The smoke is thick. The 2018 NFL Draft is less than two weeks away and there are plenty of hot rumors, many involving this year’s potential record-setting class of quarterbacks.
Wyoming’s Josh Allen is the current hot topic, with several plugged-in NFL draft analysts joining me in projecting the 6-foot-5, 237-pound wunderkind to be the No. 1 overall selection.
Perhaps the more interesting rumor, however, is about Allen’s near polar opposite — Oklahoma’s 6-1, 215-pound Baker Mayfield. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner lacks his competitors’ prototypical size, but some feel he stands head and shoulders above every other passer in this class when it comes to accuracy, winning percentage and on-field poise.
While most have focused on the trio of Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen as the “big three” quarterbacks likely to earn top-five selections, I’m told that Mayfield remains very much in the conversation for a couple of clubs selecting this high, as well as those with the draft capital (Buffalo, New England) to get there.
After Allen, Darnold and Rosen go 1-2-3 (to the Browns, Giants and Jets, respectively) in my latest mock draft, I have Mayfield projected to go 12th overall to the Bills. Sources say there is no way he’ll be on the board that long, however.
“If the Bills want him, they’re going to have to come up to get him,” one scout said. “I’ll betcha he goes top five and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is before some of those other guys.”
The draft stock of Lamar Jackson, the other Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in this draft class, appears to be heading in the opposite direction. My latest mock has him projected to go 15th overall to the Arizona Cardinals.
“Look, there is no getting around it, the question with (Jackson) is intelligence,” another scout said.
“We all know what a remarkable athlete he is and that (Bobby) Petrino’s offense asks the quarterback to do some tough things, but you’re making quite a commitment with (Jackson). The entire offense is going to be built around him, so the owner, coaches and players already on the roster are going to have to buy in.
“If he gets past Arizona, he could slide, perhaps even all of the way out (of the first round). The Oklahoma State kid (Mason Rudolph) may jump him.”
Rudolph increasingly is being tied to the New England Patriots, who may see the former Cowboys star as the perfect protege to Tom Brady. The Patriots have picks Nos. 23 and 31 after trading wide receiver Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams.
If all six quarterbacks are selected among the first 32 selections, it would tie an NFL record for the most passers to get drafted in the first round. The 1983 class featured three future Hall of Famers in John Elway, Jim Kelly and Dan Marino, who were selected first, 14th and 27th overall, respectively, with Todd Blackledge (Kansas City, No. 7 overall), Tony Eason (New England, 15) and Ken O’Brien (New York Jets, 24) rounding out the record-setting crop.
This year’s quarterback class could tie another modern record if quarterbacks are taken with the first three selections. That last time occurred in 1999 when the Browns were on the clock at No. 1 overall and nabbed Tim Couch, followed by Donovan McNabb (Philadelphia Eagles) and Akili Smith (Cincinnati Bengals).
It also happened in 1971 when a much more successful trio of passers (Jim Plunkett, Archie Manning and Dan Pastorini) led off the draft, selected by the Patriots, New Orleans Saints and then-Houston Oilers.
Quarterbacks have never gone 1-4 in an NFL Draft.