Tuesday Draft Notes -- 11.0

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

While many focused on the rivalry at the UCLA-USC game Saturday night, NFL teams closely inspected the players under center. This week’s edition of Tuesday Draft Notes brings you closer to the scouting scoop at that game.

Almost every NFL team was on hand at the Los Angeles Coliseum for the UCLA-USC contest. Four teams including the Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, New York Jets and New York Giants had the main players from their front office at the game, including general managers, like the New York Jets’ Mike Maccagnan, player personal directors and college scouting directors.

It was described to me as one of the most amazing scouting opportunities of a lifetime. When asked for a comparison, one scout said it was like watching “John Elway vs. Dan Marino.”

There were a variety of opinions, both good and bad, on both Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold, opinions I will pass along. There was, however, one belief universal among NFL people in attendance: the potential quarterback crop for the 2018 NFL Draft is Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen, not necessarily in that order, then everyone else. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Sam Darnold

Darnold’s physical skills were described to me as Hall of Fame-caliber. His arm strength, foot quickness and ability to pull a rabbit out of the hat when there is seemingly nothing available was incredibly impressive to scouts.

His resiliency and ability to bounce back from miscues is also the stuff of greatness. Scouts are not impressed by any of the USC pass catchers, and they feel Darnold helps them elevate their game.  

And while they feel he’s a good quarterback who could be great, the consensus is Darnold would benefit by returning to USC for another season.

His technique, ball security and defensive reads all need huge amounts of work. There’s a concern the learning curve and pace at the next level would be too great for Darnold and he’ll constantly be playing catch-up, which is dangerous at the quarterback position. 

Several comparisons were made to Jay Cutler, something I mentioned over the summer. A few felt if Darnold enters the draft, he would be the first player selected -- though it was not a unanimous opinion.

Josh Rosen

Rosen drew a wider spectrum of opinions, both good and bad.

Scouts and general managers on hand were much more enthusiastic on his passing skills, mentioning many of his throws are “off the charts” and his ability to place the ball into the targets’ hands has not been seen on the college field in a long time.

They mentioned his poise, patience and the fact that, unlike Darnold, he does not have mental lapses on the field or show poor judgement with throws.

The consensus on Rosen is he makes everyone around him better. His skill players are marginal prospects for the next level, yet Rosen’s ability to get the ball into their hands helps elevate their games.

As one scout said, Rosen is “ready to go” for the next level -- at least in the passing department.

For more than a month now, I’ve heard there are a number of personality issues with Rosen that have rubbed NFL people the wrong way.

When speaking about the signal caller, at least two general managers have said “stay away.” One general manager, whose team will likely end up with a top-12 selection and needs a quarterback, said he would not select him from his early off-the-field evaluations.

Opinions are that Rosen is not the leader they need on the field for the next level -- the things he’s gotten away with on the college field won’t fly in the NFL. The word egotistical was mentioned many times in referring to Rosen.

I’m told many of his UCLA teammates love Rosen the quarterback but are not big fans of Rosen the person. It made me reflect back to many of the things I heard and reported on Connor Cook as he went through the draft process.

If nothing else, Rosen’s personality is something that will be closely inspected moving towards the draft by teams considering using an early selection to acquire his services.  Teams will have to weigh Rosen’s awesome on the field potential versus off the field personality red flags. 

When our rankings are released next week Josh Rosen will be graded as our top quarterback.

The word is Rosen to the draft is a done deal, while Darnold’s decision is still a long way from being finalized.

The Rest

Word at the game is Bruins tackle Kolton Miller is definitely headed for the draft, as we initially reported two weeks ago

Scouts said Miller is a second-round choice, though there is a slight chance he could land in the late part of Round 1 if he works out well at the combine. This has to do with the weakness at the offensive tackle position in the draft and free agency as much as anything else.

Teams were impressed with both centers, Scott Quessenberry of UCLA and Nicholas Falah of USC. 

Opinions were Quessenberry is just a tough, slug-it-out guy with a great head for the game while Falah, a Week 7 riser, is a two-position player (center and guard) on the offensive line.

Expect both to be early third-day picks if there are no medical red flags.