class, but there will be quarterbacks taken, and early. Enter Mason Rudolph.
Rudolph, from Oklahoma State University, has the prototypical NFL body as he stands 6'5" and weighs 230 pounds. Rudolph started three games as a freshman before starting 13 games in each of the next three seasons. Rudolph finished his career as the Cowboys' all time leader in passing yards, touchdowns and total offensive yards. In four years as the Cowboys' quarterback, Rudolph led his team to a bowl each season, going 3-1 in those games. The lone loss came against #12 Ole Miss in the 2016 Sugar bowl. Rudolph finished his career winning MVP of the 2017 Camping World Bowl as OSU defeated #22 Virginia Tech.
When watching Rudolph, it is easy to see why a lot of people like his game. He possesses a prototypical body that NFL scouts look for and a strong enough arm to make almost any throw. With 42 career games under his belt, Rudolph may be the most experienced quarterback in this draft. There was a lot of hype around him leaving early for the 2017 NFL draft but Rudolph ultimately decided to come back for his senior season. That proved to be a wise decision as Rudolph showed improvement in his accuracy, decision making and pocket presence. Rudolph finished his senior season with a career high in completion percentage (65%), passing yards (4,904), yards per attempt (10), touchdowns (37) and passer rating (170.6). By the numbers, Mason Rudolph is an extremely impressive quarterback prospect.
While Rudolph's numbers are intriguing, his transition into a pro-style offense should be a concern for NFL teams. Head coach Mike Gundy is known as one of the best offensive coaches in the nation as his offense does not fit into any one specific scheme. If you tune in to Oklahoma State University football on Saturdays, you will see an offense that seamlessly switches gears after going up tempo. They love to spread the field while also going vertical. Coach Gundy has created an extremely quarterback-friendly offense. The building block of their offense is the run/pass option. By reading the defense's front seven correctly, Rudolph can easily torch the secondary through the air or beat them on the ground. On top of that, the Cowboys have one of the best receiving corps in the nation, highlighted by senior James Washington.
When you watch Rudolph's tape, it is easy to see why the OSU offense is so successful. However, when you look closely you start to see a few flaws that should have NFL teams concerned. Although he possesses an NFL ready frame, he lacks the athleticism to truly hurt defenses on the ground. Rudolph possesses good, but not great arm strength and his lower body mechanics are inconsistent.
This leads to a lot of throws where he isn't able to drive through the motion and his velocity takes a hit on deep passes. That was the leading cause of his nine interceptions in 2017
All in all, Mason Rudolph is an NFL caliber quarterback who will hear his name called this April. I believe his best fit is with a team that will allow him to sit for two or three years while he develops and corrects some of his mechanical flaws. However, because he possesses the kind of frame NFL scouts love and his video game numbers are both polarizing and exciting, I believe Rudolph is in a position to be drafted higher than anticipated. While Rudolph could be in play as early as Buffalo's second selection of the 1st round, 26th overall, I believe his best fit may be with the 43rd selection by the New England Patriots.
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