It is established that an NFL starting quarterback is one of the toughest jobs a pro athlete can take on. A bad quarterback makes it much more difficult to win consistently in the NFL. With the excitement surrounding the 2019 draft and the signal callers selected, we take time to look back to last season’s crop of first round quarterbacks. Which second-year quarterback (Baker not included), selected in the first round, is poised to make a leap forward in 2019?
To lead things off, we’re keeping Baker Mayfield out of this discussion. Mayfield enjoyed a relatively successful rookie campaign and his team dealt with perhaps the least amount of changes. That being said, he’d be the obvious choice here, hence his exclusion. With that out of the way, the four second-year quarterbacks each face unique circumstances.
Sam Darnold – NY Jets (R1.P3)
The New York Jets have been searching for their franchise quarterback for decades. Many around the league feel that Darnold could be the guy. Darnold played as he did in college, a ton of fantastic moments coupled with major head-scratching decisions. As a rookie out of USC, he had, and still has all the physical tools needed to be an elite quarterback. Part of his struggles as a rookie was the lack of a reliably productive supporting cast. Robbie Anderson finished 2018 as the leading Jets receiver with 50 receptions for 752 yards, and six scores.
Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills (R1.P7)
The Buffalo Bills selection of Josh Allen surprised many around the league. Allen was one of the most polarizing quarterback prospects of the last ten years. His accuracy issues carried over from his college days, with Allen completing just 52.8 percent of his passes. Allen’s play had the most significant swings out of his cohorts. He finished with less than a 50 percent completion rate twice, but also had two games with 65 percent or more completion percentages. One of those better performances came in a road victory against the Vikings, where Allen had one passing score with zero interceptions, while adding two scores on the ground.
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Josh Rosen – Arizona Cardinals (R1.P10)
*Currently on Miami Dolphins roster*
Covering the Arizona Cardinals provides a unique perspective of what transpired for Rosen in 2018. The Cardinals moved up in the first round to get their franchise quarterback, yet Arizona lacked a cohesive plan for how they would utilize Rosen. They placed the rookie behind Mr. Glass impersonator, Sam Bradford, and hoped the veteran would give Rosen time to get up to speed. When Bradford unsurprisingly struggled, the Cardinals thrust their rookie into a late game situation against a tough Bears defense in the hopes he’d pull out a victory. The rest of the season saw the offense struggle to find any encouragement as terrible line play and an inconsistent receiving corps doomed the rookie. Rosen pressed, making things exponentially worse for the dumpster fire that was the 2018 Cardinals.
Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens (R1.P32)
Jackson was selected with the last pick in the first round by the Baltimore Ravens. He was also the final first round quarterback to start for his team, coming on in the tenth game of the season, relieving Joe Flacco. Out of all the rookie starting quarterbacks, Jackson had the most complete team around him. Playing behind a solid defense and a bruising ground game, Jackson had nearly as many carries (147) as pass attempts (170). During the regular season, he managed to avoid a game with a completion percentage below 50 percent. However, in the playoffs, Jackson struggled against a Chargers team focused on stopping the run. He finished the game with 194 yards through the air with two touchdowns and an interception. However, he completed just 48 percent of his passes, in addition to three fumbles.
Making the Case
Picking between the four quarterbacks requires a process of elimination. The goal is to eliminate quarterbacks most likely to have just a marginal increase in production, or one who may struggle to find the field. Applying those filters, there is just one quarterback who is mired in a position battle, Josh Rosen. The Cardinals traded their franchise quarterback after they had drafted their new franchise quarterback Kyler Murray with the first overall selection of this April’s draft. Rosen is now with the Dolphins, battling against Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job. It feels safe to say that is one option off the board.
With Rosen out, we’re left with Darnold, Allen, and Jackson. Next, we take a look at the quarterback with the least attractive supporting cast. All three quarterbacks lack a legitimate top wide receiver (sorry Madden players, Robbie Anderson doesn’t count). Baltimore’s run game is unparalleled when compared to the Jets and Bills, in both versatility and production. Darnold gets eliminated due to his head coach. There was a time where Adam Gase was seen as the next offensive genius. A few lackluster seasons in Miami, with a team supplied with ample talent, have thrown enough water on that fire.
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At the end of the day, both Allen and Jackson had rookie seasons filled with ups and downs. Both players won a couple games for their teams, but both struggled and cost them a few. Picking the best of the bunch is nothing more than a guessing game, one where the slightest change in variables can mean all the difference. Ultimately, Jackson has the overall better team around him. This is not to knock the Bills or Allen, but the Ravens are a playoff caliber team with Jackson as quarterback. At this time, the Bills are at best a .500 team on the come up.
Will Lamar Jackson throw for over 3,000 yards and throw for 30 touchdowns? Probably not. It is entirely possible however, that he makes the largest leap among the group of four, improving his overall stat line in addition to helping the Ravens secure another playoff berth.
Who’s your pick for the second-year quarterback most poised to shine?