Fans of teams with a need at quarterback might want to skip this one. Unless your club drafted or added a quarterback through free agency this past offseason, things could get ugly. Why? NFL scouts are terrified of the 2019 quarterback class.
In the 2018 draft, five quarterbacks—four of them underclassmen—went in the first round. That's one year after three underclassmen (Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson) all went in the first. Supply isn't meeting demand this year; not with so many talented quarterbacks leaving school early for the pros. That's left the college football landscape devoid of elite quarterback prospects heading into the season.
Hyperbole isn't allowed in scouting. A longtime evaluator recently told me how, in their scouting meetings, you can't exaggerate or use hyperbole because you'll get ripped apart by the other scouts in the room. Sure, they use it in conversations with the media, but not when the GM and head coach are sitting there. If you say someone is great, you'll get called out for that player's faults. On the flip side, if you call a draft class "terrible" at quarterback, you'll get challenged. In conversations this summer, several NFL scouts hedged when talking about the upcoming class.
One scout specifically said: "There's maybe three—[Justin] Herbert (Oregon), Drew Lock (Missouri) and the Auburn kid (Jarrett Stidham)—who look like dudes. But there are a lot—a lot—of issues here. I'm terrified of this class. I hope everyone got their guy last year."
That might remind you of how we talked about Josh Allen last summer—big, athletic and full of potential but loaded with "ifs." Allen was good enough to be the No. 7 pick in the draft, but every evaluator I've talked to this offseason believes every first-rounder from the 2018 class would be the top quarterback in 2019.
There is a notable lack of excitement surrounding the top quarterbacks—which a critic will argue there was zero excitement around eventual No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield at this time last year. But looking at the Big Three mentioned above, there are more questions than answers. Some of that is because of scheme, but the NFL has come around to the idea that college quarterbacks are who they are and must be coached up—proof of that is Mayfield and Allen going top 10 overall.
So where's the problem? Is there a shortage of talent in the college ranks?
The actual "problem" is twofold. The major issue is that the players who would be seniors in this class have all left school early. Allen, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold and Lamar Jackson would all be seniors heading into the 2018 college football season. That's a serious amount of star power at quarterback gone from Saturdays.
Secondly, this is just a down year. Said one scout: "You guys in the media get on us about 'next year,' but we were upfront that the quarterback class was going to be down. And that's why you see so many teams giving up the farm to get a quarterback this year. You'd rather trade up for an Allen or Rosen than bet on one of these guys." That's the reality teams are facing heading into the season. Barring a surprise, out-of-nowhere player like Mayfield rising through the ranks, it just doesn't look like a good year to need a quarterback.
Where do teams go from here? One high-ranking scout I spoke to last week was nearly giddy talking about the 2020 draft class (yes, they're already looking that far ahead). "That kid at Georgia (Jake Fromm) and the one that left (Jacob Eason) are legit dudes. They could go 1-2 and they were at the same school! Those are the ones to watch."
Fans of the Jaguars (if Blake Bortles struggles), Chargers (quarterback of the future) and Patriots (Tom Brady has to retire eventually…) might be holding their breath for another season with hopes they can get by until 2020 when maybe they'll have a shot at one of the promising quarterbacks in that class. For now, it's a major wait-and-see approach from us and from those in the NFL when looking for 2019 franchise quarterbacks.
Matt Miller covers the NFL and NFL draft for Bleacher Report.