The sophomore campaigns for the 2018 NFL Draft quarterbacks were a mixed bag. The gem of the class is obviously 2019 NFL MVP Lamar Jackson, the fifth quarterback off the board in that draft. The four selected before him had a much bumpier road.
Examining those quarterbacks, is there hope for any of them to take a third year leap?
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield raised eyebrows and expectations as a rookie after Hue Jackson was given the axe. With the additions to the offense in 2019, they were the media darling of that off-season. Unfortunately the “Mission Accomplished” banner was hung too early and the Browns were dysfunctional as they were disappointing.
Part of that’s on Freddie Kitchens, who rather quickly stamped out any goodwill he’d built up in 2018. His relationship with offensive coordinator Todd Monken fractured, causing Monken to speak out against Kitchens during the season...
“...Monken would spend time on the field before games telling opposing coaches how bad things were with the Browns, calling the team a “total mess” and saying that Kitchens’ Sunday play calling generally steered away from most things that had been in the game plan from Wednesday-Saturday.” - Zac Jackson, The Athletic
Will new head coach Kevin Stefanski salvage Baker’s career after his sophomore slump? One reason for optimism is Stefanski’s heavy use of play-action, where Baker had exponentially better efficiency in 2019. Given Baker’s tendency to break pockets early and create chaos where there is none, designing more opportunities for him to naturally be on the move could make a major difference.
Even with that change in his scheme diet, it’s foolhardy to be anything more than cautiously optimistic regarding anything with the Browns, ever.
2. JOSH ALLEN - Buffalo Bills
General manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have done a bang up job with the rebuild over the past few years. Quality, affordable free agent signings, solid drafting, and the erasure of a losing culture have all contributed to what should be a dominant force in the AFC East.
The Bills hadn’t experienced a double-digit win season since 1999, so you can understand if the fan base is pleased with their recent results. They should ask for more, because the collection of talent from the front office down the players could be a big-time contender. 10-6 with a one-and-done wild card appearance where they only put up 19 points (including overtime) against the worst defense in the playoffs is falling well short of that ceiling.
Who’s to blame for the Bills being a paper tiger? It’s the quarterback, stupid.
Until Allen isn’t the worst deep ball thrower among NFL starters, the Bills will continue to be a paper tiger. There’s plenty of other things to improve with Allen, but it starts and ends with his ability to push the ball down the field. The addition of Stefon Diggs will help, but ultimately Allen has to prove he’s a starter worthy of leading a team with deep playoff aspirations.
3. SAM DARNOLD - New York Jets
Darnold has shown, in spurts, that there might be something there. Unfortunately, those small stretches aren’t enough for flag planting and there’s a giant presence casting a shadow of doubt over the USC products’ development. That, of course, is the googly-eyed Adam Gase.
Forget a breakout, Darnold needs to play a full season and survive to live for 2021 when Gase is hopefully shot to the moon. Even then, the window is closing fast on the former top 10 selection.
We dig into these quarterbacks deeper, including holding our Josh Rosen “L”, on The QB Factory #7! Listen on the media player below or click here if the player doesn’t load. New to podcasts?! Check out our guide on how to listen and subscribe to BGN! FLY EAGLES FLY!