It seems like it was only yesterday when former UCLA head coach Jim Mora touted Josh Rosen as a possible No. 1 overall pick following his stellar freshman season that culminated in the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year award on the strength of a 3,000-yard season (3,668 passing yards) that included 23 touchdowns.
The spectacular debut led some to dub him "The Chosen One" based on his potential to become a franchise quarterback with exceptional arm talent and unflappable poise. The hype train ran off the tracks after an injury-plagued sophomore campaign that concluded with season-ending shoulder surgery.
Although he bounced back with a strong junior season (3,756 passing yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions), the skeptics still question his durability after suffering two concussions during the season.
With Rosen's outspoken nature also drawing attention from scouts and executives around the league, the polished passer is regarded as a bit of an enigma in NFL circles despite a game that usually would be adored by league evaluators. Given the range of opinions about the UCLA passer heading into the school's pro day on Thursday, I think it's the perfect time to take a closer look at his game and potential. Here is The Book on Rosen.
What I'm hearing
"He's as talented as they come. He can make every throw that you want to see and it's easy for him. I know the personality will turn some people off, but the kid can play." -- NFC scout
"He's an elite thrower. He is accurate, he throws with anticipation, he's excellent in the pocket. He's all the things. You guys always ask me what are the things -- he's got 'em. He's accurate, he throws with anticipation, he's great in the pocket." -- Pac-12 head coach
"He wasn't the guy everyone rallied around in college and you don't have to dig around for too long to find people who said he was hard to coach. He's definitely talented. Nobody questions that. But he's going to have to get grown men to buy into him as their leader. That is not a given." -- NFL executive
"Just so natural in everything he does on the field. You watch him in the pocket and it's like he was born to do it. The way he sees the field, the way he operates the offense, just total command. If I had his kind of natural ability, I think I'd be that way too." -- NFC offensive coach (via ESPN)
What I'm seeing
Rosen is the most polished quarterback prospect I've scouted since Andrew Luck entered the league in 2012. In fact, Rosen is so polished as a passer that I would dub him "The Natural" based on his beautiful delivery and flawless footwork in the pocket. Rosen has impressive arm talent and is one of the few quarterback prospects with a full array of MLB pitches at his disposal. The UCLA star can throw with touch, timing, and anticipation or deliver laser-like shots on drive throws to the boundary from the pocket. In addition, he shows a feathery touch on up-and-over throws at intermediate range between the hashes.
As a pure pocket passer with a high football IQ, Rosen is the prototypical franchise quarterback that NFL coaches, scouts, and executives covet. Measuring 6-foot-4 and 226 pounds, Rosen has better-than-advertised movement skills in the pocket. The former junior tennis champion slips and slides around the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield to deal to open receivers. Rosen's subtle movement around the pocket is reminiscent of a 10-year veteran, which is why he's viewed as a plug-and-play prospect by some evaluators.
Such opinions are also fueled by Rosen's outstanding timing, anticipation, touch, and accuracy as a passer. Rosen is one of the few passers in the college game with experience making quick-rhythm throws, full-flow play-action passes and catch-and-fire tosses from the pocket. He confidently delivers the ball to every area of the field, particularly intermediate routes down the seams and inside the numbers. Although Rosen is also adept at hitting receivers in stride on out-breaking routes like sail routes and corners, he's at his best working the middle of the field on anticipation throws.
From a critical standpoint, Rosen needs to cut down on some of the hero throws that plagued his game in 2017. He frequently forced throws into traffic but benefited from some lucky bounces and bad hands that prevented his turnover numbers from being inflated. With that in mind, Rosen needs to learn how to play within himself and avoid the risky throws that could lead to turnovers at the next level. Sure, he's going to toss a few picks as a young passer, but you would like to see him protect the ball at all costs to avoid putting his team on the wrong side of the turnover battle.
Rosen also needs to improve his deep-ball accuracy. While he has plenty of arm strength, as exhibited by his ability to push the ball down the field on a variety of vertical throws, he frequently under-throws open receivers along the boundary on go routes. Rosen's deep-ball issues aren't a huge problem, but they show up enough to make scouts question his ability to thrive in a vertical passing game.
I can't complete a report on Rosen without mentioning the concerns some evaluators have about his football character and love of the game based on his outspoken nature and affluent background. Although I'm not concerned about those things, there is a faction of evaluators who question Rosen's commitment to the game based on his worldly perspective.
In addition, those same scouts worry about his willingness to take coaching due to murmurs about him challenging the UCLA coaching staff in a meeting. Basically, Rosen will ask for a deeper understanding of the process and some coaches don't like to have their theories questioned. Thus, Rosen's questions can rub some the wrong way when he proposes them behind closed doors.
In the end, I think it's silly that anyone would be concerned about those things, but Rosen must address them in his meetings with teams leading up the draft to change the narrative regarding his personality and commitment.
Overall, Rosen is about as complete as they come at the position with a polished game that is ripped straight from an instructional video on how to play the position. He can make throws to every area of the field with pinpoint accuracy and precision. Although there are some questions about his intangibles and commitment level from some scouts around the league, there's no disputing his talent, game or potential.
Ryan, the 2016 NFL MVP, entered the league in 2008 as a polished prospect and immediately transformed the Atlanta Falcons into perennial contenders. Ryan led the Dirty Birds to winning records during each of his first five seasons, with the team earning playoff bids four times during that span. He not only exhibited outstanding confidence, poise and skill as the Falcons' QB1, but also displayed exceptional versatility as a pro-style quarterback. From his footwork to his mechanics to his superb timing and anticipation, Matty Ice played like a franchise quarterback from Day 1 and he eventually led the Falcons to a Super Bowl berth as an experienced quarterback. While naysayers have debated for years whether he is a "truck" (Ryan carries the team) or "trailer" (supporting cast carries Ryan), he has proven that he can win games with a solid supporting cast in multiple offensive systems.
When I look at Rosen, I see a similar player with identical traits as a playmaker from the pocket. The UCLA star displays outstanding footwork and mechanics. He executes traditional drops, play-fakes and quick-rhythm throws from the shotgun or under center. In addition, he is a "spot" passer, which means he's adept at throwing receivers open with superb timing and anticipation. When surrounded by dependable playmakers on the perimeter, Rosen can shred defenses as a thrower and guide his team to wins in big games.
Where he should be picked
As an elite prospect with the physical tools and mental aptitude to control the game as a QB1, Rosen should be one of the first quarterbacks selected in the 2018 draft. He's the most pro-ready quarterback prospect in the class and has the potential to be a perennial Pro Bowl-caliber player early in his career. Granted, he needs to be surrounded by the right supporting cast (pass-catchers and offensive line), but he is a scheme-friendly thrower with experience playing the game like NFL quarterbacks have been asked to perform for the past 30 years.
That being said, Rosen should come off the board as a top-10 prospect based on his skill level and readiness to play. He is a Day 1 starter with the potential to elevate a program with his presence as a QB1. If I had to pick a handful of squads that would be ideal fits, I would cite the New York Giants, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals as potential destinations. Of those teams, the Jets and Dolphins would be the teams that I would watch as perfect matches.
Rosen would give the Jets a legitimate franchise quarterback with a game that meshes well with offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates' version of the West Coast Offense. The young passer could handle the verbiage and complexities of the scheme while also dealing with the burden of expectations that come along with playing on Broadway.
In Miami, Rosen's high football IQ and polished game would be showcased in head coach Adam Gase's system. The UCLA star is at his best when given a lot of responsibility at the line of scrimmage, and his personality would likely click with the Dolphins' head coach. On the field, Rosen would be surrounded by the kind of explosive playmakers (see Kenny Stills and DeVante Parker) that could take advantage of his skills as a rhythm passer between the numbers.