The NFL Draft takes place tonight, but for now please enjoy my final quarterback rankings for the 2018 NFL Draft. I only ranked seven total quarterbacks as I’m focusing on the players who I deem to have NFL starter potential in some capacity. Not many starters come out of a single class, but I expect this year to contain more than the average class because of the depth of talent at the position. I personally love four of these passers and think there are four QBs worthy of top 10 selections.
Before I get into my rankings I’d like to thank Mark Schofield and Ted Nguyen for helping me better understand QBs. Mark and Ted have been invaluable resources to me throughout my time studying the QB position, schemes and concepts. They’re two of the best evaluators this space has to offer and I wouldn’t be on the path that I’m on now without them. In addition to their talented evaluation ability they’re also incredibly selfless people ready to help anyone attempting to learn the game at a moment’s notice. I’m glad to call the two of them my friends.
Fringe Starters/Spot Starters
- Kyle Lauletta, University of Richmond, 6-3, 225 pounds
Strengths: Short and compact throwing motion with a quick release. Solid throwing base. Good protector of the football with how he handles the ball – two hands and tuck to chest with pressure nearby. Ability to gain added velocity on his passes due to torque created by his upper body to fit passes into tight windows in long field situations and in the red zone. Good pre snap recognition to identify blitzes. Good processing speed and anticipation to see throwing windows in the developing stages prior to their appearance.Good short-intermediate accuracy to hit quick slants and outs as well as intermediate outs, digs and posts in rhythm. Good ball placement to put the ball in a favorable spot for his receiver relative to the defender. Good touch to drop passes over the 2nd level defenders into the hands of his target. Accurate thrower on the move to his right and can create throwing lanes. Good poise with pressure in his face and the pocket presence to hang in and stand tall in the pocket. Good mobility to avoid pressure in the pocket and some solid wheels for a quarterback to pick up yards after escaping the rush. Good competitive toughness.
Weaknesses: Adequate arm talent. Lacks the arm strength to push the ball more than 20 yards down the field. Often needs to reach back on deep throws and exudes a ton of effort. His deep ball has too much air underneath it and hangs which will allow ballhawking safeties and corners to come up with interceptions. Turnovers, mainly interceptions are an issue due to his passes sailing high in the middle of the field. Will sometimes be a second late to get the ball out allowing a defender to close the gap on any separation gained by his target.
One- to Three- Year Projection: First year developmental backup who can use a season or two to learn behind an experienced veteran. By year three he can potentially become a low tier starter in the right situation, but will likely be a spot starter/career QB2.
Scheme Fit: Because of his limited arm strength Lauletta fits best in a West Coast offense that utilizes the short game. Also has the ability to perform well in a timing based offense like an Erhardt-Perkins in New England.
Draft Grade: 3rd Round
- Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State, 6-5, 235 pounds
Strengths: Quick release. Possesses a strong live arm. Balls smoothly explodes off his fingertips on his release. Excellent velocity and spin on his passes. Overall, very good deep ball accuracy and flashes good intermediate accuracy. Anticipates the comeback route well. Good overall touch and ball placement on deep passes down field.
Weaknesses: Somewhat of a wide base. Awkward athleticism that doesn’t allow him to avoid the rush and escape the pocket. Feels ghosts in the pocket and creates his own pressure. Lacking poise when defense penetrates the interior of the offensive line – looks uncomfortable in the pocket. Tendency to stare down receivers and test the turkey hole of Cover 2 underneath, but because he locks onto his target plays almost result in interceptions. They certainly will in the NFL. Inconsistent intermediate and deep accuracy overshooting his intended target and missing by a wide margin.
One- to Three- Year Projection: Developmental backup in year one. Ability to become starter by year three, but likely going to be a career backup/spot starter because of inconsistencies with his accuracy underneath.
Scheme Fit: Air Coryell offense that allows him to use his arm strength to attack defenses vertically down the field.
Draft Grade: Late 2nd Round
Bottom Tier Starters
- Josh Allen, Wyoming, 6-5, 237 pounds
Strengths: Great size for the position. Rare arm strength and arm talent – according to the old definition – to make all the throws necessary on the field. Has a fire heater that can make up for some of his mental processing and anticipation woes in tight spaces. Good in the red zone while at Wyoming because of his arm strength. Effortless arm strength when throwing the deep ball. Flashes some great potential with jaw dropping throws – high velocity throws on a rope to thread the needle between two defenders. Mobile with very good escapability. Displays very good play strength for a QB to break multiple tackles by defensive linemen inside and flushed outside the pocket. Able to effectively convert firsts on QB sneaks.
Weaknesses: Poor throwing base and footwork when setting to throw. Opens up too early before he throws. Needs to refine his lower body mechanics. Doesn’t have natural feel or pocket instincts/internal clock when assessing time to throw. Poor peripheral vision. Creates pressure for himself within a clean pocket by running outside the tackles while surveying the field. Solid processing speed – see it and throw it QB. Makes poor decisions with the ball attempting daring throws into high traffic areas. Exemplified by his attempts to throw passes off his back leg falling away from his intended target. May feel he can always make that throw because of his rare arm strength. Inconsistent passer with severe accuracy issues. Stares down receivers. Misses wide open targets high and sails passes that lead to interceptions in the middle of the field. While he possesses a good heater he doesn’t have the ability to throw the change up and put consistent touch on the ball when needed. Chaotic QB play. Goes to the well too many times in an attempt to scramble. Drops his eyes and looks to run when pressure penetrates up the middle. Performed poorly against ranked opponents throwing 1 TD and 8 INT in his career.
One- to Three- Year Projection: Developmental backup in year one that may warrant playing time by the mid or backend of the regular season for experience. Bottom half of the league starter by his third year in the league due to struggles with accuracy, placement and touch.
Scheme Fit: Air Coryell/Vertical based throwing offense that designs simple reads for him to make and allow him to be the see and throw it QB he’s shown he is. Allow him to do what he’s feels most comfortable in with throws to the flat and corner routes.
Draft Grade: Late 1st/Early 2nd Round
- Lamar Jackson, Louisville, 6-2, 216 pounds
Strengths: Rare athlete with explosive speed and burst. Flexible athlete that helps him absorb contact easily as a runner and when sacked. Houdini-like ball handling ability on RPOs and read option fakes to deceptively fool defenses as to who is possessing the ball. Poised in the pocket as he is unphased by pressure in his face. Quick flick of the wrist release to accurately place passes in the quick game like slants and curls. High football intelligence and understanding of defensive coverages. Very good anticipatory passer throwing it to where his receiver should be. Incredible work ethic and dedication to his craft as a passer – improved significantly as a pocket passer from 2016-2017. Excellent escapability to avoid the rush. Accurate thrower on the move and from different platforms. Running is an added bonus to his passing prowess. Excellent wiggle to elude defenders in space. Quick cuts with excellent change of direction ability and balance to sift through defenders.
Weaknesses: Can clean up his base to improve accuracy down the field. Narrow base contributes to some of his inaccuracy issues down the field. Spotty accuracy on intermediate and deep throws. Sometimes ball sails high leading to interceptions.
One- to Three- Year Projection: Immediate starter and can make an instant impact in the league in the right environment with innovative coaches. More “pro-ready” than most evaluators consider him to be. By year three I expect him to be a mid level quarterback thriving with his passing and running ability.
Scheme Fit: West Coast Offense with spread concepts or Erhardt-Perkins offense like he ran at Louisville.
Draft Grade: 1st Round – Top 10 Selection
- Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, 6-1, 215 pounds
Strengths: Highly competitive player displaying rare level of competitive toughness out on the field. Swagger. Fluid athlete possessing very good throwing mechanics with a quick release and a wide throwing base. Active feet in the pocket with nice rhythmic bounces. Strong deceptive shoulder fakes to manipulate defensive backs. Has the Rodgers-like ability to deceptively look one way and bounce, look to the opposite side of the field and throw in one smooth motion.Very good processing ability to see throwing windows unfold and then reacts by throwing with good anticipation. Can go through three read progressions quickly. Plus arm strength with plus plus velocity due to strong torque – guided by the front shoulder pulling his chest and following through with his right arm – and trunk rotation to add some zip to his fastball and fit passes into tight throwing windows. Excellent at manipulating the pocket to create favorable throwing angles and passing lanes – mandatory for a QB of his stature. Can alter arm angle to get the ball out quickly. Very good arm talent combining very good touch and placement on fades and RB wheels in the middle of the field and down the sideline between defenders. Very good accuracy and ball placement in the short and intermediate areas of the field. Flashes of excellent ball placement relative to the defender’s positioning – understands mentally where to place the ball. Examples – high placement to his large tight ends in the red zone where only they can make a play and his ability to throw the back shoulder throw. Excellent accuracy throwing off-platform and from different throwing bases – special ability. Can rollout and square his shoulders up to create torque – whip-like action. Excellent feel in pocket with very good poise. A threat to take off on designed QB runs and when the pocket breaks down. Consistently keeps his eyes downfield despite tendency to takeoff.
Weaknesses: While there are flashes of excellence from Mayfield in terms of his anticipation and placement he needs to be more consistent in this area in the NFL. Hesitation is sometimes evident on short and intermediate throws, but it’s less exaggerated and rare. However, when he is inaccurate in these areas of the field he misses high or slightly behind with a lot of velocity on the ball. Hesitation to throw to the open receiver in the deep portions of the field have caused a good amount of his deep passes to arrive late which can result in interceptions. Deep ball placement is more general than pinpoint. Sometimes seems to feel phantom rush and looks to create when he can throw from a clean pocket.
One- to Three- Year Projection: Immediate starter who can make an immediate impact if put in the right system designed to his strengths. High floor player in the right environment. Mid level NFL starting QB by his third year in the NFL.
Scheme Fit: West Coast/Air Raid hybrid offense like Jeremy Bates is expected to run with the New York Jets next season. Incorporate some of Lincoln Riley’s playbook from Oklahoma to allow him to see familiar concepts. Also utilize play action fakes and rollouts to maximize Mayfield’s ability to throw off-platform.
Draft Grade: 1st Round – Top 10 Selection
- Sam Darnold, University of Southern California, 6-3, 221 pounds
Strengths: Good size for the position. Special player with excellent competitive toughness and extreme confidence in himself to make any throw necessary. Quick release that compensates for time lost during elongated throwing motion. Very good poise to keep calm and feel oncoming pressure while keeping his eyes downfield. Excellent mental processing ability to see receivers open before the window presents itself in real time. Displays excellent anticipation on his throws in part because of how quickly he processes coverages. Reads defenses at a good level for a player who hasn’t had many years playing the position. Bodes well for improvement in the NFL. Possesses a very high level of arm talent. Arm talent and ability to make accurate throws from different platforms are why he’s considered a very promising QB prospect. Consistently makes pinpoint accurate throws to all levels of the field putting the ball right on his receiver. Great feel for the ball – able to internally process how much velocity he needs to take off/put on his throws. Excellent combination of touch, accuracy and trajectory control. Special player throwing off-platform. Can make any throw on the run with pinpoint accuracy and placement.
Weaknesses: Poor lower half mechanics. Mess mechanically stemming his awkward lower half when aligning himself to throw. Doesn’t always properly transfer his weight in the direction of his target as he steps into his throw with his base being completely parallel at times – results in a lack of velocity on throws. Depending on the type of throw – like an intermediate/deep out from the opposite hash – it can lead to interceptions allowing corners to undercut the route. Elongated throwing motion, but not much of an issue due to his quick release time. Decision making needs to be improved. Aggressiveness sometimes gets him in trouble as he tries to fit near impossible throws into tight throwing windows.
One- to Three- Year Projection: Developmental backup in year one. Needs to sit behind a veteran and fix his mechanics to maximize his potential in the long-term. Has a very high ceiling and should reach that potential by his third year in the league to become a fringe top 10 passer. Will make maddening throws in key spots, but will also create magic on the field and make plays that no one else can make.
Scheme Fit: Potential to be scheme diverse if he can fix his lower half mechanics to get his timing in sync in regards to his drop and route combinations. Flashes examples of this throughout his tape, but best fits in a spread attack utilizing a West Coast offense or Air Coryell attack.
Draft Grade: 1st Round – Top 3 Selection
- Josh Rosen, University of California Los Angeles, 6-4, 226 pounds
Strengths: Intelligent individual who’s been able to master multiple play books while at UCLA. Excellent mechanics and is the most mechanically sound passer in this class. Displays excellent poise in the pocket. Protects ball with two hands and keeps the ball tight to his chest when he feels the rush approaching. Competitively tough player who stands in and takes a beating to complete passes – example vs. USC 2017. Very good pocket mobility despite reputation for not being the most athletic QB. Tennis background instilled good footwork that translates to how he moves within the pocket. Excellent ability to climb the pocket and to avoid pressure from arcing EDGE rushers. Somewhat mobile outside of the pocket and displays ability to square his shoulders and reset his base. The best pure processor of coverages in this class. Excellent use of eyes to manipulate defensive backs. Excellent arm talent displaying great velocity and touch on his passes. Ball explodes out his hand with nice spin. Excellent anticipation to see throwing windows open and have his pass arrive on time. Rare level of accuracy and ball placement to all levels of the field. Displays a high percentage of completions in the middle of the field. Very good arm strength to test defenses deep. Doesn’t get enough credit for his situational awareness and how get can lead his team from behind. Example – vs. Texas A&M 2017. Shows a high level of competitiveness and leadership.
Weaknesses: Concussions are concerning as he’s already had a few in his career. Not going to keep a defensive coordinator awake at night because of his ability to run. Risks some passes into tight windows that you’d rather see him show restraint on.
One- to Three- Year Projection: Immediate starter who’s going to make his fair share of mistakes in year one. Will develop into a very good franchise quarterback. A top 10 quarterback by his third year in the NFL because of his mental processing ability to read coverages and competitiveness.
Scheme Fit: Scheme diverse – would thrive in West Coast/Air Raid hybrid, but also has the timing component to succeed in an Erhardt-Perkins offense.
Draft Grade: 1st Round – 1st Overall Selection