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The 2018 NFL Draft will be the year of the quarterback

Could five quarterbacks be selected in the first round next year?

NCAA Football: California at Southern California
Sam Darnold passes against the California. 
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s NFL, it’s never too early to assess the upcoming quarterback draft class. The 2017 quarterback class was weak, and it’s unlikely to see any of them take the field for the first game of the season. But, 2018’s class is already gaining a lot of hype as a possible quarterback-heavy first round. Could 2018 be the year of the quarterback that so many NFL franchises have been waiting for?

Of course, many things can change between now and the 2018 NFL Draft. Last year, University of Miami quarterback Brad Kaaya and Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly were both expected to be high draft picks by major media outlets. Neither lived up to expectations, as both had underwhelming seasons for their teams. Kaaya was drafted No. 215 overall, and Kelly was the last pick in the draft (253 overall).

While it’s impossible to predict the future, let's look at the possible quarterback prospects heading into next year's draft.

Sam Darnold, 6’4” and 225 pounds, Southern California

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Penn State vs Southern California
Darnold throwing the ball against Penn State.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Darnold had a magical freshman year, throwing for 3086 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He topped that by adding a dramatic Rose Bowl victory against Penn State, finishing the season in style. His prototypical size, accuracy, touch and footwork have caught the attention of many NFL scouts as a complete-package quarterback. He has a strong arm, but his ability to go through his progressions while keeping his eyes downfield is what impresses many — not many freshman quarterbacks can do that in today’s game. Darnold has a bit of Ben Roethlisberger in him with the ability to become an escape artist in the pocket, slipping his way out of tackles to make strong throws while on the run. It’s not guaranteed he’ll declare for the 2018 NFL Draft, but if he has another fantastic season, it’d be surprising to see him stay in school.

Josh Allen, 6’5” and 222 pounds, Wyoming

NCAA Football: Poinsettia Bowl-Brigham Young vs Wyoming
Allen looks to pass against Brigham Young.
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Allen nearly declared for the 2017 draft, but chose to stay in school for another year after posting solid numbers in his sophomore year. He threw for 3203 yards, 28 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His gunslinging mentality got himself into trouble a few times last year — most notably against Nebraska (five interceptions) in a 52-17 loss. Despite his intriguing numbers, prototypical size and big-time arm, many questions need to be answered. He only has one year of experience, he’s played against inferior talent, and completion percentage (56 percent) suggests his accuracy and decision making have room for improvement. If he can improve his efficiency and maturity, he’ll be selected in the top 10. The tools are all there.

Josh Rosen, 6’4” and 218 pounds, UCLA

NCAA Football: UCLA at Arizona State
Rosen makes a pass under pressure against Arizona State.
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Rosen is arguably the most talented quarterback in this draft class, and possesses the highest ceiling out of any of them. After throwing for over 3,500 yards in his freshman year, he was on track to have a similar sophomore season before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. He has great arm strength and possesses impressive touch on throws downfield. Rosen’s one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the draft, and shows great accuracy when throwing off-balanced or on the run. He needs to get the ball out quicker and avoid happy feet in the pocket, but he throws well under pressure and isn’t afraid to take a hit. Rosen has the potential to be the most well-rounded, complete quarterback in this draft if he can stay healthy and continue to polish his game.

Mason Rudolph, 6’5” and 235 pounds, Oklahoma State

NCAA Football: Oklahoma State at Oklahoma
Mason Rudolph throws against Oklahoma.
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Rudolph had an outstanding junior season for Oklahoma State, throwing for 4,091 yards, 28 touchdowns and four interceptions. Despite putting up big numbers, he isn’t nationally recognized like the others on this list. He shows excellent poise in the pocket, never abandoning his mechanics. A lot of his success were deep balls on blown coverages, inflating his numbers a bit. Rudolph wasn’t asked to go through his progressions very often, and must show he can read the field at the next level. Too many plays in his career have consisted of pre-snap reads and one-read throws. His great arm allows him to consistently execute NFL throws, and he rarely turns the ball over. The system he played in skewed his numbers, but his talent can’t be ignored. If he puts up big numbers again, he could solidify his first-round status.

Luke Falk, 6’4” and 216 pounds, Washington State

NCAA Football: Holiday Bowl-Minnesota vs Washington State
Luke Falk prepares to throw a pass against the Minnesota.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Speaking of under the radar quarterbacks who post huge numbers, Falk tops the list as the most underrated. Falk threw for 4468 yards, 38 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while completing 70 percent of his passes. While Falk’s spread offense is similar to Rudolph’s, Falk is able to scan the defense and read his progressions quicker. He doesn’t have an elite arm, but it’s strong enough to make most throws at the next level. He needs to get the ball out quicker, and hold the ball higher to avoid strip sacks. Attributes like accuracy and timing are less flashy than arm strength, but equally important. Falk isn’t going to beat a team with many deep balls, but he may be the most accurate quarterback in the class, and can pick your defense apart if he’s given time.

Honorable mentions: Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson.