How does this year’s crop of NFL draft signal-callers compare to quarterbacks taken in the first round since 2016?
Below are my grades and excerpts from my scouting reports for every first-round QB over the past three years, along with the grades for my top four guys — Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock and Ryan Finley — in this class. These are in order of highest grade to lowest. Let’s take a look.
Note: The “as a prospect” blurbs are how we viewed each player coming out of college. The grades are from my final evaluations before they were drafted.
Pre-draft ranking: No. 4 overall
As a prospect: “There’s no question that he developed some bad habits with his footwork (lazy/sloppy with lower-body at times) and ball security (dangling ball with one hand when moving in the pocket), but both are correctable. The bottom line is that Darnold is the most complete quarterback in the 2018 class, and he has the type of makeup that most good NFL starters possess. Darnold grades out as a high-level NFL starting quarterback, and he projects to be a top-five pick.”
In the NFL: Darnold missed some time with an injury in his first season, and his 17-to-15 touchdown-to-interception ratio left a lot to be desired. But the Jets’ franchise QB showed glimpses of his potential. Darnold’s best game of the season was a 341-yard, three-TD performance in a Week 16 loss to Green Bay.
Pre-draft ranking: No. 10 overall
As a prospect: “Wentz is blessed with a strong combination of size and athleticism. He has very good arm strength to make all the necessary throws. He displays quality accuracy at all three levels. There are some concerns about his lack of experience and making the jump from the FCS level. However, Wentz has the tools, football intelligence, maturity and leadership skills to develop into a quality starting QB in the NFL.”
In the NFL: Early returns on Wentz look terrific. The Eagles gave up a lot to get him, but he went 11-2 as a starter in 2017 while throwing 33 touchdowns to seven interceptions, and was an MVP candidate before tearing his ACL. Despite continued injury concerns, the arrow is still pointing up for Wentz.
Pre-draft ranking: No. 11 overall
As a prospect: “Goff is one of the most natural passers in this class. He has excellent pocket presence and feels pressure naturally to buy time while going through progressions. Goff shows accuracy and touch with the ability to deliver from an uneven platform. He has added weight and that eases concerns about his durability. He might need time adjusting to an NFL playbook coming from a wide-open system. He has the tools and acumen to develop into an above-average starter.”
In the NFL: Goff had a historically poor seven-start rookie season in 2016, but then really excelled under coach Sean McVay the past two seasons. After a 4,688-yard, 32-TD campaign in 2018, he led the Rams to the Super Bowl.
Pre-draft ranking: No. 11 overall
As a prospect: “Accuracy, touch and timing are his best traits. He throws from a balanced base and gets the ball out on time. He lacks ideal mobility, and turnovers have been an issue (26 INTs and seven fumbles lost in 30 starts), but the reality is that Rosen carries an elite grade based solely on his tape. If a quarterback-needy team at the top of the draft passes on Rosen, it will have everything to do with concerns regarding his durability and football character.”
In the NFL: Rosen won just three of his 13 starts in 2018 and threw three more interceptions than touchdowns on the year. His first season in the NFL didn’t have many Highlights, but he was also victim to a weak supporting cast in Arizona. With trade rumors already starting for the former UCLA quarterback, Rosen might soon have a change-of-scenery.
Pre-draft ranking: No. 12 overall
As a prospect: “Allen has elite arm strength and his accuracy is good when his feet are set properly. Also has better-than-average accuracy when on the move. Allen is one of the most physically gifted quarterbacks to come out of college in the past five years. His ceiling is incredible but so too is his bust potential. The team/situation he’s drafted into will be far more important to his success than his draft slot.”
In the NFL: Allen’s arm strength and mobility were on full display in Year 1. He rushed for over 100 yards twice and totaled eight scores on the ground. However, his 5-7 record and a 52.8 percent completion rate show there is plenty of room for improvement in Year 2.
Current ranking for 2019: No. 12 overall
As a prospect: “Murray is an aggressive playmaker but also displays good overall decision-making skills and shows poise under pressure. He has fast eyes when making full-field progression reads and displays natural touch and timing as a passer, throwing accurately from a variety of different arm angles. In the right system, Kyler can be an electrifying playmaker at the quarterback position. But there are unique risks, including his lean frame and lack of experience.”
Todd McShay reacts to the news that the Giants will meet with Kyler Murray, saying New York has to take a quarterback in this year’s draft.
Current ranking for 2019: No. 13 overall
As a prospect: “Haskins is a gifted pocket passer with prototypical size and very good arm strength and accuracy. He shows excellent natural touch and anticipation as a passer and can also throw accurately on the run and from multiple arm angles. But his decision-making skills begin to diminish under pressure, and he comes with just decent speed and below-average elusiveness.”
Pre-draft ranking: No. 18 overall
As a prospect: “Russell Wilson is the closest NFL comparison for Mayfield in our opinion, but there are still some obvious flaws in that comp. Mayfield is one of the most polarizing players in this class, in large part due to his outstanding football character and leadership but debatable maturity. Mayfield grades out as a good NFL starter, but he clearly comes with some red flags (measureables, footwork, played in spread offense). Mayfield is a likely top-10 pick in the 2018 NFL draft.”
In the NFL: Mayfield was everything the Browns hoped he would be when he took over for Tyrod Taylor as the team’s starting QB. He threw 27 touchdowns to 14 interceptions and completed 63.8 percent of his passes. With Odell Beckham Jr. now in town and a year of experience under his belt, expectations are high for Mayfield heading into 2019.
Current ranking for 2019: No. 18 overall
As a prospect: “Lock is a good-sized, big-armed QB with above-average athleticism and speed for the position. He displays good overall deep-ball trajectory and placement. However, his footwork is inconsistent, as he has a tendency to open his front hip. Lock can throw accurately and with zip from many different arm angles and when completely off-balance. He has the tools to develop into a quality NFL starter.”
Pre-draft ranking: No. 27 overall
As a prospect: “Trubisky was only a one-year starter (13 career starts) and will need time to develop and hone his craft. He’s an accurate passer with the frame and quality pocket awareness, mobility and arm strength to develop into an effective NFL starter.”
In the NFL: Trubisky had an up-and-down rookie campaign, in part due to his inexperience and in part due to a lack of offensive playmakers. But in 2018, he led Chicago to 11 wins in his 14 starts and threw 24 touchdowns.
Pre-draft ranking: No. 28 overall
As a prospect: “Watson’s ability to transition to a pro-style offense will ultimately dictate whether or not he succeeds in the NFL. A proven winner, there’s no denying he has the physical tools and rare intangibles to develop into a franchise quarterback.”
In the NFL: Watson was tremendous in his rookie season (19 TDs and 8 INTs) before tearing his ACL. He made some rookie mistakes, but his athleticism and playmaking ability were undeniable. And it showed again last season, when he won 11 games and managed 4,165 passing yards, 26 touchdowns and only nine interceptions despite taking 62 sacks behind a weak offensive line.
Current ranking for 2019: No. 39 overall
As a prospect: “Finley has adequate-to-good delivery quickness with an over-the-top stroke, but velocity is average on zip throws. Still, he shows very good touch and anticipatory accuracy. He senses pressure and knows when to climb and when to slide laterally, all while keeping his eyes downfield. However, Finley will make two or three poor decisions per game and occasionally misses easy throws.”
Pre-draft ranking: No. 44 overall
As a prospect: “Only the third FBS player with multiple seasons of 5,000 total yards of offense, Mahomes faces a steep learning curve transitioning to a pro-style offense and his mechanics are all over the place. However, he’s a hard worker with an outstanding skill set, including a powerful arm and terrific arm talent.”
In the NFL: I was obviously a little low on Mahomes, as were most. He needed the right situation and he got it with Andy Reid in Kansas City, benefiting from a year behind Alex Smith. Mahomes was outstanding in his first season as a starter, winning MVP behind more than 5,000 passing yards, 50 touchdown throws, only 12 interceptions and 13 wins — including one in the playoffs. The future is bright for the big-armed QB.
Pre-draft ranking: No. 38 overall
As a prospect: “At just under 6-foot-7 and 244 pounds, Lynch has one of the strongest arms and highest ceilings in this class. He’s an above-average athlete, showing the ability to extend plays with his mobility and pick up first downs when he scrambles. Lynch lacks polish, though. He played in a scheme that simplified his reads, and he doesn’t always see the entire field despite his height. He fails to locate the open man at times.”
In the NFL: Lynch has had a disappointing career so far, starting only four games. He signed on as a backup in Seattle in January.
Pre-draft ranking: No. 43 overall
As a prospect: “Jackson is a very difficult evaluation, as no player in college football the past two years has been more explosive with the ball in his hands. But he needs a lot of refinement as a passer — specifically when it comes to his inconsistencies with progression reads, anticipation and ball placement. There’s also legitimate concern about his potential durability given his slight frame (6-2, 216) and inevitable high volume of carries in the NFL. Simply put; he’s too dynamic not to find ways to get the ball in his hands, but he might not be refined enough as a passer right now to hand him the keys to an NFL offense as a rookie.”
In the NFL: Jackson won six of his seven starts and threw six touchdowns to just three interceptions. But it was his mobility that really popped, as his gained nearly 700 yards and scored five touchdowns on the ground. It will be telling to see how Jackson performs when asked to throw 30-plus times in a game.