Scouting the Top-5 QBs in the Draft. Will the Ravens Grab One?
It’s draft night and the position everyone will be talking about will be quarterback. Some people think up to six could be taken in round 1. It’s possible. But not likely. For the Ravens though, you hope that six QBs have 1st round grades and live up to it. However, the first three picks off the board could easily be quarterbacks. Before we take a look at the names, let me take you back to a piece I wrote back in March.
Long story short, Could 2019 GM Eric DeCosta push for a guy this year that he can start to build around when he takes over for good soon, if Flacco also continues his downward trend. Most importantly, though, opportunity might not be there for a top flight QB in 2018. That means it might not be there in 2019, 2020 either. It might be a dire need for the Ravens by then. So if the opportunity is there, you take it, right? Don’t pass and hope the stars align just right in another year.
So could the Ravens take a QB with their first pick at #16? Would you want them to if one is available? Here is a look at the teams picking ahead of them and their level of need at quarterback.
Here are the consensus top-five quarterbacks (in alphabetical order) and my take on each one.
Discuss your thoughts on these soon to be NFL QBs on our message board.
Josh Allen – Wyoming
Allen is one of the most pro-ready quarterbacks as far as style of play goes. He ran a lot of plays from under center. A lot of play action, a lot of bootlegs to both sides which he executed well on. He can make every throw on the field with plenty of zip on the ball thanks to his large 6’5” frame. He is strong and can shake defenders to keep plays going. He’ll even run designed QB runs once in while which is something you’d expect more from Lamar Jackson than Josh Allen.
But Allen is a raw talent in my eyes. The sky is the limit for him though. His ceiling could be one of Ben Roethlisberger’s toughness combined with Aaron Rodgers feel for throwing on the run and playing in adverse conditions. Right now though Allen relies too much on his strong arm. Sometimes he won’t get his lower body engaged on throws and flick of the arm passes fly errant.
Allen played a lot of good games for Wyoming. He wasn’t helped by his receivers at all who dropped a number of his passes and lacked much separation ability. But when the competition on defense was elevated against Iowa or Boise State, Allen’s play suffered a little. But please, stop pointing to college stats! Yes, he “only” had 16 TDs in 11 games. He played in a pro-style offense with bad receivers. Not running 90 plays a game at Oklahoma in ideal weather conditions against Big 12 defenses, if you can even call them defenses, like Baker Mayfield did.
Summary: Allen has all the physical gifts. Has the best arm in the draft. But will take a year or so to develop or refine the skills necessary to have success in the NFL. Then again, if we’re talking about skills outside of the arm, Peyton Manning had a hall of fame career despite having god awful footwork. I mentioned the high ceiling for Allen, I think the floor comp for him is Joe Flacco. Physically gifted, will struggle mightily at times, but will have to tools to do great things at times too. Allen is a safe 1st round selection.
Sam Darnold – USC
Darnold, like Allen, also comes from a pro-style of offense. More shotgun than Allen, but less spread out air-raid style than Baker Mayfield was playing in. Darnold might be the most accurate of the six quarterbacks here. I know what you’re thinking? How can he be the most accurate when he threw 20 interceptions in his last 20 games? I think his ability to go through progressions is a little exaggerated. Many times on tape I saw him going to his first option, open or not. If the first option isn’t there he’ll step up into the pocket and look underneath, but he will take off, tucking and running quickly. He’ll let that internal clock in the pocket only get to 2 instead of 3.
Darnold also has a long windup that tips off defenders a split second early when the pass is coming. At NFL speed that split second can be the difference in fitting it in that window, or throwing a pick.
However, when Darnold is on, he is on. He routinely hits guys in the numbers. Leads receivers when they need to be led, hits the back shoulder on back shoulder throws. He’s fundamentally sound in his footwork and displays a nice touch on short passes. He can rocket the ball in there to the sidelines, or float on over the linebackers up the seam. He doesn’t throw the prettiest spiral through which will make some balls tough to grab.
I’m a staunch critic that college statistics don’t matter when taking into account draft status or their relationship to pro ability. If I feel that way about the good stats like yards and touchdowns, then I have to feel that way about the alarming amount of turnovers Darnold was responsible for as well.
Summary: You can’t teach accuracy and Darnold has that aspect down pat. Decision making might be an issue, and at USC they use virtual reality to teach decision making to QBs. Other schools are implementing this too, but the results are unknown. Other than it takes some strain off the arm. His inconsistent games make me think his ceiling is that of a Kirk Cousins, with his floor being competent backup. If you need someone to step in day one and play, he can do it. But I don’t see him as an elite QB in the league at any point.
Lamar Jackson – Louisville
Lamar Jackson looks like Tom Brady standing in the pocket. Ok, that’s a bit of a hot take. But seriously, when you watch Jackson standing in the pocket his feet are quiet. He moves from one read to the next with one fluid motion. Just like Brady does. He stands up very tall, almost stiff. You can tell because when he takes off running his first step almost looks like a stumble.
Jackson has unfairly been given the title of “a guy who just runs around.” Yes, Louisville does design quite a few designed runs for him. But they are by design. About ¾ of his rushing yards came on designed runs when only ¼ came from scrambling. I also noticed on tape he sees the field a lot better on designed run plays versus when a play breaks down and he has to get on the move.
It’s also not fair to call him a guy who runs around because he will stand in the pocket sometimes way too long to a fault. He’s got the talented legs and sometimes won’t go to that well.
Jackson can also throw the ball, in case you we’re wondering. I like seeing what players do in crunch time. In his tape of the Florida State game, tied up in the final minute, he delivered not one, but two deep passes to the endzone that we’re right on point and just dropped by his receivers. Instead of beating up his guys, he converted a 1st down on an intermediate throw that go them into field goal range with a few seconds left.
But I don’t think Jackson is the complete package at QB. His accuracy wains when he’s on the move, and he has a low release point with that quick wrist flick delivery of his.
NFL.com compared him to Michael Vick, and I can certainly see that comparison. However, I don’t think Jackson has the ability to make something out of nothing. I think he’ll need to be put in an offense where they will run a run-pass option style for him.
Summary: On designed runs he’ll be as unstoppable as Vick. But I don’t think he’ll be like a Steve McNair when it comes to making something happen when the pass play breaks down. His floor or ceiling will depend on the team that designs plays for him. I don’t think there is a good comp out there for him because of the size difference between guys like Jackson and Cam Newton. Lamar Jackson is something else. If a team is ready to design a playbook around him, Jackson will be worthy of a first round pick for that team.
Baker Mayfield – Oklahoma
One thing I’m not going to do is knock on Mayfield’s height. He’s 6’1”. Big deal. Drew Brees and Russ Wilson are undersized and that doesn’t hurt them. Speaking of height, Mayfield doesn’t throw many, if any passes that I saw that were batted down by the line.
But the passes he does throw are mostly short. The ones deep down field went to wide open receivers with room to spare to adjust and make a catch on balls that might have been off target. The intermediate game is one that looks like it could give Mayfield trouble at the next level.
I see Baker Mayfield being a product of Oklahoma, of the Big 12, of the wide open spread style of offense. Moving pockets, swing passes. On the few occasions where he made a pro style drop back read, and had to throw an intermediate pass around lurking linebackers or fast closing safeties, he didn’t look good.
The NFL is starting to evolve (well, outside of Baltimore). Teams are starting to build around their players strengths. Look at Doug Pederson did with the Eagles, what Sean McVay did with the Rams, and what Bill Belichick has always done. In a lot of interviews with Mayfield coaches wanted to know more about the Oklahoma offense. Run pass option is one thing. Spreading it out and running it like Chip Kelly failed at doing in Philly years back is another. Yes it’s smart to adapt to players strengths. No, I don’t think radical change to fit Mayfield’s skills set at Oklahoma will work. If you could run a 50-point per game offense in the NFL, they would have figured it out by now.
Mayfield is the kind of player who wears his emotions on his sleeves. He’s not shy. That works if you’re Phillip Rivers. That doesn’t work if you’re Johnny Manziel. I’ve seen comps of all kinds relating to Mayfield, but I think based on readiness for the pro-game, size, and attitude, I’ll give the comp to Johnny Manziel. I think Mayfield will be a bust I would stay away. At best, drafting as a lottery ticket if he’s hanging around in round 3, which won’t be the case.
Rumor is he could go #1 overall to the Browns which would be a very Browns pick and just about cement that bust status before he even leaves the stage.
Summary: I think he’s a product of the system. I think too many teams are asking questions about the off field issues he’s had and not enough about football. I don’t think he’s a fit.
Josh Rosen – UCLA
Rosen graced the cover of ESPN the Magazine in their latest issue leading up to the draft. He and Sam Darnold were listed as the two likely QBs to go number one overall depending on the publication prior to 2017.
Josh Rosen is strictly a pocket passer. When I watch the tape he looks like a Matt Ryan clone back there in size and motion. Rosen looks well advanced in things like pocket awareness and going through all his reads. He’s got that innate ability to look off defenders one way and throw back the other. It’s obvious that Rosen has great chemistry with his receivers. The balls on out routes and slants are out of his hand before the receiver turns around, and it’s right there where it needs to be.
Rosen’s accuracy slips a little bit at times. Even on easy passes which is kind of shocking to see. In fact, when facing blitz pressure he completed 63% of his passes. So when you see an easy one sail high you just wonder, what was that? Especially when on the move. Throwing on the run isn’t his strong suit.
Josh Rosen might be the opposite of Josh Allen. I mentioned how Allen had all the physical tools to play the position but is raw in the little things. Rosen does all the little thing right in footwook, awareness, looking off, shoulder fakes. But Rosen doesn’t possess the physicality. He doesn’t use enough leg drive on deep passes. The long balls hang too long and at the next level defenses will be able to play on that. It’s a good thing he has the chemistry to throw the ball before the receiver turns around. Because those out routes will become easy picks for better DBs if he doesn’t drive it in there.
Summary: With his style of play at UCLA, Rosen shouldn’t need much seasoning. If anything he’ll just need to hit the weight room to maybe add a little bulk. Some scouts have durability concerns. Some also say he’s hard to coach. I can’t of course speak to any of that because it doesn’t show up on tape. I think a Matt Ryan comp is a little generous given the head scratching throws at time. But I can see Rosen starting on day one and holding his own in this league. Phillip Rivers might be a better comp. Easily a first round pick.
Of these quarterbacks, I’ll rank them like this:
1. Josh Allen: Give me the physical gifts and a coach that can refine the mechanics. Highest Ceiling.
2. Josh Rosen: Figure out how to get more zip on his throws. Safest Pick.
3a. Sam Darnold: If you are not a team that employs what Lamar Jackson can do, then Darnold will be more of what you might be looking for. Accuracy is a trait that can’t be taught. Got the skills to throw rockets, or put a light touch when needed. Inconsistencies worry me though.
3b. Lamar Jackson: Must be paired with a team that will work with his skills. He can drop back and sling it. But designed runs are the x-factor that will make defenses alter their plans by having a spying LB in play at all times.
5. Baker Mayfield: Good luck. Lowest floor.