As is always the case, we know nothing, Jon Snow. After months of buildup and speculation, the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft unfolded in unexpected fashion on Thursday night. Here Mark Schofield has instant reaction to the quarterbacks who were selected, and some thoughts as to who we might hear about on Friday night.
- Baker Mayfield – Cleveland Browns
The evidence was right in front of us the whole time, but we seemed to approach it from the wrong direction.
Throughout this draft process various quarterbacks have been linked to the Cleveland Browns at the first overall pick. Sam Darnold. Josh Allen. In the past few days…maybe the past few hours…another name entered the picture: Baker Mayfield. That rumor turned out to be true when the Browns decided to make the Heisman-winner the first overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, kicking off a wild night filled with unexpected twists and turns.
When the Browns hired Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator and then traded for Tyrod Taylor, it seemed to many (myself included) that a two-fold plan was in place. One, they were going to take a quarterback who might need a bit more time to season, and two, they were going to run a more vertical-based offense in line with what Haley has done in the past. In my mind, that meant two players were likely the targets at the first pick: Darnold or Allen.
But along the way something else happened, that should have been a clue as to their offensive intentions. Not only did the Browns trade for Jarvis Landry, but they signed him to a five year, $75.5 million dollar extension with $47 million guaranteed, making him the sixth-highest paid receiver in the NFL. For a receiver most often used underneath and on shallow routes, this did not make sense. Why build a vertical offense around Landry?
Because…they might not be.
Which should have led us to Mayfield earlier in this process.
Mayfield is a perfect fit for a more West Coast/Air Raid hybrid offense, and if that is what the Browns are building around him and Landry going forward, this pick makes a ton of sense. Plus, it’s similar to the offense that Taylor ran last season in Buffalo, so he can either start right away, start the whole season, or be a ready backup for the moment Mayfield takes the job.
Sometimes the answers are right in front of you the entire time.
- Sam Darnold, New York Jets
After the New York Giants went with Saquon Barkley with the second pick, the draft began in earnest.
All along, Mayfield was the player many felt would fit best with the Jets, perhaps due to the offense they implemented a season ago. John Morton’s Air Raid/West Coast hybrid offense turned Josh McCown into a solid quarterback late in his career and seemed tailor-made for Mayfield. With McCown and Teddy Bridgewater on the roster already, however, the Jets could afford a bit of time and take a quarterback who might need some refinement, but could provide a ton of upside.
That’s Sam Darnold, making this perhaps an ideal situation all around.
If he started the Jets’ opening game, Darnold would be the youngest quarterbak in NFL history, being 21 years and 95 days or so for Week 1, eclipsing the previous mark set by Drew Bledsoe who was 21 years and 203 days when he started his first game. That, combined with Darnold’s relative newness to the position (he started playing quarterback his sophomore year in high school) means that there is work to be done, but the flaws are not baked into the cake just yet.
In Darnold, the Jets get a quarterback with great potential and some already honed skills, such as the ability to make anticipation throws to all levels of the field and an oddly quick release, even with his more elongated throwing motion. Darnold can make some impressive throws both on- and off-structure, and from multiple throwing platforms. Provided he refines the footwork, which seems to be a work in progress, the Jets might have gotten themselves their next QB.
- Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
As expected, the Bills came up and drafted a quarterback, and drafted Josh Allen.
Allen’s current flaws and areas that he needs to refine have been well-documented, so let’s map out how this can work for the Bills. With the acquisition of A.J. McCarron, they have a quarterback in place with NFL experience, who can start as long as needed to get Allen ready to take over. With LeSean McCoy in place they have a running back to build an offense around. With Charles Clay, Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones they have some…options…in the passing game. This is a team that seems to be taking a Jacksonville-ish approach, building around a strong defense and a running game.
Allen needs work, there’s no question about that. But if the organization can have a plan in place and stick to it, until Allen’s performance either during practice or training camp or even in the preseason, forces them to make a move, this pick could pan out. I’ve said before that Allen has a narrow path to developing into a successful NFL quarterback. That begins with patience from the fanbase, ownership and the coaching staff. Out of the quarterbacks in this group, I’m the most concerned about Allen being run out onto the field early in his career.
Stay patient and maximize the chance this deal pans out. Otherwise…
- Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
It was expected that Josh Rosen might be the quarterback to slide, and if he fell to a certain point then teams would be moving up to potentially take advantage of the drop. With the Miami Dolphins lurking at 11 with rumored interest in the UCLA signal-caller, the Arizona Cardinals made their move to get, in my opinion, the top quarterback in this class.
The Cardinals do have some holes right now, and despite the fact that Rosen is plug-and-play, in my opinion, they might want to ease him into this offense. Looking at this roster right now, there are some questions at offensive skill positions after Larry Fitzgerald and David Johnson, who is coming off a major knee injury. There are questions along the offensive line. But there were also questions at quarterback, questions that the acquisitions of Mike Glennon and Sam Bradford likely did not answer. This was a great move for the future by the Arizona Cardinals, and one that I think will pay off handsomely in the years ahead.
As for the more immediate future, if they can get a few more offensive weapons later in the draft, and the offensive line solidifies better than expected, who knows? Rosen is a scheme-diverse quarterback, and Mike McCoy is well-versed offensively and can structure an offensive system with this acquisition. Again, it seems like this was a great move for Arizona.
- Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Hats off to Ozzie Newsome.
In his last NFL Draft, the current Ravens’ General Manager worked the board perhaps to perfection on Thursday night. Moving down twice in the draft while acquiring picks along the way. First the Ravens moved back from 16 to 22 in a trade with the Buffalo Bills, and then traded back again with the Tennessee Titans, going from 22 to 25. In those deals they also acquired a third-round pick (65) and a fourth-round pick (125), while giving up a fifth rounder and a sixth rounder.
At 25 they made their first selection of the night, drafting Hayden Hurst. For a team that runs a lot of multiple tight-end packages, Hurst makes sense as the organization looks to upgrade behind Nick Boyle.
But then the lightning bolt came at the end of the first round, when the Philadelphia Eagles decided to trade out of the first round and the Ravens came back into the first round, to draft Lamar Jackson.
This might be a perfect landing spot for Jackson. He’ll start his career with minimal expectations, on a team that has traditionally built itself upon the running game and a strong defense. He’ll be playing for an offensive coordinator in Marty Mornhinweg who spent time in Philadelphia with the Eagles and coaching MIchael Vick, a player that Jackson has often been compared to. So Mornhinweg will be in a position to begin tailoring an offense around an athletic, dynamic quarterback. Plus, Jackson will be moved into a West Coast-based system, which could be a great fit for him schematically.
I’ll admit, as a New England Patriots fan it was difficult to see New England pass on Jackson – twice – in the first round. But for Lamar’s development in the NFL, this might be the best possible spot.
Looking Ahead to Day Two
So only five quarterbacks come off the board in Round 1, matching 1999 but falling one short of tying the great QB class of 1983. Here are quarterbacks I expect to see drafted tomorrow night, with some potential landing spots and a prediction for each player.
I thought that Rudolph might sneak back into the first round, perhaps as part of a trade-up scenario where a team looking to address quarterback sneaks back into the first round, similar to what the Ravens did with Lamar Jackson. But Rudolph will have to wait another night to hear his name called. He will find some potential suitors early on Friday night, perhaps with the New York Giants at 34. Other teams picking early in the second round might be matches, including the Denver Broncos at 40, the Miami Dolphins at 42, the New England Patriots at 43 and the Los Angeles Chargers at 48.
Looking at this board right now, I think the Giants make some sense at 34. But with the offensive line still an issue for them and Will Hernandez on the board, I would imagine the Giants go in that direction. Watch for Denver at 40.
Lauletta was an unlikely first round target, but Day 2 is the time he’ll hear his name called. Obviously the team that Lauletta has been linked to throughout this process has been the New England Patriots, but there are some other teams that would make sense for him as well. The Cincinnati Bengals would be a pretty good schematic fit for him, and they are on the clock at 46. Denver might make some sense for Lauletta, as they do have Case Keenum on the roster but might want to get themselves some potential insurance behind him. Jacksonville is an intriguing option as well. Lauletta might not be the most ideal fit for their offense, but he could be in a position to perhaps take over should the team move on from Blake Bortles next offseason, and he would inherit a strong defense, a solid running game, and that would be a good fit for his skill-set.
In the end, I end up where we started. The Patriots at 63.
I’ve thought that the league would be higher on Falk than I am, and that will get tested tomorrow night. He was my QB9 in this class and I have a fourth round grade on him, but I anticipate that he gets drafted in the third round because I think teams will covet his experience, his ability in the shorter area of the field, and what he brings from a mental perspective. He also brings value as a potential backup/developmental starter. Denver, the Giants, and the Chargers are some teams that make sense, but I look at Adam Gase and the Miami Dolphins and think that what Falk does as a passer, and his potential schematic fit, mesh well with what the Dolphins are doing offensively. I’d watch for Miami in the third round at pick 73.
White was a very intriguing study for me this draft season, and I’ll be curious if my thought on his developmental path is aligned with how the league views him. For me, play and processing speed were concerns last summer, but he seemed to work those out over the course of his senior year. But I might be alone in thinking this, as I know there are some who are not as high on him as I might be. (And “high” is a relative term, as I ranked him QB10). But I still think he creeps into the Day 2 discussion, and a team I love the fit for is with the Los Angeles Chargers. Watch for them at pick 84.
I would do it, but I think in reality Woodside waits until Day 3. But if there is a darkhorse, Day 2 quarterback in the mix, I’ll wager on the Toledo product. Especially if the Patriots wait on a quarterback until pick 95.