The Steelers picked Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph with the 76th overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, trading up to get him.
Rudolph has chance to be their QB of the next decade. Rudolph was the sixth quarterback taken in a deep class at the position, but there’s a lot of variance in how good the guys drafted in front of him could be. Rudolph might be a great value pick.
Rudolph put up massive numbers in college.
He was a three-year starter at Oklahoma State. He averaged at least 8.9 yards per throw in each of them and posted a career touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio of 92-to-26. He was the most prolific QB in school history and one of the most prolific in FBS history, period. His 13,618 passing yards are 11th-most all-time in major college football.
Rudolph threw a ton of passes in Mike Gundy’s spread offense. The sheer volume of attempts helped juice his passing stats, but Rudolph posted strong efficiency numbers. He also doesn’t want to hear anyone’s quips about how easy it was to face Big 12 defenses:
At his press conference at the league’s scouting combine, a reporter asked Rudolph how he’d answer the criticism that he’d only faced “statues in the secondary” in a lightly defended conference. Rudolph was blunt about it.
“Well,” he started, “we played Colorado, Washington, and Virginia Tech, and we beat the crap out of all of them in [bowl games]. Those aren’t Big 12 defenses, and we played pretty well against those guys. So you throw on that tape, and I think that’ll kill that argument right there.”
Rudolph had an incredible connection with receiver James Washington, who won the Biletnikoff Award as the country’s top pass-catcher in 2017. The Steelers took Washington earlier in the night, which means Rudolph and his favorite target are staying together.
He has prototypical size for a drop-back passer.
Rudolph measured 6’5 and 235 pounds at the NFL Combine. He’s basically the same size as Josh Allen, and the two of them are the biggest quarterbacks in this class. It couldn’t have been difficult for teams to see Rudolph’s frame, think back to his college stats, and imagine ways they could mold him into an accurate passing machine for years on end.
Don’t expect to see Rudolph taking off running often. He didn’t at Oklahoma State, and he was on the lower end of QBs at the combine in the 40-yard dash. (He didn’t run the shuttle or three-cone drills, and he had the worst vertical of any QB in attendance.) Rudolph will drop back and fire passes, and that’ll be pretty much all he does. That’s fine.
But can he play right away?
Maybe, if necessary, but the best situation for Rudolph is probably to wait a season before getting pressed into action. His OSU offense bears more in common with NFL schemes than many will realize, but any quarterback prospect could learn from watching for a while.