The 2018 NFL Draft is this week and Mason Rudolph is one of the top quarterback prospects, expected to be taken in the first round or early in the second. With that in mind, here’s our complete scouting report on the former Oklahoma State cowboys quarterback.
Rudolph was a three-year starter for the Cowboys, but before that he was raised in Rock Hill, South Carolina. The 22-year old attended two high schools, transferring from Westminster Catawba Christian School before leaving to go to Northwestern High School in Rock Hill.
Rudolph has ranked as a four-star recruit and the ninth-best pro-style quarterback in his class, according to Rivals.com. He racked up 10,986 yards and 132 passing touchdowns in his high school career.
Rudolph was recruited heavily by some prolific colleges in the South, with the likes of LSU, Virginia Tech, Virginia, Ole Miss, Louisville offering him a place, before he ultimately committed to the Cowboys pretty early on in the recruitment process.
In his sophomore season, Rudolph started 13 games, throwing for 3,770 yards, 21 touchdowns, and nine interceptions all while managing to keep a 62.3% completion percentage and a 8.9 yards per attempt average. Oklahoma State played Missouri in their bowl game that year where Rudolph struggled. He went 18-for-31 for 179 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.
Rudolph made a step in the right direction in his second year as a starter. Again he started 13 games, throwing for 4,091 yards, 28 touchdowns and just four interceptions. He upped his completion percentage from 62.3% to 63.4% and yards per attempt from 8.9 to 9.1. His junior season, Oklahoma State played Colorado in their bowl game and Rudolph had his best bowl performance of his career. Rudolph managed to go 22-for-32 for 314 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Rudolph’s final season at Oklahoma State was his most impressive when he took a huge leap from his years prior. Another 13 games as a starter under his belt, he threw for 4,904 yards, 37 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. His completion percentage went up again from 63.4% to 65% while his yards per attempt jumped from 9.1 to 10, which can be a contributing factor to his increase in interceptions. In his final bowl game against Virginia Tech, Rudolph went 21-for-32 for 351 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions, capping off his collegiate career with a win.
Rudolph is a pocket passer with prototypical size for the position, standing nearly 6’5” and weighing 230 pounds. His hands are a tad small at 9.125 inches. Rudolph won’t wow anyone with his athleticism, running a 4.9 forty-yard dash and only hitting 26 inches on the vertical leap. He’s not able to move sideways through the pocket with any real speed, and on rollout passes he doesn’t bring much of a running threat.
Rudolph has a decent arm that’s probably good enough to play in the NFL, but he’d benefit from strengthening exercises or from playing in a dome. Even when he puts his whole body into the follow-through, an opposite-hash fifteen-yard out will start to hang in the air.
Rudolph throws with an overhand motion. He can adjust his release point to different levels for different trajectories, launching the ball early for a deep shot, or a bit late for a short pass designed to be low and away from a defender. Though he plays in an offense with plenty of shotgun and pistol looks, Rudolph is comfortable dropping back and setting his feet, then taking hitch steps in the pocket.
His footwork is a work in progress, and there are times (like shorter plays or in the red zone) where he abandons all pretense of a dropback and takes the snap flat-footed. This leads to occasional inaccuracy.
Rudolph is a great deep ball thrower. Like Carson Palmer, he really is a great judge of distance downfield, and even sets up good 50-50 situations along the sidelines. In fact, his overall precision is great, and it’s something that really surprised me when I went back to re-watch him.
If his feet are set, Rudolph can put the ball exactly where it needs to go. If he’s on the run? That’s another story. Rudolph really prefers to establish a throwing platform to deliver the ball.
I have no issue with Rudolph’s accuracy. However, sometimes he will make life harder for himself by placing a pinpoint pass when a defender is draped over his intended target.
Processing speed and decision-making
These traits are where Rudolph’s three years of starting really shine through. Rudolph has great pocket presence, and is very comfortable standing in a messy pocket to deliver throws. He has a well-trained internal clock that can sense pressure closing in and allow him to get the ball out.
You know how Tom Brady will step around an edge rusher, calmly survey the field, then deliver a pass to a wide-open target? Or the way he coolly throws the ball into the dirt when a play is blown up and the defense is closing in? Rudolph plays with that same attitude.
As long as pressure doesn’t catch him flat-footed, and as long as he doesn’t need to extend the play outside the pocket, Rudolph will happily reset or step up until he finds an open receiver.
Rudolph’s ability to scan the field, anticipate players coming open, and read the defense post-snap is much less developed. He played in a simplified offense at Oklahoma State which played to his physical strengths, performing better than he was trained. A typical play might look like this: Referee spots the ball and runs back. Rudolph snaps the ball immediately, fakes a handoff to his running back, rears back, and tosses deep.
When Rudolph made his reads, he usually worked on only two or three options, and I didn’t see him anticipating his receiver coming open or appropriately choosing his throw based on separation from the defender. He’d pick a target and send the ball essentially on a whim. Sometimes, he missed very obvious openings.
I believe he can develop this skill in the NFL with repetition, but it’ll make him susceptible to turnovers early in his career.
The case for and against Mason Rudolph
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.
(By Dan Lavoie)
Rudolph checks many boxes, and in a normal year he might well end up as a top ten pick. A three-year starter, graduating senior with an excellent win-loss record, great college stats, and a few standout skills, he has the potential to develop into a franchise starter for the team he joins.
Pocket presence and accuracy are two of the most important traits for a quarterback to possess, and Rudolph has both of those. His arm strength might hold him back, but other passers have improved their arm strength during their careers. My main concern is his processing speed and the depth with which he reads the field. If he can figure the mental part of the game out, he can be part of this league for a long time.
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