2018 NFL Draft: Is there a smear campaign against Josh Rosen?

Oct 8, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first quarter at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 8, 2016; Tempe, AZ, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen (3) against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the first quarter at Sun Devil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

UCLA Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen is one of the best prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft class, but there is a narrative emerging that he isn’t the most likable person.

Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Luke Falk, and Mason Rudolph are the 2018 NFL Draft prospects in the first-round discussion. At this point, Darnold is the clear favorite to hear his name called off the board first, and many are penciling him in to the New York Jets with the first overall pick. The favorite to go second appears to be Rosen, but is there a smear campaign in the works against Rosen?

I posit this question, because there’s yet another negative comment from a scout floating around. Walter Football’s Charlie Campbell recently wrote a scouting report on Rosen that contained a quote from an anonymous scout who said he ranks Rosen fourth among the quarterbacks behind Darnold, Allen, and Jackson.

That ordering is a common one. What’s more interesting is the scout’s statement that Rosen has issues with his teammates at UCLA, as he claims that Rosen’s teammates dislike their quarterback. The original quote, interestingly, is from May. You’ll figure out why this is interesting soon.

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Last month, NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks reported that scouts are worried about Rosen’s ability to be a leader in the NFL due to information they received regarding the way he acts around teammates and coaches. Brooks referred to Rosen’s personality as “prickly”.

These weren’t the only two negative reports regarding Rosen’s personality in May, because they were both preceded by a remark from an AFC executive. The exec told The MMQB’s Albert Breer that Rosen is a “mess” off of the field and “needs to grow up”. Yet, like the others, he didn’t have anything negative to say about Rosen’s play on the field, surmising that the quarterback’s talent is “off the charts”.

All of this perplexes me, because why would there be three negative comments about Rosen made by people within the league in the mere span of two weeks? Usually we don’t see this kind of hard-nosed commentary from the anonymous scouts until later in the pre-draft process, because this is the type of storm of narratives that occur after the college football season is over. I mean, you’d think that these league members would have better things to do than besmirch a quarterback prospect who hasn’t even played his final season.

Maybe Rosen is a huge jerk, or maybe he has a big personality and is misunderstood by some of his teammates and coaches. Maybe the fact that he has a hot tub in his dorm room rubs his teammates the wrong way. But, all jokes aside, I would be more inclined to like someone who does something this awesome.

The reports on Rosen remind me of the reports about Connor Cook back when the Oakland Raiders second-string quarterback came out of Michigan State. Cook was frequently criticized for his lack of leadership, and this became one of the main themes in the 2016 NFL Draft class. The difference here is that the Cook rumors were swirling in the spring; Rosen attracted negative attention in a short amount of time about a year earlier in his pre-draft process.

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Brooks, Breer, and Campbell are all reputable draft reporters who consistently deliver notable quotes from league insiders, but the intentions of the quotes are always veiled. Those three reporters are excellent at their jobs, however, their sole responsibility is to provide the public with information from credible sources. They can’t always be sure of the motives of those sources, which is why I am always skeptical towards comments made by anonymous scouts about draft prospects.

Though it may seem too early for them to do this, these scouts could be planting a seed in order to get Rosen’s draft stock to fall. Remember, Cook wasn’t taken until the fourth round of his draft class, and he was expected to go earlier than this (many had him as a late first-round selection).

Scouts like to depress the value of talented prospects, particularly quarterbacks. Marcus Mariota is one of the best young players in the NFL today and looked like a can’t-miss prospect coming out of Oregon before going second overall to the Tennessee Titans. A scout, likely one from a team angling to get its hands on Mariota, opined that Mariota is “too nice”. Yes, the draft news cycle is ridiculous.

There’s been an early narrative constructed that Rosen is a difficult teammate, so be on the lookout for comments from anonymous sources within the next year. This year’s draft class is expected to be an elite one at the quarterback position, and it figures that some team stands to gain from Rosen’s fall in draft stock.

Next: Early 2018 NFL Mock Draft: Darnold is a Brown

His attitude issues may not be fabricated. But if they are, it’s likely a ploy from a team who wants to secure Rosen, knowing that they will be unable to draft the class’s top quarterback prize in Darnold.