Looking Ahead to the 2018 NFL Draft - Quarterback Edition
The 2018 NFL draft has the potential to be one of the most memorable drafts in recent history. With as many as 6 premiere quarterback prospects currently projected to go in the first round a number of NFL teams will be staking the future of their franchise on next year’s draft class. Time will tell which prospects reach their expected potential and production in the eyes of the NFL and which will fall short. Quarterback isn’t the only position of interest next year, however. The running back and wide receiver classes are both expected to be stronger than 2017 as will the offensive line class. The defensive classes of 2017 were so strong, with the exception of defensive tackle, that it seems unlikely that next year’s classes will be on par - though there are still some excellent players available at those positions. For now we’ll look ahead to the most important of positions, Quarterback:
Sam Darnold, USC - Darnold is currently the darling of the draftnik community and the college football reporter world. Taking the reigns at USC last season he led a fantastic turnaround that culmanated in a Rose Bowl victory and propelled Darnold into the discussion for next great USC signal caller. Darnold will be worth watching this year, if only because USC should be very good. Darnold has a frenetic pace to his game. He reads defenses well and figures out how to get the ball where it needs to be. His arm strength and velocity are far from elite level, but they aren’t going to be a hinderance for a system that has enough flexibility to work towards Darnold’s strengths. Darnold is very similar to Alex Smith.
Josh Rosen, UCLA - Rosen is probably the most pro ready of this class right now. I like how he fearlessly stays in the pocket, makes throws on the run, and his command of the offense as a freshman was impressive. He missed much of his sophomore year so he’ll need to show that he isn’t a health risk moving forward but he looks like he can make all the throws and excels at understanding and running an offense. I could see some guys pass him by draft day but I still think he’ll be a top 5 selection whichever year he comes out. He reminds me of Peyton Manning a little.
Josh Allen, Wyoming - At this point Allen is the best quarterback prospect on my board. He has perfect size, good athleticism, a gambler’s mentality, and a cannon for an arm. I would expect Allen to be the first quarterback selected simply because his physical skills are so superior to his counterparts, even in the deepest draft class in memory. He’s kind of like Jay Cutler.
Luke Falk, Washington State - Had I not just written what I wrote about Allen, I would likely write the same about Falk. Falk is almost as good as Allen across the board. He has a huge arm and a fearlessness to his game, but he’s slightly shorter and his passes lack enough velocity to be considered elite. He’ll still have a high first round grade though. Falk also reminds me of CUtler, just not as much as Allen does.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State - Rudolph is a bit of a mystery to me. He has a great arm and is generally very accurate making throws at every level of the field. He doesn’t get great velocity, rather he puts a lot of air under the ball and asks his receivers to run under them. On shorter timing routes he tends to throw high. Neither tendency will fly in the NFL so he’ll need to make the adjustments. Rudolph, more than the other quarterbacks on this list, is no threat outside the pocket. He has a little Phillip Rivers in him, I’m just not sure he has enough.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma - Of the top prospects Mayfield is the biggest projection in my mind. Each of the other quarterbacks on this list are reportedly between 6’2” and 6’5” tall. Mayfield is listed at 6’1” and that is probably generous. He is, however, an intelligent quarterback with good athleticism and accuracy. I could see him sticking at the next level despite his short stature. He reminds me of Jeff Garcia.
Others to Consider
Jake Browning, Washington - If Browning comes out early, which isn’t expected, he would be a 7th signal caller to have a first round grade as of now. Unlike the other prospects on this list, however, Browning is a more fundamentally sound quarterback without the great arm of Allen or Falk. As such, he has a lower ceiling, but also probably a higher floor, and would quickly develop into an effective game manager type of quarterback in the mold of Andy Dalton.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville - Jackson’s game is exciting and appears to be perfectly suited for college football. As the NFL moves forward many coaches are willing to open up their offenses and consider dual skill quarterbacks such as Jackson. Breaking down his game or comparing him to other NFL players is an exercise in futility. Either a coach will fall in love with his leadership and style of play and build an offense around him, or he will fall to the draft’s third day.
Logan Woodside, Toledo - Woodside is the best quarterback that no one has heard of. For most of last season he was the leader in passing efficiency in the NCAA. He’ll need to elevate his game this year now that he will be missing Michael Roberts at tight end and Kareem Hunt at running back, but as a 5th year senior he should be up to the task. Like Browning, Woodside is a smaller, more fundamentally sound quarterback. Unlike Browning, however, Woodside does show the ability to create opportunities that aren’t immediately available. His arm strength and velocity will never be great but he can work on his pocket presence and avoid some mistakes with better footwork and patience. Woodside reminds me of Chad Pennington - with more athleticism. He's not a first round prospect right now but he will compete for whomever selects him.