Is Sam Darnold more Brett Favre or Jameis Winston? Is Lamar Jackson more Fran Tarkenton or RG3? Check out these veteran comps for the rookie QBs
Five quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the NFL Draft last week. These rookie signal callers had stellar success in college, including two Heisman Trophies. These five young men come to their new teams injecting new life into the cities they now call home.
Which team came away with the best pick? Here, we examine the high-end, low-end, and expected NFL veteran comparisons for each rookie first-round quarterback.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens
Best Case: Fran Tarkenton
Like Tarkenton, Lamar Jackson is a quarterback who can buy five extra seconds for his receivers using his mobility on any given play. With the right talent around him (and the intelligence to know when to dive versus when to slide and avoid big hits), Jackson could be a Super Bowl champion.
Worst Case: Robert Griffin III
A key reason why Jackson fell to pick number thirty-two is that GMs don’t want to take the risk of him running at top speed and getting drilled by NFL linebackers and safeties. Jackson’s athleticism rivals that of fellow Heisman winner Robert Griffin III, who had an outstanding first season with Washington in 2012 and won Rookie of the Year honors. Ensuing injuries resulting from his running of the football have not allowed RG3 to return anywhere close to the success he had in his first season. Coincidentally, Jackson and Griffin III will be teammates this training camp with Baltimore.
Most Likely: Michael Vick
Like Michael Vick, Jackson’s highlights (particularly beautiful, long rushing attempts) will be archives in NFL films for years to come. However, NFL defenses will adjust to his mobility over time, and if he doesn’t thrive as a passer when constricted to the pocket, a better arm talent will replace him. Vick was overshadowed by Nick Foles in 2010 and never regained a long-term starting role with an NFL team. Like Vick, however, Jackson can be brought in as part of special packages (think goal line) and achieve long-term success when playing to his strengths.
Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals
Best Case: Aaron Rodgers
Josh Rosen throws a beautiful ball and can be deadly accurate from the pocket. He is a confident and competitive passer who can one day become the most talented quarterback in the league. Questions about his motivation to win championships remain, however.
Worst Case: Sam Bradford
Rosen is injury prone. The risk factor of signing him to a long-term contract is not knowing whether or not he can stay on the field. While extremely talented from the pocket, he is not mobile and his durability will be tested as he takes big hits from NFL defensive ends.
Most Likely: Jay Cutler
Rosen can make all of the throws - any route, to any part of the field. However, he has not demonstrated the ability to elevate a team to win big games. He has an attitude that won’t gel with many coaches, and he’s not changing it for anybody.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills
Best Case: Joe Flacco
Josh Allen has an absolute hose for an arm. It will be thrilling to see him heaving deep bombs for Buffalo in the coming seasons. With help from above-average receivers and a top-ten defense, your team can win Super Bowls with him, but he’s not going to carry a team to a championship.
Worst Case: Jamarcus Russell
Simply put, Allen lacks accuracy. He wasn’t able to complete 60 percent of his throws in college, even in the Mountain West conference. His inefficiency as a passer could put your team in a lot of third-and-seven situations and can seriously stall an offense.
Most Likely: Kyle Boller
Allen isn’t a franchise quarterback, but he has a killer arm and will be in the league for a long time, often appearing in relief. You can win a lot of games with Allen, but he’s not the best option for leading your team on a fourth-quarter comeback drive.
Sam Darnold, New York Jets
Best Case: Brett Favre
Sam Darnold is the gunslinger of this year’s class. He is a raw, gifted passer who has the mobility to extend plays along with the arm to fit tight spirals into the smallest of windows. He takes many chances on the field, and it would not surprise me if he leads the league in interceptions as well as touchdowns in a season. Darnold has a big frame that can withstand hits and prevent injury. He has played in big games and is the ultimate play-maker.
Worst Case: Jameis Winston
Darnold and Winston both make ill-advised throws from time-to-time and commit costly turnovers more often than you would like (both fumbles and interceptions). Both can strike at any moment to make a big play. One thing is certain: watching these guys is never boring.
Most Likely: Andrew Luck
Darnold’s tendency to hold onto the ball and move outside the pocket opens up the opportunity for injury. He will make a lot of bad throws, but he will make the plays that win the game for you. He will be worth seven or more points a game above his replacement and can be the face of your franchise for a decade.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns
Best Case: Russell Wilson
There are not a lot of pro QB comparisons for Baker Mayfield. Not many short quarterbacks get drafted, and even fewer see significant playing time in the league. The most extreme range of short quarterbacks is Drew Brees to Johnny Manziel. Mayfield will not be as good as Brees nor as disastrous as Manziel. He doesn’t have Wilson’s speed, but he has the ability to make plays with his feet and buy time to throw. Like Wilson, Mayfield sees clearly through passing lanes and delivers the ball confidently.
Worst Case: Colt McCoy
Worst-case scenario, Mayfield becomes yet another casualty of Cleveland’s failed quarterback experiments. Over the last decade, the Browns have tried several short quarterbacks accustomed to warm weather, including Colt McCoy. McCoy couldn’t overcome the dysfunction of Cleveland, but he has the talent to be a solid backup and is still in the league with Washington, nine years after being drafted.
Most Likely: Case Keenum
Time will tell how much of an asset Mayfield will be to an NFL team, but he is a very productive and accurate passer. He doesn’t have the talent to carry a team, but with a great defense to support him, he can take a team to the playoffs.
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