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2018 NFL Draft: The case for Mason Rudolph (and the case against him)

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Why the team should, or shouldn’t, “settle” for the Oklahoma State passer.

While it’s assumed that the Buffalo Bills will be targeting on of the top four quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft, there is a distinct possibility that the team will miss out on each of them and be left out in the cold on April 26th. If that happens, the team very well could look to former Oklahoma State Cowboy Mason Rudolph as their chosen quarterback of the future. If that happens, it’ll be because Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott chose to believe in Rudolph’s good qualities and ignore some of his warts, listed below.

Background

Forced into limited action his freshman season at Oklahoma State, Rudolph came into his sophomore season in 2015 as the unquestioned starter. Showing an early proclivity for Mike Gundy’s offensive scheme, Rudolph finished the year with 3770 passing yards, a completion percentage of 62, and only 9 interceptions to go with 21 touchdowns. Rudolph had even better numbers in the 2016 campaign, with 4091 passing yards to go with 28 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. This past season, Rudolph put his name into Heisman Trophy consideration by passing for 4904 yards, a completion percentage of 65, 37 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. He led all of FBS with 377 passing yards per game.

The case for Rudolph

Stylistically, Mason Rudolph is a prototypical pocket passer. He has the necessary size at 6’5”, 235 pounds. Similar to Baker Mayfield, Rudolph demonstrates a clear upward trajectory, as his numbers and his skills have improved every subsequent year. In particular, his ability to slide and manipulate the pocket improved from his junior year to his senior year. While he wasn’t asked to go through reads very often, when forced to, Rudolph predominantly made sound decisions. He also offers a great deal of accuracy when asked to push the ball downfield, which led him to be one of the most productive deep throwers in college football throughout his career. He possesses a quick, effective pump fake that set up some important completions on his tape. Rudolph frequently showed an awareness of in-game situations, as he would occasionally take off and run when in the red zone or in third-down situations.

The case against Rudolph

Despite his better-than-average size, Rudolph sports average tools for the position. Both his arm strength and athleticism are mediocre. Again, similar to Baker Mayfield’s Oklahoma offense, the Oklahoma State offense was full of half-field reads, limiting Rudolph’s exposure to pro passing game concepts and reads. His arm strength doesn’t allow him to zip the ball into small windows when his receivers are tightly covered. Mechanically, you can’t help but notice the senior’s heavy feet. His feet get planted into the ground on drop backs, which negatively affects his throwing mechanics. He is often a second or half-second later than he should when processing coverages or on timing throws.

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