Mayfield, Darnold, Rosen, Allen, Jackson…Which of these young QBs will find the most success?
From the 1st overall pick in Baker Mayfield, to the 32nd overall pick in Lamar Jackson, there were five quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. There was quite a bit of speculation prior to the draft about which of them will be successful in today’s NFL, and that speculation continues to this day.
Did Baker Mayfield deserve to be the number one pick? Should Josh Rosen been picked higher than tenth? Is Lamar Jackson even a first round talent? These are all questions that cannot be answered until this season begins and progresses. Some of these young signal callers may start right away for their teams, while some may have to wait to get their shot.
So which of them will start, and which of them will sit? Let’s take a look at the scenario that each of these quarterbacks have been thrusted into.
Josh Rosen-Arizona Cardinals
Odds of Starting Week 1: Moderate
The only reason that Rosen will take the field week one for the Cardinals is if injury prone Sam Bradford gets hurt (again). Bradford has missed three full seasons worth of games over the course of his eight year career due to injury, and that number will probably increase in the future. He has torn the ACL in his left knee twice, and aggravated the same knee once again this past season. With every injury comes a higher risk of the same injury again in the future, and Bradford is a prime candidate.
In terms of pure talent, Rosen has some of the best out of the draft class. Arguably the most clutch performer with excellent mechanics, Rosen put his name on the map in his career with the Bruins. He did not have the wins that Baker Mayfield had, or the hype that Sam Darnold had, but he still proved to be a top quarterback in college football. Rosen’s arm strength and mobility are the most questionable aspects of his game, and while he was a capable thrower under pressure at UCLA, those questions about his game will hold him back at the pro level.
On January 22, the Cardinals brought in Steve Wilks to replace head coach Bruce Arians. Wilks, a defensive minded coach for the whole of his career, will be tasked with developing Josh Rosen and grooming him to be the starter. Having been with the Chargers and the Panthers, Wilks has been exposed to talent at the quarterback position in former MVP Cam Newton and pro bowler Philip Rivers. While Newton, Rivers and Rosen are on different ends of the spectrum in terms of development, there are similarities in their skills as throwers.
With Sam Bradford ahead of Rosen in the depth chart, Wilks can use that to his advantage by using Bradford to mentor Rosen. Eventually, Rosen could take an apprentice to master approach and dethrone Bradford, but until Bradford tears his ACL again it looks like Rosen will get well acquainted with the bench for the season.
Josh Allen-Buffalo Bills
Odds of Starting Week 1: Moderate
The Bills were the ideal fit for the young quarterback out of Wyoming. I actually thought he may have had a shot at starting week 1 had he showed improved accuracy after entering the draft. However, my concerns with Allen’s game came to life in the Bills’ preseason opener. Sure, the kid has a huge arm and he showed it with his very first pass of the game. But his accuracy issues are real, as he completed only 47% of his passes against the Panthers.
Josh Allen already might have one of the strongest arms in the league right now. In the preseason opener, Allen looked comfortable and poised. He showed off his strengths: not afraid to step up in the pocket, arm strength and even mobility. At his size (6’5″, 238 lbs), Allen is the prototypical for today’s NFL style, and his arm talent is right up there as well.
But there is a lot to clean up. His accuracy and decision making has to improve, especially when he goes up against first team defenses. There were several throws that should have resulted in interceptions, throws that Allen should not have made. There were also several throws that were incredible for a rookie to make. He finished the game with 116 yards and a touchdown, and he would have had another TD on a deep pass to Robert Foster.
All Allen needs to do is beat out Nathan Peterman, a player who has thrown 5 interceptions in a half, and AJ McCarron, who has shown that he can start but was never able to earn the job in Cincinnati. If he can build upon his preseason debut, he may be well under way to starting for the Bills week 1.
Lamar Jackson-Baltimore Ravens
Odds of Starting Week 1: Low
It will not be long for fans to start chanting for Lamar Jackson after more mediocre quarterback play out of Joe Flacco this season. The electrifying Heisman Trophy winner out of the University of Louisville generated a lot of hype going into the 2018 NFL Draft, but many questioned his ability to transition to the pro level. Many thought that he would be better off switching to wide receiver in the NFL. It is now up to “the next Michael Vick” to prove all of those doubters wrong.
Lamar Jackson has elite speed not only as a quarterback, but as a professional athlete. At Louisville, Jackson excelled running the ball, with over 4,000 career rushing yards and 50 touchdowns on the ground. At his pro day, he showed off his speed, running a 4.34 second 40 yard dash.
However, Jackson was not the purest of passers in college football over his 3 years as a Cardinal, as he was never able to complete more than 60% of his passes in a season. That inaccuracy has so far translated to the NFL as in the two preseason games he has completed only 40%.
If Jackson wants to earn the starting job in Baltimore, he will need to show that he can do more than Joe Flacco can as a passer. For years the Ravens have had a quarterback who will only do enough to keep his job, and now it’s time for Lamar Jackson to expose that.
For now though, Jackson will ride the bench until he can fix the tweaks in his passing arsenal. However, if he can learn under Joe Flacco and continue to light it up with his legs, it may be time to say enough is enough.
Baker Mayfield-Cleveland Browns
Odds of Starting Week 1: Low
I want to call this a QB battle, but the battle is already won…by Tyrod Taylor. Head coach Hue Jackson has already stated that Taylor will start week 1 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. That hasn’t stopped Baker Mayfield from wowing everyone with his command of the offense in his preseason debut.
Against the New York Giants, Mayfield shined with 212 passing yards and 2 touchdowns, overcoming the strong performance by Saquon Barkley on the other side. Baker Mayfield has always been resilient, walking on at Texas Tech and winning the starting job, and walking on at Oklahoma and winning the starting job. Now, he is attempting to dethrone another starting quarterback in Tyrod Taylor, and it may not be long before he gets it done.
The Browns took a chance on Mayfield, as there were several questions regarding his character. However, his on-the-field successes far outweigh the off-the-field antics, as he was the most accurate passer heading into the draft, and his attitude only gives him extra fire in a game situation.
Mayfield isn’t the tallest guy, he doesn’t have the strongest arm, he’s not the fastest guy, but he is a winner. That is something the Browns have been lacking in for quite some time.
It may not be today, it may not be tomorrow, but someday Baker Mayfield will go out on the field on a Sunday afternoon and lead the Browns to a victory. That is what Baker Mayfield does. But for now, the Browns will go with the safe bet in Tyrod Taylor, who is a proven veteran.
Taylor may have won the battle, but Mayfield will win the war.
Sam Darnold-New York Jets
Odds of Starting Week 1: High
This is my pick for the rookie quarterback with the highest odds of starting week 1 for the Jets. While there are three quarterbacks that all have an equal chance to earn the job week 1, Sam Darnold is the future. So why not start it now?
Josh McCown was great for the Jets last year, passing for nearly 3,000 yards with a 94.5 QBR in just 13 games. A good season considering Jets QBs do not usually have much success. Teddy Bridgewater was looking like the franchise quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings before suffering what was almost a career-ending torn ACL.
Bridgewater and Darnold got the majority of the action in the 17-0 preseason shutout of the Atlanta Falcons, and both were very impressive. Bridgewater finished 7/8 for 85 yards and a touchdown, while Darnold finished 13/18 for 96 yards and a touchdown. A very good start to this hotly contested Jets QB battle.
Sam Darnold was widely regarded to be the top pick in the draft, before the Browns opted to take Baker Mayfield 1st overall instead. Darnold is the ideal size for an NFL quarterback at 6’3″ and 220 pounds, has great downfield vision and a high football IQ. There is a good chance that Darnold ends up being the top quarterback out of this draft class.
In his final season with USC, however, Darnold struggled with turnovers with 13 interceptions and 9 fumbles. If he wants to make it in the NFL, he will need to take much better care of the ball and be able to dominate a defense on the fly.
There are many reasons to believe that Darnold will suit up week 1 for the Jets, however, it will be a close battle right up until the first game of the season.