Under the Radar Draft Targets: QB (Fantasy Football)
Now that the Super Bowl is behind us and we’ve closed the book on another NFL season, it’s time to start looking ahead toward the next season of pigskin. While the NFL season doesn’t officially end for another month, February means the NFL Scouting Combine is approaching, and fantasy football fanatics are eager to start scouting the incoming rookies.
Quarterback remains the most important position on the field, and the 2018 rookie class offers some intriguing prospects that have the ability to develop into the next crop of franchise signal-callers. Anywhere from three to five rookie quarterbacks are expected to get drafted on Day One and develop into franchise players, but history has shown that there is plenty of risk in taking a highly-touted QB too early.
Plenty of capable passers will slide down draft boards and be available in the later rounds and teams that have done their due diligence can and will find these gems on Day Two and even later in the draft. Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, and Kirk Cousins are examples of franchise-caliber quarterbacks that have been drafted late and still went on to become stars, giving hope to the 2018 draft class.
Let’s take a look at some of the undervalued 2018 NFL Draft quarterback prospects that are likely to be taken on Day Three or after that have the potential to develop into quality pro quarterbacks.
Luke Falk (Washington State) Draft projection: Round 3-4
Falk put up prolific numbers with the Cougars and checks off a lot of boxes that indicate he could develop into a solid NFL passer. At six-foot-four, Falk has good size and athleticism and had a solid command of Mike Leach’s offense. Falk displayed excellent accuracy and touch to go along with good command of the field and the ability to progress through reads. He also anticipates throws well and showcased a good overall command of a complex offense.
As with most prospects in the ‘Air Raid’ attack, Falk will have to learn to take snaps under center and acquire the fundamentals of running a pro-style offense. There are also concerns about Falk’s ability to dissect NFL coverages and that he doesn’t have the strongest arm.
He’ll likely need some time to develop first, but Falk has drawn favorable comparisons to Kirk Cousins and could blossom with a red-shirt season under the tutelage of a creative offensive-minded coach. That’s enough to make the senior thrower a solid developmental draft pick that could be selected as early as Day Two.
Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State) Draft projection: Round 3-4
Like Luke Falk, Mason Rudolph played in a QB-friendly scheme that led the senior signal-caller to exceed 4,000 passing yards in each of the past two seasons. Rudolph also threw 92 career touchdowns against just 26 interceptions for the Cowboys.
Rudolph definitely possesses NFL size and a big arm but tends to lock onto his primary receiver rather than stand in the pocket and make reads while moving defenders with his eyes. Playing in Oklahoma State’s shotgun spread, there are also concerns about Rudolph’s footwork and mobility. Despite being six-foot-five and weighing 235 and rushing for 17 career touchdowns, he’s not a gifted runner.
Heading into the Combine, Rudolph is a polarizing NFL prospect. Some scouts are intrigued by his size and college production, while others see a system passer who will struggle with progressions and timing in the pros. He probably needs at least one season to learn the nuances of the NFL game, but Mason Rudolph possess enough natural gifts and potential that he could become a candidate to be selected in the second or third round if he has a strong showing at the NFL Scouting Combine.
Kurt Benkert (Virginia) Draft projection: Round 3-4
Out of all the second-tier QB prospects entering the 2018 NFL Draft, Benkert might have improved his stock and drawn the most interest among pro personnel evaluators. After two strong seasons for the Cavaliers, Benkert can put himself into position to be the sixth quarterback off the board with a strong showing in Indianapolis.
Benkert, a six-foot-four, 215-pound redshirt senior, has good size and a good arm and footwork. He also was adept at progressions and showed tremendous accuracy on mid-range and deep balls. His accuracy numbers weren’t all that at Virginia, but it’s believed that those figures would vastly improve with an improved supporting cast.
Benkert will have to learn to take snaps under center, so he’s not expected to compete for an NFL starting job in his rookie season. However, if he lands with a quality quarterback coach, Benkert could be an interesting mid-round prospect that could earn immediate playing time.
Chase Litton (Marshall) Draft projection: Round 3-5
A three-year starter at Marshall, Litton surprised many by declaring early and entering the 2018 NFL Draft that was already loaded with quality passers. While Litton has excellent size, instincts, and a solid arm, he struggled with deep ball accuracy and is considered a polarizing prospect.
Those struggles with downfield passes tended to be due to Litton throwing off of his back foot, which can be corrected. When properly set, Litton showcased a strong arm and did a solid job avoiding interceptions.
Litton’s size and arm have already drawn plenty of interest around the league, so he’ll need to show that he can improve his footwork and throw with anticipation at the Combine to warrant a Day Two or Day Three selection.
Tanner Lee (Nebraska) Draft projection: Round 4-6
After sitting out the 2016 season following a transfer from Tulane, Lee surprised many by declaring for the 2018 NFL Draft after one so-so season at Nebraska. With the Cornhuskers, Lee did set career-best numbers, including 3,143 passing yards and 23 touchdown tosses, but he also threw 16 interceptions and completed under 60-percent of his throws.
However, Lee has one advantage that many of the middle-round prospects don’t and that is experience under center in a pro-style offense, which could lead to a smoother transition for the 23-year-old. Lee also has a strong throwing arm and excellent size.
Accuracy was a concern, as Lee hovered just above the 50-percent completion mark in his three collegiate seasons and threw too many interceptions. He’s also not much of a runner but has impressed some scouts with his strong arm, pocket presence and ability to decipher coverages. Those traits could get him drafted much earlier than currently projected.
Riley Ferguson (Memphis) Draft projection: Round 5-6
Ferguson put up big numbers for Memphis, setting school records in several passing categories, but he’s not considered an orthodox prospect. Ferguson has an unusual throwing motion that could cause some teams to shy away and there are concerns about durability due to his slight frame. Despite standing a solid six-foot-four, Ferguson weighs barely 200 pounds.
What NFL GM’s will like is Ferguson’s leadership, presence, and confidence. He’s labeled as a gunslinger who will keep plays alive by escaping pressure and aggressively press the ball downfield. Even with that mentality, Ferguson was careful with the ball, throwing just nine interceptions in 2017 and leaving Memphis with an impressive 70-19 TD-to-INT ratio.
Ferguson won’t come into the league and compete for a starting job, as he’ll need plenty of time to be mentored, but he showed enough positive traits in college to warrant late-round considerations as a developmental QB.