An early check-in on the quarterback class of 2018

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Since 1983, only three NFL drafts have produced five or more quarterbacks in the first round.

John Elway, Dan Marino, Jim Kelly, Todd Blackledge, Tony Eason and Ken O’Brien were all selected in the first round of the ‘83 draft. Those selections, together constituting the quarterback class of 1983, remain a gold standard to this day. Four of those six played in a Super Bowl, and three were inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

In 1999, five quarterbacks were taken in the first round, with Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb, and Akili Smith going 1-2-3, respectively. Daunte Culpepper and Cade McNown were taken consecutively at 11 and 12.

But the only draft this century that saw five quarterbacks go in the first round took place in 2018. Four QBs, if you can remember way back then, were selected in the Top 10.

There was plenty of media hype heading into that draft. Although pundits and sports prognosticators were mostly hesitant to put the 2018 quarterback class on par with that of 1983, comparisons between the two were still made.

Two and a half years later, what have we seen from this 2018 QB draft class? These QB’s are all in year three of their four-year deals and teams are expecting improvement from their prospects. The play of these QBs today could determine their future in the league.

Sure, it may take a few years to fully judge a class of young quarterbacks. But we can still take an early survey.

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Baker Mayfield (1st Pick, Browns)

Baker Mayfield (1st Pick, Browns)

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Baker was drafted No. 1 overall coming off a Heisman-winning season, a viral arrest video and general displays of douchiness. Mayfield’s off-field incidents gave sports media the opportunity to talk about maturity ahead of, and after, the draft.

“Is Mayfield essentially Johnny Manziel without as much baggage?” the New York Times asked after the Sooners QB went first overall.

The answer? No.

Mayfield is better than Johnny Manziel, who only played 14 games in two seasons with the Browns. But the Manziel-sized bar set for Baker was, in hindsight, very low. Still, Cleveland’s newest young QB hasn’t exactly lived up to the hype.

Last year was Baker’s first full campaign as a starter, and he ranked 31st in completion percentage and second in interceptions. The coaching carousel in Cleveland certainly has not helped to stabilize Mayfield. This year, though, he’s been looking much better and a banged up Mayfield was replaced in the third quarter Sunday for back Case Keenum after completing just 10 of 18 passes for mere 119 yards, one TD and two picks.

Current Browns coach Kevin Stefanski has said that his QB will stay the team’s starter, “as long as he’s healthy.” The Browns have a relatively easy schedule for the rest of 2020. Don’t be surprised if Cleveland strings together a few more wins and maybe even snags a wild-card playoff spot in this year’s expanded playoffs. If Baker can manage to get the 4-2 Browns into wild-card contention, odds are he remains the starter in 2021. The Browns will fire another coach before they trade, demote, or admit they were wrong about Mayfield.

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Sam Darnold (3rd Pick, Jets)

Sam Darnold (3rd Pick, Jets)

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Darnold was seen as the reliable pick in the 2020 draft. He was expected to go somewhere in the top five picks in most mock drafts, and was projected to have a high NFL ceiling. After Cleveland took Mayfield and New York’s other team selected RB Saquon Barkley, Darnold went third overall to the Jets.

After two up and down years, Jets fans held out hope that this was their QB of the future. Last season, after his bout with mononucleosis, Darnold finished strong. The second-year QB had a winning record as the Jets starter and helped his team get into playoff contention. But the Jets will not play a relevant game of football this year.

So far in his third season, Darnold is 0-4 and not living up to the hype. The QB has been sidelined with an injury the past two weeks. He will likely play a few more games once he’s healthy, so the Jets can continue evaluating their top prospect. But the winless Jets may end up winning the Trevor Lawrence sweepstakes, and if they do, this will likely be Darnold’s last year at the Meadowlands.

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Josh Allen (7th pick, Bills)

Josh Allen (7th pick, Bills)

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It seems like every draft there is a “highly-touted” first-round quarterback from a football program you’ve never watched. Joe Flacco came from the University of Delaware, Carson Wentz played at North Dakota State, and Jordan Love was recently selected by the Packers via Utah State. In 2018 we had Josh Allen from the University of Wyoming. No one really knew much about him (though some racist tweets of his from his youth surfaced on draft day) except that he could throw the ball a long way.

But accurate? Eh, not so much.

In his first year in the pros, Allen threw more interceptions than touchdowns and completed just over 50 percent of his passes. The next year, in his first full season as a starter, Allen reduced his turnovers but still had the worst completion percentage of any NFL starter and led the Bills to the postseason (their second appearance since 1999).

It’s only October, but the Bills look like the favorites to come out of the AFC East thanks in large part to the play from Allen. Buffalo could be looking at back-to-back playoff berths for the first time since the ’90s.

Two-and-a-half seasons into his NFL career, Allen is shaping up to be one of the better picks from the 2018 draft class.

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Josh Rosen (10th Pick, Cardinals)

Josh Rosen (10th Pick, Cardinals)

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Rosen went 10th overall to the Arizona Cardinals in 2018, and famously said at the time that nine teams made a mistake. He was not pleased that he went 10th. Today, he is a practice squad player with Tampa Bay.

After the draft, Rosen tried to man the ship of two horrific teams: the 2018 Cardinals and 2019 Dolphins. He is 3-13 as a starter throughout his career. Peyton Manning was also 3-13 through his first 16 starts, so maybe there’s hope?

This year, Rosen gets to learn from Tom Brady (above l. with Rosen) in Tampa, which isn’t the worst place to be. But going from Top 10 pick to practice squad player back to a starting role would be a tough script to sell in Hollywood. Unfortunately, Rosen’s playing days seem to be behind him.

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Lamar Jackson (32nd pick, Ravens)

Lamar Jackson (32nd pick, Ravens)

Illustration for article titled An early check-in on the quarterback class of 2018
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If there is any quarterback that has exceeded his draft hype it’s Lamar Jackson, the last pick. of the first round. The 2016 Heisman trophy winner was almost fell to the second round due to fears that he was too small and could not throw the ball as well as others selected before him. Former Indianapolis Colts GM and ESPN talking head, Bill Polian, even said Jackson would fare better as a wide receiver.

In his second year in the league, Jackson won a MVP and helped the Ravens capture the No 1 seed in the AFC. So far, Jackson has been the best QB in the 2018 cohort.

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