Jake Rudock and Upside Potential

Jake Rudock by Phil Roeder
Photo by Phil Roeder

Embracing risk wisely is crucial to the growth of a quarterback.

There’s a certain joy one gets from watching film on a prospect and wondering why more people aren’t talking about that prospect. Not so much because that prospect is a gem but the possibilities of fitting that skill set into a team’s offense or defense. There are no secrets or under the radar prospects. There’s just how teams and the media view and compare a player’s ability.

I wonder why more observers aren’t talking about Jake Rudock out of Michigan. What I’ve seen on tape has caught my attention. Ultimately, Rudock has a feel for the game that projects well to the next level. There’s only a handful of quarterbacks in this draft class whose film literally drips with confidence and conviction in how they play. Rudock is one of players.

One of my favorite movies is Léon: The Professional with Jean Reno as Léon. The efficiency in which Reno eliminates the corrupt officers in the last scene is an epic demonstration of what happens when preparation and conviction face an otherwise daunting opportunity.

Rudock’s body language at the top of his drops exudes confidence – not just in what he sees but what he can exploit. Like Léon, he has a knack for punishing mistakes. Note how Rudock’s eyes light up when he sees the open receiver and how he gathers his body to deliver the target into the window.

The ability to drive a throw a window is a snapshot of how mechanically sound a quarterback has to be in  his specific throwing motion. Every quarterback has different mechanics. They still have to transfer weight to their plant leg and deliver a throw with accuracy. This is magnified in the red zone. Mistakes can take points off the scoreboard.

This situational arm strength is impressive. The target is only open by an arm length. This is an ‘NFL-open’ throw. Precision is of the utmost priority. A clean, efficient process yielded a positive outcome.

In life we are what we habitually do. Rudock has his footwork down. This may point to his head coach Jim Harbaugh who seemingly got the best out of Colin Kaepernick and was instrumental in polishing Andrew Luck at Stanford. You can see that rote execution on this next cut.

There’s not any huge separation in the coverage but Rudock is confident enough to take his chance. Rudock gets into trouble when he forces decisions. Not every play has to be a positive play. Sometimes your best play is to throw it away.

Harnessing that desire to make plays is a fluid dynamic. One part of it is on the player to measure when the situation calls for the appropriate amount of aggression. The other part is on the play caller understanding his quarterback and choosing when to dial into that play making ability. The next clip depicts the synergy between the two.

A seven-step drop in his own red zone and Rudock shoots for the deep post and doesn’t miss. The inch-perfect placement of an almost 50-yard target is impressive. Good play design coupled with a quarterback who can exploit mismatches and gaps in coverage is fun to watch. It also opens up the entire playbook for an offense. Here’s a similar play with added play-action:

Rudock displays an aggression that will serve him well as he develops at the next level. Knowing situations, specifically risk, is crucial to the growth of a quarterback. Every play has a built in downside risk and upside potential. The key is knowing when to go for the the upside potential. The next exposure illustrates Rudock’s ability to quickly process that upside and pounce on it.

The defense jumps offside turning this snap into a free play. This is a scenario that Aaron Rodgers has become a master at. Due to personal foul on the pass breakup the offense gets a 15 yard penalty instead of just the 5 yard offside call. The pass here falls incomplete but you can see the intent in Rudock’s attempt.

I see a quarterback that may not get draft day buzz but may have a long career ahead of him.

For analysis of skill players in this year’s draft class, download the 2016 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – early-bird purchase for April 1 download available now. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2015 RSPs at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.

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