NFL 1st-round quarterbacks from 2018: Halfway through 2nd season

Five quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. This is the latest in the series charting their progress, now through week 9 of their second season.

Two quarterbacks who were selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft are on track to make the playoffs in their second season.

It just may not be the two who many pundits had tabbed to lead their respective team to the playoffs in 2019.

Halfway through the 2019 season, the playoff race is already taking shape, in a muddled kind of way. Teams like the New England Patriots, Kansas City Chiefs, Green Bay Packers, and New Orleans Saints are all where they are supposed to be, sitting atop their divisions.

And there are surprises as well, with the San Francisco 49ers, behind a suffocating defense and efficient offense, the only undefeated team at 8-0. It seems we were all too busy anointing the Cleveland Browns the next NFL darlings to see what was really developing.

The Browns and Baker Mayfield are one of the league's disappointments, with many pegging the Browns for a playoff spot in 2019. Instead, it's Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens and Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills who appear on track to make the playoffs.

It is no surprise these two are atop the power rankings for the five quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.

As the rubble of the season's first-half settles, Jackson and Allen have pulled ahead of Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen. For the most part, their teams have faced each other, with the Ravens and Bills playing on December 8. (With Allen first facing Mayfield coming up here in week 10).

All five have also faced the New England Patriots, with only Jackson coming out victorious. The Ravens knocked off the previously unbeaten Patriots 37-20 in week 9.

Here is the latest pecking order for these five second-year quarterbacks:

Lamar Jackson

The Baltimore Ravens are 6-2, thanks in part to Jackson's play and his control of the offense.

There are certain elements about this offense and Jackson that brings to mind the play of Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers earlier this decade. Eventually Kaepernick was slowed down as teams exposed his weaknesses. And while there might be a blueprint to do the same to Jackson, who is 12-2 in the regular season as a starter, it hasn't yet been deployed and Jackson continues to succeed.

No longer are executives saying Jackson should switch to wide receiver. Jackson has the Ravens, winners of four straight, on track for an AFC North title. He has not thrown for an interception since throwing for three in a week 5 overtime victory over the Steelers.

Jackson has continued to win with his legs, rushing for 329 yards and 4 touchdowns in his last three games. He's ran for 637 yards in 2019, putting him on pace for 1200+ yards on the ground this season.

Knocked for a perceived lack of passing skills entering the NFL, Jackson has been efficient. He's completing 64.3 percent of his passes, throwing for 1813 yards, 12 touchdowns, and five interceptions.

He does have a perplexing performance from time to time, like the Steelers game or the 9-20 performance in a victory at Seattle. Jackson, with a strong defense to back him, is finding a way to win in 2019, much like the quarterback next on the list.

Next four weeks: @ Bengals (11/10), vs Houston (11/17), @ L.A. Rams (11/25), vs 49ers (12/1) 

Josh Allen

As long as Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills continues to perform well, I will continue to offer a mea culpa on the quarterback.

Seeing him in action in college, I never understood the first-round hype that surrounded Allen. Even last season, I saw the makings of someone still struggling with his accuracy that might win a few games with his legs and gutsy play.

Well, midway through 2019, the Buffalo Bills are 6-2. And while they are backed by a strong defense and some exciting playmakers (looking at John Brown and Devin Singletary), the Bills are successful thanks in part to the play of Allen.

Allen has also improved his accuracy (60.9 percent) while showing poise in the pocket. Short and intermediate throws by Allen have also improved as the Buffalo offense continues to get better. He's passed for 1653 yards and is staying on the positive side of the touchdown (10) to interception (7) ratio.

The Bills also continue to utilize Allen in the running game, though at much less of a pace Jackson doing for the Ravens. Allen has 247 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

Holding onto the ball is a bit of a problem for Allen. He's had five fumbles in the last two games, though he's only lost one of them.

Circled on the calendar is a week 16 rematch with the Patriots in which the AFC East title could possibly be on the line. First, however, is a match with the quarterback currently sitting third on my list.

Next four weeks: @ Browns (11/10), @ Miami (11/17), vs Denver (11/24), @ Dallas (11/28)

Baker Mayfield

The problems of the Cleveland Browns (2-6) can be attributed to much more than Baker Mayfield though he certainly deserves his fair share of the blame.

We may have rushed the Browns to greatness far before the 2019 season but much of the backlash is well deserved. Yes, they hit a tough stretch by playing San Francisco, Seattle, and New England (all losses). But to be an elite team, they need to win these games and it starts with Mayfield.

Mayfield has thrown for nearly 2000 yards but he has only seven touchdowns against 12 interceptions, including three in the red zone.

He's also struggled with third-down passing, hanging out near the bottom of the league. Mayfield has also been sacked 23 times.

Cleveland has talent alongside Mayfield at running back, Nick Chubb, and wide receiver, Odell Beckham Jr, but that has not yet translated into victories. Mayfield does have a tendency to lock in on one receiver and is completing only 58.7 percent of  his passes.

Still, the talent is there, and Mayfield could still turn this season around and make a run for the playoffs, with a chance to go 4-0 in the next stretch of games if they play to their ability.

Next four weeks: vs Bills (11/10), vs Steelers (11/14), vs Miami (11/24), @ Steelers (12/1)

Sam Darnold

Sam Darnold of the New York Jets (1-7) has had a season slowed by a case of mono. He missed three weeks of action, plus a fourth for a bye week. When he returned in week six against the Dallas Cowboys, it appeared Darnold was finally going to live up to being selected in the first round.

Darnold was nearly flawless in the Jets 24-22 upset over the Cowboys. He was 23-32 for 338 yards and two touchdowns. Darnold did throw an interception and lost a fumble, but all told it looked like he woke the Jets up from the slumber. Dreams of the playoffs were dancing around the heads of New York fans once again.

Then three straight losses occurred, including a loss in week 9 at Miami. First there was a shutout at home against the Patriots, a game in which Darnold was 11-32 for 86 yards and four interceptions.

This was followed by an 8-sack performance against Jacksonville, in which Darnold threw for 218 yards, two touchdowns, and three picks. The Miami game was better, with Darnold going 18-26 for 260 yards, but the result was still the same.

Darnold has shown flashes of becoming a solid starter, but still needs more consistency. And to cut down on his interceptions. He's thrown nine in six games and has also been sacked 18 times. Darnold has tossed for 1077 yards and six touchdowns.

Next four weeks: vs Giants (11/10), @Washington (11/17), vs Oakland (11/24), @Bengals (12/1)

Josh Rosen

Josh Rosen had the perfect chance to showcase his skills in 2019. And it appears that opportunity has passed him by.

Rosen, traded to the Miami Dolphins (1-7) after only one season with the Arizona Cardinals, began 2019 on the bench. But with Ryan Fitzpatrick struggling and the Dolphins front office in full on "tanking" mode, Rosen was handed over the reins to the offense.

The result? Three starts, zero wins and eventually getting benched in a week 6 loss to Washington.

A great quarterback can elevate teams and a good quarterback can at least make a team respectable. Rosen failed to do either. Granted, the Dolphins are composed of a team of mostly second-stringers starting and third-stringers as backups, but Rosen still did not get this offense going at all.

The offense was ultra-conservative and in his last start before being pulled, Rosen was a decent 15-25. Those 15 completions, however, went for only 85 yards and Rosen threw two interceptions and was sacked five times.

Rosen may one day get a chance to shine in the NFL, but unless he has a stellar defense and veterans around him, that opportunity might not happen soon.

Rosen has completed 53.2 percent of his passes in 2019, with 567 yards, one touchdown pass and five interceptions. He's also been sacked 16 times.

Next four weeks: @Colts (11/10), vs Buffalo (11/17), @Cleveland (11/24), vs Eagles (12/1)

Be sure to check back in for the next update after week 13.
Photo credit:
1st-round quarterbacks taken in 2018 draft: season 2
1st-round quarterbacks taken in 2018 draft: season 2, through week 4


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