Evaluating 2018's NFL Rookie Quarterbacks

Baker Mayfield balled out in his rookie season, especially once the Cleveland Browns made changes to the coaching staff. How did the other rookies from the 2018 quarterback class perform?

Entering the 2018 NFL draft, it really seemed like the new batch of incoming rookie quarterbacks was special. It had a bit of everything.

It had the polished, young, pocket passers in Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold. Lamar Jackson was a threat who excelled as both a passer and a rusher. Then you had both Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen, a pair of unique, exciting players on whom everybody had an opinion. These five players were supposed to be the next batch of signal callers to help energize stagnant franchises.

We've now got a year's worth of data on each of these fresh pups. All of them had their struggles, and the overall numbers won't blow you away. But most of them gave at least some reason for hope going forward.

Today, we're going to dig into each quarterback's rookie season to see both the pros and the cons of what they did on the field from an analytics perspective. But before we do that, let's go through some broad takeaways.

First, almost all of these guys love to sling it. League-wide, 18.2% of all quarterback passing attempts traveled at least 16 yards beyond the line of scrimmage. For the rookies, that number was much higher. The ranking listed below is out of 41 quarterbacks who had at least 100 total pass attempts.

QuarterbackDeep RateRank
Josh Allen29.1%1st
Baker Mayfield23.9%3rd
Josh Rosen20.1%9th
Sam Darnold20.1%10th
Lamar Jackson14.1%38th

On average, a deep attempt added 0.49 Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per attempt. NEP is numberFire's metric for the expected points added on each drop back throughout the course of a season, and it includes deductions for expected points lost on negative events such as sacks, incompletions, and interceptions. The risk of a deep ball is baked into that number, and yet it still whooped up on the average Passing NEP of a shorter attempt at 0.20. Being a bomber is definitely a plus.

Second, it's important to keep in mind that these guys are all rookies, and some of them are in awful situations. In the past 10 years, the only rookie quarterbacks to finish in the top 10 in Passing NEP per drop back are Deshaun Watson and Robert Griffin III, so we have to grade them all on a curve. We shouldn't expect them to set the league on fire right from the jump.

Now, let's start to dig in. We'll go through the quarterbacks in order based on where they finished in Passing NEP per drop back, and the first name on that list won't be a surprise.