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Fast forward to April 26, 2018. The Cleveland Browns make Baker Mayfield the first-ever selection in the annual NFL Draft. Two rows later, the New York Jets jumped at the chance to select Sam Darnold. Here are two concessions that are rubbing their hands with the addition of their future quarterback for the next fifteen years. Let’s go back to the present, Darnold and Mayfield are now in the same group of quarterbacks… at the Carolina Panthers! How cruel is the fate of quarterbacks in the NFL.
Mayfield, however, enjoyed success with Cleveland before being tossed out by the Browns in favor of controversial Deshaun Watson. The University of Oklahoma product may not have emulated Drew Brees as the Browns had hoped, but he has served Cleveland well and above all he has done what no other quarterback hadn’t done in Cleveland since 1994, winning a playoff game. Just two years later, Mayfield was sold to the Panthers.
For his part, Darnold never managed to make his place in the NFL. After a rough stint in New York, he seemed on the right track after a few weeks in his first season in Carolina, but the coach went back to being pumpkin and Darnold was atrocious before being injured for the majority of the season.
With both men in the same organization, both are unlikely to be able to salvage their careers as NFL starters. Mayfield clearly had the advantage during the camp and with Darnold’s ankle injury during a preseason match, the slope will be very steep for the redhead. On the other hand, if Mayfield and the Panthers experience early season failures and the former Jets veteran returns healthy, the rope may be very short for the former Heisman Trophy winner.
New York, New York
Another one who has to answer for his early selection is Daniel Jones of the Giants. The surprise selection of the former Duke quarterback had many observers raised eyebrows and some Giants fans screaming. We have to admit that after three seasons, the critics of Danny Dime can rub their hands.
Jones simply never progressed as a quarterback, even worse, he seemed to regress over the past two seasons. Whether it’s nasty fieldworkers tripping him or his offensive line failing to block anything, or star running back Saquon Barkley being unable to avoid the infirmary, Jones has no more excuses. It should display a level (or two) higher, immediately.
In the other New York formation, the efforts were put in place to help the young jewel Zach Wilson in view of his second season. But since the Jets are the Jets, bad luck plagued the young man and he suffered a knee injury in the first week of the preseason schedule. The news was pessimistic, but it was ultimately a tear in the meniscus of the right knee that Wilson suffered. Good news under the circumstances, but the young man could miss the start of the season and it is without several repetitions with his teammates that he will have to find the rhythm in the season.
The former high hopes or the young wolves?
In Pittsburgh, the quarterback situation is also a question mark heading into the season. The Steelers are counting on a starting battle between Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett. If Pickett is clearly established as the quarterback of the future, Trubisky seems to be the one who will see the field first in the first week of activities against the Bengals. The former 2017 second overall pick will have an opportunity to return to the spotlight in a starting role after a contested season as backup quarterback to Josh Allen at Buffalo and a mixed start to his career in Chicago. With a very good defense as in his second season, Trubisky may be able to show that he has what it takes to be a starter when the game does not have to rely entirely on him.
The parallel is similar to Atlanta. Marcus Mariota – another second overall pick – is finally given an opportunity to return to a starting job after Ryan Tannehill robbed him of the Titans spot. Unlike Trubisky, another former No. 2 draft pick, Mariota will have to earn his spot against a rookie who didn’t hear his name in the first round. The Falcons waited until the third round to make Desmond Ridder the second quarterback selected after Pickett.
For the moment, the veteran has the keys to the attack of Atlanta, but fans will quickly want to see the youngster if the Falcons have the failures that many believe. Ironically, the third quarterback selected in the 2022 draft, Malik Willis, heard his name being spoken by the Titans. A possible eventual replacement for that same Tannehill, although it would be very surprising to see that happen in 2022.