Evaluating premiere quarterbacks from 2018 NFL Draft.
Five quarterbacks got taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft which was the most in the opening round since 1983. Among those five quarterbacks, four are still starters: Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson. What should we make of these four single callers now that they are about halfway through their third seasons?
Baker Mayfield broke the NFL record for most touchdown passes thrown by a rookie quarterback. That and the Cleveland Browns acquisition of Odell Beckham in the 2019 offseason had many predicting an MVP-like season from Mayfield in his 2nd season. Despite lofty expectations, Mayfield threw for 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions as the Browns went 6-10 last season.
Mayfield has had an up and down 3rd season in the league. Against the Bengals on October 25th, Mayfield completed 22 out of 28 passes and averaged an outstanding 10.6 yards per attempt, had only one interception, and threw five touchdowns, including the game-winner to Donovan Peoples-Jones with only 11 seconds left remaining in the game. Mayfield followed up his outstanding performance by averaging under 5 yards per attempt against the Las Vegas Raiders and only leading his offense to six points.
Even with Odell Beckham Jr sidelined for the rest of the season Mayfield still has a good supporting cast. Many quarterbacks around the league, especially the next one I'm about to analyze, would love to have a very good running game at their disposal along with a reliable wide receiver in Jarvis Landry. If Mayfield continues to be inconsistent, the Browns could consider moving on from him after this season.
Sam Darnold was drafted 3rd overall by the New York Jets in the 2018 NFL Draft. Since being drafted by the Jets, Darnold has consistently had poor offensive lines, nonexistent running games while having questionable coaching staffs, and being without a true #1 receiver.
The circumstances for Darnold have been anything but ideal, but he isn't the only quarterback that's ever played for a bad team. Darnold's poor supporting cast doesn't excuse his poor pocket presence, inconsistent accuracy, and questionable decision making. With the Jets likely to get the #1 overall pick in the upcoming draft that should feature Trevor Lawrence, Darnold's time in New York appears to be running out.
Josh Allen was selected 7th overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2018 NFL Draft. As a rookie, Allen struggled with a poor supporting cast. However, in his second season, Allen scored 29 total touchdowns and threw just 9 interceptions as he led the Bills to a playoff appearance. Allen may have the strongest arm in the league, but he needed to improve his accuracy even after his successful second season.
Josh Allen's accuracy seemed to be much improved over the first four games of this season. In those four games, the Bills went 4-0 while Allen scored 15 total touchdowns, averaged 9 yards per pass attempt, and only threw one interception. However, over the past four games, the Bills went 2-2 while Allen has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions while averaging just 6.6 yards per attempt in that span. Josh Allen has all the talent in the world, but he needs to be more consistent.
After showing flashes as a rookie, Lamar Jackson took the league by storm in his second season in the league by winning MVP and leading the Ravens to a 14-2 record. Despite his disappointing playoff performance against the Tennessee Titans, there was tons of excitement surrounding Jackson entering this season.
Through seven games, Jackson has led his team to a 5-2 start and is on pace to throw for 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. While there are a lot of things to like about Jackson, we should question his ability to play at a high level against great competition.
After a dominant regular season, Lamar Jackson threw one touchdown and two interceptions while averaging just 6.2 yards per attempt in the divisional round against the Tennessee Titans and the Ravens lost by a final score of 28-12. This season, in a premier matchup on Monday Night Football against the Kansas City Chiefs, Lamar Jackson threw for under 100 yards as his team lost by two touchdowns. His counterpart, Patrick Mahomes, threw four touchdowns and zero interceptions while averaging 9.2 yards per attempt. This past week, against the undefeated divisional rival Pittsburgh Steelers, Jackson underperformed as the Ravens fell two games behind the Steelers in the AFC North.
Why has Jackson struggled against elite competition? Jacksons passing ability shouldn't be questioned too much after leading the league in touchdown passes last season. However, much of Lamar's passing success comes from the fact that defenses have to commit defenders to stop him from running with the football, which opens up his throwing lanes. The problem with that is that if defenses can figure out how to stop Jackson's running, he won't have as many open windows to throw the football. Jackson is a very good player, but he still needs to improve as a pocket passer.
There was alot of hype surrounding the quarterback draft class in 2018. Despite those high expectations, all the quarterbacks taken in that draft have flaws, including Josh Rosen, who is on the Buccaneers practice squad less than three years after being selected 10th overall by the Arizona Cardinals. The 2021 draft could feature Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Trey Lance, who could all be top 10 draft picks. That trio of quarterbacks will receive alot of hype, but the single callers that got selected in 2018 have shown us that you can't automatically assume a group of players will all be great in the NFL.