Written By Cody Manning
The 2018 quarterback draft class was one of the most polarizing groups of players in recent years for the game’s most important position. There was no consensus number one guy, and we didn’t know who would be the first off the board until the day of the draft. It has been over two weeks since we saw everything unfold, but now the question is, who will be the first one that we will see start in the regular season? While we must wait until training camp and preseason to see how things will unfold for each of these players, I decided I will take a wild guess on who I think we will see get his first start in the NFL.
Josh Rosen — Arizona Cardinals
Josh Rosen is the most pro-ready quarterback in this class and I believe he is ready to start from day one. He does enter a scenario though where it is possible he could be on the bench for the entire season. But one thing we do know, history does repeat itself in the NFL. The last time we saw Sam Bradford on the field, it was painful to watch as he struggled to stay on his feet, and he had to be pulled the first game after returning from injury. While he has the talent to be the starter, he hasn’t played a full 16 games since 2012.
In 2016, the Philadelphia Eagles were on a similar path to the Cardinals — Bradford was the starter, and their top pick, Carson Wentz, was going to sit on the bench behind him and learn how to be a pro. But once things got going in training camp, and it was apparent that Wentz was ready to be the starter, they traded Bradford and started their rookie Week 1. While I don’t think the Cardinals would trade Bradford because he is on a one-year deal, I do believe if Rosen is ready to go, then they would name him the starter. I think one of these scenarios are going to play out: Rosen will either win the starting job or he will see the field because Bradford is dealing with an injury. Because of those reasons, I believe we end up seeing him becoming the first quarterback to start in this class.
Prediction: Week 1 vs Redskins
Josh Allen — Buffalo Bills
Josh Allen is in the best situation to see the field first out of all the 1st round quarterbacks. He will be competing with A.J. McCarron for the starting job in training camp. McCarron isn’t getting paid to start money and he is only on a two-year deal, so he won’t be handed the keys to the offense. While I am a fan of Allen, I do recognize that he needs time to develop, but he has the competitiveness and the talent to take the job from McCarron in camp. I have heard that it might help Allen develop if he was thrown into the fire right away, and if the Bills’ coaching staff feels the same way, we might see him opening week.
Even if Allen doesn’t win the starting job during the preseason, we have seen Sean McDermott bench a winning quarterback for a rookie. He isn’t afraid to pull the trigger if he doesn’t believe the starter isn’t doing enough, even if the season is going well for them. The team made the playoffs last year, and if McCarron is their starter and provides mediocre results, fans will be clamoring for their strong-armed rookie to be on the field. While I personally believe he shouldn’t be rushed, I do think this situation makes it only a matter of time until he is the starter in 2018.
Prediction: Week 1 vs Ravens
Sam Darnold — New York Jets
Sam Darnold seemed destined to be a Brown prior to the draft, as he was the consensus mocked #1 pick in the draft. But things are unpredictable, and he went #3 to the Jets. Darnold does need some development but he has the talent to come in and win the starting job from Josh McCown. It will be interesting to see how this will play out because there are some that think Todd Bowles needs to prove himself as a coach and show improvement from the previous season. If he thinks Darnold isn’t ready for the big stage, then I think he will hold back and try to win some games with McCown as the starter.
I do believe we will see McCown on opening day, but I think we will see Darnold at some point of the year. McCown is a great mentor for Darnold, but he might not lead the team to enough victories and I don’t think that Jets fans will be patient enough to let Sam develop for an entire season. Their fans are ready for the guy they can rely upon year in and year out. Fanbases can sometimes determine when teams decide to pull the trigger on their young franchise quarterback and we could see that happen in New York in the upcoming season.
Prediction: Week 6 vs Colts
Baker Mayfield — Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield was the number one pick and is ready to play from day one, but he might have to wait for the longest to see the field out of all the quarterbacks. Hue Jackson keeps stressing that Tyrod Taylor is their starter. Taylor is a proven winner in this league, as he helped lead the Bills to their first playoff berth in 17 years. Jackson must prove he can win games this season so unless Mayfield proves that he is substantially better than Taylor at this point, I do believe Jackson will start the season with Taylor as the starter.
If the Browns struggle coming out of the gate, and Taylor is underperforming, then Jackson will have no choice then to get his young star quarterback onto the field. It is in this scenario that I see Mayfield taking the reins of their offense. But, if Taylor leads the team to victories and it helps saves Jackson his job, then we might have to wait until the 2019 season to see Mayfield. Either way, I do believe it is the Browns success on the field without Mayfield that will determine when we will see him this year.
Prediction: Week 9 vs Chiefs
Lamar Jackson — Baltimore Ravens
Lamar Jackson might be the last one to start out of this group, but he could potentially be the first one to see the field. John Harbaugh has already admitted that they plan on using his electrifying athletic abilities to help make plays for their offense in 2018. They have coaches on their staff that has worked with players like Michael Vick and Colin Kaepernick. Jackson can help jolt their offense if they are finding themselves in a lull during games.
Sometimes money does talk in the NFL. Joe Flacco’s contract does speak volumes as to why he will more than likely be the starter for the next couple of seasons. Unless he severely underperforms, and Jackson is ready to take over as the guy. Flacco has a cap hit of $24.750M, $26.5M, and $28.250M over the next three seasons. While resulting in $52.75M in dead money if he were to be cut prior to this season. Unless the Ravens were able to find a trade partner for Flacco, I don’t see Jackson taking over as the starter until the 2020 or 2021 season.
Prediction: Will play in this year but won’t start at quarterback.
It will be interesting to see how everything plays out for this class. The NFL is so unpredictable that my list could easily be flipped upside down. We could end up seeing all of them on the field in 2018 at some point, but, we could also not see any of them take over as a starter until 2019. If every one of them plays up to their potential, then they could go down as one of the best quarterback draft classes in NFL history. For the future of the league, I certainly hope that they all do.