Passing the Baton – Which rookie QB sees the field first?

So draft season is finally over, the rookies have had their mini camps and will now be joined by their veteran colleagues to battle for starting positions and roster spots. There were 5 Quarterbacks selected in the first round of the draft this year, which means there are 5 QB’s around the league who are looking around and seeing someone who is there to take their job. What I’m going to do is take you through how long I think it’ll take for each of the 5 rookies to see the field.

I’m approaching this without taking past or potential injuries into account. I’m not a doctor, nor can I predict the future.

 

Baker Mayfield

Tyrod Taylor has already been named as starter for the 2018 season by Hue Jackson and he’s even gone so far to say that the plan is for Baker to sit the whole season. I think this is a smart plan, however I’m not too sure how clever it was to announce it to the world. He’s put pressure on himself and his coaching staff by backing Taylor to deliver, which owners sure fire thing.

Cleveland have been desperate to find a franchise Quarterback and have been for many years. Because of this they’ve have broken young QB’s in the past by throwing them in when they’re simply not ready to play. John Dorsey went out and signed Tyrod Taylor to guard against this happening again, despite wanting to draft a possible franchise saviour soon after.

Taylor is a perfectly capable starter in this league, he’s experienced, everyone knows his strengths and weaknesses; he’s not going to turn the ball over and can extend plays and drives with his legs but he isn’t going to make a tonne of big throws or win a game on his own.

Taylor has been equipped with more than adequate weaponry this off season and on paper, the Browns’ offense looks like it could cause some problems for other teams. If the offense ticks over, puts points on the board and Cleveland win a few games, the pressure will be off and it’ll just be up to Baker to soak up knowledge and be a good teammate.

Mayfield will play in the pre season and playing against backups, he’ll probably look pretty good and get a lot of people excited. This will put pressure back on Jackson and on Taylor. If Taylor doesn’t perform, fans will be calling for the number 1 overall pick and Jackson will be on the hot seat. Mayfield being the competitor he is, he’ll be planning on getting on the field as soon as possible but this all comes down to coaching and pressure. How will his pan out?

I think Cleveland will be much improved this season and I think they’ll win at least 6 games but their schedule is pretty tough the start off. With this in mind they’ll be out of the playoff race between week 12 and 14, so when the games become meaningless, they’ll probably test the waters with Mayfield.

 

Prediction: First start, week 13 vs. Texans.

 

Sam Darnold

The path to the field feels easier for Darnold in comparison to Mayfield as his situation in New York sees him pitted against an aging veteran and a player who is returning from a major knee injury.

Josh McCown to me, is a non-factor in this QB battle and was brought in more for his leadership and mentoring skills inside the locker room. Todd Bowles did name McCown as the starter but that was prior to drafting Darnold and September is still a long time away.

So it boils down to Darnold vs. Bridgewater. Teddy’s surgically repaired knee was something he “wasn’t comfortable talking about” in March and has only just made it back to the practice field. Bridgewater is only guaranteed $500,000 of the $6 million contract, so if the knee doesn’t check out, he might not even make the team and his career is most likely done.

I’m hoping that the knee is fine and if that’s the case the former Viking almost certainly has the inside track to the starting job. Bridgewater has done it in the NFL and performed at a good level, if he can do so in white and green, he’ll be an upgrade on what the Jets have been fielding at Quarterback recently.

On the other side of the battle, Sam Darnold was rated by many as the best QB available in the draft and he was widely tipped to be taken with the first overall pick. So he’s clearly talented but like the rest of the 2018 QB class, he’s got his flaws. In college he turned the ball over far too much and I’m sure Todd Bowles and the Jets coaching staff would prefer to sit him for a while whilst he works out the kinks.

However like Hue Jackson, Bowles will be coming under fire from fans and the media if the Jets have a stuttering start. There will be clamour to throw Darnold in to try to kick start the team and jolt them into life. Since the supporting cast is pretty poor and it’ll be throwing Darnold to the wolves a little bit and be asking too much of his improvisational skills but it may the the last roll of the dice from Bowles.

I don’t see the Jets making much noise this season, their schedule is pretty favourable to start off, with winnable games early. In the flip side, those teams will be looking at the Jets and thinking the same.

 

Prediction: First start, week 9 vs. Dolphins

 

Josh Allen

So this is where it gets really interesting. Josh Allen is the least pro ready of all of the first round QB’s but he also has the least competition for the starting role.

As the veteran, A.J. McCarron has the inside track and Bills officials have actually said that to begin camp, Allen will start as QB3 on the depth chart, ahead of Nate Peterman. Yep, this isn’t a great Quarterback situation in upstate New York.

Whilst it’s usual for the message coming from Head Coaches to be that the veteran player will start, I kind of believe this one.

The lack of a star QB and the lack of talent across the offence as a whole plays into McCarron’s hands in terms of his chances to play. McCarron has been in the building longer, so he’s had more time with the play book so therefore should pick up quicker, plus the game should also be “slower” for McCarron too. Nathan Peterman had a horrible debut in Los Angeles but at least he’s been a pro for 12 months and knows the play book. On the flip side of this, Allen really needs to spend at least a year working on a lot of aspects of playing the position and learning how to be an NFL player as opposed to being in college and having class to deal with alongside football.

Sean McDermott should know this and we shouldn’t see Allen until 2019 at the very earliest. It will also be up to McDermott to resist the temptation to throw Allen in too early as a first round pick in the event that things are turning sour. The Head Coach shouldn’t be on the hot seat at any point throughout the season so this should help the situation and Allen’s development in the long run.

McCarron will likely play the whole season barring injury and barring Buffalo being a complete mess. His deal is a 2 year deal but it’s structured in a way that the Bills can get rid of him after 12 months without too much of a financial penalty.

 

Prediction: First start, week 1, 2019 season.

Josh Rosen

From the least pro ready to the QB who is most pro ready. Josh Rosen endured a mini slide on draft night but the Cardinals did well to trade up to the 10th overall pick to claim their man under center for the foreseeable future. Standing in his way are Mike Glennon and the oft injured Sam Bradford. I feel like Rosen could bypass both of his veteran colleagues during the pre season and wrap up the starting job. I am going to go out on a limb and say that he will do exactly that too. Here’s why…

So firstly, Mike Glennon was quickly displaced by Mitchell Trubrisky last season in Chicago and I think Rosen is a better QB now than Trubrisky was a year ago. So personally, I don’t see Glennon as much of a factor, I see him as the likely QB3 on this team. The Cardinals said they were going to be aggressive in drafting a QB and they were and brought in Bradford to compete, they brought in Glennon for if Bradford gets hurt.

So on to Bradford; he’s certainly a talented guy but he’s just not been healthy enough throughout his career, which is a real shame but it’s just the way it goes for some players. How healthy is he currently? How much permanent damage has been done? Will he ever be the same as he once was? These are all big question marks hanging over him at this stage. He’s obviously fit enough to pass a physical but is he just a ticking time bomb? Lots of questions.

Then onto Rosen. He slid mainly due to character concerns but unless he completely hates the game of football and isn’t committed long term to being a pro, is it unusual for a young man to have other interests? Not really. A lot of people who know him or know of him say stuff along the lines of, coaches have to challenge him intellectually. Well, New Arizona Offensive Coordinator, Mike McCoy runs quite a complex system, which is a variation of the West coast offense. So that should keep Rosen’s mind from wandering. Like I said, I think we’ll be seeing the new era start early in the desert.

 

Prediction: First start, week 1 @ Redskins.

 

Lamar Jackson

I think it was quite telling that Baltimore traded back into the first round to select Jackson and therefore have the 5th year option built into his rookie deal – they see him and their offense with a long term view.

When you look at Joe Flacco, you’ll see a prototypical Quarterback; tall, strong, big arm… you look over at #8, Lamar Jackson, he’s the completely different… he’s tall but lean, he’s mobile and he looks more like your modern day signal caller.

Joe Flacco is on his way out, he’s probably got a year or two left but his days are numbered. So is the offense too, that’ll be left behind with Flacco. Jackson being drafted signalled that a new era is imminent in Baltimore.

This total remodel of the offensive side of the ball will take time though and that’s a good thing for Jackson too. He’s got his flaws that he himself recognises and the fact that Flacco is entrenched as the starter gives everyone the time to work on the future whilst the present ticks along.

Baltimore won’t want to ostracise their Superbowl winning QB just yet either so all this points towards a season on the bench for Jackson in 2018, if not beyond. Obviously if Flacco gets hurt they will incorporate some elements into the offense which play to Jackson’s strengths, because they will be forced to throw him into the deep end in the event that Flacco’s troublesome back flares up, for example.

The Ravens also made a nice move bringing in Robert Griffin III too. RGIII will probably be used as a mentor for Jackson as a mobile QB and once Flacco is gone, they will then have two QB’s with similar styles – More long term thinking in Baltimore, something good teams do well.

 

Prediction: First start, mid 2019 season.