Some analysts thought that the 2018 QB class featured a generational group of quarterbacks. Others, myself included, felt that the class had two or three great prospects and some intriguing players who could potentially be quality starters.
Regardless what your thoughts were of the 2018 QB class, we can all agree its been a tough start. Only Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield has a positive touchdown/interception ratio (10:7) and a completion percentage at or above 60%.
Heck, Buffalo’s Josh Allen has missed significant time with a throwing elbow injury, while Josh Rosen and now Sam Darnold have spent time in walking boots. Not ideal. But in this assessment window of the rookie quarterbacks, it’s fair to also look at their supporting casts. Where can they afford to get better? Where do they *need* to get better?
Here, we will hand-select a 2019 NFL Draft prospect to pair with each of the five first round quarterbacks from the 2018 class as a match made in heaven.
Cleveland Browns’ Baker Mayfield – Arizona State WR N’Keal Harry
The Cleveland Browns would be a much more interesting passing attack if the team had held their water with maligned receiver Josh Gordon, who is beginning to blossom in New England. But alas, the Browns had enough of Gordon’s unreliable nature and traded away their best boundary receiver, leaving the team handcuffed with pass catchers who are all best suited to win in the middle of the field.
RB/Slot hybrid Duke Johnson, TE David Njoku and WR Jarvis Landry are all very different players, but they all win in the same areas of the field. That makes life difficult for everyone, as the Browns don’t command a lot of attention on the boundary.
Enter N’Keal Harry. Harry isn’t the most dynamic receiver in the class but for his size he’s a terrific athlete. And Harry has shown the ability this season to make plays with the ball in his hands while also coming up big in contested catch opportunities.
Mayfield at Oklahoma loved to push the ball and adding a sure handed receiver who can go up and beat a defender for a throw would add a missing dynamic back into Mayfield’s style of play.
New York Jets’ Sam Darnold – Wisconsin OT David Edwards
Why Edwards and not Jonah Williams? Because I think Williams is best suited on the left side of the line, where the Jets’ most pressing tackle issue plays on the right. You could certainly substitute Williams here if the preference is to replace LT Kelvin Beachum.
Yet getting RT Brandon Shell out of the starting line-up would be priority number one for yours truly. Edwards is similar to Shell in that he’s massive and possesses a wingspan that will run you out of your current zip code.
But Edwards is different from Shell in that he can actually move and is a great functional athlete who has upside as a starter in the NFL. With Darnold suffering from a lot of pressure in recent weeks, the Jets need to take keeping him upright seriously to keep him progressing in the right direction.
Buffalo Bills’ Josh Allen – Ole Miss WR D.K. Metcalf
Nobody threw a prettier deep ball in the 2018 QB class than Josh Allen. When Allen had an open target down the field, he rarely passed on the chance to let it fly.
Just one problem: Buffalo doesn’t have that kind of receiver on the roster…unless Metcalf is healthy (and declares for the draft). Then, all bets are off. I can’t think of a better marriage of strengths for any two player than Metcalf’s deep ball skills and dynamic play making with Josh Allen’s big arm.
Allen’s best targets in 2018 have been a budding (but still developing) second year receiver in Zay Jones and…gulp…Kelvin Benjamin. If Benjamin’s stats were half as inflated as his ego (or his waistband), the Bills would be in much better shape.
But alas, neither is true.
Arizona Cardinals’ Josh Rosen – Missouri TE Albert Okwuegbunam
You know who knows all about Rosen’s preference for hitting Tight Ends? Texas A&M. Rosen hit his TE (Caleb Wilson) 15 times for 208 yards in a legendary 45-44 comeback win from Week 1 of the 2017 season.
In Arizona, Rosen doesn’t have a lot of great players around him on offense. It would have been easy to justify an offensive linemen in this pairing. But Rosen’s usage of the tight end plus his ability to throw receivers open and Okwuegbunam’s large catch radius make this a pairing too good to turn my nose up to.
The Cardinals currently start a converted wide receiver, Ricky Seals-Jones at Tight End. Okwuegbunam offers a whole different dynamic to the position, he’s a power receiver who has shown great ball adjustment skills in his time playing with QB Drew Lock.
Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson – Boston College OL Chris Lindstrom
I considered a handful of unmatched wide receivers, like Kelvin Harmon. But ultimately the thing that is going to be most important to Lamar’s success in Baltimore is offensive balance. This team will need to shift it’s offensive identity without Joe Flacco to make the most of Jackson’s mobility and athleticism.
That means this team needs to get a lot better at running the football. The interior group of Matt Skura, Bradley Bozeman, Marshall Yanda, James Hurst and Jermaine Eluemunor isn’t going to cut it between young tackles Ronnie Stanley and Orlando Brown Jr.
Enter Lindstrom, who is part of one of the top rushing offenses in the country this season. Lindstrom is a plug and play interior lineman who would offer an upgrade at guard and help Baltimore keep their offensive balance.