Yesterday, USC quarterback Sam Darnold and UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen both declared for the 2018 NFL draft. With the pair deciding to enter the draft, most of the top underclassmen have made their decisions to come out. The only really big name left is Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
Since last summer, we have being hearing analysts tell us that the upcoming QB class is one of the best ever. Trust me, it isn’t! In fact, though this year’s class may be a little deeper than 2017, the talent at the top isn’t close to Mitch Trubisky, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. The '18 class' numbers, actual play on the field and intangibles don’t stack up to last year's big three.
Reality is that the '18 quarterback class is one of the most overrated classes in history. That said, there still could be as many as four quarterbacks taken in the first round. Why? Because so many teams in the NFL have a strong need at the positon that it requires them to overdraft and take one high to make sure they get a guy.
Because of that, two to three years down the road if these players don’t play up to expectations, there will be coaches and/or general managers losing their jobs because they overrated these players and took them higher than they deserved to go. That’s a fact of life in the NFL right now.
Looking at the order so far of the '18 draft, we find four clubs with an absolute need at the quarterback position. The Cleveland Browns — who hold the first and fourth selections — have a huge need, especially because they passed up strong quarterbacks in the past two drafts. In 2015 they passed on Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Last year they chose to pass on Trubisky, Watson and Mahomes. This year they have to take one. They may not use the No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback, but the Browns definitely will use one of those early first-rounders to take a player at the position.
The New York Giants pick second and they also have a need. Eli Manning is near the end of his career, and they have to find a young quarterback to replace him. The Denver Broncos pick fifth and they have an obvious need. Two years ago they selected Paxton Lynch late in the first round but he hasn’t panned out. Because of that, Denver's QB void still exists.
The New York Jets selected Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg in the second round in 2016, and he can’t get on the field because of his poor accuracy. Josh McCown will be 39 next year, and Bryce Petty has proven he is nothing more than an average backup. The Jets also need to draft a quarterback early. Their first pick is sixth overall, so they may well have to use that pick on a quarterback.
That means four of the six teams at the top of the draft have a quarterback need. With the talent level of the position in this draft being minimal, these teams still could very well use those high picks on a player at the quarterback position. No, it is not good drafting but it is a way to take care of a need.
Looking at the rest of the teams in the league, we can find several others with a quarterback need. In the NFC West, Arizona just saw Carson palmer retire. The Cardinals have no quarterbacks under contract in 2010 and have to find someone to replace him. In the AFC East, the Buffalo Bills got to the playoffs in spite of Tyrod Taylor’s play. They also have a huge need.
Other teams with a quarterback need include New England, Jacksonville (if the Jaguars don’t re-sign Blake Bortles) and Washington (if it loses Kirk Cousins in free agency). There will, of course, be others.
Teams can’t count on free agency to find a quarterback. Last year the Chicago Bears spent a ransom on Tampa Bay backup Mike Glennon — and he was awful. He was replaced after only four games. The only quarterback who may be worthwhile in free agency is Kirk Cousins — if he can’t get a long-term deal done in Washington. If that happens to be the case, there will be an exorbitant amount of clubs ready to pursue him. Most of the clubs listed above would be involved in the Cousins sweepstakes.
The only answer is to draft one and hope that he turns out to be a top player. It’s a risky decision, and a general manager's future can depend on it being the right decision.