Five quarterbacks. Leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, there were five young men projected to have first-round talent. For a quarterback-needy team, it was the year that teams hoped to find their franchise-altering player. Baker Mayfield, San Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson were all taken in the first round. Fast forward four years and four of those five players are still starting quarterbacks in the league.
Depending on who you talk to, Josh Rosen seemingly hasn’t taken advantage of his opportunities, or he hasn’t been given a fair shot. He most recently signed with the San Francisco 49ers who just spent the third overall pick of the 2021 NFL draft on Trey Lance. Sam Darnold has shown flashes of talent that had New York Jets fans both excited and frustrated over the first three seasons of his career. After the exit of Adam Gase, the Jets traded Darnold to the Carolina Panthers where he hopes to restart his career on the right path. But Darnold hasn’t performed well enough consistently, which is why the Jets didn’t invest in him long term. His fourth season and fifth-year option will determine his next contract.
The remaining three quarterbacks have each become the face of their franchise and are all expected to break the bank. Baker Mayfield had a tremendous rookie year, throwing for 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions with an overall passer rating of 93.7 in just 13 games started after taking over for Tyrod Taylor. His sophomore season was not as impressive but he silenced critics in the 2020 season when he helped lead the Cleveland Browns to their first playoff win since 1994.
Lamar Jackson has made the playoffs every season since entering the league. His sophomore campaign was one for the history books. Jackson became the youngest quarterback to ever win MVP at 22 years old, while leading the NFL’s top-ranked scoring offense with 33.2 points per game. That season, Baltimore finished first or second in five key offensive categories: points per game, total yards per game, rushing yards per game, big plays per game and red-zone percentage. Jackson also posted the second-highest passing touchdown percentage (9.0) in the Super Bowl era (minimum 350 attempts).
Josh Allen’s story is no mystery to Buffalo Bills fans. He was the most raw prospect in the 2018 class. Allen and the Bills’ offense was on pace to be the worst unit of all time in 2018 up until Week 8. Ending the season with a 52.8 percent completion percentage and a QB rating of 67.8 wasn’t ideal, but he was able to provide flashes of talent to fans, which in turn provided hope to the future of the franchise. Allen has shown steady growth both seasons since his rookie year. Last season Allen finished as runner up for the MVP award behind Aaron Rodgers after posting team franchise records of 4,544 yards, 37 touchdowns to just ten interceptions and a passer rating of 107.2. It’s clear that the future of the franchise rests on the shoulders of number 17.
The question is at what cost? It’s believed by many around the league that Josh Allen might reset the QB market if he follows up the 2020 season with a similar showing on the field this coming season. Lamar Jackson has already made history in Baltimore. And Baker Mayfield will be loved in Cleveland forever. Will these organizations be able to extend these quarterbacks and maintain the level of talent around them to remain competitive? The book is still being written.
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