When ranking the future of the NFL at the QB position, it’s important to note the situations that these draftees are going to. No longer is this solely an assessment of their skill base- but rather how they will be able to flourish on the teams that took chances on them. This analysis takes into account who’s ahead of them on the depth chart, system schemes, coaching, and media/fanbase expectations. Is this an article saying who’s the best player of the group? Not at all. What it takes a look at is which 1st round QB is in the best position to be successful in this league in the LONG-TERM.
1. Sam Darnold | University of Southern California | #3 Pick – NY Jets
He’s young, as even QB1 Josh McCown’s daughter will tell you. But many analysts, including Tim Hasselbeck and Mel Kiper agree he is the best quarterback in this draft. Say what you want about the Jets, but if history means anything, the last time they took a chance on a young USC QB (Mark Sanchez), they went to back-to-back AFC Championships. On top of his skill set, Darnold has the best situation in front of him. There is absolutely no pressure on him to start this year. The Jets are going to be defined by their potentially elite defense led by a trio of young players in Leonard Williams (DT), Jamal Adams (SS) and Marcus Maye (FS). Plus, McCown is an excellent teammate according to league sources and should be able to mentor the young QB. Having Teddy Bridgewater there as well, who’s also a team player and brings a different element to the team’s offense, should give Darnold a great landscape to learn what it takes to be an NFL QB. With the additions of RBs Isaiah Crowell and Thomas Rawls, along with ole reliable Bilal Powell, the NY offense has a bright future. Jermaine Kearse and Robby Anderson is a nice WR core to build around too. As long as Darnold doesn’t have to be thrusted into the spotlight early in the season, he has the potential to be the best QB of this class when the time comes.
2. Lamar Jackson | University of Louisville | #32 – Baltimore Ravens
Regardless of where he was drafted, Lamar Jackson is an excellent QB and should be talked about the same way Baker Mayfield and Darnold are. The Heisman Trophy winner is a dual-threat QB who joins a Baltimore team that is planning for the future. Like Darnold, Jackson has a great situation in Baltimore with Joe Flacco ahead of him (Ryan Mallet is QB2). They also have a good core of pass catching and pass blocking RBs in Alex Collins, Danny Woodhead and Javorius Allen. With Mike Wallace and Jeremy Maclin as his main targets, it’ll be interesting to see if Baltimore changes to a short pass, speed style offense that Maclin was apart of in Kansas City under HC Andy Reid. Jackson is the most athletic QB in this class and, with some mechanical work and immersing himself in an offense that fits his needs, could be a steal for a Raven franchise in desperate need of a spark.
3. Josh Allen | University of Wyoming | #7 – Buffalo Bills
It’s clear that Allen is a work in progress, but the size and arm strength are certainly there. The problem is that there’s not much help ahead of him in the depth chart, as AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman are unproven backups (despite what Wrightway Network CEO Malik Wright thinks i.e McCarron). Out of all the teams on this list, Allen has arguably the best supporting cast as he makes his way to Orchard Park. LeSean McCoy and Chris Ivory are one of the best 1-2 RB punches in the NFL, and WR Kelvin Benjamin is still raw talent. TE Charles Clay is also emerging to be a great target in the red zone. If you’re a fan of Allen, you would have preferred he go to a team with some veteran talent to mentor him- like New Orleans or the New York Giants. He’s #3 on this list because he has potential and good talent around him, but not much help from veteran QBs and coaching.
4. Baker Mayfield | University of Oklahoma | #1 – Cleveland Browns
Yes he is a Heisman Trophy winner and yes Hue Jackson can develop QBs (though that statement has been overblown), but Baker is still a rookie and can’t start week 1. As is typically the case for Browns’ QBs, the issue is always how much prep time they get before they get thrown to the dogs (literally the Dawg Pound). Jackson has clearly stated that Tyrod Taylor is the starter, despite Mayfield claiming he wouldn’t “settle for the backup job” at the NFL combine. Mayfield has since changed his tune, acknowledging that Taylor is the starter, but the concern is that if the Browns get off to a rocky start early in the season, Mayfield might be thrusted onto the scene before he knows the offense. Jackson is on the hot seat, and expectations are justifiably high for a first overall pick. It just sounds like a bad situation in Cleveland, even with a veteran offensive core of Josh Gordon and new signings Jarvis Landry (MIA) and Carlos Hyde (SF). If the Browns get off to a bad start in September, there’s some concern for Baker’s future as a potential star in this league.
5. Josh Rosen | University of California, Los Angeles | #10 – Arizona Cardinals
It’s very likely that Rosen will be the starter for Arizona when they host Washington opening week, and that’s a bit concerning. The big reason why Rosen is ranked so low on this list is the coaching situation. Head Coach Bruce Arians is gone, and Arizona hired former Carolina Defensive Coordinator Steve Wilks to replace him, meaning that play calling duties will likely go to new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. McCoy was a decent coach over his tenure in Carolina, but struggled as HC of the then San Diego Chargers, posting a .422 win percentage. His offensive weapons are essentially just David Johnson, who is returning from a year marred by a wrist injury, and Larry Fitzgerald, the future Hall of Famer who will be 35 when the season starts. Sam Bradford is the current starter, but he’s injury-prone and just turned 30. Rosen has a history of injuries as well, including a shoulder issue that made him miss part of the 2016 season, and has had 2 concussions in the past 12 months. He’s not as mobile nor as strong as the other guys on this list, and his high football IQ likely won’t be able to help a team as weak as Arizona. It’s a bad fit and Rosen will have his work cut out for him. His recent statements about sliding to the 10th pick in the draft have also ruffled some executive’s feathers.