Baker Mayfield will reportedly visit the New York Giants this weekend. Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Josh Allen are expected to follow in short order as the Giants take one final up-close-and-personal look at the top four quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft class.
Everyone has a favorite, and with less than three weeks to go before the draft begins few people in the fan base are going to change their minds. For now, let’s review our coverage to date of the top quarterbacks and add some insights from some of the draft guides that have recently been published.
This will end up being a look at the pros and cons of taking any of the top four quarterbacks with the No. 2 overall pick. Vote in the poll at the end of the post to let us know which quarterback you would prefer. Our premise here isn’t whether or not the Giants should select a quarterback in the first round. Our premise is to determine which quarterback you believe it should be if they do.
Chris Pflum and Dan Pizzuta have both been banging the drum for Mayfield.
Way back in January we did a piece in which Chris, Dan and I each picked our top QB at that time. Chris and Dan both chose Mayfield.
“ ... 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 49erswear 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.
In his spotlight of Mayfield, Dan wrote that “Statistically, it’s difficult to make the case against Mayfield as the top quarterback in this class.”
Analytics love Mayfield. QBASE projections favor Mayfield over the rest of the quarterbacks in the class. Analytics web site Pro Football Focus not only has Mayfield as the top quarterback in the class, but the No. 1 overall player on the big board in its 2018 NFL Draft Guide.
“At some point, Mayfield’s on-field production is too difficult to ignore and that’s what makes him a first-round talent. He has enough arm to make NFL throws and he’s shown the ability to make plays both within and outside of structure. While he could stand to speed up his process on certain plays, Mayfield’s accuracy, decision-making and natural playmaking ability make him the best quarterback in the draft, and only a few inches of height have instilled doubt in NFL decision-makers.”
The questions around Mayfield revolve largely around his height — just above 6-feet — and his temperament. Would a conservative organization with a new head coach, an older, more traditional GM, and a flamboyant superstar who already causes them agita roll with a quarterback who isn’t exactly quiet and unassuming?
The Giants would give Darnold something he needs and something not a lot of teams drafting him highly would be able to give — the ability to sit and develop at the start of his career. A high-upside prospect like Darnold is the type of player the Giants could afford to draft and develop while Eli Manning stays in control of the starting job.
What the Giants would need to discuss and be sure of is how much of Darnold’s decision making and mechanical issues can be fixed by coaching and much of them could be a hard habit to break. We hear a lot about quarterbacks who fix their motion during the offseason, only for their old motion to come back as soon as a defender comes in their face. Dave Gettleman, Pat Shurmur, and Mike Shula would need to have a plan in place to get Darnold the practice reps he would need to fix these issues on the field — a plan much more detailed than what the last regime schemed for Davis Webb.
At his best, Darnold has shown he can be as good or better than the other quarterbacks in this class. The question for the Giants will be in how confident they’d be to get the best out of him on a more consistent basis.
With Darnold, it’s risk-reward. Do the turnovers scare you too much? Or, does the high-end play when he’s at his best and the fact that he’s only 20 give you reason to believe he can be a guy who can lead a franchise for a decade?
There’s plenty of concern after Darnold was much riskier with the ball in 2017, but his 2016 was one of the best seasons you’ll see from a redshirt freshman. Even during his slump, the high-end plays were still present, as few college quarterbacks possess Darnold’s anticipation and accuracy in the middle of the field. He must cut back on the turnover-worthy throws that littered his tape in 2017. His throwing motion, rightly or wrongly, will likely be dissected at the next level, but overall, Darnold’s top end play is worth a first-round investment.
NFL Draft Scout’s Dane Brugler has Darnold as his QB1 in this draft class. In his Draft Guide, Brugler writes:
Although inexperienced in areas and prone to mistakes (notably turnovers), Darnold makes great spontaneous decisions with the short memory that is imperative for the position. Overall, Darnold needs to take better care of the football (both in the pocket and downfield), but his ability to anticipate passing windows, create outside of structure and command the never-ending mental battle at the position at such a young age is what separates him in this draft class, projecting as a NFL starter with a high ceiling.
In a draft where there is little to no consensus about the best quarterback in the class, Allen is perhaps the most polarizing of the bunch. He possesses unparalleled arm talent and incredible size and athleticism, but a less than acceptable 56 percent collegiate completion percentage and at times what looks like a troubling lack of instincts or awareness in the pocket.
On the high side, his ceiling could be John Elway or Ben Roethlisberger. On the low side, he could be Brock Osweiler or Blaine Gabbert. Few seem to believe there will be an in-between.
Chris, with input from Inside The Pylon quarterback analyst Mark Schofield, did an excellent study of Allen. He described the conundrum Allen presents this way:
It is impossible to ignore Allen’s upside and athletic potential. There are legitimate flashes of an NFL quarterback in his play. That being said, whichever team drafts Allen has to figure out whether or not he will ever be more than just flashes of potential. Josh Allen is, perhaps, the ultimate lump of clay. He has all kinds of potential, but, as Schofield says, he needs a skilled craftsman to mold him into an NFL quarterback, and a long-term plan to build an environment which puts him in the best position to succeed.
Although there are times on film when Allen makes left-to-right whole reads and fires a strike that only few quarterbacks can make, there are more examples of him not anticipating or pulling the trigger quick enough – his inconsistent processing speed from the pocket isn’t NFL ready and clouds his projection. His elite physical characteristics (size, athleticism and arm) and competitive spirit make him scouting catnip, but his unbalanced mechanics, sporadic ball placement and undeveloped instincts are troubling red flags. Overall, Allen has elite physical traits with obvious upside, but also obvious bust potential, making his draft “value” a hotly debated subject in war rooms because so much of his projection is potential-based – will benefit from NFL coaching and patience.
If choosing a quarterback was all about one thing — who has the cleanest film — Rosen would be the unquestioned top quarterback in this class.
In a spotlight piece on Rosen, Dan said that “just about everyone is going to agree Josh Rosen is the best passer of the group. That doesn’t necessarily mean best quarterback, but Rosen has the arm and anticipation to be accurate to all levels of the field. He’s mechanically sound, which makes him stand out in a group that includes the funky delivery of Sam Darnold, the need to create passing lanes from Baker Mayfield, and the occasionally narrow strides from Lamar Jackson.”
The questions with Rosen are about durability and fit. The durability is a concern because of concussions, a shoulder surgery, and the perception that he isn’t as mobile as the other first-round quarterbacks.
Fit comes up because of the various questions about Rosen’s personality, questions his UCLA coach — Jim Mora — hasn’t really helped answer.
Rosen is the ideal pocket passer in several ways, including his mechanics, arm talent and intelligence, and is at his best attacking zones in the defense, carving up the middle of the field (curls, digs, posts, etc.). His decision-making and ball placement both have room for improvement, especially under pressure. However, durability (especially his concussion history) and attitude remain the top concerns for his draft evaluation. Quarterback is an intangible position and with many around the league questioning his make-up and how it relates to coachability and fit, Rosen won’t be for everyone. Overall, Rosen needs to stop trying to do too much with his arm and improve his feel in the pocket, but his instincts and movements are reminiscent of Matt Ryan, projecting as a NFL starter.
Which quarterback would you select? Vote in the poll below.
If the Giants choose a quarterback with the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, who should it be?
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