By Rich Campbell
(TNS) — Ryan Pace finally is enjoying his view as the NFL draft approaches.
A year after trading up to select quarterback Mitch Trubisky second overall, the Bears’ fourth-year general manager sees other quarterback-needy teams jockeying for position atop the first round. That stress is behind him.
“It’s easier to sleep,” Pace said, “not only when you feel like you have the guy who has all the physical traits, but when he has the makeup you really want in that position.”
Pace and the Bears, though, still are affected by this year’s heralded quarterback class, if not invested in it.
If four are drafted in the top seven, they would have a better chance of landing their preferred non-quarterback with the eighth pick. That’s one of the Bears’ best-case scenarios.
The other: Three quarterbacks go in the top seven and some team determined to select the fourth trades for the Bears’ pick.
Hey, they can dream.
Reality, at least, is on their side. Teams understand that having a quality quarterback equates to sustained success, so their determination — or desperation — to pick one is shaping this year’s draft.
USC’s Sam Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield are the top prizes. New Browns general manager John Dorsey, with the first and fourth picks, is the ringmaster.
Remember how last year’s draft played out. The quarterback class was widely regarded as pedestrian, but the Chiefs and Texans joined the Bears in trading up, taking Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watston, respectively.
This year, the movement already has begun, the suspense already captivating.
“I would sell the farm for Sam Darnold,” said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah, formerly a scout for the Ravens and Eagles. “I would probably sell the tractor and some yard tools for Rosen.”
Here we profile the top four quarterbacks and what respected draft analysts are saying about them. Quotes are edited for length and clarity.
Josh Allen, Wyoming
6-foot-5, 237 pounds
2017 TD/INT/COMP percent: 16/6/56.3
Career attempts: 649 in three seasons
40-yard dash: 4.75 seconds
Hand size: 10 [ inches
Mike Mayock, NFL Network: “It does worry me that he was a 56 percent (completion) guy. … With this kid, it starts with the ground up, and I don’t think his feet and his eyes are connected. And that’s a big, big deal with quarterbacks. He’s the most physically gifted quarterback in this draft class, but he’s got a lot of work to do on his footwork. … His team wasn’t very good. He didn’t have a lot of receivers. You can make up excuses. But at the end of the day, if you’re (using) a high pick on a kid with a 56 percent completion percentage, the anticipation better be that you think you can help that get over 60.”
Mel Kiper, ESPN: “You’ve got to look beyond the stats. Stats are for losers, in my opinion, in a lot of ways. The kid won. When he was out there, they won football games. A lot of guys have stats and can’t get their team over .500. Wyoming (in 2017) lost four key guys to the NFL. Wyoming can’t reload, yet he led them to a bowl game. The two games he didn’t play in? They lost. If you watch the throws, it wasn’t all on him. Incompletions are a result of bad offensive line play, not having a running game this year, receivers dropping balls. Certainly, there are times when he could be a little more precise and accurate. But for the most part, if you watch the kid play, he can whip it to any point on the field. Very competitive. Great mobility.”
Bucky Brooks, NFL Network: “I do see the traits that you want — prototypical size, outstanding arm talent and athleticism. The one thing that I’m having a tough time getting past would be the low completion percentage and the underperformance in big games. When you look at his track record against Power Five schools, it’s hard to kind of justify or explain a guy who has one touchdown, eight interceptions in three appearances . To me, if you’re taking someone No. 1, there has to be a signature game or some moment where you felt he was the best guy on the field, and I just haven’t seen that to date with Josh Allen.”
Sam Darnold, USC
6-3, 221 pounds
2017 TD/INT/COMP percent: 26/13/63.1
Career attempts: 846 in two seasons
40-yard dash: 4.85 seconds
Hand size: 9 ] inches
Todd McShay, ESPN: “If you draft Sam Darnold, five years from now you’re not coming back to the draft saying, ‘We need a quarterback.’ He has no durability issues to this point. He’s as clean as can be in terms of his character. His mental makeup is, I think, perfect in terms of his competitiveness. He’s humble. He gets along with all his teammates, but he pushes them. He’s a leader. I think he would be the right decision there at No. 1.”
Mayock: “He’s got plus size, plus arm strength, outstanding athlete, and I really like the way he extends plays inside and outside of the pocket. If he scrambles or moves, it’s with the intent of getting the ball down the field. His eyes are always up. Now, the flip side to Darnold are the turnovers, and not just interceptions, but fumbles. He’s got a history of fumbling going back to high school. But I think fumbling can be controlled in the pocket. That’s one of the few things you can learn in the pocket as an NFL quarterback — how to keep both hands on the football and control some of the fumbling. He is a gunslinger, and he will put the ball up for grabs at times. But he can play in all 32 cities. He can play indoors, he can play outdoors.”
Kiper: “He just didn’t have the great year I anticipated. He came into the year looking like the clear-cut No. 1 pick overall (but) struggled. Some bad habits were developed. Made some bad decisions, some poor throws, some ill-advised throws. A lot of fumbles. Ball security was an issue. Hold the ball with one hand like a loaf of bread in the pocket. There are some things he needs to clean up.”
Brooks: “Sam Darnold would be a better player for Cleveland just in terms of what I’ve seen from him on tape. I’ve seen him shine in big games. I’ve seen him display the ‘it’ factor and the leadership quality that you want to see when the team is down early in the year. We talked to Clay Helton (Darnold’s coach at USC), and he said the job of a franchise quarterback is to give everybody else on the field hope. I think you’ve seen that hope and optimism play out when he’s had the ball in his hands with the game on the line.”
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
6-1, 215 pounds
2017 TD/INT/COMP percent: 43/6/70.5
Career attempts: 1,497 in four seasons
40-yard dash: 4.84 seconds
Hand size: 9 \ inches
Mayock: “I’m not too worried about him being 6-foot-1, even though there is a very small percentage of those quarterbacks (who are successful in the NFL). I think it really comes down to off the field, face to face in the meeting rooms with the decision-makers, whether or not you’re going to buy into his character and him being the face of your franchise. I think there are going to be some teams that say, ‘No, I’ve seen some talent, but it’s not my guy.’ I think some other teams are going to say, ‘No biggie, maybe some emotional competitive immaturity, but outside of that I’m good.’ … He’s going to have to prove in the meetings that he is a different guy than Johnny Manziel — off the field, especially. That he has the character where he’s going to be the first guy in, the last to leave. You’re not going to see any of the BS you saw in college. He’s not going to be giving anybody the finger or whatever. He’s going to be about business.”
McShay: “The more tape I study, the more I realize that this guy has got a chance to be really good at the next level. His accuracy stands out more than anything. On the field, the energy he brings, the instincts, you saw it throughout his career. And then he goes down to the Senior Bowl and really puts on a show during 7-on-7s and 11-on-11 team sessions. You can just kind of see all the players around him feeding off the energy he has, just as it was at Oklahoma. He’s a unique player. There’s some good and bad, and there’s some things some people will get nervous about. The circus comes to town when Baker is around. He loves the spotlight. But the leadership is legitimate, and the energy he brings, everyone seems to feed off of it.”
Daniel Jeremiah, NFL Network: “So many of us have tried to connect the dots and put Baker Mayfield with the Miami Dolphins (at No. 11), partially because he’s an alpha dog personality. He does have some skills that would appear to be enhanced and elevated by working with (coach) Adam Gase. So when you think about what they have in Ryan Tannehill, Mayfield is a little different, gives them a little more bite at the position when it comes to leadership.”
Josh Rosen, UCLA
6-4, 226 pounds
2017 TD/INT/COMP percent: 26/10/62.6
Career attempts: 1,170 in three seasons
40-yard dash: 4.92 seconds
Hand size: 9 ~ inches
McShay: “How does he treat his teammates? Can he be a good teammate? There has been some talk that he can be condescending to his receivers when they don’t run the right route or if they’re not in the right place at the right time. He’s a ‘Why Guy’ too. And by ‘Why Guy’ I mean if you tell him to adjust his footwork on this seven-step drop, he’s going to ask you: ‘Why? What’s the benefit of it?’ If they’re going to install some different plays, he’s going to want to know: ‘Why? What’s the purpose? What are we trying to accomplish here?’ For some coaches, that’s a great thing. For other coaches, it becomes daunting. …To me, he’s the most polished pure pocket passer in this class. Do you like him enough that you’re going to bring him into your building, and (is) he going to make it work from a personality standpoint? That kind of varies from one organization to the next depending on who’s in charge and who your leaders are. I think it’s going to be really important that he goes to a place that’s accepting and embraces who he is rather than fighting to always put him in a box that doesn’t fit for him.”
Kiper: “From a pure passer (standpoint); being under center; three-, five-, seven-step drop; the most artistic, picture-perfect, pure passing quarterback is Josh Rosen. But he’s got durability issues. He had shoulder surgery two years ago and missed half the season. Two concussions this year … and sat out their bowl game. For Rosen, I think the interview process will be important to convince people that, ‘Hey, what you were hearing isn’t true. I am all about football. Teammates rally around me.’ That he can be the competitor on the football field that we know Allen is and Darnold is.”
Brooks: “I view Josh Rosen as a guy that is very similar to Jay Cutler with the way he connects with his coaches, the way that he interacts and the way that he has a high IQ.”
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