NFL: The rise of the 1st-round quarterbacks from 2018 draft

Five quarterbacks were taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. This is the latest in the series charting their careers, now through week 13 of their second season.

The last four games have been quite the stretch for four of the five quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.

Lamar Jackson, Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, and Sam Darnold have combined to go 13-3 over the last four weeks. Jackson is the only one to be 4-0 in this span, with the other three all suffering one loss.

Mayfield and Darnold both suffered a loss in week 13, while Allen picked up a Thanksgiving Day win over the Dallas Cowboys and Jackson and the Ravens won a battle with the now 10-2 San Francisco 49ers.

Allen and the Buffalo Bills (9-3) are in the thick of the hunt for the playoffs. They currently hold the top wildcard spot, leading by two games over the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans. The Bills and their fans, however, have a grander goal in sight: dethroning the New England Patriots as AFC East champions.

The Bills are one-game back of the Patriots (10-2), with a meeting between the two teams looming in week 16. First, however, for Buffalo is a meeting with the top team in the AFC, the Ravens.

Baltimore continues is running over opponents by large margins and also stepping up against the quality opponents they face. They have defeated the Patriots (by 17), the Houston Texans (by 34) and the Seattle Seahawks (by 14).

A main reason for this is the play of Jackson.

Lamar Jackson

Jackson's second season is continuing to be one in which he's proving his true worth in the NFL.

In the last four games, Jackson and the Ravens put up more than 40 points three times. And Jackson was excellent in all three of those games, missing on only 14 passes (47-61) while throwing for 614 yards and 12 touchdowns. He did not have one turnover during that span and was sacked only three times.

And this only tells part of the story.

He ran for 246 yards in that three-game span on 24 carries. He carried the ball more on a rainy, windy day against San Francisco, toting the ball 16 times for 101 yards. This marked the fourth time Jackson went over 100 rushing yards in 2019.

Jackson's MVP-caliber season has seen him complete 66.5 percent of his passes, tossing for 2532 yards and 25 touchdown passes against only five interceptions.

Barring an unforeseen occurrence, Jackson should also reach 1000 rushing yards. He currently sits at 977 (8th overall), averaging 7 yards per carry. His seven rushing touchdowns are second among quarterbacks, trailing only Allen.

Next four games: @ Buffalo, vs New York Jets, @ Cleveland, vs Pittsburgh

Josh Allen

In this pass-happy league, to see quarterbacks winning ball games without throwing for over 300 yards is a bit of a surprise.

Both Jackson and Allen are doing exactly that.

Jackson hasn't had a 300-yard game since week 1 against the Miami Dolphins. Allen has done Jackson one better in failing to reach that mark all season long.

Allen's season-high is 266 against Cleveland as he's thrown for a total of 2591, 58 more than Jackson. He's tossed 16 touchdowns and thrown 8 interceptions. Allen has benefited from the emergence of Devin Singletary. Coinciding with Singletary's production, Allen has stepped up, accounted for 10 Buffalo touchdowns (six in the air, four on the ground) in the Bills' last four games.

A victory over the Cowboys on Thanksgiving was one of Allen's best performances as a pro. He was 19-24 for 231 yards and one touchdown pass. Allen also had 43 yards on the ground and another score.

Like Jackson, though not quite to the same extent, Allen moves the chains with his legs. He has 430 yards on the ground and is first among quarterbacks with 8 rushing scores.

Knocks on Allen had been his accuracy (61.5 percent) and being turnover-prone. He's improved on both during the last four games, completing 62.6 percent while turning the ball over only twice (1 interception, 1 fumble). And prior to the Dallas game -- in which Allen was sacked four times -- Allen had only been sacked once.

With a strong defense and an improving unit on offense, Allen has a chance to lead Buffalo back to the playoffs. A 2-2 record in the last four should do it and a win over New England would just be icing on the cake.

Next four games: vs Baltimore, @ Pittsburgh, @ New England, vs New York Jets

Baker Mayfield

Mayfield had the Cleveland Browns rolling entering week 13, winning three straight and crawling back into the playoff conversation.

A tough outing in Pittsburgh may have very well ended any playoff hopes.

At 5-7, Cleveland sits two games out of the wildcard spot, their only chance at getting into the playoffs. They easily could win three out of their last four, but Cleveland might be looking at an 8-8 season.

Mayfield had looked better prior to the Steelers game (18-32, 196 yards, 1 int, 1 TD), throwing 7 touchdowns and only one interception in three games prior. But he injured his throwing hand towards the end of the first-half and wasn't really in rhythm the rest of the game.

Still, Mayfield has the Brown taking steps in the right direction. He's thrown for 2917 yards and completed 60 percent of his passes. He only has 15 touchdown passes, putting him on pace to fall short of the number he posted as a rookie (27). Interceptions have also been a concern for Mayfield. He's thrown 14, the same number as in 2018, but only three of those have happened in the last six games.

Playoffs may not happen in 2019 for Cleveland, but Mayfield could be slugging it out with Jackson for AFC North titles for years to come.

Next four games: vs Cincy, @ Arizona, vs Baltimore, @ Cincy

Sam Darnold

Darnold had the Jets dreaming of a magical playoff run with his play prior to week 13. Sure, it would have been a long shot but the way the Jets were playing, it seemed like it could happen.

Darnold, in weeks 10 thru 12, had nearly identical numbers each game. He was 58-89 (65.2 percent), throwing for 838 yards, 7 touchdowns and 1 interception. Darnold was in sync with his receivers and he was playing like third pick of the 2018 class.

Then the Jets ran into the Cincinnati Bengals. The very same Bengals that entered the game without a victory and appeared to be making a beeline to the number one pick in the 2020 draft.

Darnold did not have any turnovers in the 22-6 loss, but he averaged less than five yards per pass attempt. He finished 28-48 for 239 yards.

Darnold's improvement has been gradual, but encouraging. He had a four-touchdown performance at Washington and has only thrown one interception in his last four games. That number sits at 10 in 2019, four off the total he had as a rookie.

He's on pace to play in 13 games, the same he played as a rookie. Darnold has thrown for 2154 yards and 13 touchdowns.

Next four games: vs Miami, @ Baltimore, vs Pittsburgh, @ Buffalo

Josh Rosen

The man selected with the 10th pick in the 2018 draft, on his second team, might very well be destined for a career as a backup. Even on a Miami Dolphins team with ownership intent on losing, Rosen has not seen action the last four games (Two of which Miami won).

With Miami likely targeting a quarterback in the 2020 NFL draft, there's a strong possibility Rosen will be on his third team next season. If he had some high-level talent around him, Rosen could put up decent numbers and a decent record. This could be said, of course, about many quarterbacks. In the role of leader on the field, a fantastic quarterback will elevate those around him, something it appears Rosen hasn't been able to do.

Rosen might very well still end up with a decent career. At this point in time, however, he's becoming a distant memory among these group of five quarterbacks taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft.

Next four games: @ New York Jets, @ New York Giants, vs Cincy, @ New England

Check back in after week 17 for a final analysis for season 2 (playoffs notwithstanding).
Photo credits: commons.wikimedia.org

1st-round quarterbacks from 2018 draft: Season 2
1st-round quarterbacks from 2018 draft: Season 2, thru week 4
1st-round quarterbacks from 2018 draft: Season 2, thru week 9

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