Any conversation about the 2018 NFL draft begins and ends with quarterbacks. Taking place in Arlington, Texas from April 26 through April 28, this class of signal callers is one of the deepest in recent memory, with at least five quarterbacks that could be taken in the first round. With the NFL’s quarterback shortage as bad as it has ever been, these prospects, along with the possible maneuvers needed to get them, have the potential to shake up the entire league as we know it.
When assessing this year’s quarterback class, five names stand out from the rest.
Despite the avalanche of conflicting reports that seem to pop up every draft season, these five are generally seen as consensus first rounders: Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, and Josh Rosen. With none being sure-fire future stars a la Andrew Luck in 2012, each quarterback comes with both considerable upside, and downside.
Sam Darnold, who played his college football at the University of Southern California, is considered to have arguably the best mix of safety and potential in the draft. With great physical traits and playmaking ability, Darnold has the “it factor” that scouts dream of. Despite his talent, Darnold has shown a propensity to turn the ball over and has unrefined mechanics.
Josh Allen, coming out of the University of Wyoming, is considered to have the highest upside of any quarterback prospects in the draft. With world-class arm strength and good mobility, Allen has arguably the best physical traits of any quarterback in the draft. However, Allen is one of the rawest quarterback prospects, with big accuracy issues and average production in college.
Baker Mayfield from the University of Oklahoma, is one of the most accurate passers in the draft. He’s the reigning Heisman trophy winner and was one of the most productive players in college football. Similar to Darnold, Mayfield has the “it factor,” and his fiery personality endears him to teammates and fans. Mayfield’s intensity has gotten him into trouble on and off the field, and his below average size for a quarterback has caused some concern.
Josh Rosen of UCLA is perhaps the most polished quarterback in the draft, with a strong and accurate arm. More of a traditional passer, Rosen is possibly the most pro-ready of any quarterback in the draft. However, Rosen’s outspoken personality has caused some concern, and Rosen has had a history of injuries while in college.
Lamar Jackson of Louisville is another Heisman trophy winner, who was arguably the most explosive athlete in college football. With elite speed, Jackson can make plays with his legs better than any almost any quarterback. The same cannot be said for Jackson’s arm, as many have worried about his accuracy and under-developed passing skills, keeping him behind the other four prospects in many rankings and mock drafts.
Despite the abnormally large amount of solid quarterback prospects, there is not an irregular need for quarterbacks. The NFL is as quarterback needy as ever, with roughly a third of the league in search of an upgrade from or successor to their current starter. The Arizona Cardinals, Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, and of course, Cleveland Browns all are in need of an immediate answer, while the New York Giants, Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and New England Patriots would be wise to pursue the latter.
Cleveland, which has been in search of a franchise quarterback since seemingly the dawn of time, holds the spark that will ignite the quarterback chaos: the number one overall pick. Almost certain to take a quarterback, likely either Darnold or Allen, the Browns decision will cause the quarterback dominos to fall. Depending on who Cleveland takes at one, the Giants, looking to replace a decrepit and declining Eli Manning, are firmly in play for a quarterback as well. Rumored to want Darnold, the Giants are a prime candidate to move back into the draft, acquiring a legion of picks from a more quarterback-desperate team, if Cleveland takes their man at number one. The other New York team, the Jets, have already traded up to the number three spot, sending a handful of picks to the Indianapolis Colts. All but guaranteed to take a quarterback after the move, the Jets selection locks in two quarterbacks within the first three picks and will be the tipping point in which the draft goes from controlled chaos, to full blown pandemonium.
Picks four through six represent the most likely picks to be traded. With Cleveland also holding the number four overall pick, the Denver Broncos (who have just signed Case Keenum to a two year, thirty-six-million-dollar deal) at five, and the quarterback set Indianapolis Colts at six, these represent three other potential opportunities for teams to trade up into the draft. While the Keenum signing gives Denver leeway, it does not prohibit them from drafting a quarterback. These three teams may find suitors in the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and Arizona Cardinals- three teams that have been in a decades long search for a quarterback of the future. These teams, all picking in the double digits, will likely need to mortgage the farm to get their guy, and given that Lamar Jackson is not likely to be drafted in the top 10, one or more of these teams will likely leave draft day disappointed. Perhaps the biggest wild card in the draft are the New England Patriots. Amid the every-changing rumors of the ageless Tom Brady, the perennial AFC contenders have the draft capital to pull off a major move and shake up the entire draft. In addition to the Patriots, the Saints, Chargers and Steelers all have aging, future Hall Of Fame quarterbacks still playing at a high level, making the selection of a successor a distinct possibility.
1st Round Quarterback Predictions:
- Cleveland Browns – Sam Darnold
The Browns infinite search for a franchise quarterback comes to an end, as they take a chance on Darnold’s playmaking ability.
- New York Jets – Baker Mayfield
In a city of stars, the Jets take college’s biggest from a season ago, betting on Mayfield’s college production and accuracy translating to the pros.
- Buffalo Bills (Trade w/Cleveland) – Josh Allen
The Bills get aggressive and sell to trade up for Allen, hoping his cannon-like arm makes up for his scattershot accuracy.
- Miami Dolphins (Trade w/Indianapolis) – Josh Rosen
The Dolphins also mortgage their future for a quarterback, hoping Rosen’s production overshadows his personality.
- Arizona Cardinals – Lamar Jackson
The Cardinals land the most polarizing quarterback in the draft, hoping that Jackson’s arm has the same capabilities as his legs.