The NFL Draft is always a gamble for every team. We look back and go “wow, what were they thinking????” But at the time it was “wow, that was a brilliant decision!” You need to have everything in place for draft picks to pan out. That’s why we look at Pittsburgh and New England every year and go “how do they do it?” Well, it’s what they have that helps these players. And then you look at the likes of Cleveland, Indianapolis, and Detroit 10-15 years ago, and go, “wow, how are they that much of a dumpster fire?”
No truer position it holds more than at the quarterback spot. You hope that your first round pick that you use on a quarterback will net you greatness or at the very least a franchise that can compete for the long run.
We’ve seen it in the past with first round picks such as Peyton Manning, Donovan McNabb, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, and even the likes of Carson Palmer, and Matthew Stafford. And then we see the reverse, where we see the likes of Akili Smith, Ryan Leaf, Tim Couch, Cade McNown, Joey Harrington, etc. It will set back a franchise for years. But at those times, notably with Ryan Leaf, there was always the great debate whether the Colts should have drafted Leaf over Manning. However, Leaf’s attributes were outweighed by the nonsense he did off the field and in the locker room thus ending his career nearly before it began.
So, this year’s NFL Draft, there are about 5 quarterbacks that could end up in the first round: Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen. But are they going to be that franchise quarterback everybody will believe in? Let’s look at the candidates.
JOSH ALLEN, WYOMING: Pros: Allen has the look of today’s prototypical quarterback. He stands at 6’4, nearly 6’5 and weighs at 237. That’s comparable to Cam Newton. He may just as strong as an arm as Newton and is fairly mobile. He has a good touch pass at times and can air it out as well as pass on the run. He also guided Wyoming to 2 Bowl Games after years of being one of the most futile programs in the Mountain West. Cons: Something that I think teams need to factor in was his inability to face off against some of the more premier teams in college. Since 2016, Allen faced off against 3 Power 5 teams (Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon….not exactly current Playoff perennial teams) and I will throw in both Boise State match-ups he had and BYU in last year’s bowl game. Here were his total numbers: 83/159 (51% COMP), 7 TD, 13 INT. In the NFL where passing rules supreme, if your QB is only throwing 50% of your passes, that’s a problem. And if he’s struggling against those teams? What will NFL defenses do to him? OVERALL: I’d be shying more away on Allen than maybe anybody else I list here. If he struggles against the more talented squads in college, what makes anybody think he can be an NFL caliber QB?
SAM DARNOLD, USC: Pros: Darnold is also that prototype that scouts and coaches drool over. He is a poised quarterback which really helps him out over the others and his numbers are strong as he can most definitely throw the ball and into tight windows (4,000 yards last year at USC). He’ll scramble when needed to scramble and seems like that quarterback that will defend his players through and through if they make a mistake. Cons: Despite the 4,000 yards, Darnold disappointed in 2017 at USC. He was more interception prone than last year, and while he took challenges on defense, it hurt the Trojans. He also sometimes zeroes in on one target too much, which is fixable at the next level. But sometimes his delivery isn’t quick, and in the NFL you need quick delivery. OVERALL: If my team needed a franchise QB, I’d take a flyer on Darnold. However, would I want him to start in Week 1 as a rookie? No. Get somebody to show him the ropes, but he can have a decent career, similar to fellow Trojan Carson Palmer. Or he could have a career like Matt Leinart.
LAMAR JACKSON, LOUISVILLE: Pros: Jackson is obviously the best dual threat QB in this draft. He can run like no other. He can also throw. His passing numbers were better in 2017 and until the Taxslayer Bowl, looked to be smarter with the football when he threw. The one thing that impressed me with Jackson in 2017 was the fact he worked on improving his passing ability. He seemed more focused and was far more accurate than the year before, nearly completing 60% of his passes (and higher than Allen’s). He can change up a game and make defenses look silly at any point, even if it is a top-notch one (like Clemson). He also seems very cool and poised. That is something that is overlooked to me, much like everything else Jackson brings. Cons: Well, he is a dual threat QB. It also means he’s more injury prone than the likes of a Darnold or Rosen. He still has those games where he makes a brilliant play and then the next play you go “what the heck are you doing?!” much like prior dual threat guys like Cam, Vick, and Kaepernick before him. Teams will shy away just because they feel he won’t be an effective passing quarterback and perhaps maybe he is playing in Bobby Petrino’s system where offense is the style. OVERALL: Similar to Darnold as I would take him but bench him to learn, but I would be more inclined to take him if I am a playoff team and I have a quarterback that would really show him the ropes of how to make the right decisions, or at the very least, play football at a high level in the NFL. But for some reason, I think he’d be best fit in a situation like New Orleans, the Chargers, or even Pittsburgh.
BAKER MAYFIELD, OKLAHOMA: Pros: Mayfield may be the most decorated quarterback to come out of college since Tim Tebow. 3 Conference Championships at Oklahoma, 2 Playoff appearances, a Heisman Trophy, etc. the awards go on. He doesn’t have the size like the others (6’1), but the guy shows no fear out there, moreso than anybody else. He is one of those quarterbacks that you love to have in that case that will take chances and won’t get rattled by a poor play. His attitude and how he is driven to play is impressive. He was a walk-on at Oklahoma after he left Texas Tech and busted his butt. He was loved by his teammates at Oklahoma and has that fierce competitive drive that cannot be understated. Cons: Obviously it is his attitude off the field, and sometimes on the field that has been under scrutiny. Mayfield has not done any favors for himself this off-season as insiders have said teams have practically called him an egomaniac and so full of himself. Sometimes his emotions carry on the field such as the game against Kansas where he was grabbing himself along the sideline and taunting against Baylor. Could you imagine Mayfield doing that in front of Ndamukong Suh? or Michael Bennett? Or James Harrison? The only other question is can Mayfield succeed in an offense that isn’ Air Raid-esque? We know he can play well against some of the better defenses in college (Ohio State, Georgia), but it’s another level in the pros. OVERALL: Mayfield is the most dynamic quarterback in the draft. The risk is high but so can be the reward. People have compared Mayfield to Leaf and Johnny Manziel due to his antics, but for some reason I do not see that as I think he has that drive compared to those two where both sat back and expected everything to come to them. I can see Mayfield start in the first week and do well, but I think in order for him to be very successful, he needs to be on a team that has a lot of stability in the front office. Of course, the argument is that the ones who are stable are the ones who have those franchise guys as is. IF I knew my team had everything in place and have a system to show Mayfield “this is how it is done and you will do it OUR way” then I’d get him. But if he ends up in a spot like Cleveland, Tampa Bay, and a few other places that don’t have that strong identity right now, then he will fail.
JOSH ROSEN, UCLA: Pros: Rosen, like Allen and Darnold, looks the part of the NFL quarterback and his mechanics are NFL-esque. When Rosen is locked in, he is one of the best quarterbacks in the nation and it showed last year when he helped lead the Bruins to a 34-point comeback win against Texas A&M. His numbers were stout despite missing a couple of games last year. He has that swag about him that drives people crazy, but I think in order to be an NFL quarterback, you need to have it. Cons: From a football standpoint, Rosen can be indecisive in holding the football at times and took numerous hits at UCLA. He can also make a bad pass or two as well because of the indecisiveness. A lot of people are also put off by his attitude, which may be too over-the-top arrogant and a bit mouthy for a person at his position. And sometimes I felt like with Rosen was that if you hit him on more than a few occasions, he loses that edge and he will mentally clock out for the game. OVERALL: Similar to Mayfield as in a high risk-high reward case, and it also depends on where he goes. But unlike Mayfield where his teammates gave glowing comments about him, I haven’t heard as many from Rosen and while Jim Mora and Josh Rosen were close at UCLA, it was a bit of a tell-tale sign that Mora would prefer to draft Darnold before Rosen (though he said Darnold was a better “fit” for Cleveland). The one thing that makes me shy away on Rosen is that it seemed like since high school everything has been handed to him on a silver platter, and it continued that way at UCLA. He has to be in the perfect situation to do well in or if he goes to a spot like the Browns, Jets, or Dolphins, he’s going to be more of a headcase than a help. Rosen’s best fit may be somewhere that a team either already has pieces in place and can make a run (Baltimore?) or had a hiccup in 2017 that can make noise (Denver?) so going to a team on a rebuild may not be the best idea or he will join the last QB drafted from UCLA in Cade McNown as a flop.
I somewhat look at these 5 guys as different caliber quarterbacks. But none of them right now I don’t see as being anywhere near a Rodgers, Brees, Ryan, or even a Matthew Stafford or Carson Wentz.
I’m not sold on Allen at all and think any team who goes all in on him will be regretting it in 3 years and will be a career backup at best.
Darnold at best I can see him having a career of Carson Palmer, which is one of “good, but not great and probably not that true franchise QB and won’t get them to the promised land.”
I can easily see Jackson have the best EARLY start out of any of them but I think his tucking and running may cost him a prolonged NFL career and probably not one to invest heavily on after a decade.
Mayfield is the hardest one to figure out to me because he can be a franchise guy but those off-field antics will hinder him badly especially if whatever team he is on doesn’t handle it right.
Rosen, I’m just not sold on at all and may be a career backup or if his attitude gets in his way, out of the league in 5 years.
But it is all a gamble. Time will only tell for us.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat