While the Senior Bowl features more than 100 of the top seniors of college football, it’s no secret the quarterbacks will dominate the storylines and discussions ahead of the big game.
With two potential first-round quarterbacks in Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen, coupled with small-school sleeper Kyle Lauletta of Richmond and underappreciated Mike White of Western Kentucky, the 2018 Senior Bowl might offer the most intriguing quarterback class in years.
Here's a look at the best quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl before practice gives a clearer view of the field.
8. Brandon Silvers, Troy
Silvers in 2014 broke Sam Bradford’s NCAA record for completion percentage by a freshman, completing 70.5 percent of his passes (191 of 271). A solid athlete, Silvers shows the mobility to escape pressure and maneuver around the pocket while keeping his eyes downfield. He offers great accuracy on the run and has the arm strength to throw across his body when escaping the pocket.
Silvers, who played in a rhythm offense in college, sometimes held onto the ball too long on third-and-long plays. He is generally a good decision-maker in the pocket, but he’ll need to show his touch and efficiency in practice to prove he's deserving of a draft pick.
7. Kurt Benkert, Virginia
Benkert spent the first three years of his career at East Carolina. After redshirting in 2013 and being the backup in 2014, Benkert was set to be the starter in 2015 before a knee injury took him out for the year. Benkert, then a graduate, transferred to Virginia in 2016, where he immediately became the starter.
Benkert reads the field well pre-snap and can anticipate where receivers will be open in quick-passing concepts. He throws as soon as his back foot hits the end of the drop back, and does so with excellent velocity. Benkert tends to throw behind moving targets and throw short of stationary targets. He'll need an offense with West Coast and Air Raid influences. If he can show improved ball placement — especially on perimeter routes and in one-on-one situations — he can earn a draftable grade.
6. Luke Falk, Washington State
Falk, the Pac-12’s all-time passing leader, has the ideal size for a pocket-passer and makes plays with defenders in his face. He can complete throws while taking hits, but also demonstrates great pocket footwork by avoiding rushers or stepping up in the pocket to find open throwing lanes. His awareness to get rid of the ball is sometimes a concern, and he has often seemed confused by disguised coverages.
Falk has average arm strength, good trajectory to fit the ball in tight windows and can drive to the middle of field, but he needs air under his ball on the outside-intermediate to deep routes. Falk is mentally tough, but makes bad decisions when pressing. He needs improvement in several areas, but everything seems fixable. He likely won’t dominate practice, but NFL teams expect him to show his mental process in interviews.
5. Tanner Lee, Nebraska
A redshirt-junior, Lee is a 6-4 pocket-passer who transferred to Nebraska after starting his career at Tulane. Arriving to the Senior Bowl to replace Mason Rudolph, Lee has the body type, arm talent, and college flash to impress in the practice setting.
Still, Lee has struggled to consistently finish in the midfield as a passer, too often throwing off balance and struggling to adjust off his first read. His inconsistency in one offense seems to have hurt him, but I wouldn’t be surprised if NFL teams consider his potential as a developmental Day 3 prospect — based on his Senior Bowl play.
4. Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
A three-year starter at Richmond, Lauletta was a lightly recruiting high school quarterback who, after playing some as a freshman, earned his starting role as a redshirt-sophomore. Despite four different offensive coordinators during his time in college, Lauletta has proven adaptable to multiple systems and has still shown next-level mental aptitude and processing. As a 6-2 passer, Lauletta has a well-built frame to stand tall and deliver throws with poise and adequate vision.
Lauletta has a quick release and is able to generate maximum velocity from the pocket. While he doesn’t possess elite arm talent, his outstanding footwork has become a staple of his throwing success. Lauletta is one of the more capable passers out of the small schools in terms of mental aptitude and footwork development. He may earn substantial NFL support as a high Day 3 pick.
3. Josh Allen, Wyoming
The showstopper of the 2018 Senior Bowl, Josh Allen has earned comparisons to Cam Newton, Andrew Luck, and Carson Wentz over the last calendar year. Despite all the exaggerated fanfare, he does have one thing going for him: expectations.
Allen is a remarkably gifted athlete with rare arm talent (not unlike Pat Mahomes a year ago). Thanks to having a full year behind the NFL hype machine, coupled with playing under the same coach who produced Carson Wentz at North Dakota State, Allen is expected to look like a first-round passer. One strong week in practice could solidify those grades. If he struggles, Allen could fall more toward Christian Hackenberg comparisons as a prospect.
2. Mike White, Western Kentucky
Mike White is a fifth-year senior who transferred from South Florida after a tumultuous early college career. After a dominant 2016 season under Jeff Brohm, White and the entire Western Kentucky offense suffered from a loss of big playmakers and a new offensive system that took White away from his strength: vertical passing.
White showcases good arm strength (he could throw a 90-mph fastball in high school), which bails him out on mid-range and deeper routes, even when he’s a bit over-aggressive. In the pocket, he's swift in his drops and shows light feet and little wasted motion. White rushes his throws under pressure, causing him to distribute off-platform and deliver the ball high. White is a tremendous leader whose biggest improvement has been extending plays with his legs.
1. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Mayfield, a walk-on-turned-Heisman winner, has a 6-1 frame and thick lower body that allows him to fight through contact (and has prevented him from suffering major injuries). He's a great athlete who can create plays when the pocket breaks down, throwing accurate balls on bootlegs and rollouts. Pre-snap, he demonstrates complete understanding and control of the offense; during the play, he shows outstanding decision-making ability.
Mayfield is great at going through his progressions, and won't tip his hand by staring down receivers. He has a concise delivery, lightning release and great velocity on his ball. He has outstanding arm strength and can hit any throw on the route tree with ease: Mayfield is great on short, intermediate and deep routes, though he occasionally throws a touch behind receivers on crossing routes.
One negative on Mayfield is he will sometimes try to do too much, forcing throws that lead to turnovers. He improved drastically in that area in 2017 despite losing Biletnikoff Award winner Dede Westbrook, but will also bail from clean pockets if he takes hits throughout the game. He compares in body type and play style to Russell Wilson, and is best suited for a vertical-oriented offense in which he can lean on his intermediate and deep accuracy.