With the 2018 NFL season on the horizon, a number of talented players are still playing under rookie contracts. Now is the time to make some future loot! With that in mind, NFL Network analysts LaDainian Tomlinson, Willie McGinest and David Carr examined the positions they respectively manned during their playing days to identify youngsters poised for a breakout campaign.
Today, David Carr lists, in alphabetical order, young quarterbacks to watch in 2018.
Sam Darnold, New York Jets
2018 projection: 3,800 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
From a distance, it looks as if Darnold has been a sponge since he joined the Jets earlier this year. He's continued to show why he was taken third overall in April's draft, garnering praise from coaches and teammates leading up to training camp. I think there's a good chance Darnold could start by midseason, depending on the Jets' record. He's got great mechanics and can make off-balance throws better than most quarterbacks. As long as Darnold's progressing and understanding the offense, he has the physical tools to go above and beyond a typical rookie campaign.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
2018 projection: 4,000 passing yards, 32 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
It's interesting that Kansas City coach Andy Reid, who once said that veteran QB Alex Smith was perfect for the Chiefs' offense, let Smith go for Mahomes, a first-round pick last year. It seems a bit odd, but you have to lean on the expertise of the coach who's been in meetings and on the practice field every day. I've thrown against Mahomes -- although we were in polos and on the set of NFL Network's "Total Access" -- and his arm velocity is off the charts. We've heard the comparison to Brett Favre from an arm-talent standpoint, and Reid knows exactly how to give a QB with a loose cannon parameters. The upside is tremendous, as he can make every throw and do everything Smith did from an athletic standpoint, no problem. The only thing Mahomes lacks is experience. By season's end, I think we'll all be saying, "Man, where did this guy come from?"
The Chiefs were explosive in 2017 and should be even more dynamic with a quarterback who will stretch the field. The mismatches that the Chiefs create with tight end Travis Kelce alone are almost unfair, while receiver Tyreek Hill and new addition Sammy Watkins will see a lot of opportunities off play-action. Mahomes is willing to take chances, especially with these skill players, which could pay off or result in turnovers.
Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
2018 projection: 3,850 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Rosen walked into a good situation in Arizona, where he'll be challenged by coordinator Mike McCoy's offense. If he continues to progress in camp and through the preseason, there's nothing that would hold me back from starting Rosen, the 10th overall pick in the draft, in Week 1. He's as capable of running the offense as veteran Sam Bradford, especially from a physical standpoint. The only concern I have about throwing young quarterbacks into the fire is whether they are mentally ready to handle the game -- something that was certainly a challenge for me in my first pro season. You have to know where the blitzes are coming from, be able to make quick decisions and deliver accurate throws. None of this concerns me when it comes to Rosen. His college tape was the best in his class when it came to decision-making and processing plays quickly. He's the guy when you look at film alone.
Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears
2018 projection: 3,700 passing yards, 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.
Trubisky showed in Year 1 that he can make good decisions in and out of the pocket and will have the chance to take a big leap with new coach Matt Nagy in the building. Nagy's offense is suited for a quarterback like Trubisky, a guy with accuracy and mobility, and I think he'll often be used in the run game to put more pressure on the defense.
The offseason additions of receivers Allen Robinson and Taylor Gabriel and tight end Trey Burton to the passing game should also boost Trubisky's production on the money downs -- high-pressure situations such as third-down conversions and red-zone opportunities. Robinson was rightfully paid like the playmaker he is and will be a receiver the second-year quarterback can hang his hat on.