Analysis  

 

What's next for the NFL's five first-round rookie quarterbacks?

Print

Five quarterbacks were selected in the first round of April's draft. The arrival of the group -- which includes Baker Mayfield (Browns), Sam Darnold (Jets), Josh Allen (Bills), Josh Rosen (Cardinals) and Lamar Jackson (Ravens) -- looked as if it was going to be one of the stories of 2018 ... but it hasn't quite worked out that way so far. Are the kids all right? Let's see how it's looking and what may come next.

Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns

Stats: 6 games, 5 starts (1-4), 130/223 (58.3%), 1,471 yards, 6.6 YPA, 8 TDs, 6 INTs, 78.9 passer rating.
Remaining schedule: vs. KC, vs. ATL, BYE, at CIN, at HOU, vs. CAR, at DEN, vs. CIN, at BAL.

Overall, Mayfield is off to the most promising start of the five rookies. His Week 3 debut in a comeback win against the Jets didn't just end the Browns' infernal winless streak at 19 games ... it felt like the start of something. Of course, with the Browns it's never that simple. They've won just once since that Thursday night in Cleveland, and on Monday, the Browns fired their head coach and offensive coordinator. We'll see if this helps the development of the No. 1 pick long term; in the short term, it's a lot of internal drama and upheaval for a 23-year-old kid to work through. That said, Mayfield projects an air of unflappability, and don't be surprised if he finds motivation in the unrest. Asked this week if he'd be ready to take on a bigger leadership role after the in-house dismissals, Mayfield replied: "Bring it on." We'll see if he can back up the talk on Sunday against the 7-1 Chiefs, who have allowed more big plays (rushes of 10-plus yards, receptions of 20-plus yards) than any team in the NFL this season.

What they'll be saying after Week 17: The Browns (still) have a million problems, but the quarterback ain't one.

Sam Darnold, New York Jets

Stats: 8 games, 8 starts (3-5), 138/250 (55.2%), 1,705 yards, 6.8 YPA, 11 TDs, 10 INTs, 74.5 passer rating.
Remaining schedule: at MIA, vs. BUF, BYE, vs. NE, at TEN, at BUF, vs. HOU, vs. GB, at NE.

Darnold finds himself in an extremely difficult position as he preps for his ninth start. Injuries have decimated the Jets' wide receiver and running back corps, leaving a 21-year-old quarterback alone on an island. Last Sunday's contest against the Bears featured what felt like a never-ending loop of the same play: Darnold rolls to his right, buys time, searches ... searches ... searches ... gives up and heaves the ball out of bounds just as the enemy arrives. It's a shame, too, because before the injury bug hit the likes of Quincy Enunwa, Robby Anderson, Terrelle Pryor, Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell, Darnold put together some truly impressive games that left LSJF (Long-Suffering Jets Fans) beaming with optimism. The question now is whether or not Darnold will have the opportunity to further develop, given the dearth of playmakers around him. It's going to be on the Jets' coaching staff -- specifically offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates -- to scheme up a way to help the kid. If not ... changes are coming.

What they'll be saying after Week 17: Jets on hunt for offensive-minded head coach to take Darnold to the next level.

Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills

Stats: 6 games, 5 starts (2-3), 75/139 (54%), 832 yards, 6.0 YPA, 2 TDs, 5 INTs, 61.8 passer rating.
Remaining schedule: vs CHI, at NYJ, BYE, vs. JAX, at MIA, vs. NYJ, vs. DET, at NE, vs. MIA.

We'll start with the obvious: Allen has been on the shelf since sustaining an elbow injury in Week 6. The good news is that the injury does not appear to be one that comes with long-term ramifications for the strong-armed passer. NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported two weeks ago that Allen received a second opinion on his sprained elbow from Dr. James Andrews, a consultation that ruled out surgery but recommended extended rest. Truth be told, Allen's development might not suffer greatly for his absence from the field. Like Darnold and the Jets, the Bills have holes up and down their roster, and you can make a strong case that Allen shouldn't have even seen the field in 2018. This was a talented but raw prospect coming out of Wyoming, and quickly moving him into the starting lineup (Allen took over for Nathan Peterman as starter in Week 2) always felt like a gamble. Buffalo has scored six or fewer points in four games this season, and Allen won't be the magic elixir once he gets back. Just surviving the season without any other physical setbacks feels like the ultimate goal.

What they'll be saying after Week 17: Bills don't yet know what they have in Allen after lost year.

Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals

Stats: 6 games, 5 starts (2-3), 94/169 (55.6%), 1,072 yards, 6.3 YPA, 5 TDs, 6 INTs, 69.9 passer rating.
Remaining schedule: BYE, at KC, vs. OAK, at LAC, at GB, vs. DET, at ATL, vs. LAR, at SEA.

The Cardinals hit rock bottom in a Week 7 blowout loss to the Broncos at home. The defeat prompted the firing of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, which led to the elevation of quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich to the big chair. A week later, the Cardinals wiped out a 15-3 fourth-quarter deficit in an eventual 18-15 win over the 49ers. Rosen threw two touchdown passes in that final period, as well as a two-point conversation connection with Larry Fitzgerald. In a way, it felt like the official start of the Rosen era in Arizona. Rosen set career highs in yardage (252) and attempts (40) in the game, sending both player and team into the bye week feeling good about what the second half might hold. The back end of the schedule features a mess of Super Bowl contenders, and it starts with a trip to Arrowhead to face the Chiefs out of the bye. The Cardinals aren't going to win many of these games, but the exposure to top-level competition will be a nice test for the rookie QB.

What they'll be saying after Week 17: Cardinals feel good building around Chosen Rosen.

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens

Stats: 8 games, 0 starts, 6/11 (54.5%), 1 TD, 23 rushes, 129 yards (5.6 YPC), 1 TD.
Remaining schedule: vs. PIT, BYE, vs. CIN, vs. OAK, at ATL, at KC, vs. TB, at LAC, vs. CLE.

Joe Flacco remains the starter in Baltimore, but you wonder if the drumbeat will begin to get louder for Jackson if the Ravens can't find a way to beat the Steelers at home on Sunday. Baltimore has lost two straight and Flacco's production has dipped after a strong start. Meanwhile, it's become apparent that Ravens coaches are gaining trust in the rookie; Jackson is being used in more crucial third-down and red-zone situations. Overall, Jackson has averaged 2.9 touches a game but is second on the team in rushing. It speaks both to how stagnant the Ravens' offensive backfield has been and how productive Jackson can be with the ball in his hands. Flacco is unlikely to lose his starting job anytime soon, but the rookie looms as an intriguing emergency switch for John Harbaugh.

What they'll be saying after Week 17: Lamar Jackson deserves opportunity to push Flacco for starting job in 2019.

Dan Hanzus writes two columns a week for NFL.com and hosts the award-winning Around The NFL Podcast. Follow him on Twitter if you want.

Print

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop