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NFL Draft Preview:Second Year Outlook for 2018 First Round QBs

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

With five signal callers selected in the first round of the NFL draft, the 2018 quarterback class was considered by many to be an especially strong one. Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, and Josh Allen each experienced various levels of success as rookies, and coincidentally each will be working with either a new offensive coordinator or quarterbacks coach this season. All five quarterbacks and their teams’ fans are certainly hoping that their new quarterback whisperers will help their young play-callers quickly develop into MVP candidates. However, as these young quarterbacks enter their second seasons, the possibility of a regression exists. Here is the likelihood that each quarterback will experience the proverbial sophomore slump this upcoming season, ranked from least likely to most likely.

5. Lamar Jackson - The Ravens wisely hired Greg Roman this offseason, and I cannot think of a more perfect offensive coordinator to utilize Jackson’s skillset. While Jim Harbaugh gets most of the credit Colin Kaepernick’s rise in San Francisco, it was Greg Roman who was the offensive coordinator and worked most closely with Kaepernick. In their four years together, Roman and Kaepernick reached the NFC title game in at least three of them, including their first year together. While I am not predicting an AFC title game appearance for the Ravens this season, there is no reason that Roman cannot have a similar immediate impact on Jackson’s as he had on Kaepernick’s. I foresee Jackson taking a major leap this year alongside Roman, which is saying something considering that Jackson led the Ravens to an AFC North title in his rookie season.

4. Josh Rosen - Many predict a sophomore slump for Rosen, which almost doesn’t seem fair since we do not even know what team he will playing for in 2019. This ranking is predicated on him being the starter in Arizona in 2019, as he would get to work with new head coach Kliff Kingsbury as well as new passing game and quarterbacks coach, Tom Clements. Clements served as the quarterbacks coach in Green Bay for 11 seasons, where he coached Brett Favre to an NFC title game and played a major role in the development of Aaron Rodgers. Under Clements’ tutelage, Rodgers not only became the only player in NFL history to throw for at least 4,000 yards in his first two seasons as a starter, but earned Super Bowl XLV MVP honors in his third season. If Clements can work even half the magic on Rosen that he did on Rodgers, Rosen is poised for a big leap forward in 2019. However, if the Cardinals draft Kyler Murray on April 25, Rosen would catapult to first in these rankings by a mile. 

3. Baker Mayfield - Baker experienced major success last season after Freddie Kitchens was promoted to interim offensive coordinator, as the Browns went 5-3 in the second half of the season. With a full offseason for Kitchens to implement his own system and playbook, Baker should progress upon a rookie season in which the Pro Football Writers Association named him their Rookie of the Year. However, Baker’s success and Odell Beckham Jr.’s arrival have drastically elevated the Browns’ expectations for the 2019 season. With a league-high four prime time games, it is unknown if Baker will play as freely as he did as a rookie, when wins were not expected and the bright lights were shining not on him weekly. Furthermore, new Browns offensive coordinator Todd Monken arrives from Tampa Bay. On one hand, Monken helped both Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick set career highs in completion percentage in 2018 while helping the Buccaneers lead the league with 320 passing yards per game. On the other hand, Monken is absolutely infatuated with the big play. I am not sure that Monken is what Mayfield needs at this point in his young career, as he learns the difference between a smart risk and an ill-advised one.

2. Josh Allen - The Bills are trying to be very conscious of who they put around their young quarterback, as evidenced by the hiring of Ken Dorsey as offensive coordinator. Dorsey is in many ways the polar opposite of Allen, as he lacked Allen’s athletic gifts during his playing days and had to rely on his high football IQ. Allen had a strong end to 2018 and looks to carry that success into his sophomore season. In his first seven games as a rookie, Allen averaged 141 yards passing and rushed for 3 touchdowns. In his last six games as a rookie, Allen averaged 180 yards through the air and rushed for 5 rushing touchdowns. If Dorsey can work with Allen on progressing more quickly through his reads in the pocket before deciding to run, Allen should be able to build off of his promising rookie season. Unfortunately, Dorsey lacks the demonstrated track record of the quarterback whisperers of Allen’s peers. Thus, the jury is out on Dorsey’s ability to develop quarterbacks, and how this may affect Allen in his sophomore season.

1. Sam Darnold - The Jets’ new offensive coordinator, Dowell Loggains, has a history of working with quarterbacks like Darnold, who can throw accurately on the run. Unfortunately, Loggains’ protégés are more known for their poor decision making than their success. Loggains served as the Browns’ quarterbacks coach during Johnny Manziel’s campaign, which was by all accounts a disaster for both parties that ultimately cost Loggains his job. Coincidentally, Loggains was the recipient of Manziel’s infamous draft night text that read, “I want to wreck this league together.” That did not go as planned. In fairness, in 205 as the Chicago Bears’ quarterbacks coach, Loggains helped Jay Cutler set career highs in passer rating and completion percentage. In 2018, Loggains found himself coaching another mobile quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. That did not go well, and Loggains is fortunate that Adam Gase has hired him in 2019 based on his familiarity with him from their time in Chicago and Miami. Darnold must hope that Loggains has learned from his mistakes in his previous stops, or he could be in for a major sophomore slump.

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