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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 took the opportunity to select Sam Darnold. Here are two concessions rubbing their hands with the addition of their future quarterback for the next fifteen years. Back to the present, Darnold and Mayfield are now in the same quarterback group … at the Carolina Panthers! How cruel is the fate of the NFL quarterbacks.
Mayfield, however, had success with Cleveland before being expelled from the Browns in favor of the controversial Deshaun Watson. The University of Oklahoma product may not have emulated Drew Brees as the Browns hoped, but he served Cleveland well and most importantly did what no other quarterback has done in Cleveland since 1994, winning a playoff game. Just two years later, Mayfield was sold to the Panthers.
For his part, Darnold has never managed to get himself a place in the NFL. After a tough time in New York, he looked on the right track after a few weeks into his first season in Carolina, but the coach was back to being a pumpkin and Darnold was excruciating before getting injured for most of the season.
With both men in the same organization, both are unlikely to be able to save their careers as NFL starters. Mayfield was clearly in the lead during the camp and with Darnold’s ankle injury during a preseason game, the slope will be very steep for red. On the other hand, if Mayfield and the Panthers suffer failures early in the season and the former veteran of the Jets returns to health, the rope could be very short for the former Heisman Trophy winner.
New York, New York
Another who has to answer for his first selection is Daniel Jones of the Giants. The surprise selection of the former Duke quarterback caused many observers to raise their eyebrows and some Giants fans screamed. We must admit that after three seasons the critics of Danny Dime they can rub their hands.
Jones simply never progressed as a quarterback, even worse, he seemed to be regressing over the past two seasons. Whether it’s bad field operators tripping him or his offensive line failing to block anything, or running back star Saquon Barkley unable to avoid the infirmary, Jones has no more excuses. He should immediately see a level (or two) higher.
In the other New York team, efforts have been put in place to help young jewel Zach Wilson ahead of his second season. But since the Jets are the Jets, bad luck plagued the youngster and he suffered a knee injury in the first week of the preseason schedule. The news was pessimistic, but Wilson eventually suffered a meniscus tear in his right knee. Good news under the circumstances, but the youngster could miss the start of the season and it is without many repetitions with his team-mates that he will have to find the rhythm of the season.
The former high hopes or the young wolves?
In Pittsburgh, the quarterback’s situation is also a question mark ahead of the season. The Steelers are counting on an early battle between Mitchell Trubisky and rookie Kenny Pickett. If Pickett is clearly established as the quarterback of the future, Trubisky appears to be the one who will see the field first in the first week of play against the Bengals. The former 2017 runner-up will have the opportunity to return to prominence in a starting role after a hard-fought season as Josh Allen’s reserve quarterback in Buffalo and a mixed start to his career in Chicago. With as good a defense as in his second season, Trubisky may be able to prove he has what it takes to be a starter when the game doesn’t have to rely entirely on him.
The parallel is similar to Atlanta. Marcus Mariota – another second overall pick – finally has the opportunity to return to a starting job after Ryan Tannehill robbed him of the Titans job. Unlike Trubisky, another former choice No. 2 in the draft, Mariota will have to earn his spot against a rookie who hasn’t heard his name in the first round. The Falcons waited until round three to make Desmond Ridder the second quarterback selected after Pickett.
For now the veteran has the keys to the Atlanta attack, but fans will soon want to see the youngster if the Falcons have the failures many believe in. Ironically, the third quarterback selected in the 2022 draft, Malik Willis, heard his name uttered by the Titans. A possible replacement for Tannehill himself, although it would be very surprising to see it happen in 2022.