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Giants QB Watch: Baker Mayfield continues to help NFL draft stock with his play

The New York Giants are looking closely at college quarterbacks. The mandate was given when their season started to collapse. It has gone completely off the rails since.

Seriously contemplating the next franchise quarterback at the top of the draft is the responsible thing to do. These opportunities don’t come around every year.

General manager Jerry Reese was even at USC-UCLA last week to watch Sam Darnold vs. Josh Rosen. That was telling. Reese doesn’t get out to many college games anymore.

But with Eli Manning soon to be 37 years old and the franchise in disarray (they’re 2-9 after losing to the Washington Redskins on Thanksgiving), one of the top college quarterbacks could be the savior. Rosen or Darnold or someone else could be Manning's successor.

Here’s an update on my ranking of the top options that could be available for the Giants in next year’s draft:

(Note: The buzz around USC’s Sam Darnold remains that he will stay in school, especially if the Cleveland Browns pick No. 1.)

1a. Sam Darnold (USC) -- He remains in the top spot despite not playing Thanksgiving weekend. Scouts and talent evaluators just think he has that “it” factor more than Rosen. An interesting comp I’ve heard recently is Ben Roethlisberger with his ability to avoid pass rushers and make throws on the move. Darnold will have two more opportunities on big stages to show off his skills -- in the Pac 12 championship game Friday night vs. Stanford and in a prominent bowl. He can further solidify his status as the top quarterback prospect in those contests.

1b. Josh Rosen (UCLA) -- He was removed from Saturday’s win over Cal for what the team called precautionary reasons. Rosen was sacked three times in the first half and appeared to have his head and/or shoulder hit the turf. It has been a rough season physically for the talented Rosen, who went 13-of-18 passing for 202 yards and two touchdowns against Cal. This will come up throughout the pre-draft process. But UCLA is now bowl eligible and its quarterback has said he would play if they received an invite. He could still have one more game remaining in his college career. Is it worth him risking it? Rosen is considered the most pro-ready quarterback in the draft with the best arm.

3. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) -- That suspension for grabbing his crotch lasted one series, and just two total plays. It didn’t matter. Facing West Virginia in another defense-less Big 12 contest doesn’t do a ton for Mayfield’s professional evaluation. He had already done enough in Big 12 play this season before he completed 14-of-17 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns in a demolition of the Mountaineers. Oklahoma scored touchdowns on all six possessions Mayfield was on the field, and he was out of the rout in the third quarter. Mayfield has helped his stock greatly this season. He’s going to win the Heisman Trophy. He’s been compared to Johnny Manziel and Russell Wilson. What could hold him back is his height and ability to make throws from the pocket. One scout recently said he should be a second-round pick -- but will probably go late first -- after he measures in at 5-foot-11 or 6-foot-0. If he’s an option for the Giants, it would likely be later in the first round. Not with a Top 5 pick.

4. Josh Allen (Wyoming) -- His junior season ended with him on the sideline with a shoulder injury. He missed Wyoming’s final two games of a disappointing year. Allen has the talent and natural skills that make NFL talent evaluators salivate. But his accuracy and ability to play at the highest level are questions he has to answer. Allen may be able to improve his stock throughout the draft process, but for now he’s stuck behind the top 3. His final numbers for 2017 were pedestrian: 1,658 yards, 56.2 percent completion percentage, 13 TDs, 6 INTs.

5. Lamar Jackson (Louisville) -- His numbers this season are again silly. He had 372 total yards in Louisville’s latest rout of Kentucky that included a mini-brawl where Jackson was in the middle. The running quarterback has his fair share of detractors who do not believe he can throw the ball well enough to succeed at the NFL level. But there are others who have seen enough growth this year to think he can develop into a franchise quarterback at the NFL level. Jackson’s completion percentage has improved every year (it’s over 60 percent this season) and his interceptions are down. He’s thrown just six interceptions in almost 400 passes. He’s not in the Darnold/Rosen range as an NFL prospect, but there seems to be enough buzz that Jackson could be an early-round selection.