It’s finally that time of year. Football is back. While it’s only the preseason, it’s still more than enough to quench the most avid NFL fan’s thirst. And like with every new season, the rookies are under heavy scrutiny. Fans and GMs all are wondering the same thing: Was my team’s first round draft pick a mistake? With five quarterbacks taken in the first round, the preseason hype is at crazy as every. So, let’s look at the five first round quarterback picks and rank their first NFL performances.
5. Josh Allen
I will never EVER understand the appeal behind drafting a quarterback for raw talent. It’s the toughest position to play in football. It’s hard to just magically get better at it. The Bills mortgaged their future to get Allen at number 6 in the draft. I personally think it was a bad pick (I don’t think Allen was even a first round talent). His preseason debut didn’t help his case much. Many people liked what they saw because he showed off his arm strength on a few plays. But that’s exactly what you get from someone like Allen. Because he does have gifted arm strength and good mobility, he’ll make some jaw dropping plays. But for me, he missed far too many easy throws as well. He threw some balls that were absolutely nowhere near his intended receiver. However, his TD throw and a few runs he had escaping the pocket are exactly the reason the Bills draft him. But, if he doesn’t show more consistency, then the cheers will quickly turn to jeers.
FINAL STAT LINE: 9/19 116 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 3 carries, 29 yards
4. Josh Rosen
While I liked Rosen over Allen, I think he was a little overhyped as well. I think he’ll develop into a good NFL quarterback someday, but he needs to be a backup for now. In his first preseason game, Rosen was pretty meh. He had a couple plays where he showed good pocket presence, moved around, and made a good throw. But he also missed a lot of throws as well. He had one play where he threw a pass right into a defender’s arms for an easy pick six. Fortunately for Rosen, it was dropped. I think once he gets some more playing time under his belt, he’ll sharpen up and look like an NFL quarterback.
FINAL STAT LINE: 6/13 41 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs
3. Lamar Jackson
I love Lamar Jackson. He’s really fun to watch. But I think he falls into the same category as Josh Allen. Incredible raw talent, but not enough talent to develop into a true franchise talent. The one thing Jackson has over the rest of the class is his superb running ability. He may never develop into a pocket passer, but he could be productive in the way that Mike Vick was. He’ll win games with his legs and ability to extend plays, but at the end of the day, he won’t make it to the big game because he won’t have the arm talent. However, Jackson’s debut (well second appearance because of the Hall of Fame game) wasn’t totally terrible. He missed a lot of throws, but he also made a few nice passes (a couple of which were dropped). Plus, he looked good scrambling (no surprise there). However, I think he’s realizing just how much faster the NFL is than college. On a few designed runs, he struggled to get any yardage because he had trouble getting around the defensive end. Of course, his play of the night was the TD run, where he made three guys miss so bad that he went into the end zone virtually untouched. While I’d love to see Lamar Jackson be great, I just don’t think it’s in the cards for him. One big leg up his has on his rookie counterparts is that he ran a pro style offense at Louisville. Maybe this means that he can focus more on his passing since the nuances of the NFL won’t be so foreign to him.
FINAL STAT LINE: 7/18 199 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 5 carries, 21 yards, 1 TD
2. Sam Darnold
Sam Darnold was the number 2 quarterback taken in the draft and he played like it. His big knock coming out of college was his turnover issues. In his game vs the Falcons, he played very safe, which resulted in no turnovers. While the Jets didn’t ask Darnold to do too much, he did what they asked well. He made some pretty solid, high percentage throws. He also moved around very well, showing good mobility on some rollouts and scrambles. His completion percentage was high, but like I said, the throws were relatively simple and safe. And that’s okay. The Jets have two other competent quarterbacks on their roster. They can afford to ease Darnold in. And that’s exactly what they did. Hopefully they loosen the reins a little bit next week though.
FINAL STAT LINE; 13/18 96 yards, 1 TD, 0 INTs, 2 carries, 8 yards
1. Baker Mayfield
This was the first time in many many many years that I actually liked a Browns’ first round pick. Many people knock Baker for his size or arm strength. But he shows great mobility and excellent accuracy, which is all you need at the NFL level. Baker’s NFL debut didn’t disappoint. Browns’ fans first got a dose of old reliable, Tyrod Taylor. He was exactly what you’d expect: 5/5 99 yards, and a touchdown. Nothing flashy. Just got the job done. They Baker came in and boy was he fun to watch. After overthrowing his first receiver, he settled in and looked good. He threw a great back shoulder pass right off the bat for a big gain. He then stepped up in the pocket on 3rd and 18 and threw a strike for a 21 yard gain. He ended up leading his team down for a TD. The touchdown throw to Njoku was beautiful. Went through his reads and eventually threw a ball high to Njoku where only he could get it. But even before that touchdown, Baker converted a third and a fourth down with his legs. His second TD was also a dime. It was a slant route that he threw to Antonio Callaway. While slants aren’t exactly the deepest downfield passes, this one lead Callaway perfectly, which caused the defender to not deflect it and allowed Callaway to take it all the way for a touchdown. But for me, the play of the day for Baker was in the third quarter, when he rolled out right with a defender chasing him and threw a strike on the run 25 yards downfield to Antonio Callaway. That throw showed his mobility, arm strength, accuracy, and ability to keep his eyes downfield. While he of course wasn’t perfect, overall Baker looked NFL ready. If he keeps playing like this, there may be a quarterback controversy in Cleveland pretty soon
FINAL STAT LINE: 11/20 212 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs, 3 carries, 13 yards
Of course, this is only week 1 of the preseason. Not only are these guys learning new offenses and adjusting to the NFL, they are also playing with guys who, in many cases, won’t make the roster (as evidenced by the many dropped passes). Some of these guys might look great now, but may regress once they face a team’s starting defense. But whatever happens, this class certainly has a lot of hype surrounding them. Hopefully this preseason gives us a taste of what we are in for.
-Stephen Brown III (@sbtrey23)