Written by Chris Pflum at Big Blue View.com
I hadn’t intended on getting to the quarterbacks this early. I had intended to hold off until after the underclassmen had declared whether or not they would stay in school or enter the 2018 NFL Draft.
However, a report Wednesday morning by ESPN’s Jordan Ranaan changed my plans. Ranaan reported that once the New York Giants’ season was all but lost — not coincidentally when Odell Beckham Jr. had his season ended by a broken ankle — John Mara instructed the scouting department to start taking a very close look at the top quarterbacks in the upcoming draft.
All along we suspected, if not outright knew, that the quarterback position would be in play for the Giants with a high draft pick in April. Ranaan’s report confirms the fact that the Giants are seriously looking for their next quarterback. With that in mind, here is my (current) list of the top five quarterbacks in the 2018 draft.
1 – Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
Mayfield had been creeping up my rankings since last season, and when a scout like Scot McCloughan names him as the top quarterback in the class, you take note.
Mayfield has always been a blast to watch, but what sealed it for me was his performance in the rivalry game with Oklahoma State. While Oklahoma State doesn’t have much in the way of a defense, it still managed to stop Oklahoma’s running game and figure out left tackle Orlando Brown Jr., using the mammoth left tackle’s size against him. The Cowboys briefly stopped Oklahoma’s offense cold, then Mayfield did what he does and willed his team to victory.
Mayfield has plenty of arm strength to drive every throw with accuracy, the mobility to escape pressure, extend plays, and make the defense pay for ignoring him.
On the intangible side, Mayfield is a hyper-competitive and aggressive player and a leader on his team, with good field vision and command of his offense. And put simply, Baker Mayfield is a winner. Like Deshaun Watson, winning is all he knows how to do — he just has that air about him that as long as he is on the field for you, your team has a chance.
He has also shown development in his mental processes since returning as a senior, showing greater understanding of defenses, patience, and decision making.
He isn’t without warts, and listed at 6-foot-1 Mayfield will simply be too short for many teams. Not for me, though, and his mobility helps him find (or create) throwing lanes. His competitiveness and aggression do get him in trouble as he takes a sack or throws to the wrong team trying to make a big play when a modest one will do. But, like Eli Manning or Brett Favre, as long as that spark doesn’t get coached out of him the moments of sheer magic will far outweigh the face-palms.
Interestingly, Mayfield started his college career at Texas Tech, where he won the starting job as a walk-on freshman (a first in major college football history). He later lost the starting job to now-Giants’ quarterback Davis Webb and transferred to Oklahoma.
2 – Lamar Jackson (Louisville)
This is going to ruffle some feathers, but Jackson is probably the most exciting college quarterback since Mike Vick was terrorizing defenses at Virginia Tech.
Insanely athletic, with the kind of twitch that is the envy of receivers, running backs, and defensive backs across the nation, Jackson has the ability to turn any snap into a highlight reel play. He also has one of the most impressive arms to come along in a long time, and can throw darts to any part of the field with a flick of the wrist — even without setting his base.
Jackson is going to be a divisive, boom-or-bust prospect. He is whip-thin (though visibly thickening as he physically matures) and with his penchant for running the ball and playing outside of the pocket, that could result in injuries at the next level. But while the specter of Robert Griffin III raises its ugly head, Jackson’s extreme athleticism makes it tough for defenders to get a clear shot on him. Also of concern is the potential learning curve coming in to an NFL offense. While college concepts are making their way into the NFL, Jackson would still probably be best served by going to a team with a flexible offense that caters to his strengths and can grow with him.
It is worth noting that we know that the Giants have had credentialed scouts at two of Louisville’s games thus far this season.
3 – Sam Darnold (USC)
The presumptive top QB on many lists (including ESPN’s), personally, I think Darnold should stay in school. Should he come out at the end of this season, he would have less than two seasons of starting experience under his belt. I will always say that quarterbacks, in particular, should stay in school as long as they can — the greater maturity and experience are assets going into the NFL.
Darnold is a red-shirt sophomore, and to paraphrase my mother, he isn’t done cooking yet.
However, the upside with Darnold is impressive. He has the prototypical build, athleticism, and arm strength that will get NFL evaluators drooling. Darnold is capable of absolutely incandescent play, such as in the 2017 Rose Bowl, but his decision making is questionable. He has 11 interceptions to 22 touchdowns on the season, completing 63 percent of his passes, down from 67 percent (31 TDs to 9 INTs) the year before.
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