NFL teams finally get to see QB hopefuls at combine
By ARNIE STAPLETON, AP Pro Football Writer
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — This year’s deep class of quarterbacks features as many as a half dozen first-round NFL prospects full of hope, hype and hazard.
There’s Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and questions about the Heisman winner’s size and stature. A lot of teams would love UCLA’s Josh Rosen for his skills and strength but wonder if he’s a good fit in the locker room and their organization.
Wyoming’s Josh Allen has enviable size but faces questions about his regression last season. USC’s Sam Darnold has to answer queries about his ball security and why he’s not throwing at the NFL combine this weekend like the other prospects.
Louisville’s Lamar Jackson , the 2016 Heisman winner, needs to prove he’s a better pro prospect throwing the ball than catching it. And teams wonder if Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph can transition to the pro offense after operating exclusively out of the shotgun.
Will these guys be the next Carson Wentz, who ignited the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl run in just his second season before getting hurt and rooting on Nick Foles from the sideline?
Or will they be the next Paxton Lynch, the 2016 first-round flop whose inability to grasp the complexities of the pro game has Broncos GM John Elway once again searching for answers at quarterback?
Elway has found it difficult to land a franchise quarterback from the college ranks like he did in free agency with Peyton Manning six years ago.
Last year, the Broncos cycled through his draft picks Brock Osweiler, Trevor Siemian and Lynch during the team’s worst season in decades.
“Believe me, I’m not done swinging and missing,” said Elway, who owns the fifth pick in this year’s draft. “Misses don’t bother me. We just have to figure out a way to get it right.”
Elway could go after a veteran again in free agency such as Kirk Cousins. But the Broncos staff coached Mayfield and Allen at the Senior Bowl and this week and they plan to bring in several of the other top prospects for visits leading up to the draft on April 26.
“There is a possibility of some really good quarterbacks coming out of this draft,” Elway said.
Maybe not like his own class in 1983, which produced three Hall of Famers in himself, Dan Marino and Jim Kelly, but this year’s crop of quarterbacks is filled with intrigue and promise.
And plenty of questions.
Is Mayfield too short? He measured in just over 6 feet tall with a hand size of 9¼ inches, under the standard targets of 6-2 and 9½ inches.
Elway, for one, isn’t concerned, about Mayfield’s measurements.
“I think that (stigma) has been broken,” Elway said. “You’ve got Drew Brees — they’ve proven that you can do it. He’s obviously very much a competitor. He’s had a great college career and won the Heisman Trophy. He’s proved he can play.”
Nor is Elway turned off by Mayfield’s crossing the line at times.
He was arrested last year and charged with disorderly conduct, public intoxication and resisting arrest. After the Kansas Jayhawks wouldn’t shake his hand, he was caught on camera grabbing his crotch and swearing at the Kansas sideline.
“A lot of times you get tied up in the emotions of the situation and where he is. I like to see a guy with that kind of passion,” Elway said.
Rosen’s time in Westwood was defined as much by his proclivity for creating headlines away from the field.
A viral photo showed a hot tub he brought into his dorm room. Another photo showed Rosen playing golf and wearing a headband that disparaged then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. When UCLA announced its 15-year, $280-million deal with Under Armour, Rosen used the big contract to mock the NCAA’s nonprofit status on social media.
Questions have arisen about how well Rosen will get along with his new teammates in the NFL, but two of his Bruins teammates also at the combine quickly dismissed those concerns.
“Josh came in No. 1 high school guy, a little cocky, of course you hear off-campus stuff about him, but as the years went on he really matured,” tackle Kolton Miller said. “He’s really well-rounded, he doesn’t try to be more than what he has to be, a really good leader. I don’t really have anything negative to say about him.”
Neither does center Scott Quessenberry, who said the negative rap of Rosen is unfair “because of the type of guy that he is and the type of stand-up human being that he is and the type of pro that he’s going to be.”
“He’s a great dude, I love hanging around him and being with him, and whoever gets him is extremely lucky. They’re getting a once in a millennium talent, in my opinion.”
CATCH AND THROW
Some teams want to see the dual-threat Jackson working out the wide receivers this week and not just slinging it around with the quarterbacks. But Jackson never caught a single pass at Louisville, where he threw for 9,043 yards and 69 touchdowns and ran for 4,132 yards and 50 TDs in 38 games.
“Is there a quarterback that’s gone and been a wide receiver successfully?” Elway asked.
Not many. Bert Emmanuel, Kordell Stewart, Antwaan Randle El, Terrelle Pryor.
“I think if he’s going to make it,” Elway said, “he’s making it as a quarterback in the right situation. He’s explosive.”
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