Open Twitter for even a second during draft season and you're going to see analysts and fans fighting about which quarterbacks are good and which are bad in the 2018 class—most ignoring that every quarterback has strengths and weaknesses and instead drawing hard lines in the sand with an "all or nothing" mentality.
How does the NFL view these guys? That's the question that matters most, since they are the ones that will be drafting the quarterbacks in late April, and not those of us with fancy Twitter accounts.
This week I polled a dozen NFL scouts and coaches to find out what they think of this quarterback class. In some cases the quotes were very similar, so I only used one. When there were dissenting views I tried to include both. It's also important to note that the people I reached out to either work with quarterbacks or are well-respected scouts of the position. No defensive line coaches or scouts without credentials in the quarterback world are quoted below.
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1. Sam Darnold, USC
A two-year starter at USC, Sam Darnold is widely praised for his toughness, football IQ and leadership. A coach with the Trojans told me Darnold only cares about football and not the benefits of being a star quarterback. He did turn the ball over 22 times in 2017, which should at a minimum send scouts back to the tape to find the context of each turnover. But Darnold's tangible and intangible traits are tops in the class.
Scout's Quote: "Crystal clean off the field. Smart, poised, tough, accurate. He might be the only one that could work in Cleveland because he won't let the pressure go to his head."
Coach's Quote: "The release and turnovers bother me, but he has the makeup to be good. He's better than [Mitch] Trubisky was last year but he's not on the level of [Carson] Wentz or Jared [Goff]."
Scout's Comparison: Tony Romo, retired
2. Josh Allen, Wyoming
The most polarizing quarterback prospect on Twitter is Allen. The Wyoming junior battled a poor supporting cast and an injury in 2017 but didn't see that affect his standing among NFL teams. Allen's arm strength, athleticism and wiring are all praised by NFL decision-makers. Despite a completion percentage of 56.2 percent in college, Allen is considered a lock to be drafted in the top 10.
Scout's Quote: "Why does the league like him more than Twitter? Because we know what we're doing. Allen had nothing around him and people expect him to complete passes? To who?"
Scout's Quote: "Allen takes an imagination. Big arm, big frame, great athleticism. Ran a pro-style offense. Great kid. But when he's off (with the ball) he's way off."
Scout's Comparison: Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
3. Josh Rosen, UCLA
Josh Rosen was a prized recruit coming out of high school and immediately paid dividends at UCLA, but his career was plagued by injuries and a coaching change. Rosen's mechanics and accuracy are the best of the class, but he's put off decision-makers with comments made to the media and how he's perceived by those in the Bruins' program. No player has more resting on interviews at the combine than Rosen.
Executive's Quote: "When everything is perfect, he's perfect. But he can't move and he's been hurt a ton. He's also a spoiled brat."
Scout's Quote: "He's my top QB. Super smart, beautiful mechanics, and his fade route is something to get excited about. He needs to get bigger and stronger, but that comes with time."
Scout's Comparison: Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
4. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
The biggest riser of the entire 2018 draft class is Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield. Viewed as a Day 3 prospect by scouts last summer, Mayfield is now a potential top-10 pick. He's also polarizing with an off-field arrest and a crotch grab against Kansas that went viral. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner is an electric player but doesn't fit the NFL's standard for size (6'0 ½") and might be too fiery for some teams.
Coach's Quote: "I wouldn't bet against him. He's been told he's not big enough or good enough at every level and look where he is now."
Scout's Quote: "It's hard to wrap your head around a 6-foot tall, non-athletic, spread quarterback from the Big 12 being a top-10 pick. That doesn't mean it won't happen, but of all these top guys he's the one that's most likely to be average."
Scout's Comparison: Case Keenum, free agent
5. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Lamar Jackson is the main subject when I talk about "what should happen versus what will happen." People online have a hard time reconciling the leaked thoughts of NFL decision-makers with their own beliefs. Jackson is the opposite of Josh Allen in this way—folks online love him and can't understand why the NFL doesn't.
Scout's Quote: "Is he smart enough to make pro reads? Has he ever gotten to his progressions from the pocket? Can he stay healthy with that frame and his style of play? And, by the way, he completed like 57 percent of his passes. There are a lot of question marks about this dude."
Scout's Quote: "He improved so much this last season, but I still see a guy that runs around too much. He'll have to make major changes to his game to win in the NFL. He might make an early splash and flame out."
Scout's Comparison: Robert Griffin III, retired
6. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
A forgotten man in the 2018 draft class, Rudolph is still a possible top-50 pick and the top quarterback on at least one draft board online. Rudolph, like Baker Mayfield, will get knocked for his scheme and level of competition, but he was a 42-game starter in college and finished with 92 touchdowns to just 26 picks.
Scout's Quote: "Bryce Petty all over again. Great kid but he's not smart enough or athletic enough to make a difference in our league."
Scout's Quote: "Given the right scheme (maybe Minnesota or Jacksonville) and the right coach to work with his strengths, he could be a starter. He won't blow anyone away, but he won't lose you games."
Scout's Comparison: AJ McCarron, free agent
Here's what else is going on this week:
- News, rumors and notes from around the league
- A quick Top 32 update
- Risers, Fallers and Sleepers
- Stick to Football podcast: NFL Scouting Combine superlatives and guest Josh Jackson
The Scout's Report
• Mason Rudolph told Bleacher Report's Brent Sobleski that he's healthy enough to throw at the scouting combine but might not do agility drills like the short shuttle or L-drill. Rudolph suffered a mid-foot sprain in his bowl game and missed the Senior Bowl with the injury.
• Alabama's Minkah Fitzpatrick is widely considered one of the best players in the entire draft class.One debate is where he'll play in the pros—cornerback or safety. One NFL defensive backs coach I spoke to this week said Fitzpatrick will lack the arm length to play corner and is viewed on their board as a slot/safety defender.
• Georgia's Lorenzo Carter is getting a late push up draft boards as teams meet to finalize information before the combine.
Carter (6'6", 242 lbs) has the length and athleticism to be utilized in a number of ways. One team scout told me Carter could test well enough to creep into the first round given the lack of pass-rushers in the class.
• The offensive line class is also seeing a late push as more teams evaluate the prospects. Said one director of player personnel this week, there might be five interior offensive linemen (guards, centers) drafted in Round 1.
• Expect to hear a lot of buzz about Luke Falk (Washington State) coming out of the combine. The senior quarterback is very bright, very well-spoken and teams I've talked to are already expecting he'll interview well and wow teams with his football IQ.
• Is the Leighton Vander Esch (Boise State) hype real?
One scouting director told me this week that the junior linebacker will go Round 1 but to cool down on any top-15 talk. A 6'4", 240-pounder with top-tier athleticism, Vander Esch is expected to do very well testing in Indianapolis.
• The big name to watch coming out of the combine will be offensive tackle Kolton Miller (UCLA). His tape shows an inconsistent yet athletic blocker with ideal size (6'8", 310 lbs), and the need for pass-blockers could push his stock up.
The Big Board
1. RB Saquon Barkley, Penn State
2. OG Quenton Nelson, Notre Dame
3. S Minkah Fitzpatrick, Alabama
4. EDGE Bradley Chubb, North Carolina State
5. QB Sam Darnold, USC
6. QB Josh Allen, Wyoming
7. QB Josh Rosen, UCLA
8. CB Denzel Ward, Ohio State
9. LB Tremaine Edmunds, Virginia Tech
10. LB Roquan Smith, Georgia
11. S Derwin James, Florida State
12. QB Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
13. OT Connor Williams, Texas
14. CB Josh Jackson, Iowa
15. WR Calvin Ridley, Alabama
16. RB Derrius Guice, LSU
17. RB Ronald Jones, USC
18. EDGE Harold Landry, Boston College
19. LB Rashaan Evans, Alabama
20. C Billy Price, Ohio State
21. LB Leighton Vander Esch, Boise State
22. RB Sony Michel, Georgia
23. EDGE Marcus Davenport, UTSA
24. OT Mike McGlinchey, Notre Dame
25. C James Daniels, Iowa
26. OG Isaiah Wynn, Georgia
27. DL Vita Vea, Washington
28. DL Maurice Hurst, Michigan
29. CB Isaiah Oliver, Colorado
30. DL Da'Ron Payne, Alabama
31. EDGE Arden Key, LSU
32. LB Malik Jefferson, Texas
6. Here's a draft note to file away for when you're reading mock drafts—defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus says the Indianapolis Colts are planning a move to a 4-3 defense.
This means more athletes on the edges, which fits perfectly with NC State's Bradley Chubb as a selection at pick No. 3 overall. The Colts have a strong, young secondary in place but could rework the entire front seven this offseason.
There have been a lot of problems for the Colts as of late, but one major issue was a lack of speed in the pass rush. That should change this spring.
5. Good news for NFL draft fans—ESPN announced that Kirk Herbstreit will join the desk to break down players. Herbstreit will take Jon Gruden's place on the main desk and should add great energy to the crew. He also knows these players well after watching them all in college over the past three or four seasons.
4. NFL Draft Sleeper: RB Nyheim Hines, North Carolina State.
A fast, electric, dual-threat running back with sprinter speed, Nyheim Hines has a chance to blow up the NFL Scouting Combine and put himself into the top-100 conversation. He doesn't profile as an every-down back at 5'9", 200 pounds, but he could be a dynamic change-of-pace back with the added bonus of being a good receiver out of the backfield.
3. NFL Draft Riser: QB Kyle Lauletta, Richmond.
A strong showing at the Senior Bowl got the NFL talking about Kyle Lauletta, and now that momentum is carrying to the scouting combine. With an athletic build, a quick release and accuracy that improved every day in Mobile, there is a lot of intrigue about Lauletta as a developmental prospect late on Day 2.
2. NFL Draft Faller: DT Derrick Nnadi, Florida State.
At the midseason point there was considerable talk about Derrick Nnadi as a first-round prospect, but that talk has faded now that more film is being evaluated. The 6'1", 300-pounder has good quickness and is still a solid player, but he's more likely to be drafted outside the top 50.
1. A new Stick to Football episode is ready for download—and if you haven't already, subscribe and leave a five-star review!
This week, Connor Rogers and I are joined by Iowa cornerback Josh Jackson to talk draft fits and what to do in Iowa City on a Friday night. We close the show out with your questions in #DraftonDraft.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.