Strengths and weaknesses of the NFL draft's top QBs
Todd McShay
ESPN INSIDER



I've believed that Sam Darnold is the best quarterback in the 2018 NFL draft throughout the process leading into April. He has been the first overall pick in all three of my mock drafts, and I think if you polled league personnel, Darnold would get the most votes. Majority doesn't matter much when it comes to the Cleveland Browns' choice at No. 1, though -- general manager John Dorsey and his personnel staff own all the votes.But like the other top quarterbacks, Darnold also has shortcomings, which is what makes this year the most fascinating in terms of evaluating QBs since I've been at ESPN.Here are the strengths and weaknesses of the top five QBs -- Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Baker Mayfield and Lamar Jackson -- as well as what I'm hearing from NFL personnel about potential landing spots.



1. Sam Darnold, USC

Scouts Inc. overall ranking: 3<offer style="box-sizing: border-box;"></offer>Strengths: Darnold needs some polishing, but there isn't much on the football field that he is incapable of doing. He's an escape artist in the pocket and thrives in clutch moments. As far as his pro day goes -- and I don't put much stock in these throwing sessions -- Darnold displayed the anticipation, timing and natural accuracy that you see in most top-level NFL quarterbacks.A linebacker and three-sport high school athlete in his early years, Darnold is the type of competitor I like at QB.Weaknesses: I'm not as concerned with the abundance of turnovers, as plenty of elite QB prospects (Andrew Luck, Matt Ryan, etc.) turned the ball over too much coming out of college. Darnold will need to do a better job of getting two hands on the ball while maneuvering in the pocket, but that can be learned in drills. I also now believe that many of his interceptions can be chalked up to overcompensating for lack of a supporting cast. Darnold is a great leader, but I've heard that you do need to spend some time with him for it to show -- it's hard to demonstrate in a 15-minute interview. He's a quick learner but doesn't have as much experience as the other guys, having only played the QB position for four total years (five if you count his redshirt year at USC).


2. Josh Allen, Wyoming

Scouts Inc. overall ranking: 8Strengths: Allen has helped himself during the pre-draft process more than any other quarterback in this class. Everyone in the league I've talked to has had positive things to say about their time spent with Allen during interviews and private meetings. In fact, I've been told multiple times that Allen has exceeded expectations in those settings, and specifically that he appears to have the mental makeup to handle a tough media market like New York, which is saying something for a kid who grew up on a cantaloupe farm, spent two years at Reedley College in California and was a two-year starter at Wyoming.He has a prototypical QB frame (6-foot-5, 237 pounds) and arm talent that just doesn't come around often. He's also mobile for his size. I believe he has a better natural combination of arm strength and mobility than Ben Roethlisberger had coming out of Miami (Ohio). Allen simply isn't as consistently accurate.Weaknesses: There are plenty of reasons why Allen's career completion percentage (56.1 percent) at Wyoming was so low, including lack of easy throws, the talent around him and some drops. But there's no denying that inconsistent footwork causes to Allen miss too many throws. If he can clean up his base and develop better habits with his stride, Allen could emerge as an elite NFL starter. The good news is that Allen has shown improvement while working with quarterbacks coach Jordan Palmer during the pre-draft process. But will bad habits return on the NFL stage?If you poll 10 guys in the league, five might say Allen will be a star and the other five a bust. We'll find out soon which side of the argument Dorsey falls on. From my understanding, the Browns are still in the process of deciding, but I continue to hear that it's a two-horse race between Darnold and Allen.

3. Josh Rosen, UCLA

Scouts Inc. overall ranking: 9Strengths: Another guy who looks the part, Rosen is a prototypical pocket passer. He looks natural in the pocket and can make all the throws. He also comes from a pro-style system at UCLA. He was reportedly impressive during his chalkboard sessions at the combine and processes information quickly.Weaknesses: No one is pounding the table to take Rosen, in part because he's a complex case study. There isn't much you can point to on the field, other than some poor decision-making and his lack of mobility outside the pocket. Teams are doing their research to find out just how driven Rosen is and how he would fit in with their team culture.


4. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma

Scouts Inc. overall ranking: 13Strengths: Mayfield is the most experienced of the top QBs in this class, and the most accurate on tape. He has won at the highest level and his passion for the game is undeniable. I've never seen teammates rally around a QB like Mayfield's teammates did at Oklahoma. Players feed off his energy and he has a classic "us against the world" mentality. Scouts who love Mayfield really love him.Weaknesses: For Mayfield, it really comes down to the measurements and his offensive system. He doesn't have ideal measurements for a QB at 6-foot, 215 pounds, and no QB outside of Jared Goff has had success at the NFL level coming from a spread offense like Mayfield played in at Oklahoma. Scouts who are down on Mayfield will see his on-field incidents as passion that crosses a line instead of a desire to win and rally his teammates.




5. Lamar Jackson, Louisville

Scouts Inc. overall ranking: 38Strengths: Jackson is the toughest QB in this group to evaluate. He's an instinctive player and does a great job identifying pressure and avoiding it. He was 23-11 as a starter at Louisville, and no player elevated the level of his team's play more than he did. He's highly competitive and was the best college football player with the ball in his hands the past two seasons. His elite athleticism and playmaking ability with the ball in his hands as a runner is by far the best in this class among QBs.Weaknesses: He has a narrow base at QB and tends to stand on his toes more than he should when delivering the ball. He also needs to be more consistent with his footwork and release, as he tends to miss high when he misses. Jackson doesn't have the raw arm strength of some of the other top QBs and wasn't consistently accurate from the pocket enough in college. Simply put, to succeed as a QB in the NFL, he needs more work than the other top guys.

What QB-needy teams are thinking

With less than a month until the 2018 NFL draft, here's what I'm hearing about some of the top teams that need QBs right now:
<i style="box-sizing: border-box;">Cleveland Browns

First-round picks: Nos. 1 and 4Nearly everyone I've talked to seems to believe Cleveland is locked in on Darnold, but I'm told Cleveland hasn't decided who to draft at No. 1. I believe it's between Darnold and Allen.
New York Giants

First-round pick: No. 2I've heard the Giants are also enamored of Darnold and would strongly consider taking him if Cleveland passed at No. 1. The Giants will entertain trade offers at No. 2 to move down if Darnold isn't their pick, and I've heard the Bills are aggressively trying to jump ahead of the Jets at No. 3.
New York Jets

First-round pick: No. 3 (from Colts)The Jets are assuming that Darnold is off the board by the third pick. I've heard they like Allen, Rosen and Mayfield, which makes sense considering they traded up to a spot where two of the top QBs could easily be off the board.
Denver Broncos

First-round pick: No. 5There's a buzz that Denver would strongly consider taking Mayfield if he's there when the Broncos pick. I don't believe general manager John Elway is interested in trading up to get a QB.
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</article>Miami Dolphins

First-round pick: No. 11I keep hearing the Dolphins are targeting Mayfield, but this is called "NFL lying season" for a reason. From what I understand, if a QB they like fell past No. 5, the Dolphins could try to get involved, but I'm not sure that they'll be willing to give up a ton of picks to do so. If we're at pick No. 11 on draft day and one of the top four QBs is still on the board, I'd be very surprised.
Arizona Cardinals

First-round pick: No. 15I think Arizona would like to move up into the top handful of picks to grab a QB, but the Cardinals don't have the ammunition that Buffalo does to make a deal. It appears Allen would be the guy they're willing to move up for.
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