McShay: How 2018 QBs grade vs. first-rounders from past decade

From ESPN - April 12, 2018

I have said throughout this 2018 NFL draft process that I believe Sam Darnold is the best quarterback in this class. I know Louis Riddick likes Baker Mayfield and Mel Kiper has Josh Allen as his No. 1 signal-caller. And that lack of consensus is why I stand by my statement that this is the most interesting QB class I have ever evaluated at ESPN.

How does this year's crop compare to quarterbacks taken in the first round since 2008? Glad you asked. Below are my grades and scouting reports for every first-round QB over the last decade, along with the grades for the top five guys -- Darnold, Allen, Josh Rosen, Mayfield and Lamar Jackson -- in this class. These are in order of highest grade (Andrew Luck) to lowest (EJ Manuel).

Note: The "as a prospect" blurbs are how we viewed each player coming out of college. The grades are from my final evaluations before they were drafted.

Grade: 99

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts (2012)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 1 overall

As a prospect: "There's no such thing as a ca not-miss prospect, but Luck has everything you are looking for in a quarterback. In terms of physical tools, he has a prototypical frame, strong arm and above-average pocket mobility. In terms of his football intelligence, he has a strong understanding of how to run an offense and he makes sound decisions on the field. Finally, there's no question about his ability to step into an NFL huddle and take charge of it."

In the NFL: It has been a mixed bag for Luck, who has made three Pro Bowls and threw for 4,761 yards and 40 TDs (only 16 INTs) in the 2014 season. He has played in only 22 games over the past three seasons, though, and missed all of 2017 with a shoulder injury.

Grade: 98

Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons (2008)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 5 overall

As a prospect: "Matt Ryan does not have the arm strength of a JaMarcus Russell, and he is not a dynamic open-field runner, but he is clearly the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year's draft class. He has better-than-average arm strength, he's accurate and he understands the game. A lot has been made of the amount of interceptions he threw during his senior season at Boston College, but it's important to remember that he did not have a strong receiving corps and that BC put the ball in the air far more often in 2007 than in years past."

In the NFL: Ryan has a 95-63 record as a starter and has missed only two starts since being drafted. He has been named to three Pro Bowls, one All-Pro Team (2016), and outside of a historic meltdown should have a Super Bowl title to his name.

Grade: 97

Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2015)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 1 overall

As a prospect: "Winston is one of the best prospects we have evaluated the last 10 years at the skills that translate to the NFL level, including making pro-style reads, going through progressions and throwing with anticipatory accuracy. He is also a good on-field leader. The concern with him has to do with his off-field behavioral and maturity issues."

In the NFL: Winston's career has been a bit disappointing so far, with 69 TDs to 44 INTs and a record of 18-27. He made the Pro Bowl his rookie season, but the Bucs have not made the playoffs yet under his guidance.

Sam Bradford, St. Louis Rams (2010)

Pre-draft ranking in 2010: No. 3 overall

As a prospect: "There are concerns about the system Bradford played in at OU and the season-ending shoulder injury he suffered last year, but we still think he's an excellent value here. His shoulder has clearly healed and his arm may be even stronger than it was before the surgery. We also believe he has the mental aptitude to make a successful transition to the NFL."

In the NFL: Bradford has always been extremely talented -- and extremely injury prone. Now with his fourth team (Arizona), he has started only 80 games in his career.

Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins (2012)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 2 overall

As a prospect: "The two things that set RG III and Luck apart are concerns about RG III's durability and how long it will take for him to transition to more of a pro-style offense. While there are concerns about the pro-style offense, he's done it enough in college that you know he will be successful in the NFL. If Luck is 1, then RG III is 1A. In fact, he has an even stronger arm and he moves just as well. If he stays healthy, he will be the quarterback Washington so desperately needed and well worth the picks they gave up to get him."

In the NFL: Griffin was incredible as a rookie, leading the Redskins to the playoffs and throwing 20 TDs to five INTs. But after his injury he went 5-15 as a starter in Washington and was inactive the entire 2015 season. He signed with Cleveland in 2016, was out of football in 2017 and recently signed on as a backup with the Baltimore Ravens.

Grade: 96

Mark Sanchez, New York Jets (2009)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 7 overall

As a prospect: "Sanchez does not have as much arm strength or the same body of work as Matt Stafford, but on the other hand teams have fallen in love with his intangibles and arm accuracy during the offseason. There's a lot to like about his pocket presence and ability to elude the rush. We are concerned about rushing him into the starting lineup, but if any of this year's quarterback prospects have the mental toughness to learn on the fly Sanchez is the one."

In the NFL: Sanchez led the Jets to two straight AFC Championship Games, but it was downhill after that. He has been a backup since 2014 with Philadelphia, Dallas and now Chicago.

Grade: 95

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions (2009)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 8 overall

As a prospect: "Stafford has very good upside. He has a very strong arm, good size and adequate height. In other words, the sky's the limit for Stafford. Our concern is that he lacks elite intangibles. This is problematic when you look at the situation in Detroit. The best-case scenario is Stafford winds up as the Lions' franchise quarterback for years to come. In order for that to happen, however, the Lions need to bring him along slowly and that's going to prove difficult. If they rush him, the Lions risk losing out on their investment."

In the NFL: Stafford has improved every season and played every game the past seven seasons for Detroit. With only one Pro Bowl selection and no playoff wins, he has not produced as some fans may have liked. But the Lions clearly have their franchise QB, who is only 30.

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville Jaguars (2011)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 5 overall

As a prospect: "Gabbert has the frame, intangibles and arm strength teams look for. He is a tough leader who can play through pain and rally his teammates, and while he needs to improve his pocket mobility and ability to handle pressure he has the toughness and foot speed to do so. It's somewhat surprising he fell this far because he is the most accurate of the top three quarterbacks on our board, and he has the football acumen to make the transition from a college spread scheme to a pro-style offense."

In the NFL: Gabbert has been a bust, going 5-22 with the Jaguars before being traded in 2014 to San Francisco. He has not thrown for more than 12 TDs in a season and is currently a backup with Tennessee.

Grade: 94

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins (2012)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 12 overall

As a prospect: "Tannehill is one of the most talked-about prospects in this draft. On one hand, there are concerns about his lack of experience and his inability to win games late last year. On the other hand, he has all the physical tools and mental toughness teams look for in a starting quarterback. It's also important to point out that he's more accurate than the numbers suggest, because his receivers dropped so many balls last year that it skewed his completion percentage and hindered his ability to win games."

In the NFL: Tannehill played all 64 games in his first four seasons for the Dolphins, but only 13 over the past two seasons, including missing all of last year. He has flashed potential, but has never led his team to the playoffs and has 106 career TDs to 66 INTs.

Sam Darnold, USC (2018)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 4 overall

As a prospect: "There's no question that he developed some bad habits with his footwork (lazy/sloppy with lower-body at times) and ball security (dangling ball with one hand when moving in the pocket), but both are correctible. The bottom line is that Darnold is the most complete quarterback in the 2018 class and he has the type of makeup that most good NFL starters possess. Darnold grades out as a high-level NFL starting quarterback and he projects to be a top-five pick."

Grade: 93

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers (2011)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 15 overall

As a prospect: "Newton has the physical tools -- frame, arm strength, mobility -- teams covet, and he proved this past season he can play at a high level while dealing with the kind of adversity that comes with the territory for first overall picks. He flashes above-average accuracy when his footwork is sound but he is the definition of a boom-or-bust prospect. He played in a run-heavy scheme that simplified his reads and signaled plays in from the sideline. It does not mean he ca not be successful running a pro-style offense. It just means that he faces a steeper learning curve. Inconsistent footwork causes him to miss the strike zone too much, and he needs to do a better job of keeping his eyes downfield when forced to move around. Finally, there are the polarizing intangibles. Some question his maturity and ability to win over the locker room at the NFL level, while others point to his record as proof that he's an effective leader. He led his team to a JUCO championship two years ago and led Auburn to the 2010 FBS championship."

In the NFL: This scouting report holds pretty true heading into Newton's eighth season. He has only a 58.5 percent career completion percentage and can miss some easy throws -- but he can also fit the ball into the tightest of windows. He has been to three Pro Bowls, won an MVP award and has a 7-7 postseason record. He has also run the ball more than 100 times every season outside of 2016 and has been exceptionally durable (missed three starts in seven seasons).

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans (2015)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 5 overall

As a prospect: "Mariota has prototypical size, outstanding intangibles and football intelligence, and rare athleticism for a QB. He has a strong arm, a quick release, and he is very accurate when throwing on the run. His ability to improve his accuracy and overall efficiency on throws that require anticipation - as he transitions from Oregon's up-tempo spread system to an NFL offense -- will be critical to his success."

In the NFL: Mariota has had injury issues, including a broken fibula in Dec. 2016, but has led Tennessee to a winning record in two of his three seasons and won a playoff game last season. He still can improve his accuracy and needs to cut down on turnovers (15 INTs last season), but Mariota seems to be on an upward trajectory.

Grade: 91

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars (2014)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 18 overall

As a prospect: "Bortles is our top QB in this year's class. He has prototypical size, mobility and outstanding intangibles. He is not a finished product and needs some work with his lower-body mechanics to improve velocity and accuracy. However, he shows excellent poise inside the pocket and has great instincts when extending plays and working off schedule. Bortles' game reminds us a lot of a young Ben Roethlisberger."

In the NFL: Bortles is one of the most polarizing players on this list. He holds only a 21-40 record as a starter in Jacksonville, but led the Jaguars to the AFC Championship Game last season and had three touchdowns and no interceptions in the playoffs. His accuracy is still spotty and he has 64 INTs in four seasons. It will be interesting to see if he can carry the momentum from last season.

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles (2016)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 10 overall

As a prospect: "One of the top two quarterbacks in this class, Wentz is blessed with a strong combination of size and athleticism. He has very good arm strength to make all the necessary throws. He displays quality accuracy at all three levels. There are some concerns about his lack of experience and making the jump from the FCS level. However, Wentz has the tools, football intelligence, maturity and leadership skills to develop into a quality starting QB in the NFL."

In the NFL: Early returns on Wentz look terrific. The Eagles gave up a lot to get him, but he went 11-2 as a starter last season, threw 33 touchdowns to seven interceptions, and was an MVP candidate before tearing his ACL. The arrow is pointing up.

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams (2016)

Pre-draft ranking: No. 11 overall

As a prospect: "Goff is an experienced three-year starter who is one of the most natural passers in this class. He has excellent pocket presence and feels pressure naturally to buy time while going through progressions. Goff shows accuracy and touch with the ability to deliver from an uneven platform. He has added weight and that eases concerns about his durability. He might need time adjusting to an NFL playbook coming from a wide-open system. He is one of the top two quarterbacks in this class and has the tools and acumen to develop into an above-average starter."

In the NFL: Goff had a historically poor seven-start rookie season in 2016, before excelling under new head coach Sean McVay last season. His decision-making was much improved and he was tied for second in the NFL with 8.0 yards per pass attempt. This will be a big season for him.

Josh Rosen, UCLA (2018)

Josh Allen, Wyoming (2018)

Grade: 90

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans (2011)

Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns (2014)

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (2018)

Grade: 89

Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens (2008)

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings (2014)

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears (2017)

Grade: 88

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans (2017)

Grade: 86

Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns (2012)

Grade: 85

Christian Ponder, Minnesota Vikings (2011)

Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos (2016)

Patrick Mahomes II, Kansas City Chiefs (2017)

Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2009)

Grade: 84

Lamar Jackson, Louisville (2018)

Grade: 78

Tim Tebow, Denver Broncos (2010)

Grade: 76

EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills (2013)


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