The 2018 NFL Draft marked the first time since 1999 five or more quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the draft and only the third time since the merger in 1970. But this draft is different in that every quarterback has someone to either help them along or to compete with them for a starting job. How does each of these quarterbacks stack up against their competition?
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Mayfield has the highest ceiling of any quarterback selected in this draft and that’s one of the reasons why he was selected first overall. The Browns have quarterback Tyrod Taylor ahead of him on the depth chart and he will likely be the starter earlier in the season.
Taylor wasn’t a great quarterback in Buffalo, but not a terrible one either. He could be a bridge until Mayfield is ready but he’ll likely be ready to play sooner than expected, which always happens with these young quarterbacks.
Projected first start: Week 4
Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Darnold, up until draft day, was rumored to go to the Browns pick with the first pick and when the Browns took Mayfield instead, the Jets elected to take Darnold. The former Trojan has a higher floor than Mayfield so he’s the safer pick but one could argue his potential ceiling is lower than Mayfield’s.
On their roster, the Jets are carrying the ultimate journeyman in Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater. McCown is a veteran presence to help Darnold along and will likely be the early starter until Darnold is ready, which, also seems to be sooner than expected. According to Manish Mehta, the Jets decision makers are impressed with Darnold’s progress and it may be enough for him to win the job out of camp.
The Jets also have a staff that may find themselves in a position where they’re fighting for their jobs so if things start to go awry, they may send Darnold out there in an attempt to save themselves.
Projected first start: Week 2
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
The Bills traded up and selected Allen seventh overall which came as a surprise with Josh Rosen still on the board. A lot of scouts see him as a guy who has great physical traits, but nothing to back it up. In other words, he has a strong arm and not much else.
The Bills quarterback room is currently made up of AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman, and Allen so it makes sense that Allen may not have to wait long to see his first start especially if things go south for the team early in the season. However, both McCarron and Peterman will likely see the field before he does.
Projected first start: Week 9
Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
Rosen was expected to be a top five pick in this draft. With every pick that came after, the public was watching wondering how far he would fall until finally, the Cardinals snatched him at no. 10. Even Rosen himself was critical of all the teams that passed on him.
“There were nine mistakes ahead of me.” Rosen said after the draft.
But Rosen, like Darnold is a safe pick. Along with being one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks in the 2018 class, he may be the one with the biggest roadblocks ahead of him. He will have to beat Sam Bradford if he wants the starting job who played well for the Minnesota Vikings in 2016, throwing for 3,877 yards and 20 touchdowns before getting hurt in 2017 and ultimately replaced by Case Keenum.
Projected first start: Week 6
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Just as everyone thought the first round quarterbacks were all gone, the Ravens surprised everyone by trading back into the first round and taking Jackson with the last pick of the round. The Heisman Trophy in 2016 is known more for his legs than his arm, making headlines constantly in 2016 for tearing apart defenses with his legs.
Jackson is in a situation where he may have to wait a while to play. Of the five quarterbacks selected in the first round, he is the one who is the least pro-ready and Joe Flacco is the starter in Baltimore until he proves he’s no longer capable. However, the Ravens wouldn’t waste a first round pick to keep him sitting around too long and if they’re in a scenario late in the year where they’re out of the playoff race and have nothing to lose, they may take the training wheels off and see what Jackson can do.
Projected first start: Week 14
As preseason comes to a halt, it will become more clear whether or not they’ll be ready to start. On the contrary, the philosophy is always to wait and not rush the quarterback onto the field. In the end, the quarterback is always ready to play earlier than expected.