2018 Rookie Class: An Early Look at Josh Rosen

Travis May

The battle for the QB1 slot in the 2018 NFL Draft is well underway. There are several players worthy to be in the conversation, but one seems to have an edge right now. Josh Rosen of UCLA has a fantastic mix of experience, solid numbers, and physical attributes that may be just enough to push him to the very top of the draft board next spring.

NCAA Career

From day one of Josh Rosen’s collegiate career, the bar of expectations was set near the ceiling. Rosen was supposed to be the best true freshman quarterback in the country when he began his career at UCLA. He immediately lived up to the hype.

In Rosen’s first college game, he completed 80% of his passes for 351 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over Virginia. He followed that up with three more wins against UNLV, BYU and Arizona. Rosen ended up finishing his first year leading all freshman quarterbacks in passing yards and touchdowns. Needless to say, the young Bruin was off to a fantastic collegiate start.

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Of course the football gods couldn’t make it all easy. Rosen slung the rock for another ten touchdowns in his first six games of 2016, but ended up missing the back half of the season with a shoulder injury.

But then (of course, since you’re reading this piece) things turned around a bit for Rosen in 2017. There were already rumblings of Rosen’s lottery pick potential preceding this past year, but any doubts surrounding that hype was silenced right out of the gate. Josh calmly dismantled defenses to the tune of 1780 yards, 16 touchdowns and just four interceptions through the first four games of the season. He cooled down the stretch as UCLA threw the ball considerably less, but Rosen had a solid year overall.

As A Recruit

Every year, 247Sports puts together a composite ranking that attempts to capture consensus on the top players in the country. It combines their own ranks with other major recruiting sites around the country. As mentioned before, Josh Rosen was supposed to be the best quarterback in the country coming out of college. In fact, he was not only the number one quarterback. He was rated as the 11th-best prospect in the entire nation regardless of position. Rosen received official offers from 15 different FBS programs including USC, Texas, Tennessee, Michigan, Florida State, and more. But for some reason, he ended up going with UCLA.

Athletic Profile

While Rosen doesn’t always look the most athletic quarterback in college football, his athleticism is by no means a liability. I call him “good Eli Manning“, and so it’s fitting that his 40-yard dash coming out of high school was around five seconds. He won’t beat anyone for an 80-yard scamper and score. However, his coordination and adjustments in the pocket with his footwork showed up in his 4.31-second short shuttle which is well above average for a quarterback.

Above average may be the best way to describe everything about Rosen as it pertains to his athletic profile. He has decent arm strength, great footwork, and a fast enough to release to get the ball out when pressured. You won’t hear draft pundits talking up Rosen as some duel threat like Lamar Jackson or even Baker Mayfield. However, at 6’4”, about 220 he looks like your typical professional pocket passer.

Draft Projection

At this point there is no doubt that Josh Rosen will be an early first round draft choice once he declares for the NFL Draft. It’s now just really a matter of whether he’s the QB1 and even perhaps the first overall selection. When adept football minds take a look at Josh Rosen’s production, physical attributes, maneuverability in the pocket, tight-window passes, and ability to read the entire football field; it’s hard not to get excited.

The only real threats to Rosen’s perch at QB1 (by real NFL Draft investment standards) are USC’s Sam Darnold and (somehow) Josh Allen of Wyoming. Heisman winners Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson have their apologists (and they should), but their chances for early first round draft selection seem unlikely until proven otherwise.

My Thoughts

Josh Rosen is more than just a highlight reel quarterback. Yes, if you turn on any one of his video montages you’ll be wowed again and again, but he’s more than that. Down-to-down, Rosen consistently portrays himself as a pro-ready quarterback. Even when things don’t go so perfectly, the intentions of the attempted play tends to show promise. That sets him apart from other top quarterbacks in this class (for the most part).

Rosen gets himself in trouble sometimes trying to make unreal tight-window throws, but when he makes them it’s a joy to watch. I’m not talking about the deep bombs that show on the aforementioned highlight reels. I’m talking about a few specific types of throws that translate to pro success. Rosen threads the needle on skinny post and seam routes in between the linebackers and safeties frequently. He looks off safeties and short zone linebackers on slant routes, and hits his target in stride at facemask level where only they can catch it. And lastly, Rosen hits back-shoulder throws and corner routes even in tight man coverage with unbelievable touch. If he figures out how to do that with any amount of consistency at the next level then Rosen could hit the ground running in year one.

If Rosen is taken by anyone besides the Browns next year, expect him to put together a pretty fun show.