Josh Rosen was supposed to be the most NFL-ready quarterback prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft. I certainly thought so. I rated him as QB1 and the number two overall player (behind Saquon Barkley). Rosen ended up being the 10th overall pick and the fourth passer taken behind Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and Josh Allen. The Arizona Cardinals gave up a first, third, and fifth-round pick to move up five spots to select the UCLA signal caller. And who could blame them? They were starting the oft-injured Sam Bradford. However, for Josh Rosen and the Arizona Cardinals, this draft story would not have a happy ending. Today, we are going to try to examine if we are heading that way with similar draft prospects in the 2022 class.
JOSH ROSEN INVADES THE ROSE BOWL
Josh Rosen came to UCLA with all of the hype befitting a player who rated as the top high school player in his class. He came to UCLA from California high school powerhouse St. John Bosco. Rosen became the first player to ever start as a true freshman at QB for the Bruins. He enrolled early and beat Jerry Neuheisel (son of Rick) for the job. Rosen threw for 351 and three scores in his first start against Virginia. He finished his freshman campaign with 3669 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. For Rosen and the UCLA Bruins, the future looked bright.
Unfortunately for everyone involved, a shoulder injury during his sophomore year against Arizona State. They struggled before he was injured but the season truly went off the rails after that. Rosen would have surgery after the season to repair his shoulder.
Josh Rosen’s junior season could have started more dramatic. UCLA trailed Texas A&M 44-10 with 2:07 left in the third quarter. Rosen would lead the Bruins to five straight TD drives, completing the game winner to Jordan Lasley with 43 seconds left. Rosen finished the game with the Aggies. When the dust settled on the 2017 season, Rosen and UCLA would play in the Cactus Bowl. Josh Rosen would break the UCLA single season passing record of Brett Hundley with 3756 yards.
Rosen sat out the bowl game with a concussion and then proceeded to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft.
JOSH ROSEN INVADES THE DESERT
After selecting Rosen with the tenth pick, it only took two games for head coach Steve Wilks to turn to his rookie. Arizona won his second career start but Rosen only completed 10 of 25 passes for 170 yards. The Cards only won three of Rosen’s ten starts on their way to a 3-13 record. He finished the season with 2278 passing yards, 11 TDs, and 14 picks.
The 3-13 record would seal the fate of Steve Wilks as head coach and by proxy would put a quick end to Josh Rosen in Arizona. The Cardinals would earn the #1 overall pick and surprise head coaching hire Kliff Kingsbury really liked Oklahoma QB Kyler Murray as a fit for his offense.
After selecting Murray number one overall, Arizona moved Josh Rosen to the Miami Dolphins in exchange for the 62nd overall pick. They selected Umass WR Andy Isabella with the pick. Murray has been successful so far in the NFL but it was still so shocking to see an NFL team jettison a “franchise” QB after one season.
JOSH ROSEN INVADES SOUTH BEACH & MEDIOCRITY
While I am sure Josh Rosen caught some rays and saw some great scenery during his time in Miami, unfortunately, his receivers didn’t catch many touchdown passes from him. In fact, Devante Parker was the only one who achieved that feat. After the 2019 season concluded, Rosen saw the team he played for draft another QB in the first round. This time it was Tua Tagovailoa. Rosen was released prior to week one of the 2020 and eventually latched onto the Tampa Bay practice squad. The 49ers brought him in late in the season. Prior to the 2021 season, the Atlanta Falcons signed Josh Rosen after AJ McCarron tore his ACL in the preseason. He is currently the backup to Matt Ryan.
SO, WHAT HAPPENED?
When I evaluated Josh Rosen, I saw what has often been considered the prototype NFL quarterback. 6’4” 226-pounds with a big arm. I saw a quarterback that could read defenses and accurately throw the football.
What I didn’t take into effect was the way the NFL was changing. Rosen took a ton of sacks at UCLA and because of that averaged negative 1.4 yards per run in his college career. Rosen never truly created plays in the pocket or outside of it. If his offensive line didn’t hold up, he along with the play were screwed.
The days of quarterbacks like Peyton Manning were gone. QBs who could sit in the pocket and pick teams apart. No, we were in the time of passers like Patrick Mahomes and Russell Wilson. Quarterbacks who could create with their feet to set up their big arms. I didn’t see it in 2018. I have tried to adjust my quarterback scouting lens since then.
WHAT 2022 PROSPECTS COULD HAVE A SIMILAR FATE?
The 2022 prospect that most reminds me of Josh Rosen is Nevada’s Carson Strong. They both have strikingly similar builds. Strong is also 6’4” and 220-pounds. Like Rosen, he has a huge arm that is highly accurate. Unfortunately, Strong also shares the gargoyle-like mobility trait that Rosen possesses. He has averaged a paltry negative 1.2 yards per rush in his career with the Wolfpack. I really love Carson Strong as a passer but there is no way I can rank him as high as I did Josh Rosen.
Another quarterback who has had his name bandied about as a potential first-round pick is JT Daniels of Georgia. The Southern Cal transfer is not a player I am as high on but nevertheless fits the Josh Rosen mold.