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Revisiting the 2018 NFL Quarterback Class by Nick Hebenstreit, @NickHebenstreit

I will be covering every quarterback taken in the first round from 2018 in this article. Before I do

so, I wanted to preface and note some things that might not be obvious to the average fan. What

organization any player gets drafted by plays a huge role in the success that player will have.

This is magnified at the quarterback position. A bad head coach, offensive line, or even a bad

owner can set a talented young QB up for failure. Some teams just have losing cultures. Much

like in the business world, some teams are well-run and some are poorly-run. Here are a couple

of examples: I imagine people would talk differently about Matt Stafford had he been drafted by

New England or Pittsburgh. Conversely, how would people perceive Big Ben had he been

drafted by the Browns or the Lions? Do you think Joe Flacco would still be in the league had he

been drafted by the Jets? Look at the difference in Jared Goff’s play under Jeff Fischer and under

Sean McVay. Likewise, Ryan Tannehill has looked really good since breaking up with Adam

Gase. I could come up with many more examples. Having said all of that, I can only judge

players on what they have done. The rest is just speculation.

Baker Mayfield: Pick #1, 2018

Going into his final season at Oklahoma, Baker was going somewhere in the third round in most

mock drafts. Oklahoma lit it up that year with Baker and Lincoln Riley, and they ended up

making the playoffs. They lost in the playoffs to a really good Georgia team, but the offense still

put up a lot of points in that loss. I was still surprised when Baker moved all the way up into the

top ten of most mock drafts after the season was over. He doesn’t have the typical build of a first

round QB, he wasn’t terribly accurate in college, and, while he may have looked fast in the Big

12, it should have been obvious that he would not be able to rush against NFL teams like he did

at Oklahoma. However, the public fell in love with Baker Mayfield because he “walked the walk

and talked the talk.” I never bought in on Mayfield, mainly because of his accuracy. A friend told

me after his rookie year, that the Browns would figure it out because, “Mayfield is just a

winner.” Well, tell me what he’s won. Am I supposed to have faith that a guy will be a franchise

quarterback just because he won a Big 12 championship? Oklahoma didn’t even go undefeated

Baker’s senior year. They lost as thirty-one point favorites to Iowa State before they lost to

Georgia in the playoffs.

Mayfield went 6-7 his rookie season and 6-10 his second season. He regressed in just about

every statistical category. If you do a deep dive into Baker’s advanced passing splits, you will

see that he is much better when the Browns are in double tight end formations. Baker is almost a

totally different player when the Browns game script includes more tight ends and more play

action passes. Hopefully, this is something Kevin Stefanski realizes. I have Baker slightly falling

this season. I don’t think the Browns have any real playoff chances with him at QB. It’ll be

interesting to see what direction the Browns will go moving forward with Baker.

Sam Darnold: Pick #3, 2018

In my week one overreaction article, I asked the question, “Are we sure Sam Darnold is even

good?” I was very bearish on Darnold coming out of college. Most people expected him to be

drafted number one overall. Darnold put up pretty good stats at USC, but he struggled with

turnovers his whole career. He really gained a lot of love from the press in the 2017 Rose Bowl

where they beat Penn State 52-49 in an all-time instant classic. The following year, Darnold

threw for twenty-six touchdowns and thirteen interceptions. He played a pretty soft Pac-12

schedule, before facing Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl–a game where Darnold threw for 356

yards with one interception and multiple fumbles. USC lost 7-24. I think I would’ve taken

Darnold in the late first if I was a GM. He’s a nice prospect, but he played mostly inferior teams

in college and had constant turnover troubles.

Darnold has very little to play with, and I don’t think Adam Gase will be coaching the Jets too

much longer. I think whether Gase leaves this year or next, the Jets will most likely exercise

Darnold’s fifth year option. Darnold really reminds me of Sam Bradford, even though Bradford

had a much more productive college career than Darnold. I think the two play similarly and are

perceived similarly. What I mean is, as long as Darnold has a good game every so often, some

GM somewhere will be willing to give him a contract. Whether because of his “will to win” or

his “raw talent,” I think Darnold will certainly hang around in this league, but I don’t think your

team is in a good place if they sign him. I think he regresses this year, but I can’t put all the

blame on him. He doesn’t have much of a team around him.

Josh Allen: Pick #7, 2018

Josh Allen reminded me of Joe Flacco coming out of college. Scouts and sports media members

often fall in love with the big arm, an aspect of quarterback play that I find to be largely

overrated. Allen played for Wyoming, and the average fan probably didn’t know about him until

it got closer to draft time. Playing for a non-traditional football school or non-power five school

shouldn’t have much, if any, influence on where you draft a player in my opinion, especially a

quarterback. Ex: Tony Romo, Drew Brees, Khalil Mack, Carson Wentz, Ben Roethelisberger,

and the list goes on and on.

Josh Allen has definitely been rising in this season’s small sample size thus far. I really liked

Allen last year, but I didn’t expect him to make a big jump this year. In fact, I would’ve leaned

more towards regression if not for the fact that Allen can be very efficient and adds a lot to the

offense with his legs. Allen lit up the Jets and the Dolphins in his first two games. He really

impressed me in the game against Miami. Not because he threw for over 400 yards, but because

there were sometimes where his team needed him to make a throw–not depend on his rushing

ability–and he was able to get the job done. He hung in the pocket and made some really nice,

accurate throws. Turnovers are still a problem, and he hasn’t faced much competition so far.

Nonetheless, Allen is the player I see improving most out of this class in 2020. This offense

could make big strides if Allen can continue to spread the ball around accurately, especially with

the acquisition of Stefon Diggs and the deep threat of John Brown.

Josh Rosen: Pick #10, 2018

I will admit when I am wrong. Josh Rosen was my favorite quarterback in this class. I thought he

had some really good flashes at UCLA with a bad coach. I also thought much of the criticism of

him from his head coach and the sports media was unfair. I don’t think many quarterbacks

would’ve played well behind that offensive line he had in Arizona. After two years though, I

need something that I can point to and be optimistic about. Rosen had some of the most boring

and mediocre games and stat lines I have ever seen. He ended up getting benched for Fitzpatrick

in Miami. I don’t have much hope at all for Rosen. He’s obviously a faller. I think career backup

is the best he can aspire to be in this league.

Lamar Jackson: Pick #32, 2018

If you claim that you predicted Lamar to be the best quarterback out of this class before the draft,

I would assume that you’re lying. Lamar wasn’t even on my radar as a first round pick. I was

surprised by the pickLamar was a remarkable talent at Louisville, but not a great passer. Lamar

took the country by storm his freshman season, but he hadn’t shown anything in his final season

that would make you think of him as a traditional franchise quarterback. Now, as a fan, I do

prefer when my quarterback presents at least a little bit of a running threat. There is a big

difference between a guy like Russell Wilson, who has always presented a running threat but

developed into a fantastic pocket passer, and guys like Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, or

Tim Tebow. I know this sounds obvious, but let me explain. First of all, all those guys I just

named were drafted before Lamar Jackson. They were guys who all had Heisman seasons as

well–all great athletes, and all pretty raw talents at throwing the football. Their similarities to

Lamar in college combined with their lack of success in the NFL was probably one of the

reasons why Lamar wasn’t thought of to be a potential first round pick by many. I have been

sticking to my guns that a primarily running quarterback cannot succeed long-term in the NFL. I

compared Lamar’s success last year to RGIII’s in Washington. A flash in the pan, an anomaly,

not a style of football that is going to alter the game. Harbaugh and Lamar are on the verge of

proving me wrong. Lamar was a huge riser last season. Lamar does have the luxury of a great

defense and does not have to attempt as many passes because of the running priority of the

offense. This is what Russell Wilson was at one point. I think Lamar will pick up right where he

left off last year and continue to make improvements in the passing game. To be clear, I do think

that Josh Allen will improve more, relative to his play last season. I think that Lamar Jackson is

in a higher tier than him though.

You can follow Nick on Twitter @NickHebenstreit

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