But he seems like kind of a dick.
“I’m not going to f‑‑‑‑‑‑ get in trouble for drugs or anything like that, but I don’t want to be this crystal-clean guy with perfect responses,” Rosen told Sports Illustrated in 2016. “I’m not going to pretend to be 50. I just want to be happy and enjoy the experiences I have and take advantage of every opportunity I’ve been given.”
In the buttoned-up N(o)F(un)L(eague), comments like that may be the difference between a $32 million deal on draft day and a $16 million deal.
For now, Rosen is trending toward the latter.
Rosen was, for a time, considered to be the likely top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
He has been more consistent than Sam Darnold, who was previously considered Rosen’s only competitor for the top spot until Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield emerged. Rosen is a more polished passing product than the rest of his fellow prospects. And yet Allen, Darnold and Mayfield seem to be edging themselves above Rosen.
In a Feb. 21 mock draft, ESPN’s Mel Kiper projected Allen at No. 1 overall to the Browns, Darnold at No. 5 to the Broncos, and Mayfield to the New York Jets at No. 6 overall. Kiper wrote his about the decision to project Mayfield at that spot over Rosen, who fell to Dolphins at No. 11 overall:
"So why Mayfield over Josh Rosen here? It’s close. Mayfield is one of the best leaders in this class, and there are still questions about Rosen’s ability to galvanize a team."
If Rosen were to fall from the top pick to 11th-overall, then his rookie contract would change tremendously. According to Spotrac.com, his fall from being a four-year, $32,993,327 deal with a $22,075,147 signing bonus to being a four-year, $16,590,408 deal with a $10,145,751 signing bonus. His draft day instant earnings fall roughly $12 million. His potential earnings for the first four years of his career split in half.
Kiper’s phrasing about whether Rosen can “galvanize a team” is a subtle touch. But it’s the spring of an underground ocean of rumors.
One of the most problematic rumors has been the report that Rosen did not want to get drafted by the Cleveland Browns. He was considering staying at UCLA in order to avoid landing with Cleveland at first-overall in this year’s draft, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. He did nothing to quiet those rumors at the Cactus Bowl. In fact, he kind of affirmed them.
Browns general manager John Dorsey may have told DraftAnalyst.com’s Tony Pauline he would stay away from Rosen. At least, that’s what Pauline claims. Dorsey has since denied saying such a thing. But perhaps if there’s smoke, there’s fire.
Here’s what two anonymous general managers told DraftAnalyst.com:
"Opinions are that Rosen is not the leader they need on the field for the next level — the things he’s gotten away with on the college field won’t fly in the NFL. The word egotistical was mentioned many times in referring to Rosen."
Rosen’s confidence has gotten him in trouble before. When coming out of high school, Stanford — not UCLA — was his dream school, according to the O.C. Register. And while he had an offer from David Shaw and the Cardinal, Rosen saw that scholarship yanked. He had to settle for UCLA.
From the O.C. Register in 2015:
"Multiple accounts say it was that demeanor that cost him a scholarship offer to Stanford, his dream school, when he visited Palo Alto for a camp before his junior season two years ago. He was perceived to be overbearing."
"“I’m too confident for my own good at times,” Rosen said in Bruce Feldman’s 2014 book “The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks.” “Sometimes I do come off as arrogant in interviews or whatever, but I feel like that’s also part of what makes my play what it is.”"
There are some elements of Rosen’s backstory that seem overblown. For example, he caught some flack for “rearranging a neighbor’s lawn ornaments in sexually suggestive positions,” according to Sports Illustrated. Should he have done it? No. Does that mean he should draw comparisons to Johnny Manziel? Also, no.
Indeed, that’s a comparison former UCLA coach Jim Mora Jr. helped try to get Rosen to avoid. Via SI.com, Mora would repeatedly ask Rosen whether he wants to be Peyton Manning or Manziel. The fact that Mora had to repeatedly ask Rosen that question does not bode well for him. And that’s seemingly why his draft stock appears to be falling.
The good news for Rosen, however, is that he’s got the combine to prove he’s more Manning than Manziel. In meetings with coaches and executives, he’ll get the chance to change the perception surrounding him — or accidentally further reinforce it. In the case of the Browns, maybe he’ll reinforce it on purpose.
With another team, maybe he’ll consider to use his words, pretending like he’s 50. After all, he’s got millions of dollars on the line.