USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen are widely projected as the top two quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft.
Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner, is another first-round prospect who may be the most polarizing among the 2018 quarterback class. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson is a dual-threat option that has many experts split on his ceiling, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen has a big arm but accuracy issues.
Most expect those five quarterbacks to go in the first round, or at least be heavily considered. But don’t forget about Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph.
Rudolph, the 6-foot-4, 229-pounder, was the leading passer in FBS last season for the Cowboys, but isn’t typically associated in that first-tier group of quarterbacks. Don’t tell Rudolph that, though.
Asked about how he stacks up with the 2018 class, Rudolph responded immediately: “Oh, I think I’m right there at the top. I’m extremely confident in what I can do, what I’ve put on tape the last four years. The guy I am off the field, the teammate, the leader, all those characteristics. I’m extremely confident in what I can bring to an organization.”
It’s understandable why the 22-year-old Rudolph isn’t lacking confidence in himself. This is a guy who set more than 50 Oklahoma State records in his standout college career, including passing former first-round pick Brandon Weeden for passing yards in a season with 4,904 yards and yards per game with 377.2.
Rudolph completed 65 percent of his passes last season (318-for-489), throwing 37 touchdowns to nine interceptions. For his college career, which spanned 42 career games, he passed for 13,618 yards with 92 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.
Coach Mike Gundy called him a “coach’s dream” for how he handled himself on and off the field.
Rudolph was one of three finalists for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year award, and attended the ceremony last week at Ford Center as he took a break from his pre-draft training routine in California.
The Star-Telegram caught up with him.
On if he believes his stock will rise like that of fellow Big 12 quarterback Pat Mahomes last year: “Yeah, for sure. But if you ask a lot of the actual evaluators or decision makers, he didn’t rise. He was always a guy, just the media caught on late. Not to compare myself to anybody, but I think the quarterback that I am, I just feel like I’m going to be a great fit for whatever organization I get to. Whether that’s in the first round or whether that’s in the seventh round, I don’t care. It’s not about that. It’s about maximizing your potential and getting into the playbook as soon as you get there.”
On how his Combine prep has gone: “It’s gone great. I had a bit of a setback in my bowl game, had a mid-foot sprain [on my left foot], but I’m pretty much 100 percent now. I’m able to run, lift weights and throw obviously 100 percent. I’m looking forward to it [the Combine in Indianapolis]. Putting my best foot forward as far as the interviews go, medical, I think I’ll knock all of that out of the park.”
On if he’ll attend the draft at AT&T Stadium, or be at home in Rock Hill, S.C.: “It would be cool. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do as far as being here or being at home in South Carolina. If I was to be here, it’d be cool for everything to come full circle – where it started and ended for me in college. [Rudolph’s first college game was vs. Florida State at AT&T Stadium in 2014 and his final “college” appearance at the Jason Witten award in Frisco]."
On being a finalist for the Jason Witten award: “It means a lot. [Witten’s] such a great example of not only a guy who has done it at a high level on the field, but someone who carries himself so well off the field and just a really good role model for younger players like myself and a lot of younger kids as well. It means a lot."
On meeting Witten: “I just wanted to thank him for having me down, having my family down and it’s just been an unbelievable event. We were just talking football, talking about how the first time he and Tony [Romo] met, and just talking some ball. We actually got a tight end down here, Blake Jarwin, from Oklahoma State, so talking about Blake and how I think Blake is going to be a great player and is already working his butt off."
On possibly playing for the Cowboys after seeing their training facilities: “Whatever team I end up going to, it’ll be a blessing. These facilities are second to none. We were here for Big 12 media day in July and got to see them for the first time. It’s unbelievable. It’s pretty sweet to see in person.”