CFB Player Bracket: Mason Rudolph vs. Maurice Hurst
The next round of our CFB player bracket features two players yet to generate a ton of buzz. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph has been overlooked in favor of more high-profile signal-callers like Baker Mayfield and DeShaun Watson this season. Hurst, meanwhile, has to compete for the headlines amongst a dominant group of defensive lineman in Michigan. Both players deserve a spot in the top 32, but which will advance to the next round?
The Case for Mason Rudolph
The Cowboys’ quarterback led Oklahoma State on a ten-game winning streak to open the season, posting at least 30 points in all but one game. Despite throwing for over 400 yards and three touchdowns against Baylor, Rudolph was unable to continue the steak, seeing his team slip from playoff contention. He can look back on an excellent season in which he ranked fifth in terms of pure passing grade, ranking ahead of both Mayfield and Watson.
Rudolph possesses all the traits to become an outstanding quarterback. He throws with good accuracy and location in the short range, enabling his receivers to pickup yards after the catch. Although he lacks the canon of some of his peers, Rudolph also throws well down the field. He shows exceptional touch on his deep passes, throwing accurately on 57.3 percent of 20-plus yard targets a year ago, good for second in the FBS. But for nine drops by his receivers, Rudolph would have posted more than the 13 touchdowns he managed on downfield passes last season.
Rudolph also flashes the pocket presence to evade rushers, and generate positive plays under pressure. He was the 14th-most accurate QB with a muddied pocket in 2015, hitting on 64.1 percent of his passes including seven touchdowns. While the gun-slinging attitude ensures big plays, it also comes with a downside. Rudolph was lax with the football on occasion last season, throwing three interceptions under pressure (and nine in total). To elevate his game further, Rudolph will need to be more judicious with his decision-making.
The Case for Maurice Hurst
Junior defensive tackle Maurice Hurst opened some eyes with an outstanding 2015 campaign. In just 418 snaps, he made a major impact in both key facets of play. He may have finished with fewer sacks (three) than teammates Willie Henry (six) and Chris Wormley (seven), but he out-produced both of them in terms of pass rush grade. Hurst’s +20.4 tally was 16th-best amongst interior defensive lineman, and fourth-best when considering returning players alone. Despite lining up over the nose on a majority snaps, Hurst was more productive than all but two defensive tackles in 2015. He amassed seven hits and 20 hurries, in addition to his three sacks, averaging a pressure about every seven reps. Hurst’s combination of power and quickness makes him tough to block in the passing game. Much of his pressure came on bulrushes, but he also flashed the explosive first step needed to win laterally. His arm-over move enabled instant penetration at the line of scrimmage frequently in 2015.
Hurst was also productive against the run. His instincts and finishing skills stand out. Hurst made each of his 20 attempted tackles in 2015, showing the awareness required to find the football and finish plays. The upper-body strength he employs when bull rushing also stands out against the run. Single blocks are rarely effective against Hurst, who uses his power to stand up blockers off the snap. Double teams are more of an issue, and the main area the Michigan defensive lineman needs to improve. If he is to remain at 0/1 technique, he’ll need to improve his ability to anchor against multiple blockers. Hurst’s +20.7 run defending grade was only 31st overall – and 14th amongst returning DIs – due in large part to a weakness against double teams.
The Verdict: Mason Rudolph advances
Hurst’s production on limited reps was remarkable, but he didn’t have the consistency of impact that Rudolph achieved. The Oklahoma State quarterback was a key reason for the team’s great start, winning a number of shootouts with little defensive help. While Hurst was a contributor on Michigan’s excellent defense, Rudolph elevated the play of OK State’s offense. His supporting cast was far from exceptional. Four of five starting offensive lineman, for example, graded negatively in pass protection last season. Rudolph changed the fortunes of a programme that won just four games in 2014, advancing him to the second round of our CFB player bracket.
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