Rookie QBs Hope to Buck History and Make Immediate Impact

browns mayfield

Jay Pryce

Tuesday, May 1, 2018 2:49 PM UTC

Tuesday, May. 1, 2018 2:49 PM UTC

This year, for just the third time in NFL Draft history, five quarterbacks were selected in the first round. Now the question is, will any of them make a significant contribution as a rookie?

NFL Draft: First-Round QB Frenzy

NFL franchises chose 13 quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft, which is roughly the average total taken in any give year. The number of high-profile picks, however, proved more than usual. For just the third time (1983, 1999) in the common draft era, five signal-callers were selected in the first round: Baker Mayfield (Browns), Sam Darnold (Jets), Josh Allen (Bills), Josh Rosen (Cardinals), and Lamar Jackson (Ravens). The takeaway: Many teams are desperate for a franchise star at the game’s most crucial position.

Will any rookie QBs make a significant contribution this season? Do not look past these first five when evaluating the question.

Fun fact: Tom Brady was a sixth-round draft choice. We know! For nearly two decades, NFL fans watching a Patriots game are reminded of the fact. The five-time Super Bowl champ is clearly an outlier. In fact, not including Brady, just three QBs drafted in the fifth round or lower have even attempted 1,000 passes in the NFL since 2001 (Derek Anderson, Matt Cassel, Ryan Fitzpatrick). Numerous studies show a direct correlation to quarterback success and draft position; the higher up the board, the better a NFL career.

This is especially true for rookies, particularly those looking to make an immediate impact. Per Football Outsiders, since 1978, only two quarterbacks drafted beyond the 40th pick have even started all 16 games in their first season (Russell Wilson, Seahawks; Dak Prescott, Cowboys). Prescott, a fourth-round pick, won the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2016 after tossing for 3,667 yards, 23 TDs, and 4 INTs on 311-of-459 passing. He also played behind one of the best offensive lines in recent memory, and was loaded with playmakers — not a realistic scenario for most first-year quarterbacks.

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Well, the bettors were impressed with the Browns draft. They are by far our biggest exposure to win next yr's Super Bowl. Liability is 3 times greater than the next biggest exposure - the Vikings.

— Dave Mason (@DaveMasonBOL) May 1, 2018
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Mayfield to Make an Impact?

Most rookie quarterbacks need developmental work. Darnold is just 20 years old with arguably the most upside of all drafted, but has issues with ball security, his throwing mechanics, and will likely need more seasoning before successful navigating NFL defenses. Allen possesses similar flaws. At least since high school, he has never finished a season with a completion percentage higher than 59.5. That’s problematic. Jackson, meanwhile, is a non-traditional, hybrid passer who will need a team to develop an offense around his strengths. The Louisville product could be the best of the bunch, but he'll have little impact if given the opportunity in Baltimore this year. The Ravens’ offense, with Joe Flacco under center, is designed for a pocket passer.

This leaves Mayfield and Rosen as the two selections likely to make the biggest impact in 2018. The Cardinals are an enigma with a new coach, new defensive scheme, and bevy of new offensive talent. Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon were brought in during the offseason as a 1-2 punch at quarterback after Carson Palmer retired, but given the former’s injury problems and the fact the team is in a rebuilding mode, Rosen’s time could come sooner rather than later.

The Browns traded for Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor in the offseason to serve as starter. Expect to see him under center in the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against the Steelers, but for how long is anyone’s guess. Coach Hue Jackson told the press over the weekend Mayfield is “is going to compete (for the job); however that unfolds, it unfolds.” Added Jackson: “If Baker can understand the National Football League and all the rigors and the grinding that you have to go through. ... I’m not going to ever stop a player from being the best he can be.” Sounds like the leash is short and competition stern at quarterback in Cleveland.

Bettors Overly Bullish on Browns?

Dave Mason at BetOnline tweeted on Tuesday that their biggest liability to win the upcoming Super Bowl is the Browns. Yep. You read that correctly. Their exposure is three times greater on Cleveland than the next most favorable team, the Vikings. It’s very early in the futures market and limits low, but back off expectations, folks.

Since 1990, 14 teams have taken a quarterback with No. 1 pick overall. Only two have made the playoffs: the 2004 Chargers with Drew Brees as quarterback (Philip Rivers played eight snaps all season) and the 2012 Colts with Andrew Luck under center. Both teams lost in the wild-card round.

Browns Betting Angle

Regardless of whether Taylor or Mayfield starts for the Browns, expect the offense to struggle. Only two of the 14 teams to take a No. 1 QB overall since 1990 have posted more than the NFL point average (21.8) from the prior season: the 2004 Chargers (27.2) and 2011 Panthers (25.4). They average 19.0 points per game as a group.

Prescribing to the “you’re only good as your last outing” theory, when one of the QB-drafting teams (2018 Browns) comes off a loss as an underdog, the "under" is 51-28 next time out. Averaging 17 points in these contests, one can assume a sputtering offense is not something that fixes itself overnight. More analysis should obviously be taken into consideration before making your NFL picks, but this angle is a decent foundation from which to build.

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