Because it often works out that the worst NFL teams are lacking a successful quarterback, many years the quarterback prospects rise to the top of the draft results. Last year’s NFL draft represented something of an aberration; only two quarterbacks went in the first 10 picks.
The norm is back with this season’s crop. Headlining the quarterback selection are USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield.
Darnold has been in the limelight since the 2016–17 season, when he became the first freshman quarterback to win the Archie Griffin Award. The USC quarterback is known as a solid pocket passer. Often, Darnold makes seemingly impossible-to-complete passes in very tight windows. Scouts see this as a key attribute going forward, as defenses only get better on the next level.
The flipside of Darnold’s noted ability to execute unlikely completions is his perhaps over-eager willingness to take risks. The second-year quarterback was responsible for 22 turnovers last season, tying him for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Darnold’s Los Angeles counterpart Rosen has also been turning heads for a while. With a 63 percent completion rate in a pro-style offense, Rosen is seen as a skilled passer who is ready for the NFL. Writes football columnist Bob Glauber: “His mechanics are excellent, and [he] rarely throws off balance. [He] has a fluid throwing motion and shows great confidence” (“NFL draft 2018: Scouting the QBs” 03.23.2018, Newsday).
This past season, when Rosen and Darnold faced off, it was Rosen who came out of the game called the better prospect. Though UCLA dropped the game, Rosen more than made up for his failure in leadership by gaining over 400 yards through the air and throwing three touchdowns along the way. Darnold achieved a solitary touchdown, rushing in a short one in the opening of the second half. He threw an interception, and was judged by NFL media analyst Daniel Jeremiah as having been, “…too frenetic in the first half, bailing out of several clean pockets” (NFL News, “Darnold wins game, Rosen wins QB battle,” 11.19.2017 )
The heartland’s answer to the coastal quarterback glut is the imposing Josh Allen, Wyoming’s quarterback with a huge arm. Allen has perhaps been the most impressive quarterback in the pre-draft process. Even in an article highly skeptical of Allen’s potential, The Ringer’s Ryan O’Hanlon acknowledges that Allen, “Belongs in a special class of athlete: the kind that begs for the dimensions of the playing surface to be expanded” (03.26.2018 “Josh Allen is a Football Fantasy” The Ringer).
Allen’s stature and arm contrast with his somewhat average statistics in college. He notched only a 56.3 percent completion rate this past year, and his yards-per-attempt metric dipped below seven, an especially paltry measure considering Wyoming’s paltry strength of schedule in the Mountain West Conference.
Rounding out the big four of the quarterback class this season is the indefatigable Baker Mayfield. Mayfield boasts perhaps the most impressive resume of any of the four standouts, highlighted by his recent Heisman Award win. Football Outsiders’ Quarterback-Adjusted-Stats-And-Experience projection system believes that Mayfield has, far and away, the greatest chance to be a top quarterback. Performing against a much tougher schedule than Josh Allen, Mayfield achieved 11.5 yards per attempt.
Football Outsiders is pretty much the only somewhat well-known analytical publication on football, and this fact speaks to how physical measurables and basic offensive stats predominate in evaluating football players. However the order of their selection shakes out, these four quarterbacks have undoubtedly been coronated by the media as having franchise-altering potential. The irony is that the one judged best will be plying his trade for the Cleveland Browns!