Although multiple sources have said that UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen will not play when the Bruins take on Kansas State in the Cactus Bowl on December 26, he himself has said that he wants to play so long as doctors clear him.
Regardless of whether or not he plays in that game, most people expect Rosen’s college career to be over by the time 2018 rolls around when he declares for the NFL Draft. Rosen is also expected to be among the top picks in the draft, quite possibly the top target for the Cleveland Browns, who locked up the No. 1 overall pick this past weekend by falling to 0-15. That’s a problem because, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Rosen has made it known that he would rather play for the New York Giants, who will almost certainly have the No. 2 pick in the draft. Furthermore, if he knew that the Browns definitely wanted to draft him, he might not even risk such a fate and just stay at UCLA for another season.
UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen would prefer to play for the Giants over the Browns and would be hesitant to declare for next year’s NFL draft if he knew that Cleveland was going to take him with the No. 1 overall pick, according to league sources familiar with the situation.
Privately, Rosen has expressed concern about winding up in Cleveland and would rather be with a more stable franchise, such as the Giants.
If all of this sounds familiar, that’s because it’s almost exactly the same scenario that came up when Eli Manning entered the NFL Draft in 2004. The San Diego Chargers had the top pick but Manning made it clear he would refuse to play for the team if drafted. However, the Chargers ended up drafting him anyway as part of a trade deal with the New York Giants. The Giants drafted and then traded Philip Rivers and draft picks to the Chargers for Manning’s rights. The rest is history.
It’s hard to believe Rosen wouldn’t at least roll the dice with the same kind of scenario. Why return to UCLA and risk further injury while being paid nothing when you can go pro and make millions? Even if the Browns drafted him, he could likely force their hand in the same way Manning forced San Diego, inadvertently giving them leverage over the other teams that might want him. The Manning trade will be remembered for favoring the Giants but those draft picks very easily could have tipped the scales the other way.
Then again, given the ongoing futility that is Cleveland Browns football, can you really blame him for wanting nothing to do with them?
Of course, the one thing that might make Rosen curious about returning to UCLA (other than spurning a risky career in Cleveland) would be to play under new coach Chip Kelly for a season. Whatever school records that need to be broken probably would, given Kelly’s record of pass-happy, high-scoring offense.