Daniel Mosher takes a look at the possibility of seven (!!) quarterbacks being selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
In 1983, a record setting six quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft. Two of them — Todd Blackledge and Tony Eason — were busts. One of them — the Jets very own, Ken O’Brien — found very limited success in two Pro Bowl seasons while perpetually living in the shadow of the signal caller the Jets failed to take.
Those other three, well they ended up in Canton; and on their way amassed two MVP’s, four All Pro selections and a whopping 23 trips to the Pro Bowl. But, no matter how hard Jim Kelly or Dan Marino tried, only John Elway was able to capture the ultimate prize in his back to back Super Bowl wins.
Fast forward 35 years and now a new crop of quarterbacks is set to enter the NFL Draft with Super Bowl goals. The top five are well known — and likely to get picked in round one — but is there a possibility that the 1983 record could be met, or even broken? Let’s examine.
First let’s figure out which teams could conceivably take a quarterback in the first round, and to be honest, it may be easier to find the one’s who definitely won’t take a quarterback.
Teams out of the 1st round QB market: Colts (6), Bucs (7), Bears (8), 49er’s (9), Raiders (10), Washington (13), Packers (14), Seahawks (18), Cowboys (19), Lions (20), Panthers (24), Titans (25), Falcons (26), Vikings (30), Eagles (32).
That’s only 15 teams who won’t be taking a quarterback in round one, leaving 17 other teams — littered through every level of round one –that have justifiable reasons to take a passer. Some of these teams like the Jets and Browns sit at the top of the board with a glaring need at the position; while others like the Saints and Steelers find themselves at the end of the round with aging franchise quarterbacks on their last lives.
However, you can make the case in any year that half of the league could stand to upgrade or secure the game’s most important position. In order to break the 1983 record, the talent needs to be worthy of the selections. So who would be our seven quarterbacks and where could they wind up?
Let’s start with the obvious.
Sam Darnold – USC
Despite all the smokescreens of the pre-draft process, Darnold is looking more and more like a lock to be the top pick in this year’s draft. If the Browns don’t take him at one, the Giants probably will at two, or perhaps they trade down with Buffalo or Denver? It would be a shock if he made it to three, but if he does, things get interesting. It’s very easy to say that he’s at the top of Mike Maccagnan’s big board, but for months Darnold has seemed untouchable. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Jets fell in love with another passer throughout this process.
Possible Destinations: Browns, Giants, Jets, Broncos, Bills
Josh Rosen – UCLA
Rosen is my personal favorite in this year’s class and nothing annoys me more than the perception placed upon him as some stuck up jerk. If the Giants can pull their new front office into the 21st century, Rosen at two would be a great fit. If he falls to three, the Jets take him, it’s that simple; the Bills and Broncos would need to jump to two in order to grab Rosen.
Watch out for the Browns. The fact that there hasn’t been a single word regarding the number one overall pick being used to select many analysts’ QB1 is suspicious.
Possible Destinations: Browns, Giants, Jets, Broncos, Bills
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
If Rosen is my QB1A, Mayfield, along with Darnold, are right up there as 1B/C. Mayfield brings the exact energy and grit that you want in your locker room. Not to mention he is perhaps the most prolific quarterback to ever play the college game. With the NFL moving closer and closer towards spread and RPO concepts, Baker is the perfect fit in today’s game. I think it’s likely that Darnold and Rosen go one and two, leaving Mayfield to the Jets in what would be a no brainer decision for Jeremy Bates offense. If he makes it past the Jets, he’ll likely be scooped up by Denver unless someone gets up to pick four.
Possible Destinations: Jets, Broncos, Bills, Dolphins, Cardinals
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Lamar Jackson, Louisville
To me, there is a bit of a drop off after the top three QB’s fall off the board. But the distance between those three and the former Heisman winner isn’t as big as people want you to think. Jackson is an electrifying talent who improved his QB play tenfold in his last season at Lousiville. Even though he probably won’t be, Jackson deserves to be the fourth QB taken. He won’t crack the top ten, but there are plenty of places he could wind up in that 11-17 range.
There has been some buzz about him and the Patriots but I’d be surprised if he made it to their first pick at 23 so they’d have to do some dealing.
Possible Destinations: Dolphins, Bills, Cardinals, Ravens, Chargers, Patriots
Josh Allen, Wyoming
I could spend time here listing all the reasons why I wouldn’t spend anything more than a mid second rounder on Allen, but some narratives are just too deeply embedded into the NFL psyche. Allen will be a first rounder — likely he’ll be a top five pick — but he very well could see a slide and fall to a team that allows him the chance to learn. His physical traits are too attractive to pass up, but whoever selects him must have a plan to develop him for a season or two, or he’ll fail and fail hard.
I don’t buy the #1 overall pick hype, nor do I think the Jets brass can afford to take yet another developmental gamble at pick three. But hey, crazier things have happened.
Possible Destinations: Browns, Giants, Jets, Broncos, Dolphins, Bills, Cardinals, Ravens, Chargers, Patriots
So, after these five, things get interesting. The final two quarterbacks would likely merit early round one consideration in any other year, but with an abundance of top-tier quarterback prospects, they’ve gotten a bit less shine. However, if I’m a GM in the middle or back of the first round, I’m not making any bets on these guys being available for me in round two.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Rudolph is an interesting prospect who has really benefitted from the scheme employed by Head Coach Mike Gundy and OC Mike Yurchich. While he was much more scheme dependent than Mayfield was, he has shown some promise in his ability to both see get past his first read and find success on the move. While Allen may have the strongest arm in the class, Rudolph may throw the best deep ball out of all of them.
He would benefit most from a year or two on the pine learning the NFL game before he gets thrown into the fire. Rudolph would make sense as the heir apparent to a bunch of different franchises at the back of round one, or for those at the top of round two looking to trade up.
Possible Destinations: Ravens, Chargers, Bengals, Bills, Patriots, Saints, Steelers, Jaguars
Kyle Lauletta, Richmond
Like many, I first saw Lauletta during Senior Bowl week where he just wouldn’t stop making plays. The narrative that was shaped in Mobile was that he just didn’t have the arm strength to succeed on the next level. At the combine he proved that wrong, throwing at 52 mph to both the left and right sides of the field, matching Rudolph and surpassing Jackson’s 49 mph.
But the fact remains that his arm isn’t as strong as most elite QB’s in the game. What makes up for it though is his natural anticipation, quick release and exceptional placement & accuracy. Sure Josh Allen may be able to throw faster, but Lauletta can get the ball out of his hands exactly where he wants it, and isn’t that the end game?
These qualities are too desirable for a team not to bite on him early and teams with extra draft capital may find it prudent to take him in the first so they don’t miss out on the surprise star of the class.
Possible Destinations: Bills, Patriots, Saints, Steelers, Jaguars, Bengals, Broncos
For better or for worse, the year of the quarterback is upon us. What remains to be seen is the most fun part, seeing if this class will have any of the same success of the 1983 group. My money’s on the new guys.
Photo Credit: NFL.com