It’s been three years since the QB-heavy draft of 2018. Four quarterbacks were taken in the first 10 picks, and one was drafted with the latest pick of the first round. Even before the draft, these quarterbacks were being touted in every mock draft. How have things gone for these quarterbacks since then?
Baker Mayfield, No.1 pick, Cleveland Browns
Mocks had Mayfield anywhere from third pick with the Jets to the 12th pick. It’s not so much that there were concerns about Mayfield — he’s a bit on the short side, but that’s all — as prognosticators were so sure that Darnold was the better fit. Still, the Browns used their first pick on the Heisman Trophy winner. He’s thrown 75 touchdowns and 43 picks in his three years with the Browns, taking the 2020 Browns back to the postseason for the first time since 2002.
Sam Darnold, No. 3 pick, New York Jets
Four different mock drafts had Darnold as the number one pick. Beating Texas in an overtime game, winning the Pac-12 and throwing more than 300 yards in his final games at USC helped his draft stock fly through the roof. He was touted for being smart and poised, and the most complete quarterback in the draft. But his time since signing that big contract hasn’t been impressive. With so much hype coming in, he was the Jets’ day one starter, and threw a pick in his very first drive. He threw 17 touchdowns and 15 picks in his first season, and dealt with injuries and illness since then. Darnold was traded to Carolina earlier this month, hopefully giving him the fresh start away from the expectations and media pressures in New York.
Josh Allen, No. 7 pick, Buffalo Bills
Worries about Allen’s accuracy at Wyoming pushed him down several draft boards. In his sophomore and junior years, he completed 56 percent of his passes. Still, the Bills picked him with their seventh pick, and by his third season, their investment in him paid off. Led by Allen, the Bills were just one game away from the Super Bowl after the 2020 season. His completion percentage? 69.2 percent.
Josh Rosen, No. 10 pick, Arizona Cardinals
Coming from UCLA, Rosen was seen as a complete player who had dealt with injuries through his collegiate years. He was ranked anywhere from third to twelfth in different mock drafts. He went 10th in the draft, getting picked by an Arizona squad that had Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon already on the roster. Rosen won the starting job over Bradford by week four, but was prone to turnovers. Rosen was traded to the Dolphins the next season, but he was cut before the start of the 2020 season. He played for the Bucs’ practice squad, and then was a backup in San Francisco in 2020, but has undoubtedly been the biggest bust of the 2018 quarterbacks.
Lamar Jackson, No. 32 pick, Baltimore Ravens
Most prognosticators thought he would go around the mid-first round. Jackon’s skills were called electric and athletic, but the concern was that he needed to be picked by the right offensive coordinator who would know how to best use Jackson’s skills. Baltimore did seem to figure out how to make the best of Jackson’s skills, as he won the MVP in 2019. He won his first playoff game after the 2020 season, but an interception and concussion in the divisional round ended his season bitterly. Still, Jackson has shined the brightest out of all the 2018 first-round quarterbacks, even as he was the last person picked.
The mock drafts were chosen solely by who came up first in a search engine. The reason we take this look back is not to question any particular draft prognosticator. Instead, it’s to show what an inexact science predicting the athletic futures of men in their early 20s is. A million different factors affect how they will play. On Thursday night, enjoy seeing people’s dreams come true, but don’t get too bogged down in who is the right pick for your team.