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The Ringer Staff’s 2018 NFL Draft QB Rankings

Who is a Hall of Famer in waiting? Who’s a bust ready to happen? Our writers weigh in on which quarterbacks they’d target if they were making the call on Thursday night.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The 2018 NFL draft has arrived, and one question transcends the rest: Who is the best quarterback in this year’s class? Is it Baker Mayfield, the Oklahoma star who torched defenses en route to winning the Heisman Trophy? Is it Sam Darnold, the USC standout who’s been linked to the Browns for months? Is it Josh Allen, the Wyoming product whose arm strength is otherworldly but whose accuracy remains iffy at best?

Twelve Ringer staffers agreed to list their top five options to be recorded for posterity. For more NFL draft coverage, check out our features, columns, and videos published in the lead-up to the first round.


Danny Kelly:

1. Josh Allen
2. Lamar Jackson
3. Mason Rudolph
4. Sam Darnold
5. Josh Rosen

There are plenty of traits that a quarterback prospect needs in order to succeed at the most difficult position in sports, but scientifically speaking, signal-callers with strong, quarterbacky names have a distinct advantage in the NFL. I’ll even take it a step further: Passers with two first names have basically zero chance of failure. Tom Brady. Jim Kelly. Matt Ryan. Russell Wilson. David Garrard. Otto Graham. Lynn Dickey. Michael Vic(k). Aaron Rodger … s. Uh, Andy Dalton? Tyrod Taylor. Deshaun Watson. Brian Drew. (I’m counting him.) Joe Kane. (I’m counting him, too.) If you’re reaching, Philip Rivers. (That one guy from Weezer is named Rivers, look it up.) Sam Bradford. Robert Griffin III. (Injuries derailed his career, not his name.)

Following this unassailable logic, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, and Mason Rudolph are all guaranteed to be future Pro Bowlers. Sam Darnold is one letter away from the Hall of Fame. Baker Mayfield is screwed.

Riley McAtee:

1. Baker Mayfield
T2. Sam Darnold
T2. Lamar Jackson
T2. Josh Rosen
5. Mason Rudolph

Browns general manager John Dorsey should look to Kevin Costner for inspiration and write himself a note right now: “Vontae Mack Baker Mayfield no matter what.” Mayfield is the only quarterback in this class I truly believe in. His incredible tape and stats should alleviate any concerns about his height, and those worried about his arm strength clearly haven’t seen some of the throws he regularly made at Oklahoma. I like betting on quarterbacks who have already shown that they are great at, you know, playing quarterback. What a concept!

Rodger Sherman:

1. Baker Mayfield
2. Lamar Jackson
3. Sam Darnold
4. Josh Rosen
5. Mason Rudolph

Personally, I think it’s bad that Josh Allen doesn’t know how to throw footballs to other football players.

Megan Schuster:

1. Josh Allen
2. Baker Mayfield
3. Sam Darnold
4. Lamar Jackson
5. Josh Rosen

Let me preface this by saying: I know Josh Allen’s stats. You don’t need to tweet them at me, or email them to me, or send them to my home. I know that, for a projected first-round pick, he had a historically bad completion percentage in college. I know that he’d have one of the lowest QBASE scores ever given to a first-rounder, and I know that expecting him to hit it big in the league is, as my colleague Ryan O’Hanlon wrote, a football fantasy. But does that mean we can’t dream? Can’t fantasize about a guy with THIS FREAKING ARM actually succeeding in the NFL???

Sure, the chances of Allen folding in the pros are much higher than the chances of him getting drafted into a good system, fixing his accuracy issues, and emerging as an elite-level passer. But the odds are long for virtually every quarterback entering the league. Why not roll the dice and take a chance on a guy who could have a once-in-a-generation arm? Especially if you’re the Browns— what do you really have to lose?

Danny Heifetz:

1. Josh Rosen
2. Baker Mayfield
3. Lamar Jackson
4. Sam Darnold
5. Kyle Lauletta

Things I believe: Darnold’s footwork will be an issue early in his career, Baker and Lamar will finish no. 1 and no. 2 in Rookie of the Year voting as long as they start at least 12 games this fall, Richmond’s Kyle Lauletta will be a starter by his second contract, Rosen and Baker’s “attitude issues” will be considered “leadership qualities” two seasons from now, and Rosen will be the first white NFL MVP to speak passionately about racial injustice.

Things I do not believe: The Browns can teach Josh Allen how to competently play quarterback in the NFL.

Andrew Gruttadaro:

1. Josh Rosen
2. Lamar Jackson
3. Sam Darnold
4. Baker Mayfield
5. Josh Allen

As a Bills fan, I look at these five guys and have to ask myself one question: “Who is most reminiscent of J.P. Losman and EJ Manuel?” Those are the past two quarterbacks the Bills drafted in the first round, and both are total trash. I’m not sure Manuel ever threw for more than 200 yards in a game, and there’s a Losman video on YouTube titled “J.P. Losman makes several costly mistakes.” I’m fairly certain Buffalo is going to take a QB on Thursday, and I’m equally certain that it will trade away a bunch of draft capital to do so. All that matters is that the player the Bills pick doesn’t remind me of J.P. Losman or EJ Manuel.

Let’s start with Allen. This guy has Losman written all over him. Both are from smaller schools, both have big arms, and both had shitty college completion percentages. I’m dying for the Browns or Jets to pick him.

As for Mayfield, in general I believe in him. And maybe if he fell to no. 12, the chip on his shoulder would grow even bigger and that’d propel him to success. But this dude would not make it in Buffalo. He needs a spotlight, not a lifetime gift card to the Mighty Taco in Cheektowaga. He’d crash his Porsche into people quicker than Marshawn Lynch did.

I don’t know why, but Darnold’s big dumb face worries me. J.P. had one of those, too. And my personal fear with Jackson is that he’s a better version of Tyrod Taylor, and the Bills just bounced that dude out of town without ever trying to game plan around him. Lamar Jackson feels like a guy who will dominate wherever he gets picked— unless he gets picked by the Bills.

Then there’s Josh Rosen. Yeah, bring him to me.

Zach Schwartz:

1. Josh Rosen
2. Baker Mayfield
3. Sam Darnold
4. Mason Rudolph
5. Lamar Jackson

The Browns are reportedly deciding between Allen, Mayfield, and Darnold. That’s funny, because Rosen will turn out to be better than all three. Allen has a rocket arm but lacks accuracy. Darnold tied for the FBS lead in turnovers last season. (How is that not the biggest red flag in the draft?) I met Rosen at a volleyball tournament before his freshman year at UCLA. A ball rolled up to Rosen’s feet while we were talking, and he picked it up and threw it about 45 yards back to the court from which it came. The pass was beautiful and breathtaking, and at that exact moment I determined he should go first overall in the NFL draft. That’s what scouting is all about.

Michael Baumann:

1. Lamar Jackson
2. Baker Mayfield
3. Josh Rosen
4. Mason Rudolph
5. John McEntee (the former UConn trick-shot quarterback turned Trump body man who looks like a skinny Patrick Reed and got fired for “serious financial crimes,” which is like getting fired by Blackbeard the pirate for drinking and stealing)

The dialogue surrounding the quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class has been like the Apollo program of racial coding. Really astounding work by an American football apparatus that looked like it had plumbed the depths of euphemism and gone through bedrock, oil, the boiling mantle of the earth, and all the way down to Tartarus, where the souls of the unworthy— and also Browns fans— cry out in eternal torment. Even poor Sam Darnold has become code for “Oh, I’m scared of Lamar Jackson’s ‘athleticism’ and Josh Rosen’s ‘being a plant for George Soros,’ but I’m also too chickenshit to throw in my lot with Josh Allen, so here’s a slightly more defensible interception-chucking goober from out west.”

We don’t need this kind of doubletalk— if anything, in this day and age, our nation craves leadership from those who say what they mean plainly. So if Jackson or Rosen scares you off, aim for McEntee. You can probably pick him on Day 3 after you shore up your offensive line and grab a playmaker or two for him to target.

Ryan O’Hanlon:

1. Ryan Leaf’s Favorite Quarterback
2. Bad Face
3. Millennial
4. His Mom Is His Agent
5. Kurt Benkert

Pretty much every metric within the conceptual boundaries of modern mathematical thought suggests that Mayfield is by far the best QB in this class. His weaknesses are that he’s as short as two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, grabbed his crotch during a game against a bad team, and once got too drunk in public. None of the other quarterbacks will be any better than Ryan Tannehill. Josh Allen is undraftable—unless the powers that be bring back NFL Europe. And I’ve got Benkert fifth on my board because his name is perfect, and this one AFC scout swayed me: “He’s got his warts, that’s for sure. But I kind of like some things he does.”

Paolo Uggetti:

1. Josh Rosen
2. Lamar Jackson
3. Sam Darnold
4. Baker Mayfield
5. Mason Rudolph
6. That guy from Wyoming

I’m not going to say this is not an attempt to dispel the notion that I, a USC alum, have some over-the-top affinity for Sam Darnold. I’ve written about both Darnold and Rosen before, and I believe Rosen is so polished that he can’t fail in the NFL unless he somehow goes to the Browns. Does Rosen have the most retire-early-and-become-an-entrepreneur potential of the QBs in this class? Absolutely. But I think he also has the highest floor.

As for Jackson, watching him in college was a genuine thrill, and if I’m going to be stubborn about anything in this draft, it’s that I think he’ll be a successful quarterback in the pros. I’m ready to die on this hill. I feel much the same way about Mayfield, albeit to a lesser extent. Please, please, please have him land on a team that at least looks at what he did brilliantly in Oklahoma and tries to incorporate it into the offense.

Jack McCluskey:

1. Baker Mayfield
2. Lamar Jackson
3. Sam Darnold
4. Josh Rosen
5. Anyone else
NR. Josh Allen

I believe in on-field production, and, as my colleague Rodger Sherman has noted, Mayfield produced the most of any prospect in this class. Jackson is a talented passer and a ridiculous athlete who won a Heisman. I hope the Patriots take him, as Danny Kelly projected in his latest mock draft. I don’t think a “bad face” is a red flag if it’s connected to a solid college QB. And perhaps most crucially of all, I think Josh Allen would be a terrific fit for the perpetual tire fire that is the New York Jets.

Ben Glicksman:

1. Wait Two Years for Tua Tagovailoa
2. Josh Rosen
3. Baker Mayfield
4. Lamar Jackson
5. Kenny Trill

The quarterbacks in the 2018 draft class can do some good things. Josh Rosen is good at installing hot tubs in dorm rooms; Baker Mayfield is good at planting flags into logos at midfield; Lamar Jackson is good at making defenders look ridiculous; and Sam Darnold is good at convincing his roomates to give away adopted cats named Tito. But if we’re being honest, the smartest thing an NFL franchise can do is pass over all of them, use the next two drafts to fill other positions of need, and tank for Alabama rising sophomore Tua Tagovailoa. Allow me to present my case, in two clips.

TUAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA.

As for Kenny Hill, well … I will never give up Southlake Carroll legend and South Carolina Gamecocks destroyer Kenny Trill. Forget everything that happened after Texas A&M’s 5-0 start in 2014. NFL-bound or not, this is the year he wins the Heisman.