The 2018 NFL Draft was a wedding day for five quarterbacks and the teams that drafted them in Thursday’s first round.
Five quarterbacks came off the board in the first round – the highest total since 1999 – and each is getting married to its perfect match. Fans will have to deal with the ups and downs, wins and losses, superstar flashes and bust-labeling these player-team marriages will entail.
The first happy couple of the night came as a bit of a surprise. The Cleveland Browns made Baker Mayfield the first overall pick in the draft, in a move that was predicted by just about no one until two days before the draft.
It would have been conventional to go with Sam Darnold. Many analysts considered Darnold the safest quarterback prospect to bet the mortgage on, but when have the Browns taken the safest road?
I feel bad for Cleveland. They’ve struck out on every quarterback they’ve taken for the last 19 years. Browns fans have dealt with everything from Johnny Manziel’s antics to Brady Quinn forgetting how to properly throw a football upon making it to the National Football League.
So Baker Mayfield, arguably the biggest wildcard in the draft, is now in line to try and reverse the trend. And, if his NFL career is anything like his college days, he’ll run around a lot, make some plays and maybe, just maybe, win some football games.
Mayfield is certainly unconventional. Although he’s probably the most accurate quarterback in the draft, Mayfield has been doubted by many because of his height, immaturity and play style.
He’s just a hair under 6’1”. He’ll be fine. He’s immature, but dealing with him will probably seem like a walk in the park for Browns’ fans after dealing with the recent whirlwind that was Johnny Football. His play style, while comparable to Manziel’s, is more advanced than Manziel’s because Mayfield can consistently make plays from the pocket.
He’s a wildcard, but so is his new team.
The second match of the night was between USC’s Sam Darnold and the New York Jets. This is that marriage that has the most potential to work out.
Darnold has all the physical tools needed to be a franchise quarterback. He came into his Redshirt sophomore season as the favorite to go first in this year’s draft. Over the course of the season, he didn’t hurt his chances, but he didn’t do much to help them. He completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards and 26 touchdowns.
But his production wasn’t even my first thought after Roger Goodell announced the pick. This question popped into my mind: Has there ever been a signal-caller who looked more like a Jets quarterback than Sam Darnold?
He’s got perfectly side-swooped reddish-blonde hair, a square jaw and the typical quarterback smile and swagger. In other words, he’s going to do very well in front of the New York media.
The man (boy?) can’t legally drink yet, but is already the toast of the town. He’s already being compared by some to New York legend “Broadway” Joe Namath.
Oh, and like Broadway Joe, Darnold is a good old-fashioned gunslinger. Both have been known to take a few chances and turn the ball over a few times. Namath finished his career with over 40 more interceptions than touchdowns, while Darnold had 13 interceptions and 11 fumbles during his last year in Southern California.
With the seventh pick in the draft, the Buffalo Bills entered into the marriage I’m giving the least chance to succeed.
I don’t get the hype around Josh Allen, but I know exactly why he was taken in the first round. At 6’5” and 237 pounds, he’s who keeps NFL general managers up at night. He’s got big hands and ran a 4.7 second 40-yard dash. He can legitimately throw the ball about 80 yards on the fly. Ignore the physical tools for a moment. Something is still missing.
College production! Allen possesses one of the worst college stat lines of any quarterback chosen in the first round in recent memory. He completed just 56 percent of his college passes and threw for less than 2,000 yards in a fully-healthy Redshirt junior campaign. Also important to note: he played for Wyoming in the Mountain West Conference. Not exactly NFL-caliber competition.
Nevertheless, he fits the Bills well. The Bills are always looking for big quarterbacks with bazookas for throwing arms, so they can (and, I’m obviously paraphrasing here) “excel in the extreme weather elements of Buffalo.” If that’s the mold Buffalo was going for in this draft, then they got their man. I just don’t think it’s going to work.
My prediction: Divorce in less than four years.
Josh Rosen, once projected to be in the running for first overall pick, dropped all the way to the 10th pick before he was scooped up by the Arizona Cardinals.
Arizona is not a consistently noteworthy team. They’ve made the playoffs four times in the last decade, but have also finished with a record of 8-8 or below five times during that same stretch. They’ve finished with a less than glamorous 15-16-1 record over the last two years.
It only makes sense that the Cardinals took a quarterback who doesn’t do anything flashy. Rosen doesn’t run around and throw darts on the move like Baker Mayfield or toss the ball a country mile like Allen. He sits in the pocket and makes NFL throws.
His college stats aren’t anything to smirk at, but also don’t jump off the page like Mayfield’s or some of the other prospects’ do. His 2017 stat line read: 62 percent completion percentage, 3,700 yards and a 26:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Behind Darnold, I think he’s currently the second most NFL-ready passer. He’s similar to 2016’s first overall pick Jared Goff and will fit in well with Larry Fitzgerald and Co. in the desert.
With the last pick in the first round, the Baltimore Ravens selected Lamar Jackson, the most electrifying talent in this year’s draft class.
The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner runs like a track star. He ran for 50 touchdowns in three years at Louisville and had over 1,500 yards on the ground each of his past two seasons. Jackson is no slouch through the air either, as he posted over 3,600 passing yards and a 27:10 touchdown-to-interception ratio last season.
To put that in prospective, Jackson had passing numbers that were similar to Rosen’s, while also running for more yards than most running backs (he finished sixth in the NCAA in rushing yards).
Baltimore and Jackson are an ideal pairing because of the Ravens’ current quarterback, Joe Flacco. Flacco is one of the least exciting or inspiring quarterbacks in the NFL. He has for years been the subject of “Flacco is elite” memes, mocking his mediocrity. Frankly, Flacco is boring.
That’s why the Ravens needed a change. They needed Jackson. Jackson is not boring. He’s been compared to Michael Vick. That says it all.
Expect fireworks and a reel of ESPN Top 10 plays once Flacco hands the reigns to Jackson.
Current divorce rates outside of football hover around 50 percent. While my forecast for the newest batch of NFL quarterbacks isn’t as bleak, I do think Allen will be a bust. I’m confident in the abilities of Darnold, Rosen and Jackson, but remain on the fence about Mayfield (only because he’s now a part of the eternal mess that is the Cleveland Browns). I think it’s possible that four out of these five picks will work.
Regardless of my predictions, we’ll all find out soon enough if these marriages will result in happy ever afters.