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Next Gen Stats: Evaluating first-round rookie QBs

What can we learn about the first-round rookie quarterbacks through two weeks of preseason play? Box scores, "every throw" highlight packages and cliche-ridden post-game pressers can only tell you so much. That's why Next Gen Stats is here. With the help from some handy throw-selection maps, here's what we can conclude from the Preseason Week 2 showings from Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson:

Sam playing it safe

It didn't take a graphic to conclude last Thursday that the Jets rookie quarterback was playing it safe. While Darnold's completion percentage was high for the second week in a row (73 percent), his throws remained risk-averse. The rookie attempted just one pass over 10 yards against the Redskins -- that play just so happened to be a third-down conversion and was Darnold's most impressive throw of the night -- and more than half of his attempts were within five yards of the line of scrimmage. Darnold averaged just 4.0 air yards per attempt, by far the lowest of his fellow first-years. The map also shows that Darnold was either much more comfortable throwing or more likely to throw to his right. The Jets are willing to name Darnold the starter if he plays well again in their third preseason game against the Giants on Friday night. But offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates will need to dial some deep throws to test the rookie's downfield accuracy and proclivity to take risks.

Rosen confident downfield

There was a lot to like from Rosen's second preseason appearance, especially considering he was under more duress than any of his fellow rookie gunslingers. Rosen was pressured on 43.8 percent of his dropbacks against New Orleans, more than 10 percent more than the next highest first-round rookie, Lamar Jackson. Rosen still finished with a positive completion percentage and was very successful and confident taking shots downfield and into traffic. The Cardinals rookie completed four of five passes of 10-plus air yards, including a laser of a touchdown to Christian Kirk. Another trend of note: 10 of Rosen's 15 in-field attempts were thrown to the right of the hashes.

Allen playing small ball?

There were no 60-yard out-of-bounds bombs this time around from the BIG-ARMED Allen. The Bills rookie's mythologized arm strength showed up in other ways against the Browns. His touchdown toss was one of just three passes longer than 10 yards attempted, and the only one completed. On the Next Gen Stats map and in the box score, the touchdown looks like a short, simple throw up the middle. But Allen zipped the ball with pace to the back of the end zone after evading an initial rush and stepping up into a crowded pocket. The lone pass Allen attempted over 20 yards was a rollout dart to the back of the end zone that just missed a leaping Logan Thomas, but was put in a place only the receiver could catch it. With this context, you learn a lot more about Allen's skill set and why the Bills are close to naming him the Week 1 starter.

Baker the risk taker

On his first two throws against the Bills, Mayfield tossed his two shortest attempts of the night. After that, the Browns let him rip; the first-overall pick didn't attempt a pass shorter than six yards the rest of the game. While Mayfield's two downfield strikes didn't land, he found success on short-to-intermediate routes, completing five of five attempts between nine and 11 yards downfield. He was especially efficient throwing in the middle of the field and to his left. A bold personality off the field, Mayfield's confidence translates to his on-field persona as well. Of his fellow first-round rookies, Mayfield attempted the highest percentage of throws into tight windows (38.5 percent) in the second week of the preseason; tight windows are defined as when the receiver has one yard or less of separation.

Don't throw far, Lamar

A second consecutive roller-coaster outing from Baltimore's mobile rookie has unearthed some stark trends in Jackson's play. Of his 13 in-field attempts, Jackson threw all but one to the right of the left hashmark. Of his eight attempts of 5-plus air yards, Jackson completed only two -- but one was an excellent rollout touchdown pass. While Jackson's downfield accuracy is troubling and all over the place, there are few concerns about his abilities on the run. To no one's surprise, Jackson is the best of the first-round five at creating with his legs when a pass play breaks down. The Heisman Trophy winner averaged 9.1 yards in scramble distance per pass play; for reference, Mayfield finished with 7.6 and Rosen with 4.5.

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