Summary: Over the past few seasons, Mason Rudolph was one of the most productive and dominant quarterbacks in college football. With Rudolph throwing to some talented wide receivers, Oklahoma State dominated the weak Big XII defenses, putting up high point totals on a weekly basis. After dominating in college, Rudolph has put himself in position to be viewed as a potential starter in the NFL.
Rudolph broke into the starting lineup in 2015, completing 62 percent of his passes for 3,770 yards with 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions. As a junior, Rudolph showed improvement, connecting on 63 percent of his passes for 4,91 yards with 28 touchdowns and four interceptions. The senior completed 65 percent of his passes for 4,904 yards with 37 touchdowns and nine interceptions in 2017.
Rudolph was a big-play threat in college due to aggressively quarterback pushing the ball downfield. He throws a good deep ball and routinely was able to burn defenses with his arm and talented wide receivers. While Rudolph does not have a rocket for an arm, his arm strength is adequate for the NFL. He also has a pro frame with height and weight to hold up in the pocket. Rudolph has pocket presence and stands tall in the pocket, while showing good ball security. Generally, Rudolph makes smart decisions and is not reckless with the football.
There were a few games in 2017 with examples of Rudolph struggling to throw into tight windows. His anticipation will have to improve for the pros, or he could be taking a lot of sacks from holding onto the ball too long. Routinely, Rudolph wouldn't pull the trigger on a throw until his receiver had long since gotten wide open rather than anticipating the play to get the ball out faster. The length of time Rudolphs holds the ball in the pocket is going to be a problem in the NFL, but in the Big XII and against other college teams, he could get away with it because he had all day to throw. There were plays where he got the ball out quickly with anticipatory throws, but he was inconsistent with that and has to quicken the process for the NFL.
Rudolph will need development as a pro. He will have to work on his accuracy and field vision, plus get used to playing under center and calling plays in the huddle. Going through progressions and reading the field can be problems for Rudolph, and he has to improve there. He is going to see a big jump in competition from the Big XII defenses, which posed little challenge to Rudolph and the Cowboys. He had plenty of time to wait in a clean pocket to throw on weak defensive backs who his receivers burned regularly. Rudolph hasn't seen anything close to the pass rush or defensive back talent that will challenge him in the NFL.
Sources have said that Rudolph interviewed well at the Senior Bowl, and he is known to be an intelligent player who has good intangibles, including his work ethic and leadership potential. While Rudolph has a lot of issues to work on for the NFL, at least with his intangibles, teams can be confident that he will make every effort to improve and do everything he can to fix his flaws.
Rudolph is a love/hate prospect in the scouting community. A few team sources like Rudolph, but others are skeptics. A general manager of a quarterback needy team told me they had Rudolph graded on the third day of the 2018 NFL Draft. Another NFC general manager said they thought Rudolph could go on Day 2. An AFC college scouting director of a playoff team said they were giving Rudolph a fifth-round grade. One area scout said that they were really concerned with how Rudolph struggled throwing into tight windows as he won't have receivers running wide open like they were for him against the weak Big XII defenses. In speaking with scouts from around the league at the Senior Bowl, Rudolph is expected to be a second-day pick, but they think he could go in the second round as it only takes one team to fall in love and there are lots of teams that are desperate for a young franchise quarterback. Rudolph should not be expected to start right away as he needs transition time before being ready to play at the pro level.
Player Comparison: Brock Osweiler/Elvis Grbac. There wasn't a pro comparison who really jumped out at me for Rudolph, so I reached out to team scouts for their opinion. The two names I got back were Osweiler and Grbac. Regarding Osweiler, sources said they had similar arm strength and athleticism, although Osweiler is obviously taller. Osweiler was a second-round pick, and Rudolph also is likely to go in the second round. Grbac (6-5, 240) had a similar skill set to Rudolph.
NFL Matches: Cleveland, Denver, New York Giants, New York Jets, Washington, Arizona, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and New England
There are a lot of quarterback-needy teams in the NFL, so that demand will help Rudolph to go on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Browns need a franchise quarterback, but given how high they are picking, they are likely to go with higher-rated signal-callers. The same goes for the Giants, Jets and Broncos, as they all could fill their quarterback need in the first round of the 2018 Draft, if not in free agency. Arizona also needs a long-term quarterback and is just outside of the top 10. Kirk Cousins should take away the need for one of these teams, and if the others value other position players more, they could target a quarterback like Rudolph on the second day.
The Redskins could look to add a quarterback on Day 2 to groom behind Alex Smith.
Even if Tyrod Taylor remains, Buffalo has a new regime that is likely to target a new starting quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Chargers have to start thinking of Philip Rivers eventual replacement, so they could consider Rudolph on Day 2. The Saints are in the same situation with Drew Brees, as are the Steelers with Ben Roethlisberger. All of those teams could think of Rudolph as a backup with the potential to grow into more than that.
Jacksonville could consider Rudolph as an option to turn to when they are done with Blake Bortles. The Patriots traded away Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, so they could take Rudolph in the mid-rounds as a young backup to Tom Brady.