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2018 Combine Watch List: Top Quarterbacks all have something to prove

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While the top five signal-callers may be the biggest story in Indy this week, Packers fans should keep an eye on a couple of lesser prospects.

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

With the Scouting Combine just hours away from its official start, here’s another Combine position watch list as we take a look at the Quarterback position.

As always, quarterbacks get the most attention, questions, and words written about them of any position in football, and that should certainly be the case at this year’s Combine. There are five prospects that seem to be jockeying for draft position in round one, and as always, there are plenty of teams looking for new signal-callers.

Here’s a look at those top five as well as a few late-round players to keep an eye on in Indianapolis and through the draft process.

The Top Prospects

The Packers, of course, don’t have much of a need for an early draft pick at quarterback thanks to Aaron Rodgers still being Aaron Rodgers. However, these names will make most of the headlines during the week as they battle for draft position in interviews and workouts. Maybe we’ll even see a couple of them throw in passing drills! (Probably not more than one or two though.) And just for the record, they are listed alphabetically here, not in any particular order.

Josh Allen, Wyoming

A look at the numbers won’t impress you much; Allen completed 56% of his passes in 2016 while throwing 15 interceptions, then saw his yards per attempt and touchdowns plummet as a senior. Sure, Wyoming isn’t a hotbed of college football talent, but shouldn’t an elite quarterback raise the play of those around him?

Allen is the classic scout’s dream — a player who looks better than his numbers indicate. Still, he was good at the Senior Bowl, showing the potential that puts him in this group. He probably would be best off with a team that can afford to let him sit and learn for a year before taking over the starting job.

Sam Darnold, USC

Darnold has everything that you want when you see a quarterback off the field — size, athletic ability, and a strong arm. He’s one of those players who is capable of making any throw on the field, but the redshirt sophomore also was prone to bouts of turnovers, both interceptions and fumbles. Still, he completed nearly 65% of his college passes and is in the conversation for the top passer taken in April.

Lamar Jackson, Louisville

No, he shouldn’t be playing wide receiver, regardless of whether he has the athletic ability to do so — ability that should allow him to run laps around his fellow quarterbacks in many Combine drills. No, Jackson developed steadily as a passer in Bobby Petrino’s system. Teams will want to see him demonstrate accuracy if he throws the football and will hope to come away with a good feeling from his interviews.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

If you know where Mayfield will be drafted, please let us know. Projections for him are all over the first round, but his height and arm strength will be the biggest knocks during the draft process. He’s the opposite of Allen, in that his game doesn’t always look pretty, but he gets results.

One of the biggest questions for Mayfield will be the spread scheme he ran at Oklahoma, which lead to big numbers and a high completion percentage — almost 70% over his three years there.

Josh Rosen, UCLA

A star since stepping into the starter’s role as a true freshman, Rosen completed better than 60% of his passes with more than twice as many touchdowns as interceptions over his career. He’s not a runner, but his pocket presence and size should make him one of the first quarterbacks taken off the board.

Late-Round Sleepers to Watch

The Packers seem much more likely to dig around on day three for a quarterback rather than taking one early; in that range, a draft pick can compete with Brett Hundley for the backup spot and sit as a #3 for a year before Hundley hits free agency. Here are a few names we’ll keep an eye on.

J.T. Barrett, Ohio State

Barrett faces questions about his inconsistency as a thrower of the football over four years with the Buckeyes. Look no further than back-to-back games against Penn State and Iowa in 2017: against the Nittany Lions, he completed 33 of 39 passes for 328 yards and four touchdowns, but the next week in Iowa City he went just 18-for-34 for 208 yards, three scores, and four terrible interceptions.

Barrett’s certainly got ability, both in terms of passing and as an athlete, but harnessing that arm is the biggest challenge. He’ll also need to learn to take some snaps from under center, as Urban Meyer’s zone read-based offense did him no favors for translating to the NFL.

Kyle Lauletta, Richmond

One of the few small-school quarterback prospects in this year’s draft is Lauletta, who was named MVP of the Senior Bowl in January after completing 8 of 12 passes for 198 yards and three touchdowns. He’s got good enough size (6’2-5/8”, 217 at the Senior Bowl) to make it in the NFL, and a good week in Indy could solidify him as a day-three pick.

Nik Shimonek, Texas Tech

As usual, the Red Raiders aired it out in 2017, and Shimonek backed up a big junior year with a solid week at the Shrine Game in January. As a passer, Shimonek shows some promise, and he will almost certainly throw in Indy.

Mike White, Western Kentucky

A transfer from South Florida, White posted excellent numbers in two seasons for the Hilltoppers and has good size at 6’4”. He’s certainly a traditional pocket passer, as he doesn’t show much mobility; even when accounting for the fact that sacks are counted as rushes in college football, his senior year saw him run the ball 64 times for negative-268 yards. White might need a good day of testing to make teams think that he can be a viable NFL backup.