Revisiting the 2018 Quarterback class

The 2018 NFL draft gave us a historic class of quarterbacks with five being selected in the first round. Those quarterbacks have taken different paths in their short careers. 

Lamar Jackson already has a MVP season to his credit while Josh Rosen is already on his second team. We’re going to take a deeper dive into what the 2020 season could look like and what the future could hold for the notable quarterbacks from the 2018 class. 

Hell, half the players drafted in the top 10 of the 2017 class have already had their fifth year declined by their teams. What could be in store for the 2018 class?

Baker Mayfield, first overall, Cleveland Browns

The Good:

In 2018, Baker Mayfield burst on the scene and led the Browns to six wins and looked as if he would be the name to end the long list of failed Browns’ quarterbacks. His mobility, leadership and swagger took over the locker room and the city. The Browns have surrounded Mayfield with two top end receivers, running backs, a loaded tight end room and addressed the offensive line via the draft by adding OT1, Jedrick Wills. The talent is there in Cleveland and Baker will have every opportunity to succeed. The Browns will also look to establish the run and take some of the pressure off the third year QB. 

The Bad: 

Baker Mayfield is entering his third year in the NFL and has failed to win, or produce, at a high level. While it may not be fair, Mayfield is up against what fellow quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson are currently doing in the NFL. That’s the expectations for Mayfield going into year three. If you’re the franchise savior and number one pick, the pressure is on. We’ve seen him play with a chip on his shoulder, but now we need to see what he can do when everyone believes in him. Is the lack of production his fault? Yes, and no. Mayfield is on his third head coach already and needs more consistency to really establish who he is as a quarterback. He needs to limit the turnovers, 21 interceptions in 2019 alone, and be more of a game manager. 

The Future:

It’s no secret I’m not a fan of Baker Mayfield, but no one, not even me, can deny the talent and leadership he possesses. Head coach Kevin Stefanski will rely on the leadership and look to run the ball with more tight ends sets, which should help open up the rest of the field for the passing game with receivers Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry in 2020. That may result in less touchdown numbers and less interceptions, but also more wins in Cleveland. 

Sam Darnold, third overall, New York Jets

The Good:

Sam Darnold was my QB1 in 2018 but has had a very up and down career so far. One week Darnold will have a 300 yard, three touchdown game; the next week he will throw four interceptions and look like he doesn’t belong in the NFL. The hope is that Adam Gase can bring the good out of Sam Darnold. Even in a “sickness” shortened season, Darnold threw for 3,024 yards, 19 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions in 13 games while improving his completion percentage from his rookie year by four percent. Keep in mind he did all of that without a number one receiver and a TERRIBLE offensive line. 

The Bad:

Adam Gase. I’m still not convinced Gase didn’t ruin Ryan Tannehill and I don’t love the pieces the organization has surrounded Darnold with. Mekhi Becton is a great run blocker but I think he has a lot of developing to do before he can be called a good pass blocker. The bad news is that Becton may be the week one left tackle responsible for protecting Sam Darnold and the New York Jets future.

The Future:

You don’t have to be a Jets fan to look forward to seeing a full year of play from Darnold with LeVeon Bell and the added help on the offensive line. With success in the running game, Darnold will have more time to dissect the secondary and make plays for the offense. I am still a believer in Darnold. My only questions are with the front office and head coach. I don’t think Sam Darnold will fail the Jets, but the Jets might fail Sam Darnold.

Josh Allen, seventh overall, Buffalo Bills

The Good:

Josh Allen has already, in his second year, led his team to the playoffs and came very close to getting a playoff win. He also showed incredible growth from year one to year two and doubled his touchdowns from 10 his rookie year to 20 in his second year. For decades the Bills have been looking for a quarterback that can beat the Patriots and now they have the guy that can do it. 

The Bad:

Allen is still very limited as a passer. He is a big athlete with a strong arm but some very poor decision making skills. Just take his lone playoff game as an example. Allen would lead drives and look like a top quarterback in the league, and then he would fumble the ball or make a poor decision throwing the football. Allen has to develop and prove that he is more than an athlete playing quarterback. 

The Future:

Allen has a true number one receiver in Stefon Diggs, an established offensive line, a good young backfield AND a dominant defense that can get the ball back to him. There is no reason the Bills, and Josh Allen, should not be in the driver seat of the AFC East. The progress from year one to year two will be difficult to replicate again in year three, but if Allen can eliminate the bone head plays, that should be enough to get Buffalo back in the playoffs with possibly a playoff win, with a bright future for the franchise ahead. 

Josh Rosen, 10th overall, Arizona Cardinals/Miami Dolphins

The Good:

Not many quarterbacks have been put in a place where the franchise drafts your replacement after one year in the league like the Arizona Cardinals did to Josh Rosen. Rosen handled that situation better than anyone expected him too, but had a similar situation again this offseason when the Dolphins drafted Tua Tagovailoa at No. 5 overall. Many people can, and will, make an argument that Rosen has not been given the opportunity to succeed in the NFL. 

The Bad:

You won’t read the poor situation argument for Josh Rosen here. The NFL gave Rosen 16 games to prove himself as an NFL starter. In his 16 NFL starts, Rosen has thrown just 12 touchdowns and 19 interceptions and won just three games. In his one year with the Cardinals, Rosen looked so bad on the field that the organization decided to move on from him, and now, a second franchise has decided to move on and go in a different direction after one year of Rosen on roster. 

The Future:

It’s not good. Two teams in two years is not what you expect to see from a top 10 pick, regardless of the position, but especially at quarterback. And with Ryan Fitzpatrick back in Miami the Dolphins may decide to move on from Rosen before the start of the 2020 season. Three teams in three years? We may be at a point where even career backup is in question for Josh Rosen. 

Lamar Jackson, 32nd overall, Baltimore Ravens

The Good:

Uh, there is a lot here. The guy won the league MVP in 2019 and is changing the way we view the position in the NFL. Not only did Jackson lead all quarterbacks in rushing with 1200 yards, he led the league in passing touchdowns with 36 as well. With another year to develop and more weapons around him, the sky’s the limit for Jackson in 2020. 

The Bad:

We’ve seen quarterbacks take the league by storm with their legs before (Michael Vick, Cam Newton, Randall Cunningham, and Steve Young) but what the guys before him failed to do was sustain that style of play throughout their career. Jackson will definitely have to become less of a runner throughout his career if he wants longevity in the NFL that his predecessors didn’t have. Will he have to eliminate that aspect of his game? No, but he will have to find a way to take less hits outside the pocket while continuing to be a threat with his legs. 

The Future:

Running backs and receivers also have to find ways to limit the number of hard hits they take and many have done so. Jackson can do the same. It may not be as exciting as what we saw last season but we can see more success over a longer period of time than we did with the other quarterbacks before him.