Riding down the highway in sunny southern California, Mason Rudolph sounded relaxed.
Granted, he often does.
The former Northwestern Trojan football star was talking to a reporter about this week’s NFL Draft Combine. Rudolph has watched the annual event the last six or seven years, but he’ll participate in 2018’s edition in Indianapolis. The Oklahoma State Cowboy QB scorched the school’s record books the last four years but there are always questions to answer when it comes to the draft. Rudolph begins that process at the combine.
“It’ll be a blessing,” he said. “To think about watching some great players that have ended up being great NFL players perform there, and to be there with a couple of teammates, it’ll be fun. It’s a once in a lifetime experience.”
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Rudolph is vying with a deep pool of quarterbacks for NFL teams’ attentions. Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold are the consensus top-four. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Rudolph are the other two that could go in the first round. The group is talented and has a diverse set of skills.
“Four are almost guaranteed to go in the first round and I wouldn’t be surprised if a team picks either Mason Rudolph or Lamar Jackson as the fifth or sixth one,” said CBS Sports draft analyst Chris Trapasso. “It’s not only the deepest quarterback class we’ve seen in a long time, but whatever type of quarterback a team wants, it can get in that first round.”
Numerous NFL teams need either a starting quarterback, or a prospect to groom. The Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills (who have two first round picks), Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots all fall in one of those categories.
“Those four or five clubs at the end of the first round certainly have their Super Bowl window still open but it would not surprise me if one or two of those teams picked a quarterback,” said Trapasso.
Trapasso pointed out that this year’s draft could be the first with five QBs selected in the first round since 1999, and even the first with six since 1983, when Hall of Famers Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and John Elway were all drafted.
“Every year’s a great year to be a quarterback,” Rudolph said. “I’m thrilled about having the opportunity to fit into whatever situation I fall into. Obviously if you’re confident in yourself you want to go as high in the draft as possible and I’m confident in my ability after playing the last four years, but I don’t have control over that.”
In a conference call with reporters earlier this week, draft guru Mike Mayock said he thinks Rudolph will go in the second round. An NFL.com mock draft from this week has Rudolph going No. 42 to the Miami Dolphins.
Like most draft prospects, Rudolph isn’t overly concerned about where he lands: “I’ll obviously attack each situation and prepare like I am the starter and work my butt off to earn the respect of my teammates.”
Rudolph went down to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Alabama in January, but was unable to participate because of a foot injury. The foot is healed and he’s ready to answer some of the primary questions enshrouding his NFL future, like whether he can consistently take snaps from under center. That’s something Rudolph rarely did in high school or college.
“I’ve had no issues with the footwork and I’ve spent the last two months only doing that,” he said. “So I feel pretty confident about that.”
According to SharpFootballStats.com, 58 percent of the 2017 NFL season’s total snaps were taken from shotgun. So like many nuances that are picked over before the draft, Rudolph’s shotgun-centric career may not be a big deal. The style of offense Rudolph has played in -- he’s been an Air Raid QB all the way from sophomore year of high school through his Oklahoma State career -- is another topic that surfaces often, along with the question of how he’ll fare running more complicated schemes.
One area where there should be few, if any, questions is Rudolph’s in-person interviews with team owners, general managers, head coaches and quarterbacks coaches that will happen Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Rudolph went through a round of interviews at the Senior Bowl that will be similar to what he experiences this week in Indianapolis. According to WalterFootball.com, Rudolph met with the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins last month in Alabama. He has meetings with two teams Friday night in Indianapolis that he said are in the quarterback market, though he declined to divulge which ones.
Teams will see a confident young man who made over 40 starts during his college career. Rudolph has stated several times in the last month that he thinks he’s the best QB in the draft. After all the talking is done, Rudolph and all the other players still need to perform. The on-field drills and measurement activities for QBs and wide receivers happen on Saturday, March 3.
Draft analyst: former Rock Hill Bearcat Jaleel Scott doesn’t need to test through the roof
CBS Sports NFL draft analyst Chris Trapasso thinks former Rock Hill High receiver Jaleel Scott can help his stock at the NFL Draft Combine this week by testing well in the agility drills. Scott, who had a huge senior season at New Mexico State, doesn’t have to pop scouts’ eyeballs out of their heads, but if he can avoid a poor showing, he should be okay. Trapasso said he was impressed with how Scott moved when he saw him at the Senior Bowl in Alabama, especially how the 6-foot-5, 215-pound receiver ran routes and created space.
“He doesn’t have a ton of weight on his frame but he has a frame that he could add five or 10 or 15 pounds on and be really physical,” said Trapasso. “Come in, be a red zone threat early in his career and kind of transition to be that No. 2 wide receiver that certainly is a lot more valuable in today’s NFL than it was, say, a decade ago.”
Ahead of the big weekend in Indianapolis, Scott can draw confidence from his monster performances in New Mexico State’s biggest games. Scott seemed to play his best when the Aggies were facing Power-5 competition like Arizona State and Arkansas. It was those games, especially the season-opener against Arizona State, that helped Scott rocket into national awareness ahead of the 2018 draft as a downfield threat capable of using his height and nearly 82-inch wingspan to snatch passes at their highest point.
“It’s important for those prospects to really show out in those bigger games against tougher competition, and he did that,” said Trapasso.
Where might Scott end up in the draft? Team-wise, it’s hard to say. But Trapasso thinks Scott could anywhere from the second to fourth rounds. Scott’s agent, Kevin McGuire, told the Las Cruces Sun-News he thinks Scott could be picked between the third and sixth rounds.
Over 40 receivers will work out at the combine this week, but Scott can stand out in a few areas, according to McGuire.
“It's a decent class but not many have (Scott's) body control, catch radius, hands and skill set,” he told the Sun-News. “He can high point the ball and it's contested catch after contested catch on his highlight reel. That is what excites teams about him. They can throw him open because of his length and ball skills.”