The 2018 NFL Draft has the potential to match the 1983 edition as The Year of the Quarterback, with five taken in the first round on Thursday night. It also has a chance to match 1999 as The Year of the Bust, when five quarterbacks went in the top 12 but included busts Tim Couch, Akili Smith, and Cade McNown.
Let's take a look at the five QBs drafted Thursday and how they fit with their new teams:
■ Browns QB Baker Mayfield: No one doubts Mayfield's athleticism, playmaking ability, or heart. But the 2017 Heisman winner was a surprise choice for No. 1 overall given his height, becoming the first quarterback shorter than 6 feet 2 inches to go with the top pick since Michael Vick in 2001. Mayfield also has a fiery personality that has gotten him in trouble with his words, and in trouble with police last year with a public intoxication arrest.
Browns general manager John Dorsey spent a lot of time defending his choice on Thursday night.
"This is a guy that has earned everything he has ever had, from high school to college and now up here," Dorsey said of Mayfield, a two-time college walk-on. "He is an outlier that is really good. This guy is as good of a quarterback going out statistically that there has been."
When asked about Mayfield's height, listed a shade under 6-1, Dorsey emphasized Mayfield's hand size.
"When he came in here, we kind of measured his hands. He has 9 6/8 [inches] hands. That is good for the elements in November and December," Dorsey said. "Actually, I did it three different times to make sure it was right with three different people. Every time, it was 9 6/8."
Dorsey also noted that Mayfield's height didn't result in batted passes.
"Guess what? He was the No. 1 guy who had the least amount of batted-down balls at the line of scrimmage," Dorsey said. "What he does mechanically is he gets back faster than anybody in terms of getting the play back. That gives him an extra couple of yards to see the field, extend the play, and make those plays downfield."
And Dorsey defended Mayfield's maturity.
"I have no problems with a young man being allowed to understand the mistakes he makes, and let's move forward," Dorsey said.
The Browns say that Mayfield will sit and learn behind Tyrod Taylor, who enters the season as the starter (and also stands 6-1). But the Browns are tantalized by Mayfield's talent and production — 119 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions in three years at Oklahoma — and will be tempted to play the Sooner sooner.
"He has feet to extend the play. He has really good accuracy. He has a quick release. He has a strong arm. His efficiency in the red zone offense is uncanny," Dorsey said. "You know what else separates him? He is hungry. He wants to be a really good football player, and he is going to be a really good football player."
■ Jets QB Sam Darnold: The Jets didn't have much debate about this pick. They traded up to No. 3 back on St. Patrick's Day, and were thrilled that Darnold fell to them.
The Jets have a crowded QB room, with Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty likely to be released. The Jets love Darnold's potential, but protected themselves from having to play him right away by signing Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown this offseason.
The Jets mentioned several times Thursday night that Darnold is still 20 years old for another couple of months.
During the team's predraft visit with Darnold, "Maybe one or two of us ordered cocktails," GM Mike Maccagnan said. "Of course, Sam isn't legal, so we were joking around with him a little."
Obviously, the Jets are going to work on Darnold's ball security. He threw 22 interceptions and had 21 fumbles in two seasons at USC.
"We think those things can be corrected," coach Todd Bowles said. "That's something that we'll work on with him on and that we can overcome that. So, we didn't feel too bad about that."
Neither McCown nor Bridgewater cost the Jets much money, nor are they in the team's long-term plans. So Darnold has a chance to win the job for Week 1.
"We're not going to throw him out there, but at the same time, we're not going to hold him back, either," Bowles said.
■ Bills QB Josh Allen: The Bills also found themselves defending their pick Thursday night, after a handful of old tweets from Allen using racial epithets surfaced before the draft.
"He's a really good kid," Bills GM Brandon Beane said. "We did a lot of background on him. You know, obviously the stuff came up today, we researched that, followed up with him, so we feel very good about it."
The Bills entered the night with picks 12 and 22, and easily could have sold the farm to get Allen at No. 2, 4, or 5. But they remained patient, and were rewarded when Allen was still available at No. 7. Beane pulled off a trade with Tampa Bay to land Allen, and was able to keep the No. 22 pick.
"We were willing to part with it, but we were also excited to keep it, and it worked out in our favor to land in our spot," Beane said.
Why Allen over Josh Rosen? Allen may have had accuracy issues at Wyoming, but the Bills love his 6-5 frame, huge arm, and poor-weather experience.
"He is Buffalo. You will see that when you meet him," Beane said. "No matter if we selected any quarterback, they all had something — a knock on them. You've got to pick what you're willing to deal with and work with. We just think his makeup is going to help him work on his flaws."
■ Cardinals QB Josh Rosen: One knock on Rosen is that he is too much of a free thinker and isn't totally committed to football. After going 10th overall, the fourth quarterback off the board, Rosen did a good job enhancing his first reputation, and dispelling the second.
"I thought I should've been picked 1, 2, or 3," Rosen said. "I was pissed. I was really, really angry. [Then] I got the call and I got really happy, and really motivated. All I wanted to do was get on a plane right then and go straight to Arizona and start working."
Rosen will compete with Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon for snaps in 2018, and Rosen won't go down quietly.
"I'm not going to come in, and be an [expletive], and think that my [expletive] don't stink," Rosen said. "I understand the situation. I'm going to come in, be respectful. Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon are two amazing quarterbacks, but we are all professionals and were all going to compete our butts off.
"I want to be me and the Arizona Cardinals know what they are getting. They are not getting a kid that is going to stay stupid things and piss people off unnecessarily."
Arizona GM Steve Keim certainly believes in Rosen, trading up from No. 15 to get him. Rosen won UCLA's starting job as a true freshman and threw 59 touchdown passes in three seasons.
"To me, when you find those type of guys, and when you give up that kind of compensation, you pull the trigger and never look back," Keim said.
And Keim doesn't seem to mind Rosen's personality, as Rosen could help bring some much-needed fire to a stale Cardinals team. When asked about the inflatable hot tub Rosen had in his college dorm room, Keim replied, "Wish I had one."
■ Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson: The most fascinating pick of the night, Jackson will likely sit behind Joe Flacco in 2018. But the minute Flacco falters — and his numbers have taken a nosedive the last three seasons — the pressure will be immense to supplant him with Jackson.
Flacco's contract still has $28.75 million left in dead money, so his roster spot is safe for this season. But next year his deal has $16 million in dead money, which the Ravens could easily spread out over two years by making him a post-June 1 cut, so his time in Baltimore could end after 2018.
Meanwhile, the Ravens spent Thursday night reveling in their draft haul. They traded back twice and took tight end Hayden Hurst with the 25th pick, then traded up to the 32nd pick and landed Jackson with the final pick of the night.
"It was masterful the way it came down in the draft room tonight," said Ozzie Newsome, conducting his final draft as Ravens GM. "It was unbelievable."
There is no doubting Jackson's athleticism, but some, most notably Bill Polian, have suggested Jackson is better off switching to wide receiver.
"He's a quarterback through and through, and he's a playmaker," coach John Harbaugh said. "When you look at stats and you evaluate him, he does all the things that any quarterback does. But we do some analytics and when the ball is in his hands, there hadn't been a better playmaker, really, in the last few years coming out [of the draft]. He's a great quarterback."
CHOOSE YOUR WORDS
Gronk should tread carefully
The NFL Draft wasn't the only resolved drama last week. Star tight end Rob Gronkowski announced on Instagram that, "I met with coach today and informed him I will be back for the 2018 season with the Pats."
Gronk was smart to clear that up. It's one thing to stay away from offseason workouts, it's quite another to pull the news conference stunt he did at the motocross event at Gillette Stadium last weekend. Openly taunting Bill Belichick and, by extension, the fans, is not a good way to earn a pay raise from the Patriots. It's a good way to get traded — and you'll notice that Gronk cleared up his issues with Belichick right before the draft.
But there's still a lot to unpack from Gronkowski's announcement, as he seems to still be taking small digs at Belichick. The way Gronk phrased the announcement caught my attention: "I told him I'm coming back," not the other way around, and specifically said he's coming back to the Patriots, not just to play football.
Gronk yet again used a hashtag referring to his rubber-band workouts with trainer Alex Guerrero, which has become a source of contention between Gronk and Belichick. And, strangely, shortly after Gronk committed to the Patriots for this year, he announced that he's going to the Bahamas for Shark Week.
It is still unclear whether Gronk intends to participate in the Patriots' voluntary offseason workouts, for which he could receive a $250,000 bonus.
Moving forward, it still makes sense for the Patriots to give Gronkowski a new contract — he's a dominant player, and you can keep him happy while also lowering his salary cap number. But it won't happen until late this summer or training camp, after he keeps quiet and shows a commitment.
Some contracts really stress safety
The Patriots could probably squash Rob Gronkowski's Shark Week/motocross/WWE fun if they wanted to. Gronkowski's contract has language that allows the Patriots to prevent him from "engaging in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury," but it doesn't list any specific activities.
Gronk is lucky he doesn't play for the 49ers, where "professional wrestling" is among the many activities banned in each player's contract.
Per copies of the new contracts signed by Jimmy Garoppolo and Richard Sherman, they are prevented from "skydiving, hang gliding, rock or mountain climbing, racing of any kind including as a driver or a passenger, motorcycling, use of any off-road or all-terrain vehicle, professional wrestling, boxing, firearms, scuba diving, jet skiing, surfing, bungee jumping, diving, and snow or water skiing."
Plenty of incentive
A few other contract-related notes:
■ Patriots running back Rex Burkhead signed a new three-year deal that has $1.25 million in incentives each season. He gets $250,000 each for 40 percent of offensive snaps, 50 percent, and 60 percent, and 1,000 total yards of offense and 1,200 total yards. Burkhead played just 17.12 percent of snaps last year, and gained just 518 yards.
■ Sherman's contract with the 49ers, which he negotiated himself, initially called for him to earn a $2 million bonus if he passes the team physical by the third day of training camp. But after the contract was agreed to, the NFL Players Association stepped in and asked the 49ers to renegotiate that clause in good faith, as Sherman is coming back from a ruptured Achilles' tendon. Sherman now has until the end of Week 11 to pass the physical and earn his bonus, which happens to be the 49ers' bye week.
■ Sherman gets a $1 million bonus for playing in 90 percent of snaps, and his contract specifies that there is no rounding up, so 89.99 percent doesn't count. He also gets a $2 million bonus if he is voted first- or second-team All-Pro, and has to earn that title on just one of these five lists: Associated Press, Pro Football Weekly, Pro Football Writers of America, Sporting News, and Sports Illustrated.
Best of luck to tight end Jason Witten, who's retiring after 15 seasons and 1,152 receptions, fourth in NFL history. The future Hall of Famer is taking a cue from his buddy Tony Romo and leaving the game even though he still has a little bit left in the tank, and heading right into a broadcasting job — as the lead analyst for ESPN's "Monday Night Football" . . . Word out of New York is that the Jets players aren't thrilled with the prospect of playing with another rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold, per a league source, and preferred that the team stick with Teddy Bridgewater and Josh McCown and instead draft a pass rusher with the No. 3 pick (Bradley Chubb was available). But players only think short term, and either don't understand or want to accept the long-term organizational need of developing a franchise QB . . . Shad Khan said that his impending purchase of Wembley Stadium in London is simply a move that "would deliver another — and very significant — asset and local revenue source that would further strengthen our investment in London, which everyone knows is crucial to the Jaguars' continued sustainability in Jacksonville." But it sure seems like this move is a big step in the process of the Jaguars moving to London. Khan has established the Jaguars as an annual participant in the NFL's International Series, and also owns Fulham FC. At minimum, the NFL owning a stadium in London should open the possibility of hosting a Super Bowl and/or Pro Bowl across the pond.