The 2018 Draft featured the most hyped quarterback group in at least 14 years, and four of the five first-round picks at that position, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, and Josh Rosen, have all at least started one game at the NFL level.
I took to my film bunker -- which is really just my laptop on my desk in the room in the middle of my house -- to evaluate how these young quarterbacks have performed at the early stages of their professional careers.
Yes, the sample sizes are currently small, but these quarterbacks could represent a prominent portion of the future at the game's most vital position, so constant analysis is warranted.
Baker Mayfield, Browns
Stats: 38 of 64 (59.4% completion), 496 yards (7.8 yards per attempt), 2 TDs, 2 INTs, 81.2 QB Rating
The benefits of Mayfield's vast collegiate experience -- 1,497 attempts at Texas Tech and Oklahoma -- has been evident in his first two appearances in the NFL. On the majority of his drop backs, he's either quickly fired the football to his initial read or rapidly moved to his next option. One of the few times he didn't click to his second read, he should've been intercepted in the end zone against the Jets. Also, he already possesses the ability to move around in the pocket with chaos around him. On a few occasions, he's gotten overly antsy when his first read hasn't been there, and on those plays he's either vacated early or simply gotten sloppy with his footwork, which has led to off-balance, off-target throws.
Overall, he's been far ahead of most rookie quarterbacks when checking multiple reads and pocket drifting. Huge pluses. There have even been a few times it's appeared he's baited the entire defense by starting with his head to one side of the field before snapping it to the other side to rip an in-breaking route.
Mayfield's accuracy has been fine, pinpoint in the short-to-intermediate ranges and slightly above average deep, but ball placement on a few technically "on target" throws have left a little to be desired. His velocity has been impressive, and he's been an efficient scrambler. I love how he hasn't been afraid to make any throw, even through a tight window or on a back-shoulder target to give his receivers a chance. Unfortunately, he's dealt with many drops, but that gun-slinger mentality has also generated some big plays -- particularly down the seam to Jarvis Landry and David Njoku -- when his pass-catchers have made tremendous grabs. In general, Mayfield's strong offensive line has provided him ample opportunities from clean pockets, and Cleveland's scheme has not been a hindrance, as misdirection, tight ends down the seam against zone, and screens have been utilized often.
Sam Darnold, Jets
Stats: 73 of 127 (57.1% completion), 868 yards (6.8 yards per attempt), 4 TDs, 5 INTs, 72.6 QB Rating
Above all, two aspects of Darnold's game have stood out to me in his first four starts...antsy feet and severely lacking downfield accuracy. He's been very decisive and accurate to the short and intermediate levels of the field when his first read is clearly open. When that hasn't happened, he's been erratic with his pocket movement, occasionally drifting back and away from the line of scrimmage instead of towards it, and in most cases, his eyes have dropped. He's run into some edge pressure and been late on a handful of throws too.
At times, Darnold's been so locked onto his first read, he's been forced to throw with pressure directly in his face, which has led to strange arm angles and awkward feet positioning. He's actually done well delivering the football relatively accurately in those situations, but it speaks to a larger concern that he's not naturally moving into clean areas of the pocket on longer-developing routes.
He was the most willing to move to his second read in the most recent outing against the Jaguars in Week 4, but that game also featured the most straight misses I've seen from Darnold thus far. Overall, he's been a one-read quarterback to start his NFL career and has looked like a super-young signal-caller who didn't have loads of experience in college. The Jets' offensive line hasn't given Darnold much help either.
Josh Allen, Bills
Stats: 55 of 103, (53.4% completion), 666 yards (6.5 yards per attempt) 2 TDs, 4 INTs, 63.8 QB Rating
Like Darnold, the times Allen has moved quickly from his first to his second read have been few and far between. Also like Darnold, Allen hasn't been comfortable moving away from any semblance of pressure inside the pocket. He too has been forced to throw with defenders -- and offensive linemen -- in his face due to a lack of pocket presence. All of that has led to a high amount of sacks, and Buffalo's offensive line has been average at its absolute best, particularly against the blitz. He's dealt with plenty of drops as well. Allen's proven to be a commodity as a runner, both on scrambled and designed plays.
He's had a handful of clear-cut misfires but when kept clean and when his initial read has gotten open quickly, Allen's thrown with major velocity and good accuracy without ball-placement problems. His pass-catching options are the worst of 2018's first-round quarterbacks who've started thus far, and he hasn't seen as many quickly open first-read targets as his signal-caller contemporaries. Also, what's likely a plan to accentuate his arm strength, the Bills' scheme has been mostly vertical based, and while Allen has taken many shots beyond 20 yards, there have been a couple of times he hasn't pulled the trigger downfield to give his receivers a chance to make play.
Either way, given the offensive line, his shaky pocket presence, and current tendency to lock onto his first read, Allen would benefit from more quick-game elements in Buffalo's offense. In the second half against the Packers in Week 4, he was much more calm in the pocket and more decisive than in any other half of football I've seen him play at the NFL level, but Allen was not moving quickly to his second read.
Josh Rosen, Cardinals
Stats: 19 of 34 (55.9% completion), 216 yards (6.4 yards per attempt), 1 TD, 1 INT, 72.7 QB Rating
Rosen has been the closest to Mayfield in terms of pocket presence and patience within the confines of his offensive tackles. He's made a few bad decisions with the football yet has mostly been an accurate passer, with some misses at the intermediate-to-deep portions of the field. He hasn't had a problem with velocity.
Importantly, Rosen has been capable of moving to his second read if his first target is covered, and he's even done so while under duress.
His fourth quarter and final drive against the Seahawks were excellent, as he dropped a few dimes at the intermediate level, calmly moved away from pressure with his eyes downfield, and tossed accurate passes to secondary targets. Like Darnold and Allen, his offensive line is concerning and, thus far, has been the worst of any of the four first-round quarterbacks from the 2018 Draft who saw the field in September.