Joshua Edwards looks at this year’s rookie Quarterback class and predicts if and when each signal caller will take over.
Twenty years ago the Indianapolis Colts drafted Peyton Manning first overall, and the rest, as they say, is history. Manning brought a Superbowl and a legacy to a city which had struggled to fully embrace Football since the Colts relocated from Baltimore in ‘84. In stark contrast, Washington State QB Ryan Leaf, selected second by the Chargers, lasted four ignominious seasons in the league before retiring.
In retrospect, the debate as to which of the two rookies the Colts should draft is comical bordering on the ridiculous, but at the time it was very real indeed. Most scouting departments considered Leaf, who had a public disdain for playing in Indianapolis, to have a higher ceiling than future first ballot hall of famer Manning. Were it not for Leaf’s calculating sabotage in refusing to meet Indy head Coach Jim Mora at the Combine, the two picks may well have flipped. Ten years prior to Indy picking Manning in April ’98, Public Enemy released It Takes a Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, on which they vocalized the perfect advice for fans, writers and team execs perfectly: Don’t Believe The Hype.
So here we are, 20 years later, and the 2018 draft class has produced a crop of Quarterbacks, on paper at least, to seemingly rival any previous year. That there is so much of the aforementioned hype around these young men is perhaps a product of circumstance and the necessity, for so many teams, of finding a quality quarterback at the same time. At least 4 teams are simultaneously banking on having drafted true franchise quarterbacks this year, as their respective veterans and failures of bygone drafts come crawling to the end of the line, sword of Damocles dangling precipitously. Whether we’ll see a class which in years to come rivals that of Manning, Rivers, Roethlisberger (2004), or Elway, Kelly, Marino (1983) remains to be seen.
And so, given the difficulties in predicting rookie quarterback success, and the hype train for which I am refusing, as of now, to buy a ticket and climb onboard, I will not attempt to grade the class before meaningful Football is played. Instead, here’s a preposterously premature prediction of when each rookie will take the reins, based on their summer development and respective situations.
Team: New York Jets
Draft: 3rd Overall
Depth Chart Competition: Josh McCown
Starter by: Week 1
This one writes itself. Darnold is now cemented as the week one starter, following the surprising trade of Teddy Bridgewater to New Orleans (surprising not because Bridgewater was in serious contention to start but because New Orleans seemed an unlikely destination). In New Jersey there are shades of the aforementioned ’98 Colts. The Jets are in full rebuild mode and, like Indy two decades ago, have waited so long for their quarterback that they would probably not begrudge Darnold a developmental season. Peyton, much like brother Eli, had a topsy turvy first year as a starter and went on to do great things. It’s my view that Darnold will provide the Jets with similar: a losing record this season, then those great things are a serious possibility, if the pieces fall into place around him.
Team: Cleveland Browns
Draft: 1st Overall
Depth Chart Competition: Tyrod Taylor
Starter by: Week 5
NFL Films Hard Knocks has been a riot thus far and much of that has been due to the Browns love em or hate em coaching staff. Hue Jackson looks rather ‘deer in the headlights’ after a combined 1-31 the past two seasons, while Greg Williams’ continues to indulge pathological lying (“I’ve turned down multiple jobs to be here”). The star of the show though is offensive line coach Bob Wylie’s stomach, a law unto itself, possibly with gravitational properties, horrifyingly jiggling upwards every time he calls a snap. On the field is what matters however, and there’s serious hype around Baker Mayfield. Trading for Tyrod Taylor, who was undervalued in Buffalo, and is mobile and turnover adverse, was a shrewd move but one which is unlikely to play out the season. Hue Jackson has proven willing to turn things over to rookie QBs without much hesitation and in predicting a 1-3 start for Cleveland, I am by extension expecting Mayfield to take over in week 5 at home to Baltimore.
Team: Arizona Cardinals
Draft: 10th Overall
Depth Chart Competition: Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon
Starter by: Week 8
Sam Bradford is the starter in Arizona, but Rosen will be waiting in the wings with baited breath and possibly a stretcher. Bradford has played two games in the past two years, and were he to go down, it would likely depend on Arizona’s record whether or not Glennon or Rosen takes over, but Rosen has impressed this pre-season and may have won the backup battle, even if the team aren’t announcing anything yet. Predicting a Bradford injury is both sombre and pointless, and guesstimating whether the Cardinals would give Rosen a shot over Glennon at that juncture might be an exercise in futility too. However, given Bradford’s troubles, and the supposed health of David Johnson, to whom Rosen could lean on heavily on the ground and in the flat, I’d expect it to be Rosen should the worst happen, and week 8 seems a plausible enough prediction.
Team: Buffalo Bills
Draft: 7th Overall
Competition: Nathan Peterman
Starter by: Week 9
The Bills love Nathan Peterman (or at least Sean McDermott does). That is a fact of life and one which is not easily digestible but, nevertheless, plays a part in when Josh Allen and his rocket arm will take the field. Though the AJ McCarron trade to Oakland sparked interest in the possibility of Allen leading the Bills earlier than originally anticipated, Peterman has been about as impressive as could have been hoped in preseason (23-26, 310 yards, 3 TDs, 1Int and 80.5 completion %). This has led many to believe that Allen doesn’t have much of a shot at being named starter at all this season.
On the other hand, the Bills roster is objectively dreadful and they could be one of the first teams out of contention for the playoffs, even in a weird and wonderful AFC which looks considerably weaker than it has for a long time. In the event that the Bills are way under .500 by the midpoint in the season, handing over to Allen for the second half makes sense, in a ‘let’s see what we’ve really got here’ sense.
Team: Baltimore Ravens
Draft: 32nd Overall
Competition: Joe Flacco, RGIII
Starter by: N/A
Here’s my unpopular take on Jackson and Baltimore. He’ll be used this season, but there’s very little chance that he will start. He is a remarkable player but has thus far looked somewhat lost in the pocket having made the step up to the NFL. It would be remiss of the Ravens not to use Jackson given his playmaking ability and athleticism with ball in hand, but Flacco is far from done. Better off giving Jackson the opportunity to showcase his talents without the pressure of leading the offense, at least while Flacco is serviceable. Baltimore kept RGIII on the roster too, perhaps a sign that Jackson hasn’t earnt the trust of the coaching staff yet.