CAPACCIO: Rudolph shouldn't be forgotten man in Bills' quarterback mix

How and why does the Oklahoma State quarterback fit in Buffalo?

Sal Capaccio
April 25, 2018 - 12:29 am

Photo: Kevin Jairaj - USA TODAY Sports

I’ve always believed the Buffalo Bills have been very high on Mason Rudolph for a long time. I’ve just never felt they would see the Oklahoma State quarterback worthy of the No. 12 pick in the draft. But if they do like him that much, that may be exactly where they have to take him to make sure they get their man.  

Sure, Rudolph could be there at No. 22, where the Bills also own a first round pick. But with teams like the Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, and Los Angeles Chargers all possibly interested in taking a quarterback, and picking before the Bills do for a second time (coincidentally picking consecutively at 15, 16, and 17), and with the New England Patriots sitting right behind the Bills and holding two first rounders themselves and enough ammunition to move up, general manager Brandon Beane might not want to take that chance and just take Rudolph and be done with it.

Early in the draft process, really as far as back as during last year’s college football season, there were a lot of dots connecting Rudolph to the Bills. Many in the national media and scouting community thought he could very much be on their radar when April rolled around. Now here we are, and it seems the 6’ 3”, 235-pound senior has been the forgotten man amid all the quarterback hype surrounding this draft. Or maybe people have simply dismissed him as an option to Buffalo?

I wouldn’t make that mistake.

Rudolph fits the part of the ideal character for how Beane and head coach Sean McDermott seem to want to cast their team. Consider this: in last year’s draft, every one of the six players the Bills selected was a four-year player in college. I don’t think that was by coincidence. They targeted players with experience. In this draft, the only other highly-touted, possible first round quarterback to do that (as far as actual game experience) is Baker Mayfield, who played one year at Texas Tech then three at Oklahoma.

But unlike Mayfield, who has had a run-in with police and comes with a polarizing personality and questions about his character, Rudolph is squeaky clean off the field. He’s a former Second-Team Academic All-Big 12 honoree. He was referred to as Oklahoma State’s “most active player in community service activities” in his OSU bio. And he can throw the football pretty well, too, leading all of FBS with 377 passing yards per-game. You want a good completion percentage? How about 65-percent? Rudolph threw 37 touchdowns with just nine interceptions last year and finished his career with a whopping 92 touchdowns versus only 26 interceptions.  

After trading the athletic Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns, the clues indicate the Bills want more of a pocket-passer who can stand tall and deliver strikes on third down. Rudolph’s stature and frame are already ideal, but he’s not a statue. He can slide and avoid sacks and is willing to hang in the pocket. Although not an actual runner, he's not afraid to tuck it and go if things aren't there and even ran for 10 touchdowns last season and 17 for his career.

So, what’s the problem? Why aren’t most considering him a viable option as early as the 12th pick? A few reasons.

First, as nicely framed as Rudolph’s body is, he doesn’t throw with particular zip. Of the five quarterbacks considered possible first round picks who threw at the scouting combine in February (Rudolph, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Mayfield), Rudolph had the lowest velocity on his passes ahead of only Jackson. Although he puts air under the ball well to allow his receivers to run under it, he may have issues driving it down the field and to the far sideline against NFL defensive backs. He was also helped by a very good receiving corps. James Washington is considered a second round talent and Marcell Ateman should be a mid-round selection this weekend.  

Then there’s the system. Oklahoma State didn’t run an all-out “Air Raid” with Rudolph at the helm, but they did run a pass-happy, spread offense with some of the Air Raid concepts and philosophies, with most snaps coming out of the shotgun. We don’t know yet what exact type of system new Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is going to run, or how he plans to build his offensive philosophy. But judging by things Beane and McDermott have said since coming to Buffalo, it’s important to them that their quarterback can get to the pocket and throw effectively after lining up under center.

So, like all the other quarterbacks in this class, there are certainly questions about Rudolph’s game, how it will transition to the NFL, and if his flaws can be fixed well enough to be a consistent starter. But as the draft draws closer, maybe we should be mentioning his name more often as the answer to what we’re all wondering.



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