It seems that, every year around the NFL Draft, someone makes an argument for their team not to draft a quarterback. Why? “Because next year’s class is much better than this year’s”. This age-old expression has been done to death numerous times over the years. However, this time it might be true.
In the 2017 NFL Draft, three quarterbacks went off the board in the first 12 picks. For those counting at home, that hadn’t been done since 2012.
This was surprising for many, considering that most considered this year’s group to be lackluster. In fact, I only gave a true first-round grade to one quarterback in this year’s class: Mitch Trubisky. However, positional value reigned supreme in the end. The fact that three teams traded up in the first round for quarterbacks seems a bit desperate in some ways, right?
Just imagine what will happen next year.
It’s obviously very (!!) early in the process leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, but next year’s group has been the subject of a lot of praise. There are three quarterbacks who all stake a reasonable claim at being the best at their position in the upcoming group. Those quarterbacks, in case you were wondering, are Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen.
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Darnold has had NFL scouts drooling over him since his heroic performance in last year’s Rose Bowl. While leading USC back from a 14-point deficit to defeat Penn State, he showed poise, confidence, awareness, good decision making and a good arm. He threw for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns and completed 67.2 percent of his passes, despite not becoming the starter until the fourth game of the season. He has a weird, elongated throwing motion which will have to be fixed in the pros. However, once he has a full season under his belt, he could be the No. 1 pick in next April’s NFL Draft.
Rosen entered UCLA as a five-star recruit who became the first true freshman to start a season opener at quarterback. Since then, he has more than lived up to the hype. His 3,670 yards and 23 touchdowns made him a freshman All-American. He also started off the 2016 season well before injuring his shoulder. He has a good arm, pro-ready mechanics and has great accuracy and touch on his throws. Plus, he has experience in a pro-style offense, which most quarterbacks entering the draft don’t have nowadays. My No. 1 quarterback, Rosen can solidify his spot atop my board by staying healthy and maturing off the field.
If you thought that scouts loved Patrick Mahomes’ physical traits this year, just wait until they start talking about Josh Allen. Allen is a small-school enigma who has all of the raw tools that teams love in their quarterbacks. At 6’5″ and 222 pounds, he looks the part of a prototypical quarterback. He is a proven dual-threat quarterback, as shown by his 3,203 passing yards, 512 rushing yards and 35 total touchdowns. He has a rocket of an arm and can throw on the run with ease. However, he has some decision-making issues to iron out; He threw 15 interceptions last year at Wyoming. Plus, two of the biggest offensive weapons – Brian Hill and Tanner Gentry – both left to enter the NFL. Allen will have an uphill battle to the top of the quarterback rankings, but it’s one he can definitely win.
There are some quarterbacks that I haven’t even mentioned that still have loads of promise. Washington State’s Luke Falk has top-notch poise, accuracy and awareness. Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State is a strong-armed, big quarterback who could be worth developing. Jake Browning from Washington is a proven winner who has good touch and makes good decisions.
My biggest sleeper in this class? Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald. At 6’5″ and 230 pounds, he looks the part of an NFL quarterback. He has a strong arm and shows promise in his ball placement. He’s not just another big guy, though. This kid can run. He ran for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns, while adding on 2,423 passing yards and 21 touchdowns. Sure, he looked like a project in 2016. He’s inconsistent with his accuracy and doesn’t wow anyone as a decision maker yet. But, with some further coaching, he could rise up draft boards this season.
I’ve barely even scratched the surface in this year’s quarterback class. There are still names like Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (if he stays at quarterback) who have promise. I haven’t even gotten around to watching guys like Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, Marshall’s Chase Litton and Memphis’ Riley Ferguson.
Could a lot of things change from now until the 2018 NFL Draft? Absolutely. As some players play more games, they grow and develop. Others appear to be polar opposites of their performances the previous year. Just look at what happened this year.
Mitch Trubisky, DeShone Kizer and Patrick Mahomes weren’t considered to be first-round players. Brad Kaaya, who got picked in the sixth round, was deemed by many to be the best quarterback in the class. Everyone’s favorite sleeper prospect, Mitch Leidner, will be participating in rookie camp for the Baltimore Ravens as a tryout free agent.
Some of what I’ve said about next year’s class will come back to bite me in a few months. However, for the time being, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that next year’s quarterback class will in fact be better than next year’s.
– Jacob Infante is a National Editor for cover32 and also covers the Chicago Bears. He can be followed on Twitter @jacobinfante24.