The 2018 NFL Draft was lauded as the year of the quarterback. It was supposed to be an epic, near-historic draft class of talented and elite first-round passers.
The 2017 college football season has caused most draft analysts to pump the brakes on that assessment. USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen have both underwhelmed while passers like Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson have played well but have questions about their skill set translating to next-level success.
The Draft Wire’s Luke Easterling recently published a new three-round mock draft, one that sticks with the theme that a quarterback will be picked No. 1 overall.
In this scenario, the Browns grab UCLA’s Josh Rosen, who by many accounts is the most pro-ready prospect in the class:
1. Cleveland Browns | Josh Rosen | QB | UCLA
In typical Browns fashion, they tried and failed to trade for A.J. McCarron, which might prove they’re willing to move on from DeShone Kizer already. If that’s the case, I think Rosen makes the most sense as a potential No. 1 pick.
Rosen screams NFL starter. He throws the best ball of any draft-eligible quarterback, but he’s not without his question marks. Durability has been a concern, in addition to his general persona. Post-season workouts and the run-up to the draft will be critical for his final draft value.
At No. 2, Easterling sends Penn State RB Saquon Barkley to the 49ers in a pick that seems like an absolute no-brainer. San Francisco just traded for QB Jimmy Garropolo — they sent a second-round pick to the Patriots — which eliminates them from the quarterback market in the first round.
Barkley represents one of the few truly elite prospects in this year’s class. The NFL is transitioning back to running backs having first-round value, and Barkley is as good of a prospect that the league has seen in years.
The Giants, picking third in this scenario, go with USC QB Sam Darnold:
3. New York Giants | Sam Darnold | QB | USC
His roller-coaster performance this season will have some doubting him as a top-five pick, but his physical tools and upside will be too much for NFL teams to pass up. In New York, he gets to wait in the wings behind Eli Manning.
You can add my name to the list of Darnold non-believers. I don’t think he’s a first-round quarterback, and I’m not sold he’ll even come out this year after the letdown season he’s put on tape. If he does decide to turn pro, the Giants would be making a big mistake calling his name over the likes of Jackson.
For Easterling’s complete mock draft, click here.