This year saw five quarterbacks drafted in the first round for the first time since 1999 and with such high draft status comes high expectations. I’ve gone back through the rookie fantasy performances from each class since this century to find a comparison player for each of this year’s class and tried to project what each player will contribute in fantasy in year one and whether they are worth drafting in your leagues.
Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (Drafted 1st overall)
Projected Rookie Starts: 6
Projected Points: 88 points , 14.8 points per game
Rookie comparison: Russell Wilson (2012)
Mayfield starts his rookie season without the undue to pressure to play that most first overall picks face as Cleveland got ahead of the game by trading for Tyrod Taylor who was a legitimate starter in Buffalo for the last three years. Despite the fact I don’t see Mayfield making the field until after the Brown’s week 11 bye, I can see him having a Wilson-esque start to his career where he shows his accuracy (Wilson was a 64% passer as a rookie) and enough as a runner to show his fantasy value moving forward. Mayfield will be one for dynasty leagues as there is little value in redraft leagues in year one.
Sam Darnold, New York Jets (Drafted 3rd overall)
Projected Rookie Starts: 16
Projected Points: 275 points , 17.2 points per game
Rookie comparison: Jameis Winston (2016)
Darnold is the favorite in my book to start the most games as a rookie from this year’s class and is the guy most likely to be a Week 1 starter. Nine QBs have played every game in their rookie season since 2010 and Darnold would go into a team that has some talent around him, especially at the receiver position. I like the Jameis Winston comp as Darnold, like Jameis, has turnover concerns coming out of college but is known as a no fear type of player who doesn’t let turnovers affect his play and continues to let the ball go. And if Darnold doesn’t throw a pick-6 on his first NFL pass, he’ll already be ahead of Jameis’ curve. I think if he starts, Darnold will be a productive rookie, though will still go undrafted in most drafts but could be a useful waiver wire pick up later in the season.
Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills (Drafted 7th overall)
Projected Rookie Starts: 3
Projected Points: 34 points , 11.3 points per game
Rookie comparison: Paxton Lynch (2016)
Not to labour the point made by so many other but Josh Allen enters his career going into the worst situation of any of the first round rookies in terms of skill talent and offensive line help around him. Because of this, I am trusting the Bills’ decision makers to think of his future and hold Allen out until the team are out of contention and they get a sample of what they can expect from him in year two. The Paxton Lynch comparison is maybe a little unfair but Lynch played three times as a rookie and did not look ready for the action and I can see the same from Allen. There is some potential upside in Allen’s run game and he could be a goal line touchdown poacher in the future, but he comes into the league with much to learn. I think he will struggle to move the ball through the air to get the Bills close to use his legs in the red zone in what I like many others predict will be a long hard season in Buffalo. I struggle to see value in any format at present for Allen.
Josh Rosen, Arizona Cardinals (Drafted 10th overall)
Projected Rookie Starts: 8
Projected Points: 105 points , 13.1 points per game
Rookie comparison: Nick Foles (2012)
Rosen, like Mayfield, has a solid starter ahead of him on the depth chart, though Rosen’s route to being QB1 is as much dependent on Sam Bradford’s health as it is on his ability. Either way, Bradford is a bridge to Rosen, be it this season or in 2019. I’ve predicted like for Mayfield that Rosen gets his chance after his team’s bye week, which for Rosen would give him half a season to play. I’ve compared Rosen to Nick Foles, who came in at the back half of his rookie season and showed flashes, including a 32 point fantasy performance against the Bucs before winning the job and having his record breaking second year. Rosen is my pick in dynasty drafts as I believe he is the one who is most likely to play at a high and consistent level for the longest and I’ve already stashed him in two dynasty leagues so far.
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens (Drafted 32nd overall)
Projected Rookie Starts: 1
Projected Points: 15.2 , 15.2 points per game
Rookie comparison: Michael Vick (2001)
The most electric player possibly from the whole 2018 draft, Jackson rushed for over 4,000 yards in college and brings a real X-Factor to the NFL. His abilities as a passer may be subject to question, but the fact the Ravens traded back into the first round to get him and secure that all important fifth year option shows me they think they’ve found the future. The Ravens are one of the safer franchises in the NFL and other than through injury, I can only see Jackson on the field in a Week 17, one game sample size before they make the big decision next off-season. The Vick comparison has been made a thousand times already but when the man himself calls Jackson ‘five times better than I was’, it’s a comparison worth noting. Vick’s sophomore season in 2002 was on of the most electric ever seen so five times that in 2019 would be something special. Jackson is another to stash in dynasty, though I’ve also taken a late round flier on him in a 2QB league on the off chance he gets onto the field in year and lights it up, especially as a runner. Whatever happens, I’m rooting for Jackson to play sooner rather than later.