Last year, 5 quarterbacks were taken in the first round. All five started for their individual franchises later in the year. The first overall pick, Baker Mayfield, excelled in Cleveland and narrowly lost out on the rookie of the year title. Sam Darnold has given Jets fans a future with hope. The surprise pick of Josh Allen has had a mixed season mainly due to the lack of talent around him. Similar things can be said of Josh Rosen except he will be doing his preseason training camp on the other side of the country this year. And finally, Lamar Jackson lead the Ravens to the playoffs only to lose out to the Chargers. So who will make the biggest strides in 2019?
What can we expect from Baker Mayfield this year? After the browns were criticised for selecting him as the number one overall, he proved he was worthy of the selection. He threw for 3,725 yards in his 14 appearances tagging on 27 TDs. And with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. and Kareem Hunt, he is primed to beat those numbers this year. Personally, I feel teams have learned what to expect with him and will be able to curtail him more. But with a receiving corp of OBJ, Jarvis Laundry and David Njoku while Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb fill the backfield, he has the skillset to supply opportunities to these guys. Probowl level is a stretch but Mayfield may guide his team to a playoff’s wildcard spot.
If you listen to our podcast, you may have noticed I am not a fan of the Jets. So for this assessment I will try not to be bias. Darnold made steps in 2018. From throwing a pick on his first professional throw to being able to not let his head fall and see out a win in the same game. That was impressive. Like most rookie quarterbacks, he had his ups and downs finishing the season with 2,865 yards, 17 TDs, 15 interceptions and 4-9 record. Look around him, I feel he had little help with poor receivers and a lack luster run offensive. With the signing of Leveon Bell, expectations are high in New York but I’m not feeling it. With little changes of note to rooster and a QB that has flashed potential but also horror, I am expecting Jet’s fans and Darnold believers to be let down. But to leave on a positive note, as stated above I am not a jets fan and thus watching Jets games are not a high priority for me. So my judgement is based off the bits and pieces I have seen.
Josh Allen was a surprise pick by Buffalo at the number 7 spot. And for me he is a player that I find difficult to assess. We have found out he has a big arm and can run. He can jump over oncoming defenders as well as in the picture. But his accuracy was poor. The question is was this his fault or his receivers or poor protection around him. Allen did manage to break the 2000 yard mark (threw for 2074) and also was Buffalo’s lead rusher. So what have buffalo done to improve on this? In the draft, they signed OL Cody Ford and RB Devin Singletary. They have overhauled their offensive line by signing multiple guys. They signed John Brown for Allen to go long to and Cole Beasley as a short opinion out of the slot. With the major concerns being around his throwing accuracy, these improvements are vital for Allen and I am expecting to see improvements across the board or him this season. Mind you, I hope I don’t see him managing to be the leading rusher again next year or his career might not last as long as it should.
I am a believer in Josh Rosen. One of the few I feel. Statistically, last year was poor for him (2278, 11 TDs , 14 Ints). Remember though this was a rooster that only be described as awful. Even the great Sam Bradford only managed to put up 400 yards across three games and throw 2TDs alongside 4 Interceptions. I felt that despite the lack of success he experienced in his first year in the NFL, there is still reasons to have hope he can succeed. But he has entered a franchise with very little talent. It’s hard to see Rosen have a successful year without help. And the way it is looking, this help won’t appear until 2020 at the earliest. It could be another year of misery for Rosen at the bottom of the league, followed by another relocation if Miami have the number one overall pick. By then, Kyler Murray might have got sick of losing with the Cardinals and left for the MLB freeing up room for Rosen’s return.
Lamar Jackson year was an interesting one. He made brief appearances for the Ravens in the first half of the year before securing the starting job in mid-November after starting QB Joe Flacco got injured. From there he went 6-1 in the regular season and threw for 1201 yards, 6TDs and 3 ints. But that is not where his strengths lie. Jackson is a running QB and is a constant threat. He finished the season with the most rushing yards by a QB (695) and 5 rush TDs. It can’t be said that the Jackson dragged the Ravens to the playoffs himself as the Ravens running game and defence had a huge influence. Still, his mobility at the quarterback position was a big asset. With Flacco departing for the Broncos this offseason, Jackson will likely play his first full season . Mark Ingram has been signed at running back, it looks like the same offensive scheme will be used this season as was to the latter half of last year. But using a first round pick on wide receiver Marquise Brown this year and Hayden Hurst last year, don’t be surprised to see Jackson target these two players in well crafted plays to give Jackson easier throws. I’m expecting to see Jackson throw the ball more this year. And I think this is important as opposition teams will likely discover a way to quell his running treat as the season progresses. He will need to make the key throws for the Ravens to have a chance of making the playoffs again in January.