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Quarterback Choices Go Beyond First Round

Posted Mar 9, 2018

Less-heralded prospects hoping to show they can be franchise signal-callers

Richmond quarterback Kyle Lauletta throws at the NFL Scouting combine.

In this mock draft world we live in, a disproportionate amount of focus is placed on prospects projected to go in the first round.

It’s certainly the most important of each team’s selections, but not to the extreme of ignoring the ensuing six.

Some of the Cardinals’ best players – running back David Johnson, safety Tyrann Mathieu, linebacker Markus Golden, safety Budda Baker, wide receiver John Brown – were taken in the second round or later, and hitting on those picks is vital in building a deep roster.

When a starting quarterback is found there, it’s a franchise-altering home run.

The Cardinals’ NFC West foe, the Seahawks, know it well, as they built a spectacularly talented team around Russell Wilson after finding him in the third round. The Cowboys should be competitive for the next couple of seasons with Dak Prescott, a fourth-round pick, making peanuts on his rookie contract. The Patriots had the best draft pick in NFL history when they found Tom Brady in the sixth round.

There has been non-stop chatter about the five quarterbacks – Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson – that could all land in the first round of the draft, and based on their need at the position, many expect the Cardinals to target one when they are on the clock.

But there are also a host of players outside the first-round spotlight hoping to be the next later-round gem.

“You need one opportunity to showcase who you are as a football player and as a person,” said Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett, a projected late-round pick. “I just need one team to believe in me and I’ll show them who I am.”

Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph is generally posited as a second-day selection, and it doesn’t bother him not to be mentioned with the top tier.

“I’m confident in who I am,” Rudolph said. “I’m not one for comparisons. I don’t care about who the media’s talking about. I think you talk to the actual decision-makers in the NFL, they would have a different viewpoint of myself than maybe you (media) do. But I can only control what I can control.”

After Rudolph’s placement in the prospect hierarchy, opinions seem to diverge. Among the other quarterbacks in the mix to be drafted include Washington State’s Luke Falk, Marshall’s Chase Litton, Western Kentucky’s Mike White, Memphis’ Riley Ferguson, Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta, Nebraska’s Tanner Lee and Barrett.

Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim likes the depth of the group.

“It's a strong class,” Keim said. “There are a lot of different type of players from a skillset standpoint.”

At this point, Keim has likely honed in on the signal-callers that have the raw ability to become successful at the NFL level. Now it’s about delving into their mental acuity.

“As a young scout, you get enamored with the physical tools: The arm strength, the mobility, the velocity a guy may throw with,” Keim said. “We all know, as you look back, the guys who have had success, it's the ability to play between the ears. Processing information, learning the playbook, and that's the work ethic side of it. That's part of the process that comes into it right now.”

A prospect like Lauletta hopes to raise his stock by acing the mental portion of the process, which could help make up for concerns about arm strength.

“You have to process information at a high level,” Lauletta said. “All the great quarterbacks do that. They understand the game. They have a great feel for situational football and just understanding defense and defensive structure.”

The draft follows the law of diminishing returns. The longer it goes on, the more the attention wanes. While quarterback selections always move the needle, the last signal-callers chosen certainly won’t get the same attention allotted the first crop. But they will have their opportunity to become the next Wilson, Prescott or Brady.

“I’m definitely not in it for the attention,” White said. “I’m in it just to keep playing as long as I can. It’s (the media’s) job to interview who you want to. My job … I just want to play in the NFL. I don’t care how that gets done. I just want to make sure it happens somehow, someway.”

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