Sam Darnold is progressing to being the Jets’ starting quarterback and appears to be the most likely rookie to be starting Week 1. But he is not the only one with a legitimate chance to earn his team’s starting job from the jump.
Here is how the four other first-round rookie quarterbacks are faring heading into their team’s crucial third preseason game.
Josh Allen, Bills
Allen has flashed the big arm he showed in Wyoming through two preseason games with Buffalo, but that is not the only reason he has risen up the depth chart. Projected starter AJ McCarron fractured his collarbone in the Bills’ preseason victory over the Browns, reducing Allen’s competition to Nathan Peterman. Allen and Peterman have swapped first-team duties in the two days of practice since McCarron’s injury. Peterman played one game last year in his rookie season, throwing five interceptions in a loss to the Chargers. Allen is the fans’ choice, but Peterman has been impressive (17-for-20, 232 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) through two preseason games. The competition likely will be decided in the Bills’ third preseason game, on Sunday against the Bengals.
Baker Mayfield, Browns
Mayfield was the No. 1 pick, but head coach Hue Jackson has been consistent that Tyrod Taylor will be the team’s starter when the season opens. Mayfield wowed against the Giants and was steady against the Bills, but nothing has changed on the Browns’ depth chart. The pressure will be on to get a win early following Jackson going 1-15 and 0-16 in his first two seasons in Cleveland. Mayfield will take over eventually, but will not start immediately.
Josh Rosen, Cardinals
The pitchforks were out for Rosen after a rough preseason opener behind a struggling offensive line and one practice where he, gasp, got angry at a mistake made.
From SI.com’s Robert Klemko, comparing Rosen to undrafted Princeton rookie Chad Kanoff:
Here’s the strange thing about watching Rosen and Kanoff side by side: When Kanoff faltered, he was reserved, attentive, and quickly moved on to the next play. When Rosen tossed up a bad ball or failed in a third-down scenario, he was visibly upset, taking big swings at nothing with a cleated foot and generally looking pretty miserable. A bunch of anonymous scouts were talking about the UCLA product’s bad body language during the pre-draft process, and while you should take most of that anonymous stuff with a grain of salt, one can see here in training camp why there were concerns.
It’s a fair observation, but also a reminder of how harshly Rosen was treated in the pre-draft process. Rosen was much more impressive in Arizona’s second preseason game — completing 10-of-16 passes for 107 yards and a touchdown against the Saints. Rosen will have to wait with Sam Bradford the clear starter, but the veteran has a vast injury history and the Cardinals offensive line is suspect, to put it kindly.
Lamar Jackson, Ravens
Jackson is the most unlikely to see significant playing time this regular season. Joe Flacco has fallen off in recent seasons, but is more competent than the other veterans blocking rookies’ ascendance on this list. The Ravens are also a legitimate playoff threat after missing out with a heartbreaking season-ending loss to the Bengals a season ago.
The true battle for Jackson is with another Heisman winner. He and Robert Griffin III are fighting for the spot behind Flacco, and Griffin is the more polished of the two with his NFL experience. Jackson has shown potential in two preseason games with his running ability, but the accuracy issues that saw him drop to the end of the first round have been there, as well.
The Ravens’ third preseason game is Monday night against the Colts, but they also played in the Hall of Fame Game, so the true test for Jackson and Griffin is still a week away.
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