DENVER (AP) — We’ve been hearing it for months: The 2018 NFL draft is all about the quarterback.
The quarterback conundrum is more like it.
“You can go around a room and probably get four or five different opinions on how they should be stacked.”
That’s a quote from John Elway, Denver Broncos general manager and headliner of the pre-eminent 1983 QB class that featured six first-round selections and produced three Hall of Famers.
There’s no consensus top QB this year like there was with Andrew Luck or Cam Newton a few years ago. Every one of this year’s “Big Four” — USC’s Sam Darnold , Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield , Wyoming’s Josh Allen and UCLA’s Josh Rosen — can find their names atop somebody’s mock draft this week and almost certainly first on somebody’s draft board Thursday night.
What this year’s quarterback crop lacks in clarity it makes up for in complexity.
Louisville’s Lamar Jackson , Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph , and Senior Bowl star Kyle Lauletta of Richmond are also hopeful they’ll hear Roger Goodell call their names early. Throw in Washington State’s Luke Falk, and maybe it’s one of these “Little Four” quarterbacks who might ultimately end up as the gem of this year’s draft.
Sort of like sixth-rounder Tom Brady in 2000 or third-rounder Russell Wilson in 2012.
Should six quarterbacks go in the first round, as many suspect, it would tie the ‘83 standard when Elway, Todd Blackledge, Jim Kelly, Tony Eason, Ken O’Brien and Dan Marino were selected.
If quarterbacks go 1-2-3, it would match 1999’s group in which Tim Couch, Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith were the first three players off the board a year before Brady went 199th.
There’s no clear-cut, surefire top pick quarterback in this year’s draft because all of the prime prospects have at least one key drawback.
So, all of those owners, GMs, scouts and coaches scratching their heads for months will soon be crossing their fingers if they bypass Saquon Barkley, Bradley Chubb, Quenton Nelson, Denzel Ward, Minkah Fitzpatrick, Derwin James and Tremaine Edmunds to dive into the deep quarterback class , which could make or break a franchise’s fortunes.
Every year, quarterbacks rise to the top of the draft, pushing value down the board to teams who already have theirs. Fifty-six quarterbacks have been drafted in the first round since 1996, the last draft featuring no first-round QBs.
“This quarterback draft, like every draft, drives the top end of this thing,” NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “I’m always amazed — and maybe I shouldn’t be — but last year, three of the top 12 picks were quarterbacks and all three were trade-ups on draft night. The year before, the Rams went all the way up to one to go get (Jared) Goff. The Eagles went from 13 to eight to two to go get Carson Wentz. It’s a quarterback-driven league. I think it’s going to be a crazy eight, 10, 12 picks, so many permutations of the quarterback conversation.”
Underscoring the importance of the so-called franchise quarterback, the Texans averaged 35 points a game with DeShaun Watson last season and 13 without him; the San Francisco 49ers went from 17 points a game to 29 under Jimmy Garappolo, who won all five of his starts.
And yet ...
Case Keenum, who wasn’t even drafted, took the Vikings to the NFC championship game. Blake Bortles, a top-10 pick but, in Mayock’s words, nobody’s idea of a “high-level franchise quarterback,” took the Jaguars to the AFC championship contest.
And backup Nick Foles, a third-rounder, outdueled Brady to win the Super Bowl for the Eagles.
“Is that an aberration or a trend?” Mayock wonders.