This year’s rookie QB class was one of the most hyped up classes in recent history. We saw five go in the first round, which hasn’t been done since 1999 where Tim Couch (CLE), Donovan McNabb (PHI), Akili Smith (CIN), Daunte Culpepper (MIN), and Cade McNown (CHI) were selected. This year’s first round quarterbacks were Baker Mayfield (CLE), Sam Darnold (NYJ), Josh Allen (BUF), Josh Rosen, (ARI), and Lamar Jackson (BAL). Lets take a look of how these young signal callers have faired so far.
Games started: 1
Stats: 496 yards, 59.4 completion %, 7.8 Avg., 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 2 fumbles, 81.2 QBR
Baker Mayfield was the most polarizing quarterback to come out of this past draft. He rubbed some people the wrong way with his brash style and was unfairly compared to former Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel. It was a lazy comparison because Mayfield was way more polished coming out of Oklahoma than Manziel was. Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech and ended up winning the job as a true freshman. After butting heads with head coach Cliff Kingsbury, Mayfield walked on at Oklahoma and again won the starting job. Three years and one Heisman trophy later, Mayfield became the number one overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft.
Mayfield is fortunate that he went to a Brown’s team that has a much better personnel than the rest of the rookie quarterbacks. He has a very solid offensive line, great weapons to throw to with a solid running back committee and a good defense. That should not diminish how poised Mayfield has looked in his first two games. He is one of the more polished quarterbacks having started in 48 games in college. His mechanics are the best of the five rookies. He maintains a nice strong base and his feet are greatly connected with his eyes. He is so fluid when moving in pocket and has shown adequate mobility. Also his throwing motion is great. His arm path is smooth which helps the ball jump out of his hand so well. He was great in the comeback win over the Jets and looked sharp last week too, although he does need to do a better job of protecting the football. I want to see Mayfield improve his read progressions over the course of the season.
Games started: 4
Stats: 866 yards, 57.5 competition %, 6.8 Avg., 4 TDs, 5 INTs, 0 fumbles, 72.6 QBR
Sam Darnold was the consensus number one pick leading up to the draft according to most scouts. In his redshirt freshman season, Darnold took over the starting job for USC after the third game and capped off his impressive season with an incredible shootout in the Rose Bowl against Penn State, setting Rose Bowl records with 5 passing touchdowns and 435 yards. Darnold was an early Heisman favorite the following season, but he didn’t impress as much as people thought he would. He still was the favorite to go number one overall. The New York Jets traded up to the third overall pick in hopes of finally finding their franchise quarterback about a month prior to the draft. The Jets were ecstatic that Darnold fell to them.
Darnold has the biggest sample size of this bunch. His first two games Darnold looked very good despite starting his career off with a pick-6 on his first passing attempt. It was impressive how the 21 year-old young buck bounced back. The following week against the Dolphins, Darnold threw for 334 yards becoming the youngest player ever to throw for over 300 yards. He did throw two interceptions, one of them being a back-breaking red zone interception the play after a Jordan Jenkins sack fumble. However receiver Terrell Pryor quit on the route and allowed cornerback Xavier Howard to jump the route. Darnold was then asked to play his third game in 11 days against a solid Browns defense whose defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams, is known for his funky schemes. Darnold then went up against a team with one of the best defenses in the league, the Jacksonville Jaguars. One thing Darnold has improved on is his ball security in the pocket. At USC, Darnold had a tendency to run around with the ball in one hand which led to some fumbles. He has done a good job at keeping two hands on the ball while moving in the pocket. He also has been exceptional while throwing on the move and off platform. Something I have noticed the past two weeks is his footwork has regressed a little from the preseason and first two games. These past two games he’s had some happy feet but that is understandable considering the struggles of the Jets offensive line. Darnold has been very accurate on his short and intermediate routes but has struggled with his deep ball accuracy. I would like to see Darnold’s footwork get back to where it was earlier in the season and be more decisive in his reads.
Games started: 3
Stats: 666 yards, 53.4 competition %, 6.5 Avg, 2 TDs, 4 INTs, 1 fumble, 2 rushing TDs, 63.8 QBR
Josh Allen is considered the rookie quarterback with the most upside. He has freakish athletic ability and has a howitzer for an arm. The knock on Josh Allen in college was his inability to put up great numbers despite playing for a smaller school at Wyoming. Allen’s college completion percentage had many scouts turned off on him. Accuracy and arm strength are the toughest skills to improve as a quarterback. You have a good idea of how accurate or how strong a quarterback’s arm is when they are coming out of college.
In Allen’s defense, he doesn’t have much of a supporting cast around him. His offensive line is below average as is his receiving corps. He had a great game in an unbelievable upset against the Minnesota Vikings leading the Bills to a 27-6 victory. However last week he struggled against the Packers completing just 48% of his passes. Allen has been a little too quick to leave the pocket at times so I would like to see him hang in there better and go through his progressions.
Games Started: 1
Stats: 216 yards, 55.9 completion %, 6.4 Avg., 1 TD, 1 INT, 72.7 QBR
Josh Rosen was my top rated quarterback coming out of the draft. His mechanics are textbook and has decent success despite a mediocre supporting cast at UCLA. Rosen’s signature moment was his absurd 34-point comeback win against Texas A&M in 2017. There were a couple things that had scouts concerned about Rosen. A narrative of Rosen was that he wasn’t in love with football because he is so smart and could be doing something else. That narrative is ridiculous because there are plenty of players in the NFL who have talents in other areas but chose football and are successful. Another knock on Rosen was his injury history. In 2016, Rosen had surgery on his throwing shoulder and had two concussions in 2017. Scouts were concerned that his lack of mobility made him susceptible to injuries.
Another rookie quarterback, another poor supporting cast. Rosen was asked to do the impossible two weeks ago when head coach Steve Wilks threw Rosen into the fire down 16-14 with four minutes left to win the game. Rosen ended up throwing an interception. Last week Rosen looked impressive and the stats don’t tell the whole story. He was running from his life most of the time behind a below average offensive line. Why can’t we get these rookie QBs some line help? I digress. Rosen looks the most NFL ready of the rookie quarterbacks. Jim Mora Jr.’s pro-style system prepared him well.
Games Started: 0
Stats: 24 yards, 25.0 completion %, 6.0 Avg., 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 52.1 QBR
Lamar Jackson was one of the most electrifying college football players we have seen in a while. He has freakish athletic ability especially when it comes to running the football along with decent arm strength. Jackson also showed much improvement as a passer from his 2016 Heisman year to last year. Still, Jackson was inaccurate at times and scouts feared his small frame would make him susceptible to injuries.
Jackson has not had the opportunity to play much with Joe Flacco having a bounce back season. Jackson has been featured in sub-packages but it is not enough to really give him a fair assessment. Jackson will continue to be given creative ways to get on the field but until Flacco is gone, Jackson will be groomed to be his successor.
Featured image via Flickr/Eric Drost