What does it take to turn a rookie quarterback into a quality starter, and eventually the face of the franchise?
Five teams -- the Browns, Bills, Jets, Cardinals and Ravens -- all must ask themselves this question as they progress into the season with quarterbacks chosen in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. All of these quarterbacks have unique talents that if utilized properly, will have them bursting on the scene in the 2018-2019 season.
In the AFC North, we have the number one overall pick Baker Mayfield of the Cleveland Browns, and the 32nd overall pick Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens. Both were chosen on opposite ends of the first round. Both came with higher expectations than originally developed prior to the draft. For Mayfield and the Browns, they should embrace the quarterback competition. The Browns did not sign players like Jarvis Landry, Carlos Hyde and especially Tyrod Taylor this off-season to rebuild. These are building blocks to win now, which is a very promising tactic for a team that has only won one game in the last two seasons under Hue Jackson. Taylor hasn't done anything to lose the starting job; therefore, Baker must continue to exceed expectations in practice and preseason so if Taylor gets hurt -- and he does have an injury history-- Baker will be able to step in and take the spot, rather than being eased into the position.
For Lamar Jackson and the Baltimore Ravens, they need to do the opposite of the Browns by treating this as a red-shirt season. Lamar has shown in these first few preseason games that he is seeing the pass rush before even looking at his reads. If it weren't for his athleticism and speed, he'd look like an obvious third string/practice squad player. Joe Flacco's contract is up soon, which in the meantime will give Lamar this season and another full summer to work out in NFL facilities, watch films of complex defenses and simply get a feel for the transition in speed from the college level to the pros.
In the AFC East, we have third overall Sam Darnold of the New York Jets, and the seventh pick Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills. Unlike the AFC North QBs, the best thing for these two quarterbacks is to get reps with live action. Basically learning by doing. Darnold and Allen are on teams that truly need a leader to eventually take the helm as the best quarterback in the division after Tom Brady. To take such drastic steps in improvement, these guys need to be thrown into the fire early to help speed up their development. I would also like to point out that Jets fans should be on the look out for a trade that includes the newly acquired Teddy Bridgewater. A move like that would definitely signify that the Jets are giving Darnold the keys to leading the team.
Last up is the NFC West, with the tenth pick Josh Rosen of the Arizona Cardinals. My suggestion is to let him sit behind a pretty decent starter in Sam Bradford, who allows them to try to win now. Honestly, this is because with a tough, defensive-minded division that includes the Los Angeles Rams and the Seattle Seahawks, that's not the most promising division to just throw a rookie into and say "go make plays."
These five QBs definitely have the talent to be the quarterbacks of the future, but I feel that the way these teams start the development process is critical to these young guys' path to stardom.