The New England Patriots need to draft the replacement for QB Jimmy Garoppolo as the next heir to quarterback Tom Brady and there are plenty of options in the 2018 NFL Draft. This is considered an extremely deep quarterback class with Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen all considered first round prospects.
There are other names, too, like Washington State’s Luke Falk, Memphis’ Riley Ferguson, and Western Kentucky’s Mike White.
But one player will likely be connected with the Patriots more than the rest: Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has Rudolph going to the Patriots early in the second round in his two-round mock draft, sandwiched by Kansas’ 6’4, 245 pound pass rusher Dorance Armstrong Jr. and Ohio State offensive tackle Jamarco Jones, and the 30th-to-50th pick overall seems to be the draft range for Rudolph.
So who is Rudolph? He’s the most prolific passer in Oklahoma State history, holding school records in career passing yards (13,267) and passing touchdowns (92) and the top single season in passing yards (4,904 in 2017) and passing touchdowns (37 in 2017), at roughly 50 others (not an exaggeration).
Rudolph earned the Johnny Unitas Award in 2017 as the best quarterback in college football with upstanding “character, citizenship, scholastic achievement, and leadership qualities,” joining the likes of Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Eli Manning, Matt Ryan, Andrew Luck, Marcus Mariota, and Deshaun Watson.
According to DraftAnalyst.com, Rudolph is training this offseason with Oklahoma State’s Zac Robinson, who the Patriots drafted in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft, which certainly doesn’t hurt as a connection.
Pro Football Focus grades Rudolph as their second-best quarterback of 2017, behind only Mayfield. While Mayfield laps the field in their adjusted completion percentage (accounts for drops, throwaways, spikes, and batted passes), Rudolph is firmly in the next tier with a 73.9% rate. He’s one of the highest rated quarterbacks under pressure, too, with a 95.5 passer rating and one of the most accurate deep passers in college football (Mayfield, again, laps the field in all categories, but he should be a top 10 pick).
If we apply the Bill Parcells criteria for quarterback prospect evaluation, Rudolph passes the test with flying colors. Parcells wanted his quarterback prospects to be: 1) a 3-year starter; 2) a senior; 3) a graduate; 4) a 30-game starter; 5) a 23-game winner; 6) a 60+% completion rate passer; with 7) a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Of the top 11 quarterback prospects by NDS Scouting (those with a fifth round or better grade), Rudolph is joined by Mayfield, Falk, and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett as the only four that meet all seven points. White meets six (he wasn’t a 23-game winner) and no other quarterback meets more than four.
Rudolph played as a back-up in his true freshman season and then started the next three, improving his level of play in each successive season. His completion rate increased from 62.3% to 63.4% to 65.0%; his yards per attempt increased from 8.9 to 9.1 to 10.0; and his touchdown rate increased from 4.95% to 6.25% to 7.66%.
His career 1.8% interception rate is the best of the top 11 quarterback prospects, too, and his touchdown-to-interception rate is the third behind behind (surprise) Mayfield and Memphis’ Riley Ferguson.
Rudolph’s biggest knock is his elongated throwing motion, even though it gets the job done. He also needs to work on his pocket presence to feel the pressure. But he certainly has the physical tools to succeed in the NFL and the fact that he actually produced in college shows that it’s not simply potential.
The Patriots will pick at the end of the first round and at the start of the second and I wouldn’t be surprised if Rudolph was the choice at either, depending on whether or not the team wants the fifth-year option already in the contract. He’s a good fit for what the Patriots do on offense with the deep ball and he worked on developing a nice touch on shorter passes this past season. The fact that he comes from a spread offense shouldn’t scare away the Patriots at all.
While Mayfield would be the obvious ideal fit with New England, he’s likely to be off the board. Rudolph is a fantastic prospect to groom as the eventual replacement for Brady and should be available when New England gets to the podium.