Mason Rudolph: Discovering Vertical Anticipation


The RSP’s David Igono shows why Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph’s capacity to throw accurate 50/50 targets is noteworthy.

A quarterback’s ability to effectively throw 50/50 balls downfield is often an under-appreciated skill that is often solely credited to the receiver. The truth is usually somewhere in the middle yet refined ball placement by the quarterback is fundamental.

Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph’s capacity to throw accurate 50/50 targets is noteworthy. His capacity to limit an attempt to three ideal outcomes – a completion, an incompletion, or a flag – allows an offense to get vertical while minimizing risk. In one drive during the fourth quarter of a close conference game against Kansas State, Rudolph delivers on three downfield targets.

 Rudolph does a fine job of placing this target on the front shoulder of where his receiver’s eyes are expecting the ball. By default, this puts the pass on the defender’s back shoulder. It’s virtually impossible for most defenders to keep pace with the wideout and maintain proper leverage when the ball arrives in this manner.

This clip further illustrates the nuance Rudolph can apply when necessary. Different receiver,

This clip further illustrates the nuance Rudolph can apply when necessary. Different receiver, a different type of throw. There’s more arc to this target, therefore, it creates more of a “jump ball” situation. The wideout does a sound job of timing his jump. Rudolph placement of the ball makes the cornerback a spectator until after the receiver has caught the ball, coming down from his jump.

 This last exposure is in the red zone where the lack of time and space makes decision making as a quarterback crucial. On any vertical pass, a quarterback wants to limit the result to three options: a completion, an interference or holding call on the defense, or an incomplete pass. Rudolph has had to maintain a strong anticipation of his target’s vertical movement before he releases the pass in that direction. On this play, he was able to complete the pass and get a penalty flag thrown due to the corner being forced to play through the wide receiver. Rudolph puts the ball up and to the sideline so the cornerback can only make a play on the ball after being secured.

On this play, he was able to complete the pass and get a penalty flag thrown due to the corner being forced to play through the wide receiver. Rudolph puts the ball up and to the sideline so the cornerback can only make a play on the ball after being secured.

Mason Rudolph is a name that may pick up steam this upcoming season. The consistency of his ball placement on targets downfield is noteworthy. I look forward to seeing how relevant Rudolph can become on his path to the pros.

David Igono is a former defensive back who played at West Virginia University and a couple of seasons of arena football. A longtime draft anorak, he considers the 2014 RSP the inspiration for taking the process more intentionally. Follow him at @d1gono.

Categories: 2018 NFL Draft, David Igono RSP, Matt Waldman, Players, Quarterback

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