2018 NFL Draft preseason evaluations: Josh Rosen, UCLA

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins warms up before the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Rose Bowl on September 24, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 24: Josh Rosen #3 of the UCLA Bruins warms up before the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Rose Bowl on September 24, 2016 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

If USC’s Sam Darnold is the consensus No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft class, his rival Josh Rosen from UCLA is likely second behind him.

Opinions on Josh Rosen vary far more than they do on Sam Darnold early on in 2018 NFL Draft evaluations, and one reason could be the outpouring of negative leaks relating to Rosen’s character. I called into question the intentions of these anonymous sources, who were quite eager to criticize Rosen very early in the draft process. Although I have no way of knowing how Rosen acts behind the scenes, I can say that he is one of the toughest players in the country on the field and exhibits leadership qualities when the pads are on.

As far as I’m concerned, the gridiron is my only jurisdiction when it comes to assessing toughness and leadership.

This play against Texas A&M is an example of the toughness Rosen displays in the pocket. Known for playing through injuries and getting up after tough hits, Rosen does not shirk in the pocket or move his eyes downward when the pressure comes. The Aggies pass rush features Myles Garrett, and Kevin Sumlin’s squad certainly were on the attack throughout the game. Rosen led a rabid comeback in the fourth quarter, and there are several examples of him standing tall in the pocket and delivering a strike in the face of pressure.

Rosen’s best quality as a quarterback is his ability to sense pressure, navigate the pocket and keep his eyes down the field. Unfortunately, he struggles when it comes to playing it safe in these situations. Although he can avoid the pressure, it is sometimes impossible for a quarterback to escape the rush. When this happens, Rosen fails to take the sack, and he will throw interceptions or fumble the ball away in a desperate attempt to avoid the sack.

This lack of discipline as a quarterback can also be seen in Rosen’s selection of passes, because he often attempts to make throws down the field to wide receivers who are covered by multiple opponents. This happened frequently in UCLA’s game against BYU, and what compounds this issue is the fact that Rosen is one of the most inaccurate passers I have studied on film. He is an equal-opportunity underthrower and overthrower, which is why it is unsurprising that the word “inconsistent” is often used to describe Rosen.

With Rosen, it isn’t a question of physical tools, because he clearly has the arm strength to make difficult throws over the middle of the field. His problem is more focused on lacking anticipation, and he has just as much of a learning curve as anyone at the quarterback position.


If Rosen wants to attempt a pass to the second wide receiver to his right (the player he targets here), then that’s fine. However, he needed to pull the trigger on this throw earlier, because he needed to anticipate his wide receiver coming out of his break. If he throws it earlier, the linebacker heading towards the flat is still a non-factor, and the defensive back who came in to break up the pass wouldn’t have been given the time to make the play.

Last season, UCLA’s wide receivers didn’t do the best job of gaining separation, which helped contribute to several coverage sacks. That said, Rosen needs to do a better job of surveying the defenders before making a decision on where to throw the ball and when to pull the trigger on the pass. He also must avoid locking on one specific read.

When he gets into a rhythm, Rosen is indeed one of the best passers in college football, but the idea that he’s the best quarterback in the country is a reach. He might be worth investing in as a first-round pick, but he doesn’t look like a sure-fire hit either. It’s hard to trust a quarterback whose accuracy is so erratic, particularly on deep throws, and whose decision-making process seems to be completely random.

Note that this is a quarterback who has completed under 60 percent of his passes in college to this point, and he could see his stock fall if more of his “close call” throws become interceptions on the stat sheet.

Despite these criticisms, I can see why Rosen has generated positive reviews after his first two seasons. Two of the most important traits a quarterback can have are poise under pressure and ability to navigate in the pocket, and Rosen can do both of these things. His issues when under pressure deal more with decision-making and his inability to read defenses, so those projecting him as a first-round talent are likely hopeful that these will improve in all situations in 2017.

Next: Who Picked Josh Rosen In Our Mock Draft?

The skill position talent surrounding Rosen was wholly underwhelming last season, but when a quarterback’s most-praised attribute by analysts is his mechanics, fans should be wary of top-10 quarterback hype. He’s a prospect worthy of being in the discussion as one of the top quarterback prospects in 2018, but Rosen has an awful lot to prove in 2017. At this point, he’s more “streaky” than “great”, and that probably won’t make NFL teams feel safe.