The Rookie QB Invasion: The First Four Quarterbacks of the 2018 NFL Draft Make Their Official Debuts
After four quarterbacks were taken among the first 12 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft, and selected by four quarterback-needy teams no less, we knew that it was just a matter of time before they all became starters.
Despite the rhetoric from most of the organizations that selected those guys, stating that the rookies would get as much of a “redshirt” year as possible in their first NFL season, between the excitement of the fans, the pressure from ownership, and the performance (or lack thereof) from the incumbents ahead of them, it was all but a foregone conclusion that all four guys – Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen – would be the main man under center at some point during the 2018 NFL season.
Like any other team, the New York Jets told anyone who’d listen prior to the start of training camp this year that their starting quarterback would be the guy who put them in the best position to win. But it quickly became clear that the job was Sam Darnold’s to lose. And with a strong performance in the preseason, showing flashes of the strong arm and playmaking ability that he demonstrated at USC, Darnold was named the opening day starter for the Jets. But as many rookies quickly figure out, the preseason is not the regular season. The Jets won their season opener in large part because they capitalized on the mistakes of their opponent, but Darnold’s first three games have been marked by flashes of potential between the completely understandable rookie struggles. Darnold threw three touchdowns in his first two starts, but has also had an interception in each of those three starts as well. With 701 yards passing, he ranks just outside the top 20 in that statistic.
Easily the rawest quarterback among the group, though the one with perhaps the most long-term potential, the Buffalo Bills intended to keep Josh Allen on the bench as long as possible, to let him sit and learn. That lasted all of about two quarters, as the Bills yanked off the proverbial redshirt from Allen in their first game of the season, in a blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills. Like Darnold, Allen showed us a lot of what he was characterized by at Wyoming: unbelievable arm strength, and erratic accuracy. But Bills fans have to be absolutely thrilled with what they saw last Sunday, when Allen had his best game of the season in leading Buffalo past the hugely-favored Minnesota Vikings.
Like everything else we’ve come to know about Baker Mayfield, instead of being the ballyhooed guy right from the get-go, he was more of a party crasher with a flair for the dramatic. Mayfield had the potential to sit on the bench the longest for his team (the Cleveland Browns), despite being the #1 overall pick in the draft, as Cleveland was comfortable with Tyrod Taylor as the starter. But with Taylor struggling in Cleveland’s game against the New York Jets, Mayfield came in and provided a night-and-day jumpstart to the stagnant Browns’ offense. Mayfield led Cleveland from a 14-3 deficit to a 21-17 win, giving the Browns their first victory in 635 days.
Josh Rosen was the fourth of the first four quarterbacks taken in the draft, and while he was the last to come in and play in the regular season, fans of the Arizona Cardinals will tell you it should’ve happened much sooner. While incumbent Sam Bradford has been a serviceable player in his other stops around the NFL, the passing game – and offense as a whole – was virtually non-existent with Bradford under center. In Arizona’s first two games, they scored six total points, in the form of a “garbage time” touchdown in a blowout loss to the Washington Redskins in Week 1. Rosen was mercifully named the starter for the Cardinals after their Week 3 loss to the Chicago Bears, and given what they got – or didn’t get – from Bradford, there’s nowhere to go but up for Arizona with Rosen at the helm.