Any QB in the conversation to go at or very near the top of the draft will be constantly discussed, and Josh Rosen is no exception. In fact, he might be the single most discussed prospect in this year’s class.

Most of that discussion hasn’t been about his play, though. It’s been about him. Some say he’s too smart, a laughable criticism for someone playing probably the most cognitively demanding position in team sport. Others wonder if he’s a team player. A flap was made about him allegedly not wanting to play for the Browns (told you he was smart). Then there’s the far more immediately defensible concerns about his durability, as he enters the league having had multiple concussions. And what if his heart isn’t in the game after all? It’s not like he, the son of a noted orthopedic surgeon, is hurting for money or opportunity after football.

Those questions are interesting, to the point that they warrant their own article. Let’s park them and talk about Josh Rosen, quarterback, UCLA.

RAF Big Board Ranking: #14


Combine Results

When it comes to quarterbacks, the main thing to worry about with the Combine athletic testing is that you don’t have a nightmare. Josh Rosen did not have a nightmare.

Height: 6’4″

Weight: 226 lbs

40-Yard Dash: 4.92 seconds

Vertical Jump: 31 inches

Broad Jump: 111 inches

3-Cone Drill: 7.09 seconds

20-Yard Shuttle: 4.08 seconds


Strengths

There’s a lot of folks out there whose first instinct is to disown college QB prospects for taking all their snaps out of the shotgun. It’s a stick-in-the-mud attitude on one level – the NFL is a shotgun league these days as well – but it’s usually harder to run out of the gun, and QBs who take all their snaps from that spot are vulnerable to footwork issues. So it’s good to know that Rosen is very much not one of those QBs.

Indeed, his footwork and technique in general are very sound indeed. His NFL coaching staff will be pleased with that, because less time tweaking mechanics means more time to learn those thick pro playbooks.

Another trait that augurs very well for him at the next level; his tendency to thrive when the chips are down. He led his Bruins to a remarkable comeback win in their 2017 season-opener over Texas A&M.

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Weaknesses

Rosen has a combination of traits that aren’t necessarily bad in isolation, but really do not work well together. The first is a tendency to stay in the pocket rather than flee to the outside. The second is a tendency to try and make things happen in the face of pressure.

What happens when those two combine? You sometimes get plays like the one he faced on 3rd & 4 near midfield in his other season-opening game with Texas A&M, on the road in 2016, where a defensive back lined up on the edge humiliated his left tackle and the RB supposedly ready to offer a chip block. Rosen took the hit and, erm, flung a sidearm pass reaching backwards and facing the sideline. It was promptly and deservedly intercepted. So much for smart.

(He’d throw two more picks, and very nearly another in the end zone, in that game. It’d end in an overtime loss.)

In general, Rosen seems disproportionately vulnerable to pressure. While he can move around a bit – there’s the odd play where he’s able escape the edge rush and turn a sack into at least an incompletion – it’s not his game, and he can make some legitimately head-scratching plays when things break down. With that said, he completed 63% of passes versus the blitz in 2017, so he clearly flashes the ability to exploit coverage holes.


The verdict

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images Sport
Josh Rosen is not an easy evaluation. He’ll make head-scratching plays and then throw no-name receivers open with smart reads. He doesn’t have a really big arm, but he plays aggressively anyway and has nailed more than his share of back-shoulder fades.

That’s before considering the mess of remarks around him as a human being as opposed to a quarterback. On the field, he’s nothing more or less than a frustrating but absolutely capable leader of an undiluted NFL offensive playbook. In fact, the player comparison that sprung to mind with him is Ryan Fitzpatrick – another undeniably intelligent QB who commands a playbook well but too often tries to make plays he simply can’t.

That said, if he’s prime Ryan Fitzpatrick now, it’s tremendously easy to see him being a properly good NFL QB in a few years. Except the durability questions loom large over his ability to last that long. And then we’re going back to the personal comments about him.

Only two things seem safe to say right now: it’s not difficult to imagine him carving out a successful NFL career, and any QB you can say that about warrants a very high draft pick on positional value alone.

Draft Prediction: Top-four pick, but of the four presumed top-of-the-draft QBs he’s the one most likely to slide, and if he does all bets are off.