(Photo Credit: USA Today via Reuters/Timothy T. Ludwig)
The Cleveland Browns turned heads by choosing Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick and the scrutiny has not stopped. The New York Jets traded up to No. 3 and made the safe choice in USC’s Sam Darnold. The Bills and Arizona Cardinals also traded up to get their quarterbacks in Josh Allen (No. 7) of Wyoming and the brash Josh Rosen (No. 10) from UCLA, respectively.
CBS Sports reports the early odds favor Allen to be the first among the four to start. That may be a safe bet. Going a step further, here is why Allen might also enjoy the best rookie season among this Fantastic Four.
Not much traffic ahead
To start, the 6-foot-5, 222-pound Allen is behind veteran backup AJ McCarron and second-year signal-caller Nathan Peterman. Those two names alone should suggest Allen is poised to at least succeed in a game of leapfrog.
In four seasons backing up Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, McCarron played in 11 games and made three starts. All six of his touchdown passes and both interceptions came in 2015 when those three starts spanned seven games played. McCarron has been a popular choice among backups to earn a starting gig, but he remains unproven, and joining the Bills seems nothing more than an insurance policy.
Thanks to Tyrod Taylor’s ineffectiveness and injuries, Peterman saw action in four games as a rookie and made two starts. His first featured a five-interception day against the Chargers, so Peterman is likely to be the No. 3 man at camp’s end.
What about the other guys?
Mayfield, at least publicly, claims he is fine with waiting for his shot as Taylor, now in Cleveland, is the starter for now. Then there is the size issue, so even when Mayfield gets the reigns of the offense, that deficiency may be exploited. Also remember, he’s playing for a Browns’ team that last won on Christmas Eve 2016.
Darnold should surpass Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater on the Jets’ depth chart this season, especially if New York struggles early. However, McCown has been more than a serviceable NFL starter and Bridgewater could get a shot depending on his health. That leaves time, maybe not long, for Darnold to wait in the wings.
Rosen has a chip on his shoulder after falling in the first round and is out to prove he is the best quarterback in this class. The problem is Sam Bradford also has something to prove as Arizona’s new starter for the moment. Now, banking on Bradford to stay healthy is like keeping a toddler from eating the cookie on his plate. Even if Bradford doesn’t get hurt, if the Cardinals struggle, Rosen should get his chance, but like Darnold, when that happens remains uncertain.
Right place, right time
Experts preached often that Allen was the most ‘NFL-ready’ quarterback in the draft. He has the most durable body frame to succeed among the four and his arm strength is at an elite level. He threw for 3,203 yards and 28 touchdowns in 2016, and while his numbers dropped (1,812 yards and 16 TDs), thanks to a less-than-productive supporting cast this past season, he only threw six picks and his completion percentage (56.3) was a career best.
Allen also finds himself in a solid situation as the Bills are looking to build on their first playoff appearance in 18 years. The Browns, Jets and Cardinals don’t appear to be playoff contenders at the moment. LeSean McCoy is still an elite back, Charles Clay is a dependable tight end and Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones have the potential to be a breakout receiving tandem.
Things set up nicely for Allen in Buffalo. We’ll see how it plays out.
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