Editor's note: NFL.com analysts and former NFL scouts Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks of the Move The Sticks Podcast share some of their scouting notes for Week 4 of the college football season, including:
But first, we kick off this week's notebook with Brooks' take on a top QB prospect who's off to a disappointing start.
How should scouts weigh Josh Allen's production vs. his potential?
That's the dilemma they face in their evaluation of the Wyoming quarterback this season. The 6-foot-5, 233-pound redshirt junior has all of the tools to be a franchise QB, but his play against top competition leaves evaluators wondering if he is a "project" or "player" at the position.
There's no denying his remarkable gifts as an athletic playmaker with a rocket arm and unlimited range. However, Allen struggles with his accuracy and ball placement on intermediate and deep throws. Not to mention, he repeatedly misses the mark on short throws due to sloppy footwork and mechanics inside the pocket.
With Allen also exhibiting poor judgment and ball security under duress, he looks nothing like the highly touted QB1 prospect who dominated the conversation for most of the spring and summer.
Granted, Allen isn't playing with a star-studded cast, but franchise players are expected to raise their teammates' level of play. Fair or not, he hasn't exhibited that quality while struggling through a disappointing start to the 2017 campaign. The Cowboys have been blasted by a pair of Power 5 teams (Iowa and Oregon) in showcase games, which raised doubts about Allen's ability to reverse the fortunes of an NFL franchise searching for a solution at the QB1 position.
Allen's performances against Iowa and Oregon are part of an alarming trend that should prompt evaluators to pause before affixing a big grade next to his name. In three career games against Power 5 competition, Allen has a 50-percent completion rate (48 of 96 for 427 yards) and a 1:8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In 11 career games against FBS teams with winning records, he has posted a 53.3-percent completion rate with a 15:15 TD-to-INT ratio.
Now, I know the film study outweighs statistics in the evaluation process, but it's hard to ignore those numbers. Elite QB prospects are expected to complete at least 65 percent of their passes without counting the "at-the-line" throws (bubble screens) that inflate the overall percentage. That's why Allen's low numbers and turnover woes against top competition should be a huge problem for evaluators assessing his prospects. He hasn't performed to the level of his talent, and there's no way to know if he will ever reach his ceiling as a player.
With that in mind, the offseason could be critical for determining his value, if he decides to apply for early draft eligibility after this season. That's when teams could get a chance to watch him perform at an all-star game (if he graduates and receives an invitation to the Senior Bowl -- underclassmen can be invited if they have already graduated).
If he does indeed enter the draft and receives that all-star game invite, he will have a chance to play against elite competition with a star-studded supporting cast to help him shine in a pro-style offense that should enhance his skills as an athletic drop-back passer with a big arm. In addition, Allen's superior arm talent could dwarf his competitors when scouts see him throw beside other top QB prospects.
Until it's time for him to make a decision about his future this offseason, Allen must rediscover his mojo and put a few spectacular performances against Mountain West competition on tape to entice scouts to value his potential over his production. -- Bucky Brooks
RUDOLPH HAS LOOK OF FIRST-ROUNDER
I received a text message from a scout earlier this week about one of the top quarterback prospects in the country. No, it wasn't about Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen or Josh Allen. Those three are widely heralded as the top signal-callers in college football. It wasn't about Baker Mayfield, either, although he's off to a fantastic start this fall.
The text was about a different Big 12 QB -- Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph.
"(He's) a great example of why kids should go back to school," the scout wrote of Rudolph, who could've entered the NFL draft last spring. "Last season, he was a one-read thrower and he struggled with accuracy on underneath throws. This year, he's shown great pocket presence, his accuracy is much improved and he's going through his progressions. I know it's against Tulsa, South Alabama and Pitt, but he's showing me some things I didn't think he had."
I went back and studied Rudolph's Week 3 game against Pittsburgh and I was very impressed. He's firm in the pocket, he's quickly working through his progressions and he was accurate on drive throws as well as touch throws. I love his quick delivery, and he has shown the ability to throw with anticipation. He was a little inconsistent when he was forced off his spot, but he's more mobile than I gave him credit for in my offseason evaluation. He made one poor decision, pre-determining a target (the ball was poorly thrown as well), which resulted in an interception.
Overall, Rudolph had the look of a first-round talent. I'm anxious to see how he plays when the Cowboys face tougher competition, beginning with No. 16 TCU this week. -- Daniel Jeremiah
SILVER LINING FOR LONGHORNS
Malik Jefferson hasn't quite lived up to his billing during his career at Texas, but he delivered an outstanding performance against USC last week. The ultra-explosive linebacker racked up 11 tackles, including 2 for loss. He was flying around the field and he provided some big hits on the USC skill players.
There wasn't as much hesitation in Jefferson's game as we've seen in the past. He was quick to diagnose and he closed ground in a hurry. He's still very much a work in progress, but this game was a great example of his potential. He was an impact player and a key factor in helping the Longhorns nearly pull off a monstrous upset against the No. 4 team in the nation. -- Daniel Jeremiah
WR STEPPING OUT OF JOHN ROSS' SHADOW
John Ross was the poster boy for the Washington Huskies offense last season. His dynamic speed generated big plays and sent his draft stock soaring (running a record 4.22-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine also contributed to his rise, of course). However, when studying the Huskies last fall, it was easy to recognize the talent of the wide receiver on the opposite side of the field, Dante Pettis.
In fact, I thought Pettis was a better route runner than Ross, and I also believed he had stronger hands to complete contested catches. Now that Ross is no longer around, Pettis, a senior, is starting to get the attention he deserves. He's coming off a three-touchdown performance against Fresno State and NFL scouts are enamored with his versatility. He's one of the top punt returners in the country. In fact, he has returned a punt for a touchdown in each of the Huskies' three games this fall. He has returned 8 punts for TDs in his career, which ties him for the NCAA record. That's ridiculous! It's tough to find players with his combination of speed, polished route-running skills and return ability. He will be highly coveted by NFL teams in the spring. --Daniel Jeremiah