Top QB prospects eye legacy that reaches beyond draft

ARLINGTON, Texas -- To no one's surprise, the four quarterbacks in Dallas this week hogged all the attention at Wednesday's Play Football event; four six-foot-something man-planets with media-member moons gravitating toward each of them.

Every one of the signal-callers -- Josh Allen, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Josh Rosen -- played coy about where they might end up or when they might jump off the draft board. But they all professed the same message: We're friends today, but rivals tomorrow.

"We rivals. We rivals right now," Jackson said with a straight face, before breaking out a smile. "Nah, I'm just playing."

"Huge rivalry. Huge rivalry between me and Josh," Darnold ripped sarcastically of Allen, his workout mate for the past three months. "We're great buddies and we're just rooting for each other. It's cool knowing we're going to end up in the right spot no matter what. That's the them around this whole thing. Wherever we go is going to be the right spot because they want us."

This quartet of QBs can joke all they want about how close they've all become over this tiring, seemingly endless draft process -- Allen noted, "They could've had the draft a month ago and I would've been fine with that" -- but there's no doubt that along with Baker Mayfield, who is not in town for the draft, they will be measured by media and pitted by coaching staffs against one another for the foreseeable future.

One day before what is expected to be the best quarterback draft of this millennium, the four throwers in attendance Wednesday weren't letting the hype get to their heads.

"It's really exciting just knowing that I'm going to be picked," Allen said. "Whether it's the top, whether it's number 100, I'm looking to solidify myself after the draft. It's not where or when you get drafted. It's what you do after you're drafted."

When asked if he would like the Patriots to trade up for his services -- the same team that reportedly conducted a private workout with him in Florida recently -- Jackson said, "Hopefully any team is trading up for me. Hopefully I get picked first. It don't really matter. I just want to go wherever they want me at," adding, "I don't mind sitting behind Tom Brady. That is the GOAT himself."

The presumptive first-overall selection, Darnold wasn't worried about where he goes for a different reason. Darnold's not expected to drop past the top three picks, and he knows it.

"I feel like I have a pretty good idea," the USC quarterback told reporters of where he'll end up. "I think wherever I end up is going to be the right spot. That's what I keep telling people and that's how I feel."

The outspoken Rosen held a different perspective.

"Look at the history of quarterbacks in the NFL," he said. "The [greatests of all time] haven't really been picked one, two, three. Peyton [Manning] was, but Aaron [Rodgers], Drew [Brees]. The greatest come from all over the draft."

Before these quarterbacks become the greatest of all-time, the next starter out of the gate like Manning or the next savior in waiting like Rodgers, they have to clear up concerns teams have about them.

For Allen, it's his spotty accuracy: "I don't think I'm an inaccurate QB. Obviously, the 56 percent completion percentage was not where it needs to be, but when my feet are set and I'm throwing on platform, I'm as accurate as anyone out there."

For Jackson, it's his supposed closed-off approach to the draft process, not hiring an agent and using his mother as his manager. The Heisman Trophy winner out of Louisville defended his philosophy Wednesday.

"You can fire your agent. You can fire your manager. I guess 'cause it's my mother doing it, it's a problem, like she wants my money or something like that," Jackson said. "It's not been like that. She's been with me all my life. That's my manager for life. She ain't going nowhere. Even in the pros."

For Rosen, it's his brazen, confident outspokenness: "I don't really listen to anything. ... In terms of picking apart my personality, that's your job. You guys are standing there talking about all this stuff. My job is on that grass on that field."

Come Thursday night, the 2018 draft class will move indoors from blustery Arlington into the well-conditioned confines of AT&T Stadium, where at some point these players' lives will change forever. Until that moment, when they finally go their separate ways toward different organizations and facilities miles away, these four quarterbacks are going to enjoy their time with one another.

"We win games. All of us are smart. All of us love to win. None of us like losing," Jackson told reporters, comparing the quarterbacks. "Every quarterback's goofy. Every player out here is goofy. Don't think they're all serious."

"Keep me busy," Darnold said of his message to his marketing team this week. "Less time thinking about the draft and more time hanging out with these guys."

After the event was over, the four horsemen of the a-draft-alypse were shuffled over to a set where ESPN's Tom Rinaldi was waiting for a roundtable-type interview. Rinaldi told the crew off-camera, "Don't be afraid to bust each other's chops." Darnold immediately pointed to his supposed cross-town rival Rosen, saying, "Watch out for this guy!" The panel laughed in unison.

Allen summed up the mood of the potentially historic class best.

"I want everybody to be successful. Except when they're playing me, of course," said the Wyoming stud. "This is a class that could be special. I'd love to be part of one of the greatest quarterback classes ever, that 15 years down the road we could look back and say that."

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