2018 quarterback draft

2018 quarterback draft DEFAULT

Josh Allen or Lamar Jackson? Re-ranking the 2018 QB draft class

The 2018 quarterback class was one of the most debated in recent memory. Those discussions rage on this weekend as three of the five first-rounders are in action.

It's a slate that fittingly doesn't involve the first three to come off the board. If there was a re-draft, a hypothetical that NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah explored, the order would be quite different.

Jeremiah said Josh Rosen, who's on the 49ers' practice squad, his fourth team in three years since the Cardinals selected him No. 10 overall, is out of the discussion. In ascending order, Jeremiah's revised list begins with the Jets' Sam Darnold, who was the second QB selected in 2018 and the third player overall.

Inconsistency and injuries have defined his first three seasons in New York, which is now on its third head coach since Darnold was drafted.

"This has a lot to do with what's been around him or what hasn't been around him," Jeremiah said.

Next up is the Browns' Baker Mayfield, the lone first-round QB whose team didn't trade up for him. Granted, he was the top pick in the draft. But after a record-setting rookie season, sluggish sophomore campaign and rebound in Year 3, he currently ranks third for Jeremiah.

"I thought Baker entered that draft as close to his ceiling as any of these guys and he showed it right away," Jeremiah said.

The real drama here is between the Bills' Josh Allen, who went seventh overall three years ago, and the Ravens' Lamar Jackson, the last pick of the first round. There probably isn't a public consensus between the two, though the winner of Saturday night's Divisional Round meeting will be closer to what they covet most.

Jackson, of course, already has an MVP. Jeremiah calls him "the best running quarterback in the history of the National Football League." But he's No. 2 in the re-draft. Allen, in the midst of his own MVP-caliber season, is the mythical winner of this exercise.

"No. 1 on the list for me right now is the guy who I believe has the best skill set in the National Football League," Jeremiah said. "When you look at the size, the arm strength, the athletic ability, and the things he's doing this year, to me I think Josh Allen would end up being No. 1 if you were to re-rank these guys."

What can't be argued is Buffalo and Baltimore, and perhaps Cleveland, are happy with who they have at QB.

Sours: https://www.nfl.com/news/josh-allen-or-lamar-jackson-re-ranking-the-2018-qb-draft-class

Reappraising the 2018 NFL Draft's hyped QB class; plus, Ben Roethlisberger for MVP?

Resumé: To be fair, the USC product hasn't been dealt a winning hand since entering the league. He's been a victim of his circumstances, with a subpar supporting cast, patchwork offensive line and inferior coaching. That said, Darnold has been an inconsistent playmaker, owning a resumé littered with losses, turnovers and underachievement in the Big Apple.

Biggest concern: Darnold's durability is questionable, and his inconsistency's downright problematic. He currently owns the lowest passer rating among qualified quarterbacks at 65.9, and his overall lack of production as a starter is quite disconcerting. Although he hasn't been afforded enviable surroundings, as noted above, Darnold has failed to post inspiring numbers over his 32 starts, with just four career games of 300-plus passing yards and three games of three-plus passing TDs. For a quarterback who was expected to reverse the fortunes of the franchise, Darnold simply hasn't shown the special traits traditionally associated with true franchise quarterbacks.

Long-term extension? No. Despite the lack of weapons and the dysfunction around Darnold, it is hard to reward him with a lucrative extension based on his play. The former No. 3 overall pick has shown flashes of brilliance, but they're just too few and far between. Currently sidelined by a shoulder ailment, Darnold could be back in action next week and will have a chance to show off his talents and potential down the stretch. That said, the 0-9 Jets are currently on track to nab the No. 1 overall pick. It's quite difficult to imagine the Jets passing on Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, should he choose to enter the 2021 draft.

Sours: https://www.nfl.com/news/reappraising-the-2018-nfl-draft-s-hyped-qb-class-plus-ben-roethlisberger-for-mvp
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Revisiting the 2018 quarterback draft class

The old adage in the NFL is that you don’t judge a draft class until three or four years down the road. Generally, I agree with that point of view.

But there are exceptions. Take the quarterback draft class of 2018. Two years into it, you can look at the five quarterbacks taken in the first round and make some firm judgments. Overall, teams got it wrong.

It turns out the best quarterback from that draft was the fifth one taken and the last player taken in the first round. That’s Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson. The first quarterback – and first overall pick – was Baker Mayfield by the Cleveland Browns. He hasn’t turned out to be what people thought he would.

Think the Browns would take Jackson with the first pick if they had the chance to do it all over again? Of course they would. Hindsight is 20/20, and the entire order of 2018 quarterbacks probably would be different if teams could do that draft over again.

With the help of an NFC scout who spoke on the condition of anonymity, let’s review the thinking on each of the five first-round quarterbacks from 2018 — both when they came into the league, and how they’re viewed after two seasons.

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Mayfield was the No. 1 overall selection out of Oklahoma. Despite the fact that some viewed Mayfield’s height (6 feet 1) and demeanor as potential problems, he was the consensus top pick.

“I was at one of his practices and I wasn’t all that impressed with him,’’ the scout said. “Yeah, he can throw the ball. But he has an outspoken vibe. Everybody else was in pads, but he was running around in sweats with a sweatband on his head. He reminded me of Jim McMahon and not a guy you would take at No. 1.’’

Mayfield looked like a No. 1 pick at times as a rookie, completing 63.8% of his passes and setting an NFL rookie record with 27 touchdown passes. Mayfield was intercepted 14 times that year.

But Mayfield regressed in 2019 despite the arrival of receiver Odell Beckham Jr. He completed only 59.4% of his passes with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.

“He’s just really inconsistent,’’ the scout said. “His height was a big factor this year. They had protection problems. When you’re shorter and you have protection problems, it’s tough to get the ball out. Not everybody is Drew Brees or Russell Wilson. I’m also real curious to see how the new coach handles his personality.’’

Sours: https://touchdownwire.usatoday.com/2020/01/08/revisiting-the-2018-quarterback-draft-class/

Stop me if you’ve heard this once (or 218 times) before: I was wrong about Josh Allen.

In my defense, I was just a kid. A sophomore in college, writing an article about the 2018 quarterback draft class while not quite paying attention in my Public Relations 101 seminar, also not quite worrying that the Bills would draft Josh Allen. Why would they? A gunner with limited accuracy and indeterminate mobility? Where was the upside?

I had more to say about Allen, and plenty to say about the other four “premier” quarterbacks from that draft (Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson). Rereading that nightmare of a column today has imparted two very important nuggets of wisdom upon me:

  • 1) I think I’ve become a better writer than I was at 19, and
  • 2) I’m a moron.

There’s a point early on in that piece where I jokingly use Baker Mayfield’s Favre-esque draft photo as cause to draft him high. At least I hope I was joking.

Since I’m a glutton for punishment, I’ve elected to go ahead and check back in on those 2018 quarterbacks; going in order of when they were drafted, I’ll see how they’ve fared, what the future looks like for them, how their ceilings and floors have changed, etc. This time, I’ll do my best to refrain from calling Josh Rosen the best thing since sliced bread. Yes, I did that, too. Maybe I shouldn’t have brought this up.

Baker Mayfield

Career stats:45 games; 23-22 record; 11,115 passing yards; 75 touchdowns; 43 interceptions; 61.9 completion percentage

Draft result: Rd. 1, Pick 1 to the Cleveland Browns

Mayfield is an interesting case, and—it seems—no longer one of the basket variety (at least he hasn’t grabbed his crotch while looking at another bench in a while). As a rookie, he was one of the most exciting players in the NFL, going 6-7 in 13 games as the starter on a team going nowhere fast. As a sophomore, he was disappointing as he was flashy the previous year. And in his third year, by far his team’s best season (11-5 and their first playoff appearance since 2002), Mayfield just… coasted.

Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Mayfield certainly improved upon an alarming sophomore slump, posting career-best marks in both passer rating (95.9) and total QBR (72.2), and throwing the fewest interceptions of his career (eight, as opposed to 14 his first season and 21 his second). It’s certain that he’s benefited from Kevin Stefanski’s new system—one that worked so well for both sides of the ball that he didn’t even need to be on the sidelines for it to function. I guess that’s why he won Sean McDermott’s Coach of the Year award.

And yet while Mayfield’s overall success last season isn’t likely to be a flash in the pan, there’s still some pause as to whether or not he’s going to be able to produce as consistently as one might like as a passer. In other words: flash in the pan, no, but erratic flashes of greatness, most certainly. You might remember week 13’s 41-35 victory in Tennessee where he threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns in the first half. He also set up a flurry of explosive sequences in that game to further mute a defense that was already unable to touch him (he was pressured just once in that first half). Then again, you also might remember outings in Week 6 (at Pittsburgh) and Week 8 (Las Vegas) when he threw 119 and 122 yards, respectively, and threw just one touchdown in those eight quarters. When he’s on, he’s really on. But when he’s off, hightail it for the mock draft boards and search hopelessly for a midround replacement.

The good news: there are ways to avoid Mayfield’s sporadic struggles. For one, he was missing a certain receiver who, at the very least, is labeled a number one; Odell Beckham Jr. only played seven games last season before tearing his ACL and was hardly open, let alone targeted. But even more significantly, they have two number-one running backs in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, who combined for just over 1,900 yards last season. If Stefanski uses either or both of his backs—assuming they’re both back next season—as frequently as he lets Mayfield chuck it, his quarterback will be the primary beneficiary. Browns fans everywhere are beneficiaries anytime Baker Mayfield is not throwing 53 passes.

Sam Darnold

Career stats:38 games; 13-25 record; 8,097 passing yards, 45 touchdowns; 39 interceptions; 59.8 completion percentage

Draft result: Rd. 1, Pick 3 to New York Jets

I’m certain of few things in this world like I’m certain that Robin Williams’s best performance comes in Good Will Hunting, and that the best scene of his career—at minimum the most iconic—is the “it’s not your fault” scene. You know what scene I’m talking about. If you don’t, hello! Welcome out from underneath whatever rock you’ve been living under. This is called the internet. Use it to watch Good Will Hunting.

What Robin Williams does for Matt Damon in this scene is what I sometimes wish someone would do for Sam Darnold. Grasp him by the shoulders, maybe shake him a bit, and reassure him: it’s not your fault, Sam. Well, with a slight edit.

You see, it’s not all Darnold’s fault that he’s never played more than 13 games in a season. Nor is it all his fault that he’s only thrown more than 3,000 yards once (and by a meager 24 extra yards). And it’s not his fault that his signal calling—an attribute once considered prolific and advanced by scouts—has been reduced to rubble, or that he’s never had longer than 0.4 seconds to stand still in the pocket and survey the field, or that… you get it.

Darnold, as incomplete as he’s proven to be, is the victim of an endemic trend in the league: a fine-if-not-good quarterback who has been rendered inept by his lesser teammates, predominantly his offensive line. Last season, he ranked eighth in the league in pressure rate (27.5-percent of his dropbacks) and 19th in how much time he had to work in the pocket (2.4 seconds, the least amount of time any of the first five quarterbacks taken in 2018 had; Josh Rosen didn’t qualify for ranking). He’s been beaten, battered, and clotheslined more than Robin Williams has used an exuberant voice while talking to another human being.

To make matters MUCH better—maybe?—for the still-young quarterback, Adam Schefter reported Sunday that teams around the league have been calling the Jets with interest in trading for Darnold. In even better news, the Jets haven’t refused calls, nor has Robert Saleh committed to his current signal-caller as the one he’ll want for the future.

Darnold’s short tenure in the league has yet to see him paired with the right coach, and there’s only one way to tell whether or not Saleh is that guy. My gut says that the defensive-minded hire isn’t sketching out 3rd-and-long plays in his free time, though. Maybe Darnold needs to get as far as possible from anything Adam Gase has ever touched to find true success.

Josh Allen

Career stats: 44 games; 28-15 record; 9,707 passing yards; 67 touchdowns; 31 interceptions; 61.8 completion percentage; 1,562 rushing yards; 25 rushing touchdowns

Draft result: Rd. 1, Pick 7 to the Buffalo Bills

Josh Allen almost ruined my life.

When I wrote about him on draft day in 2018, my analysis was cut and dry: “I don’t get the Josh Allen fascination. I just don’t.” Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one with mixed-to-negative feelings. And for two years, I looked to be on the right track, as while he showed bursts of brilliance with his legs, he was routinely as inaccurate as advertised when throwing the ball downfield and made some split-second decisions in tight situations that even a panicked house pet would know better than to try. I’ve seen my cat use better judgment when the vacuum is rolled out of the closet than Allen did on that lateral play against the Houston Texans in the first round of the 2020 playoffs. Until that play, I thought it was impossible for a 21 year old to go into cardiac arrest. That was until I woke up one year later with my mother and father standing over me and saying: “We lost. But we traded for Stefon Diggs.”

Since my coma, Josh Allen has developed into a composed dual-threat—triple, if we want to count his lone receiving touchdown. He leapfrogged the likes of Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray, and Deshaun Watson in the MVP conversation, broke various franchise records, all on his way to becoming one of the best quarterbacks in the league last season. He’s the best quarterback Buffalo has had since Jim Kelly, and probably the most exciting player to land in Buffalo since O.J. Simpson.

But I think, given Allen’s newfound promise, that we’ll soon be on the mend. In terms of football, there’s absolutely no question that Allen has made my life (and that of Bills fans everywhere) feel like an oasis. His pocket presence and startling offensive jump from year two to year three is an embarrassment of riches by Buffalo’s standards. He’s improved in a bevy of areas every season—from completion percentage (69.1) to passing yards (4,544) to passing touchdown percentage index (118, with 100 as the league average)—and posted career-best numbers in almost every major offensive area last season. He threw one more pick (10) than last season (9) and ran for the fewest yards of his career (421), but no matter. A quarterback is primarily meant to pass the ball anyway. It was always nice to know that his running game could bail him out of tough spots, but it’s been especially critical to discover that his passing game can carry the Bills toward offensive heights that it hadn’t reached since the late 90s.

One might like to say that his blossoming was a process that moved slowly and surely but, in reality, he burst onto the scene last season looking like a completely different quarterback. A quarterback who could (and hopefully will) lead this Bills team for the next 15 or so years. Fandom for a historically “lesser” franchise can be an emotional juggernaut, and people don’t give the emotions one feels when their team fails (over and over again) enough credit. If we’re being honest, that might be Josh Allen’s greatest accomplishment: giving a hopeless group of hooligans a reason to smile somewhat deep into January. The next step is what, thanks to his recent dominance, feels closer than ever before: giving them a reason to smile into early February. Eat your heart out, Nick Wright.

Josh Rosen

Career stats: 20 games; 3-13 record; 2,845 passing yards; 12 touchdowns; 19 interceptions; 54.8 completion percentage

Draft result: Rd. 1, Pick 10 to the Arizona Cardinals

You can’t necessarily call Josh Rosen the 2018 NFL Draft’s version of JaMarcus Russell, but if you ask me, that’s exactly what he is. I was as high on Rosen coming out of UCLA as I have been on any quarterback prospect in recent memory. I figured he’d light up the league like few young studs before him, that his sometimes-erratic decision-making would be negated once he was surrounded by pro talent, and that his pro-ready gifts when passing the ball would make everyone regret not taking him. As I said before: I thought the dude was sliced bread in shoulder pads.

And then a fairy godmother named Steve Wilks (aided by his fairy god-coordinator, Mike McCoy) flung Rosen into the snarling jaws of NFL defenses with an aging receiving core and an injury-prone running back. He was protected by the worst-rated offensive line in 2018, per PFF, and sacked on 10.3 percent of his drop backs. A pig for slaughter? Try the target placed opposite a shooter at the gun range. “Do your thing, kid,” he said. “With wha—” Rosen mustered weekly, just before being slammed to the ground by a 340-lb defensive end with muscles the size of the UCLA campus.

Rosen wasn’t ever given a chance. He was soon shipped out of Arizona and sent to the Miami Dolphins for a second- and fifth-round pick then-viewed as his chance for redemption and, in some eyes, revenge. But he didn’t last in Miami for very long. Nor did he last very long with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ practice squad because, after a brief stint in the same building as Tom Brady, the San Francisco 49ers pulled him over to their practice squad (on February 8, they decided to retain him for next season). The guy has been tossed around the league like a rag doll more times than he’s appeared under center.

When he’s played, he’s been forgettable. Per CBS Sports, of the 42 quarterbacks to throw more than 500 passes since 2018, Rosen ranks dead last in completion percentage, touchdowns, passer rating, yards per attempt, and win-loss percentage. It’s less than likely that he ever plays a meaningful down of NFL football again.

Don’t let me analyze Joshes anymore. It’s a recipe for disaster.

Lamar Jackson

Career stats: 46 games; 30-7 record; 7,085 passing yards; 68 touchdowns; 18 touchdowns; 64.0 completion percentage; 2,906 rushing yards; 19 rushing touchdowns

Draft result: Rd. 1, Pick 32 to the Baltimore Ravens

In three years, Lamar Jackson has accomplished the following:

  • First quarterback in NFL history to have multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons
  • First quarterback in NFL history to have consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons
  • Fastest quarterback in NFL history to 5,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards (35 games)
  • First quarterback in NFL history to have 5,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in his first three seasons
  • Only quarterback in NFL history to have 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 rushing yards in a season
  • Most games with two-plus passing touchdowns and 50-plus rushing yards in a player’s first three seasons (14)

AND he’s the third-youngest player to win MVP and a playoff game (24 years and 3 days old, only older than Patrick Mahomes and Dan Marino). To say he’s a transcendent talent is to say a rhino has a horn. In short, how has he fared? Well, he’s won an MVP award as a quarterback in a league where multiple scouts and personalities once said he’d be better off playing wide receiver. Talk about shutting up critics.

The questions about Lamar Jackson moving forward are few and far between, and they aren’t directed at him as much as they are pointed at something that directly impacts his production: Baltimore’s offensive line. The upheaval was a bit swift, with Marshal Yanda retiring last offseason and Ronnie Stanley going down with an injury midseason. Now, Orlando Brown wants to be traded to a team that will play him at left tackle (the Ravens played him on the right side). Even beyond those issues, the line faced variability last season; per PFF, “nine different offensive linemen played at least 100 offensive snaps throughout [2020-21] — the same number as some of the more beat-up offensive lines in the league like Philadelphia and Dallas.” They finished this season as PFF’s 16th-ranked group, just one season after ranking second.

Fix that, and give Jackson weapons akin to Allen’s—any quarterback would take Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, and an unhealthy John Brown over a seldom-open Marquise Brown and the league’s fourth-best tight end—and perhaps you see more consistency in the former MVP’s numbers. Then again, he did do just fine one year prior with the same group. So perhaps Jackson’s MVP year, which was punctuated by leading the league in QBR and finishing sixth in the league in rushing, was him hitting his peak rather early, or perhaps it was a remarkable flash of what he’ll do consistently down the line. Either way, he’s certainly had the best first three seasons of any quarterback drafted in 2018… so far.

It’s also clear that a kid wearing no. 17 in a city up north already has something to say about that statement.

Sours: https://www.buffalorumblings.com/2021/2/19/22280887/lets-check-in-on-the-qb-draft-class-of-2018

Draft 2018 quarterback

Where the 2018 NFL QB draft class stands after three years: Evaluating Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen

Despite the fact that we're three full seasons into their respective careers, we're still evaluating the quarterback class from the 2018 NFL draft. In a league in which teams have to start thinking about committing to a quarterback for their fifth-year option and a possible extension after their third season, it feels like we should be able to lock in our opinions about Josh Allen, Sam Darnold and the rest of this class by now.

And yet, there are two arguments suggesting that we're still figuring out these guys. One is what happened to the top of the class of 2016. After their third seasons in the league, both Carson Wentz and Jared Goff signed four-year extensions. Wentz had been an MVP candidate in 2017 and led his team back to the playoffs in 2018, while Goff was coming off of a trip to the Super Bowl. The Eagles and Rams had traded up for those passers and expected them to become franchise quarterbacks before paying them to do so. Both subsequently declined before being traded earlier this year.

As I mentioned in April, the other reality is that the way most people would rank these players moving forward has changed after each year. The league as a whole ranked them Baker Mayfield-Darnold-Allen-Josh Rosen-Lamar Jackson after the draft, an ordering that seemed ridiculous by the end of Year 1. Mayfield might have been atop the charts after 2018, with Jackson taking that nod in 2019 and Allen at No. 1 after last season.

What happens next? Let's try to look through what we know about these five first-round passers to get a sense of how they'll play in 2021 and beyond.

To aid me, I'm going to use the index stats for quarterbacks from Pro Football Reference. These index metrics take a quarterback's performance, adjust it for era and then scale it so that 100 represents the league average in each category and each 15-point swing represents one standard deviation above or below the mean. That means 115 would be an above-average season, while 130 would represent MVP-caliber performance and 145 would be one of the best seasons ever. As an example, here's Mayfield's 2020 performance converted to their index stats:

in 2020
Cmp%Y/AttAdj Y/AttINT%Passer

I'll start with the most impressive performance from 2020 and work my way down.

Jump to a quarterback:
Baker Mayfield | Sam Darnold
Josh Allen | Josh Rosen | Lamar Jackson

Josh Allen

Pick in 2018 draft: No. 7 (Bills)

The transformation is complete. Allen entered the league as a big-armed passer out of Wyoming who didn't have a track record of accuracy at the college level. His adjusted completion percentage coming out of college was 56%, the lowest of the five first-round passers. He wasn't accurate as a rookie, and while he made major strides in Year 2, he was still below average by virtually every passing metric. It seemed like Allen was the next Blake Bortles or Mitchell Trubisky, quarterbacks who were propped up by their teams and surroundings into fooling fans that they were franchise passers for brief spells of their rookie deals.

Allen is no Bortles or Trubisky. He was a revelation in his third season, emerging as one of the league's best quarterbacks. He went from a quarterback who would routinely battle his footwork in the pocket to one who seemed capable of setting and resetting his feet in moments from any setting or situation. A player who once seemed to not know where the ball was going from his traditional mechanics suddenly became an accurate passer from multiple arm angles. Allen was a legitimate MVP candidate.

2 Related

Was it a fluke? I don't think so. When Wentz made his second-year leap in 2017, there were obvious unsustainable elements of his performance. As I wrote about back then, Wentz's 2017 season was built upon historically great performance on third down and in the red zone, with Wentz posting one of the 10 best seasons of the last decade in either category. Performance in those areas is tough to sustain unless you're dominating elsewhere on the field, and they were a one-year fluke for Wentz; he's 21st in third-down QBR and 10th in red zone QBR over the past three seasons.

There are no obvious outliers like that on Allen's 2020 record. His receivers posted a 2.6% drop rate, which was just a little better than league average. Defenses dropped six would-be Allen interceptions last year, which was slightly below league average. He was fourth in red zone QBR and 10th on third downs. Nothing about his performance suggests he was riding his luck or building his success on an unsustainable house of cards.

Does history suggest Allen can continue to play at this level? It depends. Let's take his completion percentage, which improved from 58.8% in 2019 to a whopping 69.2% in 2020. After adjusting for era, the Pro Football Reference index stats have Allen at 77 in 2019 and 121 last season. That 44-point improvement is tied for the largest single-season improvement in completion percentage index in the modern era alongside Steve DeBerg, who went from being coached by Fred O'Connor in 1978 to Bill Walsh in 1979. Eight other quarterbacks besides DeBerg improved their completion percentage index by more than 30 points in a 300-pass season and then threw 300 passes again the following year. Here's what happened to them:


The group as a whole saw its completion percentage decline by an average of 3.4% and its completion percentage index fall by an average of 13.1 points. If Allen were to drop off in a similar fashion, he would be looking at a 108 Cmp%+, which would be somewhere around 66% by 2020 statistics. It's not the sort of decline that would stop him from being a successful quarterback; Patrick Mahomes posted a 108 Cmp%+ last season.

Quarterbacks who grow as dramatically as Allen did last season often take a step backward the following year. This was likely the first time in his entire life that he was this accurate of a passer. The most recent year is the most valuable year we have in terms of evidence when evaluating a player, but it's not the only year that matters. At the same time, he could take a meaningful step backward and still be an above-average quarterback in 2021, given how effective he was last season.

Having said that, I think you could also make a feasible case that Allen might even get better in 2021. He's getting back virtually everyone of consequence from last year's team outside of swapping out John Brown for Emmanuel Sanders. The Bills did get healthy seasons out of most of their stars on offense, including Stefon Diggs and Dion Dawkins, but Brown missed nearly half the season, and starting guards Cody Ford and Jon Feliciano combined to miss 16 games. This offense would look a lot worse if Diggs went down injured, but you could say that about a lot of teams without their top wideout. Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, whose growth alongside Allen has been similarly shocking and impressive, also returns. The pieces are there for him to do this again.

At the very least, the goalposts have shifted dramatically with the Bills starter. This time last year, while Allen still had a lofty ceiling, his floor was still the guy who threw three interceptions against the Patriots or who seemed to self-destruct in the playoff loss against the Texans. No more. Look at the quarterbacks on that list. While many of them weren't able to keep up their completion percentage the following season, they each enjoyed long careers. Allen has established his floor as an NFL-caliber starter. He's about to get a much-deserved extension from the Bills. After his 2020 breakout, his future is blindingly bright.

Lamar Jackson

Pick in 2018 draft: No. 32 (Ravens)

Was Jackson's 2020 season a disappointment? Depends on your baseline. If you were expecting him to remain as wildly efficient as he was during his MVP season in 2019, it might have been. Given that the Louisville product posted one of the highest touchdown rates (9%) as a passer in league history in 2019, it was always unrealistic to expect Jackson to keep up his prior level of play. Just about everybody who wins MVP declines, at least a little bit, the following season.

If anything, Jackson dropped off more as a runner than he did as a passer. Owing to increased familiarity with the Baltimore rushing attack, the retirement of star guard Marshal Yanda and the injury suffered by left tackle Ronnie Stanley, Jackson wasn't as efficient of a runner in 2020 as he was the prior year. His DVOA as a runner dropped from 20.5% in 2019 down to minus-3.6%. He also was less effective as a scrambler, although he helped make up for any downturn by scrambling for a 48-yard touchdown in the playoff win over the Titans.

Offensive coordinator Greg Roman tried to shift Baltimore's rushing attack as the season went along, with the offense seemingly running more wind back and counter bash concepts than it had in 2019. Roman's rushing attack around Jackson is one of the most creative we've seen at the NFL level, but it's fair to say that his passing attack isn't quite as sophisticated. And while the Ravens added receivers Rashod Bateman and Sammy Watkins this offseason to give Jackson more weapons, I'm not sure it's going to make much of a difference unless the Ravens get more creative with their downfield passing game.

Roman's offense leverages the impact of a running quarterback on opposing defenses into their passing game. Teams lose the numbers advantage up front when the quarterback is a threat to run, so they have to bring one of their safeties into the box and make him a more viable part of the run fit. As a result, his quarterbacks expect to see more single-high coverages, such as Cover 1 and Cover 3. His deep-passing game over the past couple of years has been built around two concepts capable of stretching single-high looks: dagger and verts.

These aren't complicated passing concepts. Verts is simply having two or more receivers running vertical routes straight downfield. It's a lot to ask a single-high safety to run with someone such as Marquise Brown with a head start or to try to defend against two receivers running vertical routes on either side. Dagger combines a vertical route with a dig or deep over route underneath the go route; the go route clears out the single-high safety and opens up the middle of the field for the crosser. Every team in the league runs these two passing concepts.

Where the Ravens stand out, though, is how frequently they run them. I looked at every 20-plus-yard pass Jackson attempted from a year ago. Thirty of the 46 passes he threw came on some sort of vert or dagger concept, which meant they were using one of two deep passing concepts more than 65% of the time. The rest of the throws were mostly deep outs, boots near the goal line and the occasional Air Raid concept like Y-cross, hi-lo, or mesh. The latter produced a 45-yard touchdown on fourth down against the Browns after Jackson returned from the locker room; that was the only deep throw he attempted against Cover 0 all season. He saw a single-high safety on nearly 74% of his deep passes.

The nominations for the 2021 ESPYS are full of NFL players. Cast your votes today.

Best Athlete, Men's Sports
• Tom Brady makes the cut

Best NFL Player
• Brady, Rodgers, Donald or Henry?

Best Team
• Can Tampa Bay take the title?

Best Play
• Murray and Metcalf magic

Best Breakthrough Athlete
• Herbert and Young among the nominees

Best Game
• Remember the Ravens

Concerns about Jackson as a downfield passer in terms of his skills are generally overblown, in my opinion. The former Heisman Trophy winner has a strong arm and can anticipate routes coming open. He actually ran a more traditional, complex deep passing attack during his time at Louisville than the one he has been using with the Ravens. He misses deep throws here and there, but not at a more noticeable rate than other quarterbacks. He posted a 90.0 QBR on those throws last season, which ranked 20th in the league, four spots behind Allen. He was 12th in QBR on those passes in 2019. I don't think he's a problem on deep passes.

Roman's offense, though, has to be up to the task. Baltimore's passing game coordinator in 2020 was David Culley, who was surprisingly poached from the Ravens staff to take over as Houston's new coach. New assistant coaches Tee Martin and Keith Williams might take over Culley's duties in one form or another, but the Ravens have to threaten teams with more concepts downfield in 2021 than they did in 2020.

They appear set to sign Jackson to a significant extension this offseason. Even if you're skeptical of his ceiling as a downfield passer, you can't form a reasonable argument against getting that deal done. Jackson was league MVP two years ago and ranked seventh in QBR last season. He has the best winning percentage for any quarterback in modern league history through three seasons. He's one of the smartest quarterbacks I've ever seen in terms of avoiding big hits, both in the open field and near the sideline. Is there some risk that Jackson loses some value as a runner and doesn't develop further as a passer? Sure. We also know his upside is truly special.

Baker Mayfield

Pick in 2018 draft: No. 1 (Browns)

Is the real Mayfield the guy we saw collapse under pressure and expectations in 2019, or the one who looked calm and collected last season? Browns fans will understandably make the argument that Freddie Kitchens and a dismal offensive line were overmatched during Mayfield's sophomore campaign, but Mayfield thrived under those same conditions in 2018. He improved as he went along as a rookie and then did the same under Kevin Stefanski in 2020. People who counted out Mayfield after 2019 ignored what he did in 2018. Likewise, people who are locking him in as a possible MVP candidate this season based on what he did in the second half last year are ignoring what we saw in 2019. You can't throw out the parts of his history you don't like and use the rest as the sole basis for understanding his future.

Mayfield improved across the board in 2020, but one of those gains really drove his leap. In 2019, he threw 21 interceptions on 534 attempts, for a rate of 3.9%. Last season, he threw just eight picks on 486 attempts, dropping his interception rate down to 1.6%. By Pro Football Reference's index statistics, Mayfield's interception percentage index improved from 71 in 2019 to 111 last year, a 40-point swing.


Alan Hahn breaks down why Baker Mayfield and the Browns' only shot to win the Super Bowl might be this season.

Can he keep that up? If we look at guys with 300-pass attempt seasons who improved by 40-plus index points and see what they did the following year, the answer is no. The eight other quarterbacks who threw 300-plus attempts the following season all dropped off, falling an average of 24.1 points in the process. Three other players who didn't hit that 300-plus attempt total the following year each saw their interception rates rise in a smaller sample. A 24.1-point drop based on Mayfield's 2020 performance would roughly double his interception total from eight picks to 15. The list includes some great quarterbacks such as Brett Favre, Drew Brees and John Elway, but it shows just how difficult it is to sustain that sort of improvement.

If I were going to guess how Mayfield cut his interception rate so dramatically, I would have guessed that he had a few more dropped picks in 2020 and was much better under pressure than he had been in 2019. I would be wrong. He had four dropped picks in 2020, which was a little below league average. His interception rate when pressured in 2019 and 2020 didn't change all that much, either.

What did change is how Mayfield performed when things were calm. In 2019, when he wasn't pressured, he posted a 67.1 QBR and threw 17 picks on 449 attempts. The only other quarterback who threw more than 12 picks while unpressured that season was Jameis Winston, at 20. This past year, Mayfield posted an 83.7 QBR while unpressured and threw six picks on 422 unpressured dropbacks.

Anecdotally, there are reasons to think this makes sense. Mayfield looked frazzled throughout the 2019 season and seemed not to trust his pocket even when there wasn't much pressure. Browns quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt rebuilt Mayfield's footwork during the offseason. And as we suspected, Stefanski's arrival helped spur a dramatic improvement from Mayfield in one key category: play-action passing.

One year after a heavy dose of play-action led Kirk Cousins to a career year, Mayfield's return to form was driven by success with play-fakes. He was better across the board in 2019 when he used play-action as opposed to a standard dropback, but he was dominant using play-action in 2020. His play-action rate only jumped from 26.8% to 28.2%, but he posted a 93.0 QBR when the Browns used play-action, the second-best figure in football, behind Aaron Rodgers. Mayfield's interception rate using play-action in 2020 was a mere 0.4%. Cleveland's boot game helped narrow down the field for him and got him out of the pocket. It was the most important change the Browns made to this offense schematically, and it might have saved Mayfield's career as this team's starter.

He might have more riding on 2021 than any of these guys. Allen and Jackson have done enough to earn massive extensions. Rosen is fighting for a practice squad spot. Darnold had his fifth-year option picked up, but there was no suggestion that the Panthers were about to give him a significant new contract.

Somewhere in the middle, there's Mayfield, who has said he's not worried about negotiating a contract right now. If anybody in the NFL looms as a dangerous second contract among quarterbacks, it's the Browns starter. He's playing in a scheme that we've seen elevate Cousins, Goff and Jimmy Garoppolo, who are good enough to win but not typically good enough to do it as the primary driving force of the offense. Mayfield was more efficient last season, but the Browns rarely put the game on his shoulders, as he threw the ball just 486 times. The only regular starters who threw the ball less frequently were Darnold, Jackson, Ryan Tannehill and Cam Newton.

The Browns also massively upgraded their offensive line and kept those guys on the field in 2020. Their starting five combined for 73 out of 80 total starts; the only lineman who failed to start at least 15 times was run-mauling guard Wyatt Teller. Mayfield was without Odell Beckham Jr. for most of the year and had to start a critical game against the Jets with replacement-level receivers, but he had much more help last season. If he needs an excellent, effective offensive line to exhibit above-average efficiency, is Mayfield worth a significant raise? He was a mess behind Greg Robinson & Co. in 2019, similar Wentz melted down behind an injury-riddled line last season.

There are two reasons to believe Mayfield might exceed expectations. One is the classic second-year leap we've seen for quarterbacks in the Shanahan/Kubiak scheme, which led to MVP seasons for Matt Ryan and Rodgers in recent seasons. I don't think we have a big enough sample to tell whether the effect really exists, and I suspect that most quarterbacks improve at least a little bit when they get a second season with the same offensive coordinator in the same scheme, but we know that sort of leap is within the range of possibilities for a quarterback in this offense.

The other argument is that we saw two Mayfields in 2020. He threw six picks through the first six games of 2020 while posting a passer rating of 84.3; from Week 7 on, he posted a 16-2 touchdown-interception ratio, and his passer rating jumped to 102.3. His QBR jumped from 14th in the league across the first six weeks to seventh. It took a few weeks for him to learn the offense, this theory holds, but he looked like a franchise quarterback once he did.

In reality, I'm skeptical that Mayfield really stumbled onto some secret. Fans have adopted this split because the first set ends with a dismal performance in a blowout loss to the Steelers, who were one of the league's best pass defenses. Guess who he played the following week? Unsurprisingly, he posted huge numbers against the Bengals, who had the league's sixth-worst pass defense by DVOA.

Over that 10-game run to end the year, Mayfield played whatever the opposite of a murderer's row of pass defenses would be. Eight of his 10 games were against pass defenses that would finish the season ranked 22nd or worse. The exceptions were the Ravens (against whom he posted a 87.5 passer rating) and the Steelers (who played their backups in Week 17). He did play well against Pittsburgh's starters in the wild-card round, but that was also in a game in which the Steelers handed Cleveland four short fields in the first half.

Just about anything is on the table for Mayfield in 2021. He could be challenging for an MVP trophy on the high end and be stuck fighting for his job in 2022 on the lower end. Unless the offense around him totally falls apart, I think he should still be an effective midtier passer, albeit one with a higher interception rate than the one we saw last season.

Sam Darnold

Pick in 2018 draft: No. 3 (Jets)

I wrote a little bit about Darnold in April, when I wrote about the rise in quarterback selections. The track record for quarterbacks who start their career with three seasons of a sub-90 ANY/A+ since the merger isn't great; it's a group consisting solely of Darnold, Kyle Boller, Christian Ponder, Jeff George and Dan Pastorini. Those five quarterbacks combined to make one Pro Bowl, and that was in 1975, when quarterbacks typically got more time to develop. Even two bad seasons out of the first three has usually been an ominous sign for signal-callers.

The argument for Darnold, of course, is that he'll look like a different player in Carolina, away from Adam Gase and the Jets. Does the evidence suggest he was held back? Not particularly. The Jets' line was a work in progress during his time in New York, but when Darnold was able to throw the ball without pass pressure from 2018 to 2020, he posted a QBR of 65.7. While that number sounds decent, every quarterback gets better when they're not pressured; the league average QBR for an unpressured quarterback is 77, and he ranked 32nd out of 36 quarterbacks over that time frame when he had time to pass.

What about the scheme? One interesting trend with Darnold is that he often played better during the first 15 snaps, plays Gase presumably would have scripted and prepared before the game started. Darnold ranked 13th in QBR in his two years with Gase across the first 15 offensive snaps, but he ranked last by 12 points over the remaining plays.

It's difficult to parse whether Darnold made the right decision on every single play, but when the game's win probability was within the 25% to 75% range from 2018 to '20, 41.7% of his passes went to open receivers. That mark was below the league average rate of 44%, but it was ahead of quarterbacks such as Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill, who were more successful than Darnold.

Darnold's CPOE, which takes into account the location of his receivers and the defenders on the field, was 1.7% below expectation. While that could be influenced by drops, his drop rate over the past three years was 3.3%, which is right around the league average (3.4%). I don't think all of this proves he was the problem in New York, but there is not some glaring evidence suggesting he was being held back.

Consider the play most people bring up when they talk about Darnold's upside: his incredible scrambling touchdown pass to Braxton Berrios against the 49ers. You can temper your enthusiasm when you consider that the score was 31-6 and there was about 90 seconds left in the game, but it's absolutely fair to say that this is the sort of play only a handful of human beings on the planet can make.

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In a vacuum, it's a fantastic play. In the context of being down 25 points in the fourth quarter of a blowout, it's a risk he should absolutely take. The problem is that Darnold takes this sort of risk and throws late over the middle of the field in more meaningful situations, and it more often leads to picks. His first interception of the year was a pick by Matt Milano on the same sort of decision. There's this interception against the Dolphins, where Darnold bails prematurely from a clean pocket, runs away from what would have been a wide-open receiver crossing his eyes, and throws late against his body for another turnover. This is something young quarterbacks typically get out of their system; Darnold continues to make these same mistakes, even when they sometimes work out in his favor.

Other quarterbacks have been able to get away from bad situations and emerge as useful players elsewhere, with Steve Young as the most famous example. Young was going to play with Jerry Rice in San Francisco in the league's most devastating offense, though, and he spent four years as a backup before taking over as a starter. The idea that Darnold is about to step in with the Panthers and turn into an above-average quarterback seems more hopeful than anything else.

Josh Rosen

Pick in 2018 draft: No. 10 (Cardinals)

If you thought Rosen might be cursed, last season gave you another piece of evidence. The UCLA product left Tampa Bay's practice squad in December in the hopes of getting reps with the injury-hit 49ers under Kyle Shanahan. The Niners never got Rosen on the field and then traded three first-round picks to move up to draft Trey Lance in April. Meanwhile, because Rosen left the Bucs' practice squad before the season ended, he isn't in line to get a Super Bowl ring. Life isn't fair.

Has any quarterback started a career this inauspiciously and eventually grown into a starting role? Not really. Rosen has a 62 ANY/A+ through his first three seasons, the seventh-worst mark since the merger for passers with at least 200 attempts by Year 3. The only other player in the top 20 who went on to be a successful starter was Wade Wilson, who stuck around on the Vikings' roster as a part-time quarterback for six years before making it to the Pro Bowl in 1988. Trent Dilfer, who is 27th on the list, eventually won a Super Bowl with the Ravens, but the positives here are few and far between.

Rosen re-signed with the Niners, but his future is with yet another organization. San Francisco is Rosen's fourth team, after he was traded to Miami in 2019 when the Cardinals drafted Kyler Murray, then picked up by the Bucs after the Dolphins released him before the 2020 season (after drafting Tua Tagovailoa).

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Sours: https://www.espn.com/nfl/insider/story/_/id/31686086/where-2018-nfl-qb-draft-class-stands-three-years-evaluating-lamar-jackson-josh-allen-baker-mayfield-sam-darnold-josh-rosen
Re-Drafting the 2018 Rookie Class! - NFL Throwback

The 2018 NFL draft was historic for quarterbacks. It was the first draft in 69 years that four quarterbacks came off the board in the first 10 picks, and it was just the third time that five or more were taken in the first round. That kind of expenditure of draft capital naturally leads to high expectations. Typically it takes three years before we can judge the success of a draft pick, so with over a third of the 2020 season completed, we wanted to ask: Is it still too early to say which 2018 QB is the best?

Picking the worst is easy. Joshua Ballinger Lippincott Rosen, who was taken with the 10th overall pick, has already been traded and waived in his brief career and is now on the practice squad in Tampa Bay. Picking the best is more difficult. Among the four first-round QBs who are currently starting, three have made a case for consideration through Week 6 of this season — if only temporarily.

  • In 2018, Baker Mayfield took over starting duties in Cleveland from Tyrod Taylor after Taylor left a Week 3 game against the New York Jets with a concussion. (A young, first-round QB taking over for Taylor and then never leaving has become a familiar story for the beleaguered Chargers quarterback.) Mayfield went on to set the rookie touchdown passing record en route to a 6-7 record as a starter.
  • 2019 was Lamar Jackson’s year. He captivated the NFL with his athleticism, rushing for a single-season quarterback record and earning league MVP honors while leading the Baltimore Ravens to a 13-2 record in games he started.
  • This season began with Josh Allen playing near-elite football. And while he’s cooled off since the Buffalo Bills’ 4-0 start to the season, losing two straight games heading into Week 7, Allen has surpassed Mayfield in Total Quarterback Rating (QBR) over their careers. Allen now places second among the four starting QBs from the ’18 draft class by that measure, behind only Jackson.
  • Despite being taken with the third overall pick, Sam Darnold of the New York Jets is the only QB in the group to have not enjoyed a moment — however brief — in which he was performing well enough to be considered the top quarterback in the draft class. Darnold currently sits last in career QBR among the four 2018 draftees, with a rating of just 46.2 through Week 6.

We can also track the evolution of each quarterback’s performance over his career so far using FiveThirtyEight’s QB Elo ratings.1

Mayfield’s peak came early on, and he hasn’t matched that level of performance since, settling in as a slightly below-average NFL QB in recent weeks. Meanwhile, Jackson’s ascent was rapid and sustained, with 70 percent of his games earning an above-average Elo value. Allen’s plot is emblematic of the Josh Allen Experience: a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs, with a general upward trend. Finally, Darnold has had his moments, but his peaks aren’t especially high, while his lows are among the lowest. Just 30 percent of Darnold’s games have been above average.

Even with the fluctuations in performance, it’s safe to say that the conventional wisdom was wrong about these quarterbacks. The No. 1 overall pick ranks third among his draft peers in career QBR, and the last pick of the first round ranks first. Not even Baltimore was completely sold on Jackson — the Ravens took tight end Hayden Hurst with the 25th pick before trading up to select their QB with the last pick of Round 1. Pointing and laughing surely isn’t useful, but examining the reasons that coaches and scouts missed the way they did can be instructive.

If we’re going to talk about bad football opinions, it’s hard not to start with people’s thoughts on Jackson. Perhaps the coldest take of the 2018 draft process was the notion that Jackson wasn’t big enough or accurate enough to be an NFL QB. That sentiment was expressed most famously by Bill Polian, former general manager of the Indianapolis Colts, when he said Jackson should become a wide receiver. But Polian wasn’t alone. The evaluation was shared by at least one other coach. “He will not be able to play [quarterback] in this league, mark my words. When he throws, he hopes,” an anonymous offensive coordinator told NFL.com’s Tom Pellissero. Perhaps it’s piling on, but it’s worth mentioning that Jackson won his MVP at quarterback.

But NFL coaches’ misreads didn’t end with Jackson. “If you watch them both, I think it’s obvious how much better an athlete Darnold is than Josh Allen,” one QB coach told Pelissero. “I’m not talking about [forty] times or anything. I’m just talking about his ability to move quickly, to adjust.”

If Darnold actually is more athletic than Allen, he hasn’t shown it yet. So far in his career, Allen is averaging 37.8 rushing yards per game on scrambles and designed runs, nearly four times as many as Darnold’s 10.6 yards per game, through Week 6 of 2020. And their career sack rates are nearly identical, at 7 percent for Darnold and 7.1 percent for Allen.

Teams take great pains to try to quantify prospects’ general athleticism each year at the combine in Indianapolis. That Jackson’s obvious athleticism was held against him as a QB prospect and Allen’s relative athleticism compared to Darnold was missed entirely suggests that even the most straightforward evaluations of QB play are fraught with error.

But the most common fault scouts and coaches found with these QBs was their accuracy. One coordinator summed up the feeling of many in the draft analytics community when he pointed out that you can’t teach accuracy, and this truism was especially damning for Allen’s pro prospects. “You’re not going to fix that in 10 weeks or two years,” the coordinator said of Allen. “If you’re not accurate, you’re not accurate. There’s an element of processing and anticipation that I think he lacks. But I think he’s got a big arm and somebody’s going to over-draft the guy because of that.”

Every bit of evidence-based analysis we have about pro football supports that notion. Yet this year, we have data indicating that Allen may actually be getting more accurate. His early-career returns were terrible, and he sometimes went stretches where more than 1 in 4 of his passes were off-target, but he’s recently matched the lower off-target shares of his peers.

It’s a remarkable development — and quite unexpected. The number of bad balls a QB throws is one of the more stable and predictive performance measures we have for the position, and at least so far this season, Allen has made a mockery of the idea that players are incapable of substantially improving this skill once they’re in the NFL.

Jackson was also thought to be particularly susceptible to inaccurate throws over the middle of the field because of mechanics one analyst described as a “narrow base [that] forces his elbow to drop.” Yet the middle of the field has turned out to be a strength of the Ravens’ passing attack, with tight end Mark Andrews and wide receiver Marquise Brown both averaging over six yards perrouterun since 2018 on deep inside patterns. When you look at the distribution of his throws, Jackson’s proficiency over the middle is obvious.

Between the hashes, Jackson’s off-target heat map shows almost no pink from 0 to 25 yards downfield, indicating that his throws to that area are on time and on target. Like the other QBs, he’s been inaccurate to the right sideline at intermediate depths, but his accurate throws — represented by the teal areas of the heat map — bulge out into the middle of the field deeper than those of his peers.

So what explains all these failures of projection? How could so many people — and the numbers — be so wrong in so many important ways? And why is it still so difficult to say which QB is the best from the 2018 class? One possible answer is team fit.

“Give [Baltimore offensive coordinator] Greg Roman a ton of credit for making [Jackson] more accurate and putting him into plays where he can succeed,” an anonymous scout recently told USA Today.

An example of what the scout may be referring to, and an obvious explanation for Jackson’s sudden ability to accurately throw over the middle, is Baltimore’s use of the play-action. Play-action passes are especially effective when targeted 10 to 30 yards downfield, and in the three years that Jackson has been in Baltimore, the Ravens have run play-action passes on at least 28 percent of dropbacks each season, ranking fifth in the league in 2018, first in 2019 and seventh this year.

These team effects are likely benefiting Allen as well. This season, Buffalo has surpassed Baltimore in play-action percentage, and about 47 percent of Allen’s passing yardage has come off those plays. While play-action surely isn’t the entire explanation for Allen’s improvement in accuracy, it points toward something more pervasive. It appears that teams with organizational structures in place to maximize talent tend to dominate the analysis of a prospect. What is seen as a liability can suddenly become a strength — on the right team. The Tennessee Titans’ reclamation of Ryan Tannehill — third in the league in play-action dropback percentage and fourth in the league in QBR this season through Week 6 — adds further evidence.

So while it’s still too early to answer the question of who’s the best QB drafted in 2018, we at least have a framework for answering the question — and for handicapping QB prospects moving forward. Bet on players who land on smart teams, and discount those who are drafted into chaos and dysfunction.

Check out our latest NFL predictions.

Sours: https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/whos-the-best-quarterback-from-the-much-hyped-2018-draft-class/

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Revisiting Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield and 2018 QB draft class three years later, by the numbers

Five quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, a class that has altered the course of several franchises -- two of which ended playoff-win droughts that lasted over a quarter of a century. The Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills are becoming perennial playoff contenders with the franchise quarterbacks they selected in the 2018 draft, while the Cleveland Browns ended decades of playoff futility with the franchise quarterback they selected with the No. 1 overall pick. 

The New York Jets are still in flux regarding the quarterback they selected in the 2018 draft, while the Arizona Cardinals have already moved on from their QB pick -- and found a new franchise quarterback just a year later. This historic NFL draft class of quarterbacks has provided more hits than misses, while shaking the balance of power in the AFC playoffs for 2020 -- and for years to come. 

As three of these quarterbacks have won a playoff game and have made the divisional playoffs, we'll take a look at each of the quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class in this week's "By The Numbers." 

Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns) -- No. 1 overall

Mayfield, the top pick in this draft class, already has an accomplished resume for his third season in the league -- and is the first quarterback to win a playoff game for the Browns since Vinny Testaverde in 1994. Mayfield was the second No. 1 overall pick to win a road game in his first career playoff start -- the other being Michael Vick. The Browns won a road playoff game for the first time since 1969, when Bill Nelsen was the quarterback and Cleveland played in the NFL Century Division. 

Here's what Mayfield has accomplished in his three years with Cleveland:

  • Joined Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck as the only players in history to record at least 3,500 passing yards with at least 20 touchdown passes in each of their first three seasons.
  • Has the fifth-most passing yards (11,115) and completions (932) by a No. 1 overall pick in his first three seasons. His 89.1 passer rating is also fifth. 
  • Most touchdown passes (75) in first three years with the Browns -- passing Otto Graham (70). 
  • Third-most touchdown passes by a No. 1 overall pick in his first three years, behind Luck (86) and Manning (85). 

Since Week 7 of this season, Mayfield has completed 63.71% of his passes for 2,731 yards with 19 touchdowns to just two interceptions. His 103.4 passer rating ranks eighth in the NFL. 

The Browns won 11 games in a season and a playoff game for the first time since 1994. A win this weekend would clinch the Browns' first conference championship appearance since 1989. 

Sam Darnold (New York Jets) -- No. 3 overall

Darnold's tenure with the Jets may be coming to an end after three seasons, as New York has been one of the worst teams in football with him as the franchise quarterback. Here's where Darnold ranks amongst the 42 NFL quarterbacks since the start of the 2018 NFL season with a minimum of 500 pass attempts: 

  • Completion percentage -- 59.8% (40th)
  • Passing yards -- 8,097 (22nd)
  • Touchdown passes -- 45 (25th)
  • Quarterback rating -- 78.6 (41st)
  • Yards per attempt -- 6.64 (37th)
  • Win-loss percentage -- .342 (36th)

The Jets are 13-25 in Darnold's 38 starts. Darnold ranks second in franchise history among quarterbacks in passer rating and completion percentage, while ranking fourth in passing yards and touchdowns. If Darnold remains in New York, he'll be on his third head coach in four years. 

Josh Allen (Buffalo Bills) -- No. 7 overall

For all the flak Allen received in his first two seasons, he evolved into an MVP candidate in Year Three -- leading the Bills to their first playoff victory and first division title since 1995. In Buffalo's playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts last week, Allen became the first player in NFL history to complete 70% of his passes and throw for 300-plus yards while rushing for 50-plus yards in a playoff game. 

Allen set Bills' franchise records for touchdown passes (37), completions (396), 300-yard games (eight), completion percentage (69.2), passing yards (4,544) and total touchdowns (46). Here are some other accomplishments Allen achieved in 2020:

  • The only player in NFL history with 400-plus passing yards, 30-plus passing touchdowns and eight-plus rushing touchdowns in a season. 
  • The only quarterback in NFL history with three consecutive seasons of seven-plus rushing touchdowns.
  • The first player in NFL history with two games in a season with 400-plus passing yards, three-plus passing touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 130-plus passer rating. 

A second-team All-Pro this season, Allen has started his career with 41 passing touchdowns to just zero interceptions in the red zone (third-most all-time before throwing an interception). He's the fifth player in NFL history with a passing touchdown, rushing touchdown and a receiving touchdown in his postseason career (Freeman McNeil, Kordell Stewart, Julian Edelman, Nick Foles).

Allen is playing the best football of his career as he looks to get the Bills to their first AFC Championship Game appearance since 1993. Here's where Allen ranks among NFL quarterbacks over the last seven games (regular season and postseason): 

  • Touchdowns -- 22 (1st)
  • Passing yards -- 1,997 (2nd) 
  • Completion percentage -- 71.2 (3rd) 
  • Passer rating -- 115.2 (4th) 

Josh Rosen (Arizona Cardinals) -- No. 10 overall

Rosen lasted just one season in Arizona before the Cardinals jettisoned him to the Miami Dolphins. He only lasted with the Dolphins for one season before being waived. He landed on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers practice squad in September before the San Francisco 49ers signed him off Tampa Bay's practice squad and onto their practice squad in December.

Of the 42 quarterbacks that have over 500 passing attempts since 2018, here's where Rosen ranks: 

  • Completion percentage -- 54.78% (42nd)
  • Touchdown passes -- 12 (42nd)
  • Passer rating -- 63.5 (42nd)
  • Yards per attempt -- 5.67 (42nd)
  • Win-loss percentage -- .188 (42nd)

Rosen has been the worst starting quarterback in football since he's been drafted, as his teams are just 3-13 in his 16 starts. His future as a starting quarterback looks over, and quite possibly his tenure as an NFL quarterback. 

Lamar Jackson (Baltimore Ravens) -- No. 32 overall 

The lone MVP of this draft class so far -- which is impressive given he has only been in the league three years -- Jackson is off to a historic start to his career. Here's the long list of everything Jackson has achieved to this point, including his MVP season in 2019: 

  • Fastest quarterback to reach 30 career victories (37 starts).
  • First quarterback in NFL history to have multiple 1,000-yard rushing seasons and consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
  • Only the second quarterback with consecutive seasons with 25-plus touchdown passes and five-plus rushing touchdowns (Deshaun Watson)
  • Fastest quarterback in league history to 5,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards (35 games). First quarterback to have 5,000 passing yards and 2,000 rushing yards in his first three seasons. 
  • Only quarterback to have 3,000 passing yards and 1,000 passing yards in a season (2019).
  • Third quarterback in NFL history to have 35-plus touchdown passes and seven-plus rushing touchdowns in a season (Steve Young, Cam Newton).
  • Most games with two-plus passing touchdowns and 50-plus rushing yards in a player's first three seasons (14). 

Jackson became the third-youngest player to win NFL MVP and a playoff game at 24 years and 3 days old -- only Patrick Mahomes (23 years, 117 days) and Dan Marino (23 years, 106 days) were younger. Jackson joined Colin Kaepernick as the only quarterbacks in NFL history with multiple 100-yard rushing yard games in the postseason, rushing for 136 yards in the AFC wild-card win over the Tennessee Titans (third-most for a quarterback in league history).

The Ravens have won six consecutive games while Jackson has completed 67.74% of his passes for 988 yards with 11 touchdowns to four interceptions for a 107.9 passer rating. He also has 72 carries for 566 yards and five touchdowns during the stretch -- arguably the best football of his career. 

Jackson is the best quarterback of this draft class at this point, but him and Allen will compete for which one will be the most successful this weekend when they square off against each other. Buckle up NFL fans. 

Sours: https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/revisiting-josh-allen-lamar-jackson-baker-mayfield-and-2018-qb-draft-class-three-years-later-by-the-numbers/

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