After a long offseason, NFL fans finally got to see their favorite stars play on Thursday … for a few minutes before they were subbed out as a precaution due to the fact that football is incredibly dangerous. Still, there was a bit of action and intrigue, including the debuts of some highly touted quarterback prospects.
The usual caveat for preseason is that you shouldn’t get too excited, it’s just one game, it’s nearly impossible to judge a player by a single performance in a glorified exhibition game, blah blah blah. Given all that, it’s now time to determine whether the five rookie signal-callers taken in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft will make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Baker Mayfield (No. 1 pick, Cleveland Browns). After going 0–16 last season, the Browns put the fate of their doomed franchise in the hands of Mayfield, a brash and slightly undersized quarterback who thrilled for Oklahoma against college competition. The Browns have a history of flubbing draft picks (and trades, and free agency acquisitions, and emails), but Mayfield was awesome on Thursday against the Giants. He threw for 212 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Mayfield played only about two quarters, but he passed for more yards than the Browns managed in nine of their games last season. I say this with great sincerity and sadness: Thursday was one of the best nights in recent Browns history.
Will he make the Hall of Fame?: Mayfield is a surefire inductee, so long as he gets to see the field. The Browns traded for Tyrod Taylor in the offseason, and the former Bills quarterback will likely open the season as the team’s starter. Taylor led Cleveland’s first two drives, and he threw for 99 yards, one touchdown, and not a single incompletion. The Browns have too many good quarterbacks.
Sam Darnold (No. 3 pick, New York Jets). The Jets don’t play until Friday night, so we’ll have to wait to judge Darnold’s debut.
Will he make the Hall of Fame?: The NFL is a “what have you done for me lately” league, so I am confident in calling Darnold a bum.
Josh Allen (No. 7 pick, Buffalo Bills). The NFL has a storied tradition of overhyping mediocre college quarterbacks because they are tall and have large hands. Allen, who is 6-foot-5 and can palm a wrecking ball, could be the latest example of this long-running quirk. On Thursday against the Panthers, he completed nine of his 19 pass attempts for 116 yards and one touchdown. While that low completion percentage is a concern, Allen did show that he’s strong enough to throw a football through a bank vault door.
There were also signs for concern, like when he ran backward 20 yards and almost tossed an interception on fourth down. In NFL parlance, that stupid play is called “being a gunslinger.” It’s a good thing!
Will he make the Hall of Fame?: Yes. He is tall and has big hands.
Josh Rosen (No. 10 pick, Arizona Cardinals). The Cardinals play their first preseason game on Saturday, against the Chargers.
Will he make the Hall of Fame?: It’s not Rosen’s fault that he hasn’t featured yet, but if he really wanted to, he would have found a way to suit up for one of the 12 teams that played on Thursday. He lacks that fire in the belly that all Hall of Famers share.
Lamar Jackson (No. 32 pick, Baltimore Ravens). Despite being a standout, Heisman Trophy–winning quarterback at Louisville, Lamar Jackson was the very last pick of the first round. Although the Ravens scooped him up to be Joe Flacco’s backup, he impressed on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Rams.
In the first quarter, Jackson slithered nine yards through the Rams’ defense for a touchdown. Compared with the concrete-footed Flacco, Jackson appears to be playing an entirely different (and better!) sport.
Will he make the Hall of Fame?: Yes. Should he retire after week one of preseason, though, Jackson won’t be eligible for induction until 2023. Patience, people.