The 2018 NFL Draft is just a few weeks away and consists of high-end talent at the quarterback position that has general managers itching to pick the guy that will lead their franchise for the next 15 years. As many as five or six quarterbacks could be taken in the first round, with the likes of Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield all in contention to be top-five picks. Daily Campus Sports Section writers debate who they think is the best quarterback prospect in this week’s edition of the Roundtable.
There is a lot of quarterback talent in this draft. I side with the widely unpopular opinion that Lamar Jackson is the best quarterback prospect in the draft. Jackson has Michael Vick-esque speed and I’d compare him to a Russell Wilson-like NFL prospect. He’s taller than Wilson and has no significant holes in his game, but people don’t seem to believe in him. Josh Allen has accuracy issues, and while he has the most potential to grow he also has the most bust potential. Josh Rosen has injury concerns, and both he and Baker Mayfield have character concerns. Lamar Jackson is an accurate, mobile passer and could very easily surprise the league in the way that Deshaun Watson did last year. Whichever team ends up drafting the former Heisman Trophy winner is getting the quarterback most likely to be a bona fide superstar from this draft class.
I’m a big believer in Baker Mayfield. While the Heisman Trophy winner has some question marks heading into the draft that include his size and his maturity, I think he has the tools to be a successful quarterback at the next level. Baker understands the game and has a valuable locker room presence that I’m not sure the other prospects in this draft have. Throughout his career and his senior season in particular, he led Oklahoma both through his actions on the field and with his voice behind the scenes. Although he has made mistakes, like his obscene gesture in a game against Kansas, nobody is perfect. He’ll have to mature a bit in order to be successful in the NFL, but his ability on the field is no question. Mayfield’s arm and stature remind me a lot of Drew Brees but more mobile, as he’s shown his ability to extend and make plays with his legs. I think he’ll do best if he can go somewhere where he can sit behind a guy for a year or so to mature and develop before taking over a team, even though he’ll likely be taken in the first round.
There are a lot of great quarterbacks in this draft, and five specific names come right to mind when I think about it. The one that really stands out to me is Josh Rosen from UCLA. Rosen’s biggest strength is his NFL-ready football IQ. He was a part of a pro-style offense at UCLA, while some of the other top quarterbacks in this draft like Baker Mayfield were not. He’s already great at recognizing complicated coverages and knows how to beat them, which is something Josh Allen struggles with.
Scouts always stress that one of the biggest differences between college and the pros for quarterbacks is the room for error when throwing into traffic. Rosen can already fit the ball into really tight windows, which is possibly Sam Darnold’s biggest weakness. While Rosen doesn’t have the arm strength of Allen, he still has an NFL-caliber arm that can deliver the ball down field from sideline-to-sideline, which is something that scrambler Lamar Jackson cannot do. Rosen is a stereotypical pocket-passer with limited mobility, which is an area where Jackson will always have an advantage. However, Rosen is great at standing in the pocket under pressure and delivering accurate passes downfield. Rosen’s NFL-ready brains and accuracy are what make him the best QB in this draft.
Something about Josh Allen has me believing he’s going to be the next big time quarterback in the NFL. This feels all too similar to the 2016 Draft, which saw Carson Wentz, a no-name quarterback with a cannon for an arm from a school that nobody knew existed, drafted second overall to the Eagles. It is safe to say that it worked out well for Philadelphia. If it wasn’t for a freak injury in Week 14 that was later diagnosed as a torn ACL, I believe he would have still been able to lead the team to a Super Bowl victory. There are very few things that Allen can’t do, validating his position at the top of every mock draft written up since August. He comes into the draft with almost nobody knowing anything about him besides what they’ve heard. I think any of the teams picking early in the first round would be happy to select him and would plan on making him the face of the franchise in the near future.