At the start of every college season NFL talent evaluators all salivate over how "great" this new quarterback class can be. This season was no different with the likes of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Luke Falk, and Mason Rudolph making people go crazy on who among them were the best. Of course, as the season wears on it all falls apart and now as we get ever closer to Draft Day it seems everyone has their favorite. In fact, each one of these quarterbacks have an issue that makes them not a lock first pick like an Andrew Luck, Jared Goff, or Carson Wentz was coming into the NFL. However, I will try to divulge into why I like each one and why I would not draft or draft each.
Sam Darnold USC - If you read any of my mocks or other draft ramblings you would know that Darnold is my favorite quarterback from this class. To me he has it all in terms of size, leadership, arm strength, and mobility. He never talks like he is bigger than the team and is always open for criticism on how to get better. None of his teammates have ever had a con word to say about him. I can see him walking into an NFL locker room and assimilate quickly learning everything like a sponge.
However, he is not without his criticism that have some doubting his ability to transition to the NFL. One being his mechanics and long throwing motion. I think that is just rawness around a player who was a linebacker and three sport athlete in high school. He never went to these quarterback camps like other top quarterbacks have done. To me this just means he has a lot of upside to tap into if a coach can refine his mechanics. The other issue is the amount of turnovers he has had. Some turnovers I do not mind, it just means you are aggressive and pushing the ball downfield. Though, some of his picks were forced and boneheaded mistakes. I think he was just trying too hard to carry a mediocre team on his own. Just look at the Vegas odds for USC and how much they changed when he declared for the NFL. With him they were going to be a top four team, but without them they struggle to even stay in the top 25.
If I were Cleveland I would just take him and mold him. This will give the "quarterback guru" Hue Jackson an actual talented quarterback to work with and develop. I doubt Darnold is going to come in and have instant success on a mediocre team. However, I do think Cleveland's talent is good enough that with just solid play out of the quarterback position can lead them to 5 to 6 wins. High end I can see him turning into a similar quarterback as Phillip Rivers with quality leadership, high IQ, and a funky throwing motion. Low end he could turn into a Matthew Stafford with similar size, arm strength, and penchant for throwing ill timed interceptions. Both are solid quarterbacks just one has had more success than the other.
Josh Rosen UCLA - I was never a fan of Rosen and you might hear it in the way I talk about him here. One of my biggest issues is his attitude and unwillingness to bend for people no matter the issue. To me that does not show any signs of maturity or leadership. If you think you are the best, do not say it prove it on the field. To me Rosen has just not done that at UCLA. Of course, he does have the most natural throwing motion, arm strength, and high end accuracy when he puts his mind to it. Unfortunately, I think he cares more about his persona off the field than on it to put the work into being a top quarterback.
Another big red flag in my book is his health. He has missed a lot of time at UCLA with a shoulder injury and then a concussion issue. In a more aware NFL about head injuries if he gets more than one he may be on the shelf for a long period of time. Not saying being more aware is a bad thing, but it just makes it harder for your first round quarterback see the field if concussions become an issue. Size is an issue since some of those injuries have come from being tackled by smaller Pac 12 defensive linemen. Imagine if a guy like Fletcher Cox, Aaron Donald, or a J.J. Watt get a clean shot on him. Especially, if he goes to a bad team with a bad line I feel like it will be an issue that will always follow him. He definitely needs to put on more weight and strength, but I am not sure how much more room there is to put functional weight on his frame. Rosen is not overly mobile either to help avoid big hits.
Rosen needs a perfect spot to succeed in my opinion. I would love-hate it if he lands in New York with the Giants. For one he would possible be able to work behind Eli Manning and learn how to be a good professional and leader. However, New York is a media hot bed that can prod at the open and willing to speak his mind Rosen. Meanwhile, some mocks have him going to Miami with the night life would be another bad spot in my opinion. The best location would possibly be Arizona where he can hide away or Denver where they already have a good veteran core to help him. High end I think he can turn into a Matt Ryan with a slightly better arm. Both have similar size and throwing style where they beat you with their accuracy more than their ability to push the ball down the field. Low end I can see him turning into a head case like Ryan Leaf who clashes with leadership, media, and everyone else around him. Somewhere in between can be a guy sort of like Jay Cutler with poor leadership qualities and aloofness just to play well enough to get paid big money.
Baker Mayfield Oklahoma - If you read any of my previous writings and rants you would know I am not a believer on Baker Mayfield at all. Most of it is not even due to his size since there has been a trend of less than ideal quarterback size being successful in the NFL. However, I am not about to disparage the work of Drew Brees or Russell Wilson to say Mayfield can turn into players like them. Brees has a much better IQ at this point, arm, and leadership qualities. Meanwhile, Wilson is in a whole different league of athleticism than Mayfield who is more Manziel-esque than Wilson in that department. Plus, both of the aforementioned quarterbacks are Hall of Fame level talents so it would just be unfair to compare Mayfield to them. What bothers me a lot is Mayfield's brashness and cockiness. There is a difference between being fiery like say a Tim Tebow, Tom Brady, or Cam Newton then what Mayfield has done talking about how great he is. It just rubs me the wrong way where he puts himself before everyone and has no clue why people find his brashness off putting.
The biggest issue I have with Mayfield however, is just the fact that no Big 12 quarterback has found success in the NFL over the past decade maybe even more. Sam Bradford has had middling success, Robert Griffin was a flash in the pan, Tim Couch was a bust, Colt McCoy arm was too weak, Bryce Petty cannot even beat out Josh McCown, Landry Jones was terrible when he saw the field, Andy Dalton is well known as being one of the lower end starting quarterbacks in the league, and the list just goes on and on. The throwing windows in the Big 12 are so wide that it is easy to be a leading passer in the country there. Not only that, but when Mayfield actually finally saw a top notch defense in Georgia he just turned into a hot mess with no clue what to do. Hence why Lincoln Reilly began taking the ball out of his hands. Just the conference he is from makes me take him off the board let alone a police video where he got caught, if he out ran them then maybe I would be a tad more lenient, but he was not even fast enough to do that.
I see little chance for Mayfield to succeed long term from his bad decision making off the field to the fact that he can get overwhelmed quickly against a pro defense. He may find a nut occasionally and flash some brilliance like Tim Tebow and others have, but I doubt it will be long term dominance. Also, just because he is a winner and that's why you draft him is a dumb barometer for success in the NFL. Tim Tebow won a lot, but found no success long term in the NFL. RGIII won a lot and had little success long term. Kellen Moore has the most wins in college and was not even drafted. That sort of drafting is just an old school mentality that got Coach Ditka ran out of the league putting all his eggs on a winner like Danny Wuerffel. Anyways, high end I can see Baker turning into maybe a guy like Case Keenum who is a functional starter with similar size and arm strength to the career back up. Low end, he is out of the league in two to three years not willing to accept a back up role since his talent is more along the lines of Bryce Petty than a starters level.
Josh Allen Wyoming - Allen I think has the highest ceiling among the quarterback prospects. That includes Sam Darnold who is a little bit more complete with a higher floor than Josh Allen. Instead, if Allen is developed well he has the arm, mobility, and size to turn into a top quarterback similar to Carson Wentz. The biggest issue is the fact that his arm is so strong. Many times quarterbacks who are so gifted often lack in their effort to become better pure passers and believe that their arm can get them out of any problem put before them. Look at the likes of Jay Cutler, Brett Favre, and Jeff George who were all gifted with amazing arms, but had battles with poor decision making that caused each to have varying success.
Unfortunately, for Allen in a quarterback starved league with coaches and GMs fighting to keep their job from year to year he will most likely be thrown into the fire much too soon. That is the crux of why I think Allen will ultimately fail in the NFL. He needs a full season or more of seasoning in my opinion until he is ready. He only completed around 57 percent of his passes even in the lower level Mountain West conference. I know people will point to the lack of talent on his team, but it is not like the teams he faced like Fresno State, San Diego State, or Colorado State had that much more talent. He also comes with some injury issues that plagued him the past two seasons causing him to miss a handful of games each year. I really like the kid's talent, but he needs time. If he lands with a desperate team like the Browns, Jets, Broncos, or Cardinals who will play him too soon I can see him floundering.
If on a percentage scale of success I have Darnold around 75% successful, but a guy like Allen I have resting at exactly 50%. It is all up to where he lands in my book. If he goes to the Giants who will let him sit for a season behind Eli that would be great or possibly a trade up by a team like the Saints or Steelers who can sit him behind their starters. However, I highly doubt that happens he most likely will land with a team like the Jets or Broncos who will thrust him into a starting role before he is ready. High end I truly can see him turning into a Carson Wentz type player if he is groomed well. Low end he could be like Blake Bortles who was forced to play too soon and is just now showing some signs of life as a starter.
Lamar Jackson Louisville - Now we come to my favorite quarterback of the draft class so I may be laying it on a little thick here. I find it odd that the Heisman winning quarterback everyone is in love with in this draft is the brash Baker Mayfield instead of Lamar Jackson. In fact, the number Jackson put up in his Heisman winning season was topped this past year where he came second to Mayfield. I know he reminds a lot of people of RGIII who was another slight quarterback with gifted running ability, but I just feel like something is different with Jackson. Not only is he a more conscious pocket passer, he is also a smart runner in the open field who avoids big contact, and his arm is a lot more explosive. He has also developed better from the pocket each season so far and if he continues to do so to go along with his athletic gifts he could be a true game changer.
I understand everyone's worry with his size and wondering if he can hold up to the rigors of the NFL. However, show me the tape where he ever took a clean shot in college unlike RGIII and Michael Vick who thought they can run like a big back in the open field. He is often shown running out of bounds or sliding before a defender can get to him. Also, he should be able to put on some more weight as he ages. Jackson is just 20 entering the draft and is two years younger actually than Mayfield. I also, think team's worry about the system he comes from under Bobby Petrino is no better than the system Mayfield is coming from. Both are extremely simple and quarterback friendly. He did not have a great showing at the white board in Indy compared to the other quarterbacks, but I still contribute it to his age and lack of experience in a complex system. Overall, I think there is potential here and he deserves to be a quarterback at the next level before people move him to be a receiver. He has never caught a pass and similar quarterbacks turned receivers over the years have had mixed results. Just ask Terrell Pryor and Braxton Miller how easy it's been.
In the end, Lamar Jackson should sit for a year much like Josh Allen as both have a lack of pro offense experience and accuracy issues. I also think letting Jackson sit for a bit is a smart idea for him to be able to put on some weight and size before he is on the field. People have him pegged to go to the Saints or Steelers for him to have success. Which, could actually happen and be a good spot for him to learn behind two Hall of Fame quarterbacks, but I think a spot where he would be perfect at would be Jacksonville. I know they just signed Bortles, but they had to since without him they have nothing and at the very least he is familiar with the system there. However, it is a great spot for him to play in a warmer climate where his size would be less of an issue, he would still be able to sit behind a veteran starter before he is ready, and he may have chance to start sooner than later behind Bortles. Much like Allen I think he needs the perfect spot to succeed or else he could be thrown to the fire too soon. High end I can see him turning into a stronger armed Marcus Mariota. On the low he is out of the league in three years much like Robert Griffin.