On April 26, 2018, each of the 32 NFL teams will gather in Arlington, Texas, at the Dallas Cowboy’s AT&T Stadium to kick off the 2018 draft. It’s a time when everyone – players, coaches, owners, fans – are filled with hope and a sense of belief that their team’s entire fortune can change with just one amazing pick. Often, it’s a quarterback that’s targeted with the No. 1 overall pick.
Since 1990, a quarterback was selected first 15 out of 27 times (nearly 56%), the next closest position being defensive end with 4 of 27 (roughly 15%). The 2018 NFL draft class is filled with multiple signal callers that are currently rising up the draft board, from 2017 Heisman Trophy Winner Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma to 2017 Rose Bowl victor Sam Darnold of USC. Teams in need of their franchise quarterback won’t be short of options this year. But how do some of this new crop of talented gunslingers compare to today’s greats – Brady, Brees, Rodgers?
Quarterbacks of the Future
Five men stand out as the very best college quarterback prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft: Josh Allen, Wyoming; Sam Darnold, USC; Josh Rosen, UCLA; Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma; and Lamar Jackson, Louisville. Each of them stand tall at 6 feet 1 inch or above, weigh between 200 and 225 pounds, and should be drafted in the first round depending on what teams need.
While the Cleveland Browns haven’t been blessed when it comes to the quarterback position – Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback, boasts the most wins in Believeland since 1999 with an 11-2 record – they can change course with the No. 1 pick overall. ESPN’s NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. suggests the Browns will go all-in on Josh Allen out of Wyoming, who the analyst says plays similar in style to Detroit Lions quarterback Matt Stafford.
The New York Jets are another potential team in the running for a new quarterback in the first round of this year’s draft, especially after they traded up to the third overall pick. Could they be interested in adding Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield to their team to compete with Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater for the first-team position?
When it comes to the fine art of splitting hairs between similar prospects, the NFL Scouting Combine is a primary tool employed to help evaluate a player’s physical abilities and mental acumen. Many don’t pay too much attention to the written component, known as the Wonderlic, but rather performance in several athletic examinations. Whatever the position, one of the most intriguing is the 40-yard dash.
This year saw Josh Allen deliver a quicker time than his peers in the top prospect pool at 4.75 seconds. This wasn’t as fast as Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, 4.56 seconds, or even Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck, 4.59 seconds, who both transitioned strong college careers and Combine outings into a selection as the No. 1 overall pick. For those, like Josh Rosen, who finished with a 4.92, fear not! Even the greatest quarterback of all time, New England Patriots Tom Brady, delivered a slower time of 5.30 in his 40-yard dash.
If you just looked at the stat lines, it would be easy to question why Baker Mayfield isn’t in the pole position on every team’s draft board? With over 14,000 passing yards, over 130 touchdowns, an additional 1,000 yards on the ground, and 21 rushing touchdowns, he’d seem like a no-brainer for any team. But Baker is one of a few top prospects who had a full college career. Players have the option to declare for the NFL draft after completing their second season, which some of the players in this year’s draft elected to do.
While Mayfield played almost 50 games in his NCAA career, Lamar Jackson only played 38 and Josh Allen finished at 27 appearances. This allowed teams to put their career stats into better perspective. Although, Jackson’s performance as a dual-threat must have teams salivating. He racked up over 9,000 yards in the air and over 4,000 on the ground; with almost 120 touchdowns to his name. Despite these impressive college stats, it’s likely he’ll be the last of the top five quarterbacks off the board.
Mayfield, We Chose You!
After we surveyed over 300 NFL fans, it seems some analysts’ top pick – Allen – didn’t match up with theirs – Mayfield. The former Oklahoma Sooner was favored by over a quarter of all respondents, followed closely by Darnold with 23 percent of the vote.
ESPN thinks it’ll go the other way – they project Darnold will be off the board earlier, as the fifth overall pick by the Denver Broncos, followed by Mayfield as the sixth overall pick by the New York Jets. Both teams are in dire need of a new quarterback, so it makes sense that each would be looking for a new face for the franchise in this draft.
The quarterback fans were least excited about, Rosen, still gets picked in the first round – by the Miami Dolphins – according to ESPN. The former UCLA player is projected to be the fourth quarterback selected in the first round. He would enter into competition with the veteran Ryan Tannehill, who returns to the roster after a season on injured reserve after tearing his ACL.
You’re on the Clock
Whether your team selects first overall or will keep you waiting until the thirty-second spot (sorry, Eagles fans, there is no sympathy for being made to wait when you just won the Big Game last season), there’s something magical about the draft. When your team does select that next franchise-shaping quarterback or fills that area of need on the defensive line, Fanatics will have their jerseys available quicker than Cam Newton can complete a 40-yard dash. Who do you hope your team picks in the 2018 NFL draft?