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Columns - Magazine

Rookie Report: Quarterbacks

by Josh Norris
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

Rookie quarterbacks can be frustrating. Few are selected in re-draft leagues, but the first year passers can earn our respect and be picked up as streaming options or potential week winners (Deshaun Watson anyone?). A variety of factors play into this, including the difficulty in evaluating the position and teams playing rookie quarterbacks likely were #bad the previous year. Here’s my view of this year’s class of first-year signal callers.

Browns QB Baker Mayfield (1.01)

Where He Wins: Accurate quick game passer. Will carry out the play inside of structure, but has the comfort to hold the football longer than intended and make a play at multiple levels. Similar playmaker mentality to Deshaun Watson. Can throw with touch to work over defenders or allow taller targets to win contested. Will keep eyes up when working through the pocket, especially on the escaping checkdown.

Rookie Situation: All indications point to Tyrod Taylor opening the season as the starter, with Hue Jackson stating Tyrod Taylor is going to be our starting quarterback, first and foremost” immediately after drafting Mayfield. John Dorsey backed that up, “For a young man’s development, why not sit behind a veteran? Learn from there. Let him see what this game of football is all about.” Taylor is not the type to relinquish a starting job via turnovers. Even if Baker does start, the Browns offensive situation sides in “unknown” to “pessimistic” territory.

Jets QB Sam Darnold (1.03)

Where He Wins: Outside of structure success seems almost to equal to production when everything goes according to plan. Mobile and live arm to create space and hit receivers at every level of the field without having to load up or reset. Able to throw with touch, able to put heat when necessary. Plenty of examples where he throws with anticipation or looks defenders off before targeting his intended option.

Rookie Situation: In terms of early playtime, it looks bleak for Darnold. Reports in June stated he could open the season as an inactive, but that will only happen if the Jets keep Teddy Bridgewater. That is no lock thanks to a lack of guaranteed money. Josh McCown missed a number of games in the past. And it’s not out of the question that Darnold looks superior to any option on the roster during the preseason. Keep in mind, Darnold is the youngest quarterback in the league. Expect him to see starts this season.

Bills QB Josh Allen (1.07)

Where He Wins: Strong arm, big build, mobile when leaving structure and wants to target downfield when that happens.

Rookie Situation: Allen saw first-team reps during minicamp. Of the teams on this list, the Bills showed the least amount of urgency during free agency, thus rostering only AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman ahead of Allen. Expect Allen to open training camp third on the depth chart, and his climb up will be linked to his performance in practice and preseason games. However, the Bills offensive situation presents plenty of hesitation even if Allen earns starts. It is a rebuilding offensive line and less than enthusiastic receiver group. Still, Bills brass has stated Brian Daboll has a specific offense in mind for Allen.

Cardinals QB Josh Rosen (1.10)

Where He Wins: Play after play a coach knows what he is getting from a footwork, mechanics and technique standpoint. Ideal pocket passer in terms of working inside of structure with timing to locate the correct read and deliver the ball. Willing to attack every level of the defense and deliver footballs just before being hit. Rosen can rifle passes into tight windows or put touch on throws when necessary. Will make subtle movements inside of structure to find space in the pocket. He sees the field better than any other quarterback in this class.

Rookie Situation: “If Sam Bradford stays healthy, he can be NFL Comeback Play of the Year,” Is what the Cardinals said immediately after trading up for Josh Rosen. As we all know, Bradford does not stay healthy. Rosen is known for his football IQ and curiosity, and so far reports out of Arizona state he’s performing as advertised. We’ve seen passers like Rosen succeed in the past. Offensive line health might be a question, and Rosen offers no rushing upside, but if he ends up starting with Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson and others, potential points are out there. Expect Rosen to be the No. 2 quarterback during the preseason.

Ravens QB Lamar Jackson (1.32)

Where He Wins: A pocket passer-plus. Number of exposures where he displays patience in the pocket to attack multiple levels of the field, even in tight coverage and especially over the middle of the field. Has the athleticism to avoid the first oncoming defender in the pocket, reset, eyes up and deliver to a downfield target. And we all know he can be absolutely lethal when pulling it down a taking off from the pocket or on designed runs. Again, that is not his first instinct.

Rookie Situation: This could be really fun. First, after drafting “Joe is our quarterback, it’s time to start thinking about a quarterback of the future.” But let’s allow our imagination to flourish. Rushing points for quarterbacks are a Konami Code, as Rich Hribar put it. A cheat code. And few quarterbacks in the last 10 years enter the league with as much rushing potential at the position than Jackson. Consider this, he produced more rushing production in college than Saquon Barkley. And on top of that he can throw from the pocket. Baltimore said they are figuring out ways to get him on the field, but his real impact won’t be felt until he is the full-time starting quarterback.

Steelers QB Mason Rudolph (3.12)

Where He Wins: Loves to throw vertically. Plenty of starting experience and displayed more pocket movement and awareness than many other passers coming out of similar offenses.

Rookie Situation: The Steelers viewed Rudolph in the top tier of quarterbacks in this class. They traded ahead of the Bengals for the quarterback. The team hopes Roethlisberger plays another 4 to 6 more years, but we know he misses games as seen by previous Landry Jones starts.

Josh Norris

Josh Norris is an NFL Draft Analyst for NBC Sports Edge and contributed to the Rams scouting department during training camp of 2010 and the 2011 NFL Draft. He can be found on Twitter .