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Path to the Draft: The Fit Between Mason Rudolph and the Steelers



As we edge closer and closer to Draft Night on April 26 the mock predictions, expert’s opinions and overall scuttlebutt will continue to grow exponentially.

This week, there was plenty of smoke coming from the Mason Rudolph to Pittsburgh and some in-depth looks at James Washington and others.

Rudolph’s Fit in Pitt’s Bucky Brooks weighed in on Mason Rudolph and why he thinks Pittsburgh and the all-time OSU passer are a good fit.

Big Ben said back in January he’s not looking beyond the 2018 season, refusing to put a timeline on how long he’ll continue to play. But with the well-worn QB having just turned 36, it’s time for the Steelers to plan for the future. Rudolph is a big, sturdy quarterback with outstanding intangibles and leadership skills. Although he lacks A-plus arm talent, he is an efficient passer with a game that’s ideally suited for a quick-rhythm system.

Rudolph was recently interviewed by NFL Network about his workout with Andy Dalton, his draft prep and a certain Pittsburgh head coach and how they hit things off.

“I talked to Coach Tomlin at my Pro Day,” Rudolph said. “What a great guy and what an example of a player’s coach. A guy that’s just, you feel like he’s so in tune with his players. Just a fun guy. He knows when it’s obviously time to go to work, but he can have a good time and small talk as well.”

And there is plenty of local buzz for Rudy to Pitt, as well. Tim Benz of TribLIVE, a local Pittsburgh news outlet, talked about his love for Rudolph even if he now wants the Steelers to pass on him. Um, I’ll let him explain.

One of them, Rudolph, is a guy I’ve wanted the Steelers to select for two years.

I stress want ed. As in, past tense. I want ed the Steelers to draft him when the slim prospect existed that current quarterback Ben Roethlisberger may really consider retiring after 2018.

But now that Roethlisberger allegedly wants to play this year and maybe even two more , drafting a quarterback in the first two rounds would be impractical.

Even if it’s Rudolph, who I think is the most solid bet to be a quality starter in this draft after Sam Darnold of USC. He threw for a school-record 13,618 yards and 92 touchdowns during his time at Oklahoma State.

But Steelers GM Kevin Colbert is leaving things open accord to an article by ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

“We never go into draft preparation with a particular position in mind,” Colbert said. “Our scouts and myself, and once we get the coaches included after the season, we do this on a very general, broad approach. Even if you are not drafting a specific position, you still want to evaluate it and place it properly on your board so that the positions you are looking at are stacked accordingly.” ESPN

Heach coach Mike Tomlin weighed in on Pittsburgh eyeing draft-eligible QBs this year.

“I just think it’s prudent business practice where if a quarterback is in his 30s, you better know what the market looks like,” Tomlin said. “You better take yourself through the evaluation and stacking process, whether you’re not a true player in that market or it’s a dry run. Kevin and I have taken that approach the last number of years. At some point it’s going to be real and maybe it is this year.” ESPN

Steeler Depot, a Steelers blog did a mock with Pittsburgh’s top five picks and had a familiar name at No. 28.

The big quarterback threw for 13,618 yards during his four seasons at Oklahoma State on his way to competing 63.2% of his total pass attempts. He has a strong arm, good accuracy and while he will obviously need to sit and learn a while, could become a very capable NFL starter. Is he a first-round quarterback? As late as the Steelers pick this year you can probably call him a second-round prospect. Steeler Depot

The Steel City is one of my four favorite landing spots for Rudolph along with New Orleans, New England and Los Angeles (Chargers).

Can James Washington thrive from the slot?

Former NFL player Stephen White broke down some film of Washington for SB Nation, and he came to the same conclusion that most of us did after watching the all-time leading Cowboy receiver over the last four years. He’s a baller, regardless of his sub-6 foot height and non-elite combine 40 time.

White does bring up something that I’ve heard our own Adam Lunt discuss about how NFL teams might view the 5-11 wideout.

He didn’t move around much in those four games, mostly lining up wide on the right side of the formation. Since he’s 5’11 and 213 pounds, some teams might see him as more of a slot receiver, however, and that might be adjustment for him, after running so many deep routes in college.

I don’t see that as being much of an issue. Washington is a good wide receiver, no matter where you decide to line him up. SB Nation

I agree that the Prez has the talent to probably play anywhere, but I do think limiting his opportunities at the deep ball is to limit what makes him great.

Green Bay Profiles Washington

A week after profiled Marcell Ateman, the cheesehead faithful got a formal introduction to last year’s Biletnikoff winner.


PFF Picks Team Fits for Washington and Ateman

Pro Football Focus ran through its 10 highest-rated WR prospects for this year’s draft and OSU’s first ever duo of 1,000-yard wideouts were included. Here are the fits they came up with for each.

James Washington to Dallas.

Working under the tentative assumption the Dallas roster will otherwise remain as-is heading into the season, a dynamic, reliable deep threat opposite Dez Bryant has long been the missing link in the Cowboys’ offense. ProFootballFocus

And Marcell Ateman to Jacksonville.

The Jaguars have decided (at least in the short term) to make a commitment to Blake Bortles at quarterback, and with him in mind they would do well to target a receiver capable of consistently coming down with contested catches. Ateman did just this at Oklahoma State, tallying 320 yards last season in contested situations and hauling in 15-of-20 targets to him while working against press coverage. ProFootballFocus

Rudolph not lacking confidence

In an article by John Hoover for The Sporting News, Rudolph made it clear that NFL teams might not share the same opinion of him as all of the “talking heads”.

“But I think if you talk to those guys and then you talk to the actual decision-makers and the evaluators in the NFL, you get two different opinions. I think everyone’s going to see draft night what’s going to happen and how it’s all going to sort itself out…” The Sporting News

We’ll all find out soon enough.

Draft Projections

• Steve Pallazzolo of ProFootballFocus has James Washington going No. 16 overall to the Baltimore Ravens in his latest mock draft.

Washington has a second gear downfield and the ability to track the ball in the air, a good combination to try to get QB Joe Flacco’s deep ball back on track. The Ravens have added a few pieces to their receiving corps this offseason, but there is still work to be done and Washington led the nation with 815 yards on deep passes last season. PFF

Steve has Rudolph going shortly thereafter to Buffalo with the 22nd pick.

The Bills are happy to take a chance on Rudolph at this point in the first round. He is a solid intermediate and downfield passer, especially the vertical route tree outside the numbers, though he must improve his accuracy in the short game. Rudolph is a difficult evaluation as he was strong in key areas, including posting the top third-down grade in the draft class, but he also ranked 34th in PFF grade in the red zone. PFF

He also has Marcell Ateman going to the Bay area with the No. 59 overall pick to San Francisco.

There’s still a need for playmakers in San Francisco and Ateman brings a big catch radius and red zone target with his 6-foot-4 frame. His 3.50 yards per route ranked fourth in the class last season as did his 134.7 passer rating when targeted. PFF

• In his latest mock Chris Trapasso has Washington going first among Cowboys with the 23rd pick to the Los Angeles Rams.

Sammy Watkins was a big-play and clearing-route specialist for the Rams in 2017. He’s now on the Chiefs. So, the Rams get Jared Goff the premier deep threat in this class in Washington. CBS Sports

And he’s now jumped on board the Rudolph-to-NOLA train.

Need a quarterback ready to run a spread, pass-happy offense? How about Rudolph? He’d sit behind Brees for at least a year and could become a top-flight quarterback right away when he takes over. CBS Sports

• In his latest two-round mock for CBS Sports, R.J. White has Rudolph going No. 29 overall to Jacksonville.

Blake Bortles signed an extension that doesn’t necessarily lock him into being the Jaguars’ long-term option at the position. With value not on the board at other potential positions worth targeting, the Jaguars grab Rudolph with the hope they can develop him into a guy who can raise the ceiling on the offense higher than Bortles has shown capable. CBS Sports

And Washington falling all the way to the 64th overall pick to Cleveland.

The Browns brought in Jarvis Landry but he’s on the franchise tag and Josh Gordon is one strike from never playing again. Washington helps fortify the position.

That seems like a huge drop and I hope, for Washington’s sake, that he’s picked up before that.

• Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times has New England moving up a couple of spots to take Rudolph as their next QB in waiting at No. 26.

The Patriots need someone to play that Jimmy Garoppolo role behind Tom Brady, who turns 41 this year. Here, the Patriots leapfrog ahead of New Orleans and Pittsburgh, both in need of QB understudies, to get Rudolph. Los Angeles Times

More from #DraftTwitter

On another fit for Washington.

Please, whoever that drafts hims, throw this man the deep ball!

And just because, here are all of James Washington’s Biletnikoff season TDs.

Washington and Ateman among the top WRs in passer rating when targeted.


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