by Eric Stashin (aka The Rotoprofessor)
There was a lot made of this year’s rookie quarterback class, but it’s fair to wonder if any of them will make a significant impact on the field in 2018. As of today that may not appear to be the case, but every season things happen quickly. Maybe it’s an injury… Maybe it’s poor play (or strong play from the rookie)… Maybe it’s just a change in philosophy… Something always seems to give, so while they may not be the best long-term let’s take a look at which rookie quarterback could make the biggest impact in 2018:
1) Josh Rosen – Arizona Cardinals
Current Starter – Sam Bradford
You can obviously argue that Rosen isn’t the quarterback with the highest upside of the draft class, but he lands in a spot where he can make an instant impact. All he has standing in front of him is the oft injured Bradford (who hasn’t played 16 games since 2012) whose upside you can argue to begin with.
Rosen has battled his own injuries, including two concussions in 2017, but when he gets his shot he’s going to have the supporting cast to succeed. David Johnson is going to be returning from injury, and hopefully step right in as one of the elite running backs in the game. Larry Fitzgerald is back for another season and joined by second round pick Christian Kirk. They signed Justin Pugh to help solidify the offensive line, while also drafting a center (Mason Cole) in the third round.
There’s no questioning the upside Rosen has, despite falling to #10 on draft day, and he likely finds himself in the best opportunity to succeed initially.
2) Baker Mayfield – Cleveland Browns
Current Starter – Tyrod Taylor
It was a bit of a shock when Mayfield went first overall in the draft, but it’s clear that Cleveland has high expectations. They’ve also put together a solid supporting cast, with Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry and Duke Johnson among the weapons surrounding him. It’s easy to wonder how quickly the team will push Mayfield into a starting role, having brought in Taylor in the offseason (and already dubbing him the starter). That said you don’t use the first overall selection on a quarterback to have him sit on the sidelines for very long.
Mayfield has the ability to make plays, both with his arm (4,340 yards, 41 TD) and his feet (310 yards, 5 TD). He rushed for 18 TD over his three seasons at Oklahoma while throwing for 117 TD vs. 20 INT (he also played a year at Texas Tech). With the group around him, when the time comes he should be able to continue producing.
3) Sam Darnold – New York Jets
Current Starter – Josh McCown
It’s hard to expect much playing time for Darnold, with both McCown and potentially Teddy Bridgewater ahead of him on the depth chart. They also have questionable skill players on the outside, with Robbie Anderson potentially facing a suspension for off-the-field issues and the returning Quincy Enunwa (missed all of ’17) as the top targets (they did bring in Terrelle Pryor on a prove it type deal and still have Jermaine Kearse as a solid, though likely unspectacular, veteran presence). Things may look better if they had a strong tight end or an elite running back (they have a solid group), though that’s not the case here.
Many felt Darnold was the best quarterback in the draft and it wouldn’t be surprising if he got a shot, though he could also sit all season if the team wants to see what Bridgewater can do instead.
4) Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills
Current Starter – A.J. McCarron
Whether you want to believe in Allen or not, the Bills clearly view him as their future. Will they rush him into a starting role this season? Perhaps, even after grabbing McCarron in the offseason, but that could lead to an even bigger disaster. Buffalo lost 60% of it’s offensive line in the offseason and they also lack a tremendous group of weapons to put any quarterback in a position to thrive (it’s easy to argue exactly how much LeSean McCoy and Kelvin Benjamin have left). There are simply far too many questions and risk to think Allen could step in, if asked, and thrive.
5) Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens
Current Starter – Joe Flacco
A year ago you may have expected Jackson to be among the best rookie quarterbacks coming out of the draft. Unfortunately for him there are questions regarding his accuracy, and whether or not the Ravens are looking to replace Flacco (and they also imported Robert Griffin as a backup, though he could be the perfect player for Jackson to learn from). There’s no questioning Jackson’s upside, especially as a game-changer with his legs, and if something happens to expedite the process he could ultimately be the most productive rookie in the class because of it. It’s more likely that he sits on the side and learns/develops, and that could ultimately prove to be beneficial.
Others to Monitor – Mason Rudolph (Steelers), Kyle Lauletta (Giants)
Sources – ESPN, NFL.com