- Plenty will change between now and Round 1, but the college football careers of the draft's top quarterbacks could provide some hint as to how these early predictions would pan out if they came true.
In this week’s Monday Morning Quarterback column, The MMQB’s Peter King took some educated guesses as to where each of the quarterbacks available during the 2018 NFL offseason might land. Among that group were nine of the top QB prospects in late April’s draft, from the current leading contenders for the No. 1 pick to the stat-stuffing college stars that project to be developmental cases at the next level.
As King concedes, so much will change in the next two months that could alter these forecasts, with free agency opening in March and pre-draft workouts giving teams a chance to study each prospect inside and out. But what if these predictions end up being exactly right? It’s way too early to have a clear sense of any team’s outlook for next season, but college football followers who have watched these quarterbacks grow over the past few years can connect enough dots to assemble a rough picture of what that fit would mean for each player’s rookie season and beyond.
Below, we build off King’s analysis and envision a path for each QB to succeed in the NFL home laid out for him in this week’s MMQB. To read his complete explanations for every prediction referenced below, along with picks for this year’s top free agent signal-callers, dig into the full column.
Sam Darnold to the Browns
Peter King: “No matter which veteran Cleveland gets, GM John Dorsey will backstop with a rookie, and Darnold, who needs a large dose of development, would be fine with a year or more of clipboard-holding.”
Fit: With his natural athleticism and rocket arm, Darnold looks to be in pole position for top pick honors despite his checkered final season in L.A. His carelessness with the ball last fall (13 interceptions and a nation-leading eight lost fumbles) may worry Browns fans who just watched DeShone Kizer toss a league-high 22 picks in his 15-game debut campaign, but it’s easy to envision Hue Jackson finding a way to bottle the flashes of brilliance scattered within Darnold’s inconsistent final season at USC.
Baker Mayfield to the Jets
Peter King: “Mayfield is a marvelous talent, if a bit of a wild colt. He’d be a great fit with Josh McCown and new and imaginative offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. And McCown can play (combined 90.8 rating over his last three seasons) until Mayfield’s ready.”
Fit: Everyone wins if Mayfield finds his way into the New York market, where his authentic confidence and competitive focus would own the back pages. After stumping hard for his Oklahoma teammates to win the Joe Moore Award given to the nation’s toughest O-line, Mayfield would almost certainly benefit from the patient timeline outlined by King, as the Jets are in for some changes up front after allowing the fifth-highest sack percentage in the league last fall.
Luke Falk to the Saints
Peter King: “I can’t see Drew Brees, 39, going elsewhere. I see him playing out his last two or three years (or more) with Sean Payton, particularly with the Saints being on the cusp of another competitive run. Falk? Precision passer (69, 70, 67% accurate in his last three years at Washington State) who could use some development.”
Fit: The last QB the Saints drafted to marinate behind Brees was Garrett Grayson, who posted completion rates of 62.1% and 64.3% in his two years running a pro-style offense at Colorado State before heading to New Orleans in the third round of the 2015 draft. Falk should be given a longer look than some of his Washington State predecessors who have struggled to stick as pros after lighting it up in Mike Leach’s Air Raid-based offense. He compares favorably in stature to Grayson, whom the Saints cut last summer after only two years—not that a quarterback’s size has ever held the New Orleans offense back.
Josh Allen to the Giants
Peter King: “Allen’s the kind of big, strong, developmental player (though his accuracy could be a big issue) who would be a good pupil under Eli Manning and Pat Shurmur for the next couple of years. Or less.”
Fit: Allen’s unstoppable rise up draft boards has confounded the college fans who saw him struggle against Wyoming’s Power 5 opponents (one touchdown and eight interceptions in three games, all losses), but it’s easy to fall in love with his now-legendary arm strength. The Giants may consider that rawness a feature instead of a bug, as their previous regime learned the cost of rushing into any attempt to unseat Manning from the starting job.
Josh Rosen to the Bills
Peter King: “The musical chairs are getting scarce. This could be a McCarron, Keenum or Bradford spot too.”
Fit: If those free agents don’t sign elsewhere, Rosen has a case to be the most pro-ready QB in the draft, dragging UCLA to bowl eligibility last season and outshining Darnold in the Bruins’ five-point loss to USC in late November, making him quite the consolation prize. His arrival in Buffalo would undoubtedly be a stylistic change from the Tyrod Taylor era, and Bills fans may take to his individualistic streak.
Kyle Lauletta to the Patriots
Peter King: In 2018, Lauletta was an unheralded FCS player behind the more storied Josh Allen and Baker Mayfield. But Lauletta was the Senior Bowl’s biggest star, completing eight of 12 passes for 198 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Fit: It would be very, very Patriots to snap up the Richmond signal-caller who put up eight 300-yard games as a senior and looks to be on a similar pre-draft trajectory to Jimmy Garoppolo’s in 2014. He looked right at home among the products of college football’s premier programs in Mobile.
Mason Rudolph to the Jaguars
Peter King: “The Jags will say all the right things about Blake Bortles, and actually mean a few of them. But they’ve got to backstop the position. Rudolph should still be there late in Round 1.”
Fit: The nation’s leading passer last year, Rudolph, like Falk, ran into some adversity against the defenses that were athletic enough to neutralize the advantages of a wide-open offense and forced him to be letter-perfect with every throw. After a magical AFC title game run, Jacksonville may be uniquely receptive to the benefits of taking a chance on a potential late bloomer.
Mike White to the Chargers
Peter King: “Wild guess. Good arm. The Chargers might find a third-rounder this year they believe is a good student of the game who could learn well from Philip Rivers for the next two or three years.”
Fit: Western Kentucky’s offense was not quite the juggernaut it’s been in recent years without standout receiver Taywan Taylor, whom the Titans spent a third-round pick on last year. But White’s promising Senior Bowl wasn’t a mirage. In two years as the starter in Bowling Green, he proved to be a capable high-volume distributor and could in time learn to spread the wealth just as effectively as Rivers does. White’s predecessor at Western Kentucky, Brandon Doughty, is chugging along on the Dolphins’ practice squad two years after earning a seventh-round pick.
Lamar Jackson to the Ravens
Peter King: “Joe Flacco’s last three years: 20–22, 52 touchdowns, 40 picks. Meh. Time to look around, and the versatile Jackson could be a weapon even when he’s not an every-down quarterback.”
Fit: College football fans already hunkered down for two long months of defending Jackson from Draft Twitter couldn’t be too upset with this outcome for the 2016 Heisman winner. The Ravens may decide to wipe the slate clean with their passing game between now and late April, and their jump into the top half of the league’s rushing rankings last fall came after multiple years of listless production on the ground. Those two factors set the table for Jackson’s unique gifts to be embraced in Baltimore. It’s also worth remembering that Tyrod Taylor launched a starting career after sitting behind Flacco for four years in Baltimore as a sixth-round pick in the 2011 draft.