It’s kind of hard for a rookie draft pick quarterback to avoid the spotlight during rookie minicamp, almost no matter in which round he was drafted. He’s virtually assured to be the most significant thrower in that environment, for one thing.
But the focus is even greater when you’re a high draft pick, and greater still when you’re coming in being viewed as a potential heir apparent to a franchise player, which is the situation that Pittsburgh Steelers third-round pick Mason Rudolph finds himself in during this weekend’s practices.
But while there have been some early hiccups, such as fumbled center exchanges and the occasional wobbly pass, the Oklahoma State slinger has left a positive impression so far according to his teammates and coaches.
The highest praise perhaps came from first-year wide receiver Marcus Tucker, who is participating in his third rookie minicamp after spending the 2017 on the practice squad. He was here last year when the Steelers used a fourth-round pick on Joshua Dobbs. While he didn’t compare and contrast the two, he liked what he saw from Rudolph.
Asked for his impressions of the new quarterback, Tucker offered that “he has a really big arm, strong arm. He throws a great ball”, but that isn’t what ultimately stood out to him. there was another trait, somewhat more intangible, that caught his attention.
“I like his leadership, thus far”, the young wide receiver said, going on to add. “I feel like the kid is really able to bring the team in and kind of get everybody settled and get ready and get rocking, so I’m excited for that to see where he goes”.
One of the most fundamental qualities of a franchise quarter is the capability of marshalling your teammates and leading them. And that involves convincing them not only that you have that ability, but that you deserve the right.
Tucker was asked if players can really tell in a setting like a rookie minicamp if a quarterback is actually doing that, if it is even noticeable. “Absolutely, guys notice that”, he responded. “Certain guys just have a command of the huddle, and I think he’s one of those guys that can really grasp the togetherness of the offense”.
Whatever individual criticisms might be levied at Rudolph on the field, one of his universally strong qualities has been, for want of a better word, his presentation. He has in my opinion been, for example, an excellent interview throughout the Combine and pre-draft process and right through the draft itself, and addressing controversial comments from the quarterback he is hoping to replace at some point.
You simply are not going to make it in the NFL as a quarterback if you don’t have poise. Rudolph seems to check that box pretty well if his teammates are already taking note of it this early. Of course that’s just one small step toward becoming a franchise guy. You still have to throw touchdowns.