Which Rookie Quarterback Will Start First?
Five rookie quarterbacks were selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Now that they’ve been selected, everyone is wondering when they’re going to see the field. Being a first round selection comes with great expectations, and fans want to see their new rookie quarterbacks play as soon as possible. It’s possible quarterbacks taken outside of the first round could get on the field early in the season, but the expectations for those guys aren’t anywhere near as high as the first round quarterbacks.
Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, and Lamar Jackson are all expected to contribute to their teams this year after being taken in the first round. The question is, when will they see the field? A lot of people would expect it to be Week 1 because they were such a high draft choice. Nobody wants to see their teams first round selection sitting on the bench, but these rookie quarterbacks might have to, at least for a little while. Let’s take a look at each first round quarterback and their situation heading into the season.
Baker Mayfield – Cleveland Browns Quarterback
Out of all the rookie quarterbacks drafted in the first round, I feel like Baker Mayfield may be one of the last to get on the field. Although he was drafted first overall, the Browns already had Tyrod Taylor to be their bridge quarterback. Tyrod Taylor may not pose a threat to Mayfield starting in the long term, but short term he will. Taylor is far better than any quarterback the Browns have had recently. He doesn’t throw for a ton of yards, but what he does do is play efficient football. In his three years as a starter for the Buffalo Bills, Taylor averaged 62.7% completions, 2,952 passing yards, 17 TD passes, 5 INT’s, and a passer rating of 92.8.
Tyrod Taylor led the Bills to the playoffs last season, which is something the Browns haven’t had in quite some time either. Because Taylor is better than any quarterbacks the Browns have had in quite some time, I think they’ll stick with him until their season is lost, whenever that may be. I don’t have the Browns going to the playoffs next season, so I do believe Baker Mayfield will see the field for a decent amount of time. Head Coach Hue Jackson said Baker Mayfield will start as the third string quarterback and have to work his way up. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem for Mayfield, it’s just going to be about timing and how things play out during the Browns season. If the Browns win games with Taylor, he stays in until things go bad. If Taylor isn’t winning games early, Mayfield will see the field sooner rather than later.
First Start Projection: Week 9
Sam Darnold – New York Jets Quarterback
“We’re going to basically expose him to everything. We’re going to give him the opportunity to go out there learn and earn the position. Of course our focus is not necessarily to throw him into the fire until he’s earned it. We’re very excited about him, his upside and potential. He’s going to have every opportunity to go out there and hopefully fulfill every potential we see in him.” This was spoken by the Jets General Manager Mike Maccagnan. This makes me believe Darnold will start early, possibly from Week 1.
Maccagnan did say Darnold will have to earn the starting job, but because he also said he’s going to have every opportunity to do so, I think he will be the Week 1 starter. Darnold may be young, but he’s got way more potential than Teddy Bridgewater or Josh McCown. Jets fans want to see their new rookie quarterback play, not sit on the bench. They do want to see wins, but McCown or Bridgewater won’t give them that. I’d say Darnold gives them the best chance to win games.
First Start Projection: Week 1
Josh Allen – Buffalo Bills Quarterback
Bills GM Brandon Beane has said Josh Allen will start as the third quarterback. Despite being third on the depth chart right now, I don’t feel like Allen will have a tough time overtaking McCarron and Peterman. Allen may have struggled with accuracy in college, but he is far more physically gifted than either of the guys ahead of him right now. Even if Allen isn’t fully ready to start right away, I think the Bills will start him. It’s been said that McCarron is going to be a bridge quarterback, but I don’t really see it that way. I think he’s more of a depth signing, and at the time they signed him they didn’t have anyone else but Nathan Peterman.
AJ McCarron has been decent in a very small sample size, but I’m not sure he can be a long term starting quarterback like he wants to be. The Bills didn’t trade up to get Josh Allen with the 7th overall pick just to sit him behind a guy who probably won’t help them much. If Allen doesn’t start Week 1, I think it will be very soon after that.
First Start Projection: Week 1
Josh Rosen – Arizona Cardinals Quarterback
Steve Wilks has said Sam Bradford is the starting quarterback for the Cardinals. When Bradford is playing, he’s a pretty good quarterback. The problem is Bradford being healthy. After facing several injuries, I don’t think Bradford’s body can hold up anymore. He’s kind of like Tony Romo when he played for the Cowboys, you just expected him to be hurt at some point every season. If a defensive line can hit Bradford enough times during a game, he’s out.
Arizona plays the Rams in Week 2 and the Vikings in Week 6. Those are two of the best defensive lines in football. I don’t think Bradford’s body will hold up from all those hits he’s going to take. If he makes it out alive against the Rams, he’ll be lucky to make it against the Vikings. I’m going to predict Bradford getting hurt before the half way point in the season, giving Josh Rosen the starting nod for most of the year.
First Start Projection: Week 7
Lamar Jackson – Baltimore Ravens Quarterback
It’s obvious the Ravens drafted Lamar Jackson to be their quarterback of the future, and it may be the very near future. Joe Flacco’s production took a significant dip last season, and it hasn’t been great for a while. The Ravens 9-7 record last season was the best record they’ve had in three years. Since they won the Super Bowl, the Ravens have only had one double digit win season. It’s unfair to fully blame Joe Flacco, after all he hasn’t had the greatest weapons to throw to, but his play has declined. If you look at just Flacco’s numbers and not the team record, they show he’s not elite. He’s only thrown for 4,000+ yards once, the most touchdowns he’s ever thrown is 27, his completion percentage has never been above 65%, and he’s only had a quarterback rating of 90.0 or higher twice.
If Flacco’s play continues to decline and the Ravens get off to a bad start, Lamar Jackson will hit the field sooner rather than later. Joe Flacco has been benched before, and I don’t think the Ravens would hold back on sitting him again. I don’t see the Ravens being a playoff team this upcoming season, and it’s because of that I think Lamar Jackson will start at about the half way point of the season. This is a similar situation to Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, except Tyrod Taylor isn’t declining, the Browns just need more talent before they really start winning games.
First Start Projection: Week 8