If the New York Giants select a quarterback at No. 2 in the 2018 NFL Draft which one should it be? It is a question we have been pondering (OK, arguing about) for a while already and will continue to do until Giants’ GM Dave Gettleman makes the team’s first-round pick 106 days from now.
Everyone has a favorite, and at this point no one is right. Or wrong. They just have an opinion. There are solid arguments for and against all of the top quarterbacks — Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen.
With that in mind, I asked BBV staff writers Chris Pflum and Dan Pizzuta for their thoughts on which quarterback in this draft class they would most like to see in a Giants’ uniform next season. Here’s our quarterback round table.
I’m still really early in my evaluation process, so I’m reserving the right to change this answer at a later date. Right now I think my first tier is Mayfield-Rosen-Jackson, probably in that order, but they’re close enough that I wouldn’t be upset with any of those three getting selected second overall, though with Mayfield a little more ahead of the other two.
We’ll start with him. It’s hard to argue he’s not the top quarterback in this class statistically -- it’s basically impossible. Mayfield led all college quarterbacks in yards per attempt by over a yard (11.5 to 10.2 runner-up) and led in adjusted yards per attempt — which factors in touchdowns and interceptions — by almost two (12.9 to 11.1). He completed over 70 percent of his passes (70.5 percent) and while Oklahoma did heavily favor screens — 23.5 percent of his completions were behind the line of scrimmage — Mayfield also went deep often. His average pass went 11.4 yards past the line of scrimmage, which is insane to have a completion percentage that high on passes that deep. He also avoids interceptions — just 1.49 percent of his passes were picked off this year. His size is going to be an issue for some, but it shouldn’t be — when needed he uses his mobility to open throwing lanes, some of which wouldn’t be open for bigger quarterbacks. Often, he’s more than capable of making the throws he needs to from the pocket and those throws can be amazing.
Rosen is the most “traditional” passer in the sense of the traditional use of “traditional.” Someday, as the game evolves, that might describe quarterbacks like Mayfield, but not yet. Rosen is the typical pocket passer. He has limited mobility, but has good movement in the pocket — he was sacked at the lowest rate (5.4 percent) among the top four quarterbacks. He’s quick with his reads and has accuracy to just about every part of the field. His tape probably has the most “NFL throws.” He’s also great at smaller details like manipulating defenses off play-action. Rosen gets the edge over Darnold for me because of his work post-snap. At this point, Rosen has been better at adjusting to what defenses can do when the quarterback has the ball in his hands. Darnold, as we saw against Ohio State, struggles when the defenses get more complicated and that’s a concern at the next level.
There’s a similar concern for Lamar Jackson, but I think his athletic ability sets a much higher floor than Darnold — especially early on. Jackson is much more advanced as a passer than many give him credit for — he’s second among this group in adjusted yards per attempt (8.7), though they’re mostly bunched close together after Mayfield. Jackson threw for more touchdowns (27) than both Rosen and Darnold (26, each), had a higher touchdown rate than both (6.3 percent to 5.8 and 5.4 percent) and also added 18 touchdowns himself on the ground along with 1,759 rushing yards. That’s like added a first-round running back to the roster, too. Jackson isn’t going to run the ball 200-plus times in the NFL like he did in 2017 — Cam Newton just has the second-most rushing attempts ever for a quarterback with 139 — but his ability to make things happen on the ground will open things up in the passing game and give him more time to develop in those aspects while still being productive in games. Jackson’s biggest weakness as a passer is his tendency to miss high on throws, but that was also a big weakness of Carson Wentz even into the start of this season. That’s something that can be coached away and could make Jackson just as dangerous through the air as he is on the ground and that would be a special player.
“Well, my answer for this question is pretty much on record already. I’ve been roundly criticized for it, but given my druthers, I would pick Baker Mayfield. I don’t particularly give a damn about his height (playing around/behind 6’7”-6’8” Orlando Brown doesn’t seem to give him much trouble), nor do I care that he plays in a spread offense. Take a look at any NFL game on any given weekend and you’ll see college influence. Teams spend somewhere between two thirds and three quarters of their time in a spread offense -- teams like the Jets, Chiefs, and 49ers wear their college influences on their sleeves with spread-option and RPO concepts used frequently.
What I care about is that Mayfield has gotten to where he is through will and work. He walked on at Oklahoma and became the starter, and improved in each of his three seasons there. He’s seen more and played in more games than any of the other top quarterbacks, and that counts for something as well. Mayfield beat an OSU team that frustrated Darnold and twice beat one of the best defenses in the nation in TCU. He is sound mechanically, accurate, has a strong arm, a generally quick and solid decision maker, understands and is committed to manipulating defenses, and has the kind of aggressive competitiveness that won the Giants a pair of Super Bowls in the last decade.
But Ed also asked for “3-4 paragraphs” ... So I’m going to take the rest of my space to pay homage to the late, great Tom Petty and be a rebel without a clue. Because I’m going to talk about Davis Webb, and I don’t have a clue who the Giants’ next head coach is going to be (as I type this) or what they will value in an offensive scheme (and therefore quarterback). Webb very well could (and probably even will) wind up getting screwed by McAdoo’s failures and departure, but if we are looking at picking a quarterback that can sit and develop through Eli Manning’s twilight years ... Why NOT Webb?
Sure, he played in Cal’s Air Raid offense -- the same offense which produced Jared Goff, who certainly looks much improved a year removed, and Webb outplayed Goff in that same offense. He is much more athletic than he gets credit for, out-performing DeShone Kizer in every combine event, as well as Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson in several events. He has prototypical size for the NFL, and his arm talent is unquestionable, able to easily drive the ball to any area of the field with touch and anticipation. And most importantly, Webb has gotten rave reviews about his work ethic, leadership, and character at every stop from Texas Tech to through this season as a Giant. He absolutely has to learn how to play in an NFL offense, as well as get his upper and lower-body mechanics in phase. That latter impacted his accuracy and consistency in college, but those are issues he has in common with the QBs in this draft as well. And the fact that he has already been in-house, learning from Manning for a year already could arguably give him a leg up on this year’s prospects.
I’m not saying Webb would, or should, stop the new head coach from getting his guy ... I’m just saying it isn’t impossible, or even crazy, that Webb has enough going for him to be the guy.”
I am a Darnold guy. Let’s get that out of the way right at the start.
Let’s acknowledge something else about ALL of the quarterbacks in this draft class. There isn’t a single one who is a perfect prospect. They all have some wonderful attributes that make you think they could be great in the NFL. They all also have some big-time red flags that should make any GM think long and hard before putting the future of their franchise, and maybe their job, in that player’s hands.
Rosen throws the “prettiest” ball. He is the classic pocket passer. He can make every throw and has played a significant amount of snaps under center. He’s probably done the most “NFL stuff” of any of the top QBs in this group. There are also massive questions about Rosen’s attitude and leadership ability. Comparisons to Jay Cutler and Jeff George keep coming up, and they make me want to stay away. Rosen is also comparatively slight of build, and has a concerning injury history that includes shoulder surgery and concussions.
When it comes to Mayfield, the first thing most of his detractors point to is that he’s short. Personally, I don’t care. Drew Brees is short for a quarterback. So is Russell Wilson. My questions about Mayfield are more about the offense he played in and whether or not all that energy and attitude he displays can be channeled in the right direction. Mayfield can lead, but will it be in the right way? He can make every throw and has mobility and toughness.
Jackson is a tremendous athlete, but when I watch him I see an athlete playing quarterback, not a quarterback who is also an athlete. That’s not for me. Allen I haven’t studied as much as the others yet, but the low completion percentage and inconsistency scare me.
Which brings me to why I would, as of now, go with Darnold.
If I’m a GM taking a quarterback with the second overall pick I’m not just looking for a kid who can play. I’m looking for the guy in the group most likely to win Super Bowls. For me, that’s Darnold.
I’m aware of the turnovers — 13 interceptions and 11 fumbles in 14 games. That’s not good. I also know that most draft analysts I have communicated with in recent months believes that Darnold has the highest ceiling of any of these top quarterbacks. Finally, I know that analysts believe it will take Darnold time. Well, the Giants can keep Eli Manning at quarterback in 2018 and give Darnold that time. Something I have forgotten to mention, in fact, is that when I watch Darnold I see a lot of Manning — but Manning with wheels and the ability to make plays with his feet.
Taking a quarterback at No. 2 is a massive risk. Get it right and you have a franchise quarterback for a decade. Get it wrong, you might set your franchise back just as long. If I’m taking that risk I’m swinging for the fences with the guy who could, in the end, be the best of the bunch.