As a former NFL linebacker, the biggest thing I look for in young quarterbacks: How tough is he to game plan for? The hardest quarterback to defend is one who is mobile but accurate when throwing downfield, like a Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers. When a QB is a dual-threat player, defenses have to put another guy in the box in case he escapes the pocket, thus changing the pass-rush equation. When a play breaks down, defensive backs must plaster and can't leave their receivers because those guys can throw accurately on the run.
In this case, I'm taking Daniel Jones or Lamar Jackson. What I saw in Jones' first career start was impressive. I understand it was one game, but Jones forced the Bucs' defense to make plays by completing passes downfield and cooking up positive plays when things broke down -- i.e. the late game-tying touchdown run when all of his receivers were covered. That is the kind of stuff we've seen Jackson do since he became the starter in Baltimore midway through last season. And the Ravens' starter has shown significant improvement in his throwing this year. It's a toss-up for me. I love the Bills, so I'm taking Josh Allen. He's a big guy who is athletic and has a strong arm. His game is comparable to Patrick Mahomes', and he has a fighter's mentality, having orchestrated a major comeback against the division rival Jets in Week 1. He embodies what Buffalo is all about and has the skill set to play in any scheme on any team in any weather. I'm taking Daniel Jones. I don't care if there is one real game to pull from, because I saw this same stuff from him in the preseason. The rookie has incredible poise in the pocket and more than enough mobility to be a threat in the run game. The Giants used him in a zone-read concept on his first rushing touchdown Sunday, and he tucked the ball and waltzed into the end zone on the game-tying score. Jones' mobility is just icing on the cake because the most impressive takeaway from his debut was how he saw the field and understood the defense, which led to great decision-making and accuracy against a good defense. This isn't the sexiest pick, but I'm taking Josh Rosen. He's gotten the raw end of the stick so far. Most of these other quarterbacks have teams with other offensive weapons, built O-lines or stout defenses. Rosen is the only one who's been on teams that haven't done anything to help him. He is a prototypical quarterback who has what it takes to be successful in the NFL, and he'll be ready to show out once he has the pieces around him. Lamar Jackson is a dynamic runner and he's improving as a passer, making him extremely difficult to defend. Others on this list may be more skilled in one area than Jackson, but the Ravens' QB1 is the best overall player on this list by far. Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield might have been on an equal playing field entering the 2019 season, but Jackson is the guy trending in the right direction right now. He clearly progressed as a passer over the offseason and continues to be a major problem in the run game. Jackson still has a ton of upside that we have yet to see, whereas I'm not sure what we'll see from Mayfield down the road.