Several teams went into the 2018 NFL draft with a need at the quarterback position, and not all of them came out of it with a viable option. The two clubs with a big need that basically came out with nothing were the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots.
Miami was said to be interested in trading up in the first round to grab a quarterback but obviously decided not to. The Dolphins still have a young and talented Ryan Tannehill coming off an ACL injury, and they have to hope that he comes back strong from that injury.
Denver also was said to be interested in a quarterback, but after giving Case Keenum a large contract in free agency, and having two young quarterbacks on the roster, the Broncos also decided to wait. The Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round in 2016 and Chad Kelly last year. Either one of those players could come on. Kelly missed all of last season following surgery, but he still learned the offense and learned what it was like to be a pro. It wouldn't surprise me if he ends up being the young quarterback with a bright future in Denver.
The Jets were said to be interested in Baker Mayfield going into the draft, but I learned a few days before the draft that those rumors were false. It didn't matter as Mayfield went first overall to Cleveland and Sam Darnold -- who many experts felt was the top quarterback in this draft -- fell to the Jets at No. 3. With Josh McCown turning 39 in July, I feel that Darnold will end up being the first rookie quarterback to become a starter. The pressure will be huge in New York to get Darnold on the field, and a slow start by the team will assure Darnold being the starter by October. Darnold has to clear up the inconsistencies in his game, but there is no question that he can become the leader of the Jets.
The quarterback whom I feel will be the next rookie to play will be Josh Rosen in Arizona. Rosen is the most NFL-ready of all the rookie quarterbacks, and he's in a situation where he is just one play away from having to step on the field. The Cardinals acquired Sam Bradford during free agency, but he is more fragile than a crystal chandelier, so Rosen has to be ready. He probably enters the best situation of any of the first-round quarterbacks, as Arizona's roster is fairly good and he played in a pro-style offense at UCLA. What Rosen needs to do is mature and realize he won't be the smartest guy in the room now that he is in the NFL.
Following the draft, the Cleveland Browns said that Baker Mayfield will be the club's third-string quarterback going into camp. The starter is newly acquired Tyrod Taylor, whom the Browns got in a trade from Buffalo. I have seen every game that Taylor has played the last two years, and in my opinion, there is no way he stays the starter past about the sixth game. While Taylor's numbers may look good, he doesn't play to what those numbers are. Even as a rookie, Mayfield will give the Browns a much better chance to win.
Buffalo got rid of Taylor because of his limitations. They drafted the most physically gifted quarterback in Josh Allen, but Allen also has the most to do before he is ready to step on the field. Unless there is an injury to A.J. McCarron, signed by the Bills in free agency, Allen will sit all year. He needs to spend that time learning the NFL game and work on his accuracy and footwork. Two or three years from now, Allen may become the best quarterback in this class, but right now he is the least ready of all the premium-round rookie passers.
Lamar Jackson was drafted into a good situation, too. Baltimore has an established veteran in Joe Flacco to hold the fort until Jackson is ready. As talented as Jackson is, he is the most raw of all the top rookie quarterbacks. He has seldom played from under center and has to learn that if the first or second read isn't there, he can't just take off.
At his best, Jackson has Michael Vick-type traits, but he is still raw. He has accuracy issues but he has also shown that he can make every throw that will be required of him in the NFL. He should have plenty of time to develop in Baltimore, and when he is ready to step on the field, Jackson will be better off for having sat and learned.
Another young quarterback who got himself into a good situation is Kyle Lauletta, the Giants' fourth-rounder. With Eli Manning's play having dropped off the last few years, the Giants are placing the blame on the former coaching staff and front office. Because of that they waited to draft a quarterback. In my opinion, although raw, Lauletta has a chance to become a winning quarterback in the NFL. New general manager Dave Gettleman used free agency and the draft to build up positions of need on the Giants. That will help Manning this year and not put any pressure on Lauletta to have to play too soon. I felt that Lauletta was a second-round talent, but often in the NFL after the so-called premium quarterbacks are drafted, clubs often wait before selecting guys from the second tier of passers. Lauletta has just as good a chance to be successful in the NFL as any of the quarterbacks drafted before him.
The same can be said about Mason Rudolph, who went to the Steelers in Round 3. During the college season, many felt that Rudolph could be a first-rounder. His play fell off the last part of the season, his combine was average and he had the smallest hands of any of the top quarterbacks. All of that helped Rudolph slide to the third. In Pittsburgh, with Ben Roethlisberger ready to play at least one more year, Rudolph has a chance to learn from one of the best in the business. Rudolph has similar size to Roethlisberger, but he doesn't have Big Ben's arm. At Oklahoma State, Mason was very accurate and seldom forced throws, and with the talent that the Steelers have, Rudolph will be in good shape to lead the Steelers when Ben hangs it up.
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