Quarterbacks were the story of the first round of the NFL draft, with five selected on the first night. In addition, the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted one they consider to have first-round talent in the third round.
For now, there is excitement and intrigue around each prospect. Who might be the next great NFL quarterback or another guy who couldn’t live up to supersized expectations?
Which of the top six quarterbacks selected will be franchise QBs? Of course, it’s too early to know for sure, but our NFL Nation reporters share their views on why their teams believe their rookie can be that guy.
Drafted: First overall pick
Follow the money when it comes to Baker Mayfield being given the reins of the Browns’ offense. As the draft’s first pick, he’ll get a four-year contract worth about $30 million and a signing bonus of around $20 million (first pick Myles Garrett got a $20.258 million signing bonus a year ago). Tyrod Taylor is in the final year of a contract and will earn $16 million. It’s pretty clear which player the Browns are focusing on for the future. The Browns will say all the right things about Taylor being the guy this season, and if Taylor wants another lucrative contract after this one he’ll have to play well. But the Browns didn’t draft Mayfield to sit beyond this season — if he does indeed sit through this entire season. John Dorsey and Hue Jackson are staking their reputations and their jobs on Mayfield. They believe he has the moxie, leadership, competitiveness and ability to throw and read defenses to overcome his height. He’s not going to sit much beyond 2018, and barring injury or mishap, he will get every chance to be the Browns’ quarterback for 2019 and beyond. — Pat McManamon
Drafted: Third overall pick
He’d better be up to the job or else a lot of people will get fired. The Jets traded three second-round picks to move up three spots, putting themselves in position to draft a quarterback. They caught a huge break, as Darnold — the No. 1 quarterback on their board — fell to them. He’s their highest-drafted quarterback since 1965, when Joe Namath went No. 1 overall in the AFL draft. This could be a turning point for this star-crossed franchise. The Jets believe Darnold has the mental makeup to withstand the crucible of New York and the inevitable growing pains of the position. He’s accurate, moves well outside the pocket and will fit nicely in their West Coast-style offense. He needs some seasoning, though. He developed some bad habits last season at USC and will have to be coached out of a few mechanical flaws. Chances are, he will be a high-risk, high-reward passer, evidenced by his collegiate numbers: 21 interceptions in 24 career starts. You wonder how that will play with defensive-minded coach Todd Bowles, who wants his quarterbacks to manage the game. One thing they don’t have to worry about is his work ethic. Darnold has a gym-rat mentality and has always been respected by his teammates. — Rich Cimini
Drafted: Seventh overall pick
There might be more questions with Allen than any of the other three quarterbacks selected in the top 10. Allen’s 56 percent completion rate in college has invited skepticism about his accuracy at the NFL level, which Allen disputes. “I don’t think that accurately represents accuracy,” he told WGR 550 last month of his completion rate. “The two are intertwined, for sure, but I don’t think it’s a complete description. If I completed 16 more passes the entire year, I would’ve had a 62 percent completion percentage. So it’s definitely a minimal statistic that can be fixed.” Another knock against Allen is his team’s lack of wins against higher-level competition, which general manager Brandon Beane attributes to a lack of talent around him. “It’s no secret, there’s nobody on Wyoming that is going to play in the NFL or probably be in an NFL camp,” Beane told WGR 550 last month. “You look at what his team did when he was on the field. They played Iowa and Oregon. Listen, he’s not gonna beat Iowa and Oregon with that team.” If Allen can defy what might be legitimate problems with his résumé, he could prove to be a franchise quarterback because of his arm strength and size (6-foot-5, 240 pounds). The Bills believe Allen can handle the poor weather conditions that come along with late-season and potential playoff games in Buffalo, although Beane noted he still would have selected Allen if the Bills played in a dome. — Mike Rodak
Drafted: 10th overall pick
It took the Cardinals years, but they finally found their quarterback of the future. Arizona had opportunities in the past few years to trade up but didn’t. It did this year and landed the one quarterback that general manager Steve Keim believes is the smartest in the entire draft. Keim was also taken by Rosen’s fundamentals, calling him “one of the most mechanically sound quarterbacks to come out in some time.” In Rosen, Arizona sees their quarterback of the next decade. They like what he can do with the football, but they also don’t mind who he is as a person. Keim said the franchise put in a “great deal of work” into scouting and evaluating Rosen, so they knew what they were getting with Rosen: an opinionated young man who has interests outside of football but doesn’t let them affect his passion for the game. When it came to Rosen’s personality, Keim said Rosen says what’s on his mind. “Which I don’t always think is a bad thing,” Keim said. Arizona has long needed the future face of the franchise, someone who can fill that role after Larry Fitzgerald retires. And they believe they found him in Rosen. — Josh Weinfuss
Drafted: No. 32 overall pick
The Ravens called Jackson a unique talent. Their analytics say there hasn’t been a playmaker in the past few drafts better than Jackson. The expectation is not only for Jackson to eventually take over the starting quarterback role but revitalize one of the NFL’s worst offenses in recent years. A dual threat, Jackson provides what Baltimore sorely lacks — big plays and touchdowns. Over the past two seasons, Jackson has totaled 153 plays (passes and runs) of 20 yards or more. Baltimore has ranked last in the NFL the past two seasons with 85 plays of 20 yards or more. It’s the same with touchdowns, where Jackson led college football by reaching the end zone 96 times the past two years. In comparison, the Ravens have scored 65 offensive touchdowns in 2016 and 2017. The Ravens are going to be patient, and they are in a position not to rush Jackson. Joe Flacco is the starting quarterback this year, and he could remain in that role through the 2019 season. One of the reasons why Baltimore traded back into the first round to draft Jackson is because the Ravens can keep him under contract for five years (compared to four years for the other rounds). No other quarterback drafted in the first round this year will have more time to develop than Jackson. — Jamison Hensley
Drafted: Round 3, No. 76 overall
All signs point to Rudolph becoming the eventual replacement for Ben Roethlisberger, who might play another three to five years. This feels like the Steelers shooting their shot, officially sketching the walls and windows on the succession blueprint. They believe they got good value in the third round on a quarterback they graded as a first-rounder. This allowed them to draft a safety in the first round and build on Big Ben’s championship window. The Steelers will have Rudolph under contract for the next four years, enough time to determine whether he’s the guy. If so, stashing him away could be an issue. The Patriots had to let Jimmy Garoppolo walk via trade because Brady kept playing at a high level — a problem the Steelers would love to have with Roethlisberger. Last year, Pittsburgh drafted Josh Dobbs as a developmental quarterback. Rudolph joins the fray as an accomplished pocket passer with a great deep ball, which is what this offense values. The Steelers like his mental makeup and his anticipation as a passer. Those factors give credence to Rudolph taking over for Roethlisberger … sometime in 2021 or so. — Jeremy Fowler