Assessment of Rookie Quarterbacks Through Week 8
One of the main storylines prior to the 2018 NFL season starting was the influx of talent entering the league at the quarterback position. There was no clear-cut stud in this particular draft class like Cam Newton in the 2011 draft or Andrew Luck the following year, but it was certainly one of the deepest groups of passers we have seen in awhile. Although all five quarterbacks taken in the first round have played this season to some degree, some have adapted to the pro game better than others. Here is my analysis of how each of these five first-rounders have performed at the midpoint of the season, in the order of where they were drafted
1. Baker Mayfield: It came as a bit of a shock when the Browns decided to take Mayfield at #1 overall, but he has shown flashes of brilliance in the six games he has played in. He set the bar high with his week 3 heroics against the New York Jets, where he entered the game for an injured Tyrod Taylor, leading Cleveland to its first win in 635 days. Mayfield threw for 201 yards in that game, but more importantly completed 73.9 percent of his pass attempts, demonstrating his raved about accuracy as a passer could translate to the next level. Since that game however, there have been some ups and downs for the Oklahoma product. The team currently stands in last place in the AFC North at 2-5-1. Mayfield’s accuracy has also been challenged at times, as he has thrown 6 interceptions, but also 8 touchdown passes. There is certainly room for improvement for Mayfield, and it will come as he gets more experienced and comfortable with Cleveland’s system.
2. Sam Darnold: Darnold was projected as the best quarterback by many experts leading up to the 2018 draft, but falling to the Jets at #3 has worked out decently well for both parties thus far. The Jets are 3-5, but have shown they are capable of having an improved season compared to last year’s 5-11 record. As for Darnold, he has been what we all expected for the most part, if not better than that. There still have been some poor moments for Darnold, such as the past two losses the Jets have suffered where he has completed less than 50% of his pass attempts. These are games where the Jets have been unable to move the ball effectively down the field, and a lot of that falls on Darnold. However, there are games where Darnold has shined, such as week 1 against the Lions and week 6 against the Colts. The trend I have noticed with Darnold is that he has the ability to light it up against lesser defenses, but has struggled with teams such as Minnesota and Jacksonville. Jets fans should be patient with Darnold, considering he just turned 21 this past June.
3. Josh Allen: None of these gunslingers have the greatest weapons surrounding them, but Allen may be the worst off in this category. With an arm like his, it would be beneficial to have a speedster such as Tyreek Hill or Brandin Cooks to take the top off the defense. Instead, Allen has a slow deep threat in Kelvin Benjamin as his most dangerous receiver, making it extremely difficult for Buffalo to make big plays on offense, much less move the chains. His best game came against the Vikings in week 3, where he threw for 196 yards and a touchdown, completing 15 of his 22 passing attempts. Other than that, the downfall for Allen has simply been a lack of weapons to get the ball in the hands of, making this the least productive offense in the AFC. Twice Allen has passed for less than 90 yards, which is just not acceptable in the NFL. To make matters worse for Allen, he suffered a right elbow injury in the Bills’ week 6 loss to the Texans. The date for his return has not yet been released.
4. Josh Rosen: There were apparently nine mistakes made by the nine teams who passed on Rosen (according to himself), but he has done a poor job of backing up that statement so far this season. Rosen was arguably the the most polished passer coming out of college, but has displayed the exact opposite of that. He currently has more interceptions than touchdown passes, with 5 TD’s and 6 INT’s. Rosen took over the starting role in week 3, but it has not done much to improve a pitiful Arizona offense. They have been the least productive offense in the NFC by far, averaging 233.3 yards per game, while the Seahawks are second to last in that category, averaging 325 yards per game. Rosen did have a nice bounce back this past week against the 49ers where he passed for 252 yards and 2 touchdowns in an 18-15 divisional win.
5. Lamar Jackson: Jackson had some solid play in the preseason, but simply has not been on the field enough for me to give him a fair assessment. There is certainly potential for the electrifying dual-threat, and he could see the field soon if Joe Flacco is unable to clean up his act. For now, it is a waiting game.