Anticipation. Touch. Accuracy. Vision. Chutzpah.
The best ability is availability. After that, all the abilities that truly matter are listed above, and are required for quarterbacks in today’s NFL. The era of quarterbacks having the ability to stand tall and throw strikes without the requisite ability to dissect defenses and throw receivers open are as distant as the days of building a team and just hoping luck will produce a signal caller capable of winning a championship. (In essence, you need a premium QB or a historically great defense.
The 2018 draft is an absolute enigma. The priorities that clearly define exceptional quarterback play in modern football is found throughout the class, which is one of the deepest pools of QB talent in decades. Pinpoint accuracy, exceptional functional mobility, and the ability to throw strikes from muddy pockets with trash on the ground are far more important than being able to throw a football through a brick wall. The only way to succeed in an era where defenses can only succeed by getting after the quarterback early and often is to counter with a quick decision maker with an accurate arm.
Imagine living in a world where a particular quarterback’s most cringe-worthy comparison is Eli Manning. This is the world that fans live in with regards to UCLA’s made-in-a-factory QB, Josh Rosen.
Rosen is a prototypical pocket passer. He scans the field quickly, gets through progressions, and looks to get rid of the ball on time without having to play outside of structure. He doesn’t possess the standard sneaky athleticism we see with nearly every QB prospect these days, but he’s not a complete statue. Most often, when facing heavy pressure, Rosen will choose to either slide subtly in the pocket, or will take the brunt of the hit directly to his chest, a story that should be cautionary for those that have watched similar acts in Cody Kessler and Robert Griffin III.
(Editor’s note: When was the last time a QB didn’t possess above average athleticism? It feels like once goofy Joe Flacco learned to be nimble, there wasn’t any more excuses)
Watching the UCLA 2018 game tape, one thing is clear: Josh Rosen makes every. Single. NFL. Throw. Tight windows, outside the hashes, down the seams; there isn’t anything that Rosen physically doesn’t do at a very high level. For a quarterback with plus arm strength, Josh doesn’t just rely on velocity, and shows off solid touch when throwing to all three levels of the field. Rosen’s strength is found on throws in the middle of the field, in the 11-20 yard range, where he frequently works. He prefers to take make the seam throw there vs. challenging cornerbacks outside, which may be a function of his wide receivers’ ability to win individual battles on the outside.
“NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah adds this about Rosen, saying, “You’re going to hear this a lot between now and April — Rosen is the best pure passer among draft prospects. In fact, he’s the most talented passer by a good margin. From a footwork and release standpoint, it’s beautiful to watch him throw. It’s a bonus that he’s spent a good amount of time under center in a pro-style offense, as well.”
Rosen compares favorably to the best QBs in the class. His numbers, versus Mayfield, Darnold, Jackson, and Allen (who is dead last in each) for the categories that count:
1. Passing stats: % of catchable passes thrown from total: 78%. (2nd, Mayfield)
2. 4th quarter catchable passes (77%, XXX)
3. 3rd down catchable passes (71%, 3…at a very high number, with a historically elite guy in front of him)
4. deep passes (47%, 3rd)
The place most of Rosen’s coaches and proponents agree that he’ll gain the respect of his peers and coaches, during the draft process, is how he will be able to break down offensive concepts and defenses during interviews. Josh is a brilliant kid who has a rich fundamental grasp of advanced passing concepts and what defenses are trying to do to him. The transition from a college playbook to a professional one is never easy, but part of why Rosen continues to be dubbed the “most pro ready” QB in the class has large parts to do with his deep understanding of the game.
Scout on Josh Rosen: For all the questions on intangibles, he is going to wow on whiteboard during interviews. Smart. Really, really smart.— Rob Rang (@RobRang) October 29, 2017
Here’s Rosen throwing a seed, in a dirty pocket, into tight coverage.
There's not another QB in this class that does this consistently. Very easy to see this translating perfectly into the NFL. Tight window doesn't faze him. Back to back excellent throws. pic.twitter.com/V9n825mxzE— Corner Handbook Out Now (@NFLFilmStudy) November 19, 2017
Look as Rosen throws it where only his guy could get it, with great velocity, and protects the receiver from the safety closing. A+ throw. Tight window, NFL route concept.
Learning how Rosen will function under pressure is easy to analyze, because he was under intense pressure nearly every snap of his 2018 campaign. (Editors note #2: It’s wild to me that Kolton Miller is considered a 1st round pick in the draft, given that watching the UCLA tape represents a large sample size of watching him get bullwhipped by speed rushers trying to protect Rosen’s blind side)
Here’s Rosen throwing a seed, in a dirty pocket, into tight coverage for a game winner against Arizona.
This is fantastic placement, poise in the pocket and confidence all shown to deliver this game-winner. pic.twitter.com/B4cOAwZZzF— Corner Handbook Out Now (@NFLFilmStudy) November 18, 2017
The bad: Rosen has a tendency to put some strange things on tape. He’s played behind a patchwork line most of this season, and has the habit of making some head scratching throws. The biggest issues NFL evaluators will have with his play is that when trying to force the action and play hero, Josh Rosen makes some remarkably awful throws. It’s this, combined with the lack of elite athleticism, that truly inspires the Eli Manning visions.
Here's why Rosen is sometimes compared to Eli or Cutler. Has to stay balanced with pressure. Decision was also not good. pic.twitter.com/B0bwVVhXnM— Corner Handbook Out Now (@NFLFilmStudy) September 16, 2017
Here, we can see Rosen doing his best Smokin’ Jay Cutler impression. Great YOLO ball.
Off the Field:
Rosen is outspoken, and has clearly warred with coach Jim Mora about what he was being asked to execute on a game by game basis. For a full synopsis of all this nonsense, check here. Or Here. Or especially…...here.
(Spoiler: Jim Mora is an asshole)
Apparently, Rosen isn’t a meathead. He’s inquisitive and wants to understand what he’s being asked to do, and this has lead to being Rosen allegedly dropping on draft boards. The vast overwhelming majority of draft pundits recognize that he throws the ball like an NFL quarterback, and will be one of the fastest to learn a playbook an analyze the nuances of Sunday defenses, and yet….it’s the “millennial” attitude that will stop him from succeeding
One of the largest elephants in the room, regarding Rosen’s draft status, is his comments about not wanting to play for the wrong team. Here’s the quote, in it’s entirety:
““I’d rather be a lower pick at the right team than a higher at the wrong team,” Rosen said about potentially being selected by certain teams if he declares, via ESPN’s Josh Weinfus.”
The reality is that the teams picking in the top five of a draft are typically doing it for a reason, and every team in that range shares a differing (non-Browns) level of dysfunction. Rosen is speaking truth to a fact that every college quarterback knows: playing for the right coach, in the right system, is far more important than any other measure for longevity. Rosen is a fierce competitor, and is sincere when he says that the quotes were thoroughly misjudged.
The real fear regarding Rosen is his injury history. Rosen had his sophomore year cut short with an injury to his throwing shoulder, and was knocked out of his junior year twice with concussions. We don’t know how serious the second one was, as it was after the fact, but concussion histories can be very serious.
Find a fantastic series of cutups on Rosen here: https://twitter.com/NFLFilmStudy/status/904774162522267648 Ian Wharton Josh Rosen thread
https://twitter.com/NFLFilmStudy/status/904774162522267648 NFL Film Study thread capturing the good, the bad, and the ugly.
https://twitter.com/QBKlass/status/932487018424147969 One of my absolute favorites, Derrik Klassen, breaking down the Rosen tape.
Deep enough into Josh Rosen's tape that I can say with confidence we have a franchise quarterback prospect folks, at least based on on-field ability. I think he has all the traits you really need to be a stud NFL quarterback— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) December 8, 2017
Rosen is QB1.— Kyle Crabbs (@NDTScouting) December 8, 2017
Josh wins plays by playing the game as a passer in a way that's very similar to how you have to play to succeed in the NFL.
The arm looks good this year. The character issues are BS. https://t.co/oLV9ggqHw8
The popular low side comparisons to Rosen are Eli Manning and Jay Cutler, but there’s also a lot of Carson Palmer in Josh Rosen as well. The high side comparison is Tom Brady; Josh possesses a similar functional mobility and touch to the intermediate area of the field, and an indifference to pressure on the periphery.
How he Could End Up on The Browns:
For once, the Browns could use their top overall pick to draft a guy that most experts believe is the most NFL ready prospect in a decade.
They could also be cute and draft a project. Eventually, they’ll try something new.