While the 2018 quarterback class didn’t reach exceptional expectations of being the best since 2004, the class does have more star power than recent years. Top names like Josh Rosen (UCLA), Sam Darnold (USC) and Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) all produced great seasons, showing tools, upside and pro potential to be highly successful NFL quarterbacks. All endured challenges and inconsistencies during their college careers, and will have many questions and concerns to answer about how high their ceilings can be at the next level.
This isn’t a mock draft — it’s not a prediction of where these players will be drafted —the QBs are placed based on the best fit for their future. The best fit for these prospects consists of their tools, personalities, readiness and a team’s roster availability. A lot can change between now and the day of the draft. Many teams can enter a bidding war for any quarterbacks who find themselves in free agency, thus canceling their need for a quarterback in the draft.
Maybe Josh Rosen goes to the Cleveland Browns, or maybe he won’t according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Maybe Darnold’s ugly ending to his career causes a major drop in the draft.
There’s always a QB that flies up the big boards after turning heads at their pro day workout or the NFL combine, is this year’s example Josh Allen?
Or will Mason Rudolph be the one to quietly impress before a team reaches on him early in the draft?
Here’s where I’d place the top passers in the draft class.
Honorable mention: Quinton Flowers, USF
Tanner Lee, Nebraska
Junior | 6’4”, 220 lbs
Tanner Lee isn’t going to step into an organization and be a franchise quarterback, but when given a clean pocket he can sling it with the best of ‘em. His mechanics are decent — he must avoid throwing off his back foot — but his release and footwork are both clean. He has desirable size and strength at 6’4”, 220, are what most NFL teams look for, and has intangibles that shows he can succeed in an NFL offense. What troubles most is his wild inconsistencies. According to SB Nation’s Matt Brown, Lee has never completed 60 percent of his passes in a season, topping out at 57.5 percent this season. Additionally, Lee threw 16 interceptions, more than any quarterback in the Power 5 and only behind Central Michigan’s Shane Morris nationally, who threw 17. And that’s hardly a single season aberration either, since Lee tossed 14 picks for Tulane in 2014 and 37 over his three-year college career. Needless to say, Lee trusts his big arm too much, and could use a few years on the bench to slow the game down for himself.
Best NFL fit: Career backup for the Chicago Bears
Assuming the Bears move on from third-string quarterback Mark Sanchez, Tanner Lee could take his place while being groomed by backup quarterback Mike Glennon. It’s clear that Mitchell Trubisky is the franchise QB for the Bears, but Lee can learn a lot from Glennon on the sidelines while eventually taking his job as the backup QB once Glennon’s three-year contract expires.
Mike White, Western Kentucky
Senior | 6’4”, 225 lbs
Mike White ran for his life at times during his career at Western Kentucky (sacked 44 times this season per ESPN), and throwing eight interceptions is actually impressive with the lack of time he had in the pocket. Throwing for 4177 yards and 26 touchdowns is even more impressive. White showed his ability as a passer throughout the season by overcoming WKU’s poor offensive line by completing 65.7 percent of his passes. While White isn’t going to run past many defenders, he is able to buy himself time in and out of the pocket with his clean footwork and mature decision-making. White was constantly in the shotgun at WKU, and will have to make his reads quicker downfield — especially on long pass plays. He also needs to refine his deep ball accuracy, as he has a tendency to over throw or under throw streaking receivers downfield.
Best NFL fit: Career backup for the Detroit Lions
The Detroit Lions only have two quarterbacks on the current roster, Matthew Stafford and Jake Rudock. Given that there’s a need to add a third for depth purposes, Mike White makes a ton of sense as a late-round pick. Stafford is the face of the franchise, while Jake Rudock hasn’t solidified himself as the definitive backup. Having a backup competition between White and Rudock could benefit the team by deeming a proven backup to Stafford, while improving depth by adding a third QB to the roster.
Kurt Benkert, Virginia
Senior | 6’3”, 220 lbs
Kurt Benkert is being unjustifiably over looked as a prospect headed into the draft. Benkert isn’t getting a ton of publicity, but he has a chance to rise up draft boards into the second or third round. His athleticism and pocket presence allows him to avoid tackles and make strong throws on the run. He’s also not afraid to take a shellacking from defenders when making a throw under pressure. His strong arm and long ball touch can earn him a starting gig for a team who is willing to give him a chance. Benkert’s maturity to read defenses and go through progressions shows he’s more polished than most quarterbacks in this draft.
Best NFL fit: Starter/backup for the Minnesota Vikings
Unless Minnesota still plans to use Teddy Bridgewater and/or Sam Bradford as long-term answers, the Vikings can potentially sign Case Keenum — who has played terrific for them — to a one-year prove it deal, and draft Benkert with plans of eventually promoting him to the starting role.
Luke Falk, Washington State
Senior | 6’4”, 223 lbs
An alarming, underwhelming senior year for Luke Falk may have ruined his previous first-round draft stock. Falk can pick apart a defense if he has time, making many NFL throws. With ideal size, mechanics and quick release, Falk caught the attention of many NFL teams. While he’s not a long-ball assassin, he can gas a defense by dinking-and-dunking for four quarters with his excellent accuracy. The baffling down year may raise questions to how well he sees the field and makes progressions. Falk set career highs in interceptions (13) and sacks (39), while throwing for a career low 6.73 yards per attempt and a 137 quarterback rating. Falk must ace all pre-draft tests and workouts to rebuild his stock which has been heavily damaged. Operating under Mike Leach’s air raid offense — one that isn’t used in the NFL — doesn’t help Falk’s case either.
Best NFL fit: Starter/backup for Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jacksonville Jaguars are committed to starting QB Blake Bortles...for now. Even if they enter the 2018-19 season with Bortles as the starter, there’s nothing wrong with bringing in Falk and developing him for “depth” (competition).
Josh Allen, Wyoming
Junior | 6’5”, 233 lbs
Josh Allen is another example of someone who came into the year hyped as a first-round pick but failed to meet expectations. Scouts have drooled over his size and arm strength — many have made comparisons to Joe Flacco — but Allen’s accuracy has been inconsistent and decision making has left scouts feeling indifferent. Allen has the biggest boom-or-bust potential in the draft. Beyond Allen’s athleticism and escapability, his footwork needs polishing when avoiding the rush and making throws under duress. Allen can make any throw at the next level, but he must sit a year and learn behind a veteran. He was apart of one of the worst supporting casts in college football — anywhere from missed blocks to dropped balls — and can’t afford to relive another nightmare if he’s to regain his confidence. Allen has all the talent in the world that still hasn’t been put together...yet.
Best NFL fit: Starter for any AFC North team
Look no further than the AFC North as a possible destination for Josh Allen, as a case can be made for all four teams. Joe Flacco will be 33 years old next week. Ben Roethlisberger will be 36 in March. The Bengals may be ready to move on from Andy Dalton according to NBC, and the Browns could draft a QB later in the draft oppose to the first round, should they decide Kirk Cousins is the immediate solution. Any of the four teams could sit Allen for a couple of years and groom him into their next franchise quarterback.
Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Senior | 6’5”, 230 lbs
Mason Rudolph enjoyed a stellar season to end his college career. He posted career highs in yards (4904), touchdowns (37), completion percentage (65) and passer rating (170.6). Like Allen, Rudolph has terrific size and strength, combined with decent athleticism, which gives defenders a challenge to tackle. Rudolph has tremendous patience and sees the field well. He’ll very rarely force a throw or make any head-shaking decisions. His arm strength is adequate, but will never be among tops in the NFL. Rudolph possesses excellent touch to all parts of the field, and throws a very catchable ball downfield. Like Falk, Rudolph plays in a quarterback-friendly offense that attributed to his video game numbers, which won’t fully translate to the NFL. He’ll have to develop as a passer from under center -- something he rarely did at Oklahoma State.
Best NFL fit: Starter for the Buffalo Bills
The Buffalo Bills are never really committed to Tyrod Taylor. A late first-round selection for Rudolph and the Bills would be a perfect match. There won’t be nearly as much pressure on Rudolph to perform out of the gate like there will be with top-10 picks, and the Bills can afford to ease Rudolph onto the field. If the Bills pass on Rudolph, watch out for New England. The Patriots can swoop in and draft their heir apparent to Tom Brady now that Jimmy Garoppolo has found a home in San Fransisco.
Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Junior | 6’3”, 211 lbs
Last year’s Heisman has been the most electric talent in college football during his time at Louisville. Lamar Jackson has a chance to be a star in the NFL, but let’s hit the brakes on him starting in year one. His arm strength is among the best in the class, as he throws deep balls with a simple flick of the wrist. His athleticism, vision, escapability and rushing ability are all elite, but he has struggled to throw with consistent accuracy. Additionally, Jackson gets caught trying to do too much at times, failing to abandon a play when nothing is there. Jackson has received comparisons to Michael Vick, which is accurate, but he must improve on decision making, progression reads and touch. He needs time to develop, and a coach who is willing to gear the offense toward his strengths. Lamar Jackson will never thrive in a traditional pro style offense, but he can transcend an offense into a defense’s worst nightmare every Sunday.
Best NFL fit: Star for the Arizona Cardinals
Hard Rock Stadium would be buzzing, and the Miami Dolphins would be nationally relevant if they were to pick Jackson and groom him into a star. However, Miami has so many pressing needs and Ryan Tannehill will return next year as the starter, regardless of who is available, minimizing any chance the Dolphins take a chance at a unique QB who doesn’t fit a traditional NFL offense. Instead, Jackson will go from a college Cardinal to a professional one. The Arizona Cardinals are expected to move on from Carson Palmer after he announced his retirement. What better way to start a rebuilding process than to insert the most exciting college quarterback in recent years? A Lamar Jackson-David Johnson duo in a read-option offense? Horrifying.
Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
Senior | 6’1”, 220 lbs
Baker Mayfield was the best quarterback in college football this season, and deservingly captured the Heisman trophy. As the season progressed, Baker’s draft stock sky-rocketed until the final whistle in Oklahoma’s heartbreaking loss to Georgia in the Rose Bowl. Mayfield is the toughest QB a team will ever find. He’ll talk smack, grab his junk and then burn your secondary with his cannon arm or scrambling speed. He has had his share of immaturity issues, and he must prove he can be relied upon off the field, but Mayfield is the leader on the field that your organization can rally around. Mayfield is a strong, undersized gamer who is the most polarizing player in this year’s draft. The high-energy QB needs to learn to channel his emotions and keep himself focused against competition. Give him the ball in a shootout, and you won’t be disappointed with the result -- he’ll keep fighting until the clock hits zero. He’ll need to work more from under center and remain patient in the pocket to deliver throws, rather than falling in love with a reckless Johnny Manziel-type play style, but there’s nothing in his game that suggests he can’t refine his game — especially only throwing six interceptions this year. Mayfield has a lot of Philip Rivers in him; if you’re playing with him you’ll love him, but if you’re playing against him you’ll hate him.
Best NFL fit: Star for the Miami Dolphins or New York Jets
Mayfield has the intangibles and talent to be a star quarterback in the NFL if he can keep his head straight. Miami would be a perfect home for Baker Mayfield. Alpha dog and QB guru Adam Gase can polish Baker Mayfield into a star and leader once Tannehill’s time has passed. Combine alpha dogs Gase, Mayfield and Jarvis Landry, and all of a sudden, this team has some much-needed attitude.
However, if the New York Jets decide to draft Mayfield sixth overall, he’ll be the most hated athlete in Miami for the next decade for the amount of times he’ll burn them...and then grab his junk toward the sideline.
Sam Darnold, USC
Sophomore | 6’4”, 220 lbs
The conundrum of Sam Darnold left scouts scratching their heads after this season. He came into the year as arguably the best QB in college football. However, Darnold struggled mightily with decision making and vision, forcing throws that are frowned upon in the NFL. Darnold doesn’t have an elite arm, but he’s an explosive thrower who can squeeze throws into any tight window. Darnold is expected to still be the No. 1 pick according to most media outlets, but any team who drafts him must refrain from starting him too early. Darnold’s interceptions aren’t as much of a concern as the media are making it — think of Deshaun Watson’s struggles last year — but Darnold looked rattled and overwhelmed against Ohio State’s all-pro defense in the Cotton Bowl. Darnold can use his athleticism to extend plays and gain first-down yardage, but his poise to keep his eyes down field under pressure is impressive. Darnold’s ability to throw his receivers open with touch shows people he’s not far away. But he’s not as close as we think, either. Also, let’s not forget about the stereotype about USC quarterbacks, something Darnold will have to overcome.
Best NFL fit: Starter for the Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns are close to overcoming misery. Let Deshone Kizer sling it around for another year to see what he’s worth, and let Darnold take over in 2019 with the intention to compete for a playoff spot.
Josh Rosen, UCLA
Junior | 6’4”, 220 lbs
Josh Rosen seems to be UCLA’s version of Jay Cutler off the field, with his phlegmatic personality. For his sake, let’s hope Rosen isn’t Jay Cutler on the field. Rosen isn’t the prospect Andrew Luck was, but he has the potential to be a stud. Rosen’s big arm stands out as NFL-ready, but his accuracy and touch can beat most coverages. His release and pocket presence makes up for his lack of mobility, as he extends plays and throws on the run, but don’t expect him to run for a first down. Rosen must avoid taking risks when under pressure and improve his vision downfield. He’s been questioned as a teammate and leader by anonymous coaches. Rosen has also had a few serious injuries, never allowing him to play a full season. There’s no questioning his elite arm talent — we saw him outperform Darnold when the two played this year — but it takes more than being a great thrower to be a great quarterback.
Best NFL fit: Star for the New York Giants or Denver Broncos
Rosen can be a franchise-changing quarterback, but he also can be a huge bust. He made it clear that he doesn’t want to be apart of Cleveland’s organization, but learning from Eli Manning in New York or John Elway in Denver would be the best fit for his personality. Manning or Elway can influence him to be a better leader and teammate, while bringing the best out of him on the field.