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Mayfield and Griffin lead storylines from the 2018 NFL draft

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The 2018 NFL Draft came to a conclusion Saturday night when former SMU wide receiver Trey Quinn was selected by the Washington Redskins with the 256th overall pick. Traditionally, the draft’s storylines belong to early-round picks, but Quinn, 2018’s Mr. Irrelevant for being the last player chosen in the draft, is not as irrelevant as his title might suggest. As a 12-year-old, Quinn grabbed national headlines by throwing a no-hitter at the 2008 Little League World Series in Williamsport.

At the other end of the draft, the Cleveland Browns, who went 0-16 last season, took Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick. Becoming the first draft pick, or even an NFL player, was not always something expected of Mayfield. In fact, out of high school, he was only offered a football scholarship by four FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) schools – Florida Atlantic, Rice, New Mexico, and Washington State.

When asked by Sportingnews.com how the other 119 FBS schools missed a talent like Mayfield, Hank Carter, Mayfield’s coach at Lake Travis High School, responded, “People wanted him. They just didn’t want him soon enough.”

Mayfield chose to reject his four scholarships and begin his college football career as a walk-on at Texas Tech. In Lubbock, Mayfield impressed his coaches from the minute he arrived on campus, becoming the first true freshman walk-on quarterback to start a season opener at a BCS school.

However, after a successful season in which he was named to the Freshman All-American honorable mention team, Mayfield was not offered a scholarship to remain at Texas Tech and decided to transfer to the University of Oklahoma. At Oklahoma, Mayfield again excelled on the field, finishing in the top four in Heisman voting three years running and twice being recognized as a first-team All-American.

Although no one disputed Mayfield’s football talents, prior to the draft, there were lingering concerns among many NFL executives about Mayfield’s emotional maturity. This past season, Mayfield was captured by cameras grabbing his crotch and yelling “F–k you!” at the Kansas sideline after they refused to shake his hand during the pregame captains’ meeting. He also planted the Oklahoma flag on the Ohio State logo after defeating the Buckeyes. Reportedly, his actions were in response to an argument with drunk Ohio State Fans. Most troubling, Mayfield was arrested in February 2017 for public intoxication and fleeing the scene after being involved in a early morning fight in Fayetteville, Ar.

Mayfield’s off-field antics have led many commentators to compare him to Johnny Manziel, another former Heisman Winner and Cleveland Browns quarterback whose troubles with drugs and alcohol led the Browns to release him after only two years in the league.

One NFL scout told Mary Kay Cabot, “Baker has a pattern of disrespect. Off-the-field, he’s Johnny Manziel.”

An NFL personnel executive echoed this sentiment, stating, “He [Mayfield] has not shown anywhere near enough emotional maturity to handle what’s coming his way. … A lot of Manziel characteristics.”

However, at the NFL Combine, Mayfield reportedly aced his interviews and alleviated most of the concerns about his character, allowing the Browns to take a chance on Mayfield at No.1.

Despite being taken first in the draft, Mayfield is not guaranteed the starting quarterback job in Cleveland. Over the offseason, the Browns acquired veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is expected to start the season as the starter. However, having gone 1-31 over the past two seasons, the Browns will likely have Taylor on a short leash, and Mayfield will surely be ready to stake his claim as the franchise’s quarterback of the future.

Another noteworthy storyline coming out of the 2018 draft is that of linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who was taken 141st overall by the Seattle Seahawks. At age four, Griffin was forced to have his left hand amputated because of amniotic band syndrome, a prenatal condition. Having only one hand did not stop Griffin from competing in sports alongside his twin brother Shaquill, and in 2012, both were offered scholarships to play at the University of Central Florida.

After struggling to find playing time during his first couple years in the program, a coaching change provided Shaquem with an opportunity.

Writing for The Players Tribune, Griffin stated, “Coach [Scott] Frost came in and brought me back into the light … He gave me the opportunity I had been waiting for ever since I first arrived at UCF. And I took advantage of it.”

In his first year as a starter, Shaquem was selected as the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Defensive Player of the Year and continued that success into his senior year, during which he was named to the All-AAC first team and in which he won the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl.

Despite his success at UCF, Shaquem only received a late invitation to the NFL combine. Again, he took advantage of the opportunity, posting the fastest 40-yard dash for a linebacker since 2003, in addition to completing twenty 225-pound bench press reps using a prosthetic arm.

He now joins his twin brother on the Seahawks, where he hopes to impress and earn a spot on the team’s final roster. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will not be cutting Shaquem any slack because of this story, telling reporters that although he is impressed and inspired by Shaquem’s accomplishments, “it will come down to football.”

Overall, there were a few clear-cut winners and losers of the draft. On top of drafting a franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, the Browns obtained a shutdown cornerback in Denzel Ward to work well within defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ aggressive blitz schemes. Cleveland also drafted talented tackle Austin Corbett to replace future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, who retired at the end of last season, in addition to one of the best running backs in the draft class, Nick Chubb.

The Arizona Cardinals also had a successful draft day after taking former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen with the No. 10 overall selection. Rosen is the most NFL-ready of any of the draft class’ quarterbacks and will fill a void left by the retiring Carson Palmer and the injury-prone Sam Bradford. Rosen easily could have gone No. 1, and in his blunt post-draft press conference, he told reporters that he believes he is the best player in the 2018 draft class.

“There were nine mistakes made ahead of me. And I will make sure over the next decade or so that they will know they made a mistake.”

Unfortunately, the Buffalo Bills were not as successful as the Browns and Cardinals in their quarterback selection. The Bills selected Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen with the No. 7 overall pick. Last season, during his third year at Wyoming, Allen completed just 56.3 percent of his passes and only threw for 1,812 yards. Mayfield, by comparison, completed 70.5 percent of his throws for 4,340 yards in 2017. Allen especially struggled against high level competition.

Football Outsiders wrote, “Allen’s performance against top opponents was brutal. He threw two picks with no touchdowns against Iowa, with just 4.35 yards per attempt. He completed just 9-of-24 passes with 64 yards and a pick against Oregon. He completed 44 percent of passes with two picks and only 131 yards against Boise State.”

Allen has a strong arm and loads of potential, but I do not know whether his raw talent will translate to success in the NFL, especially given his lack of success at a mid-major school like Wyoming.

It is too early to know how the 2018 draft class will fare next season, but I expect Josh Rosen to finish as Offensive Rookie of the Year, while on the defensive side, Roquan Smith, the Butkus Award winner for the best linebacker in college football, is my prediction to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Analyzing the Quarterback class in the 2018 draft

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As the 2018 N.F.L. draft approaches, it has become clear that this year’s quarterback class is one of the most elite we have seen in years. The N.F.L. draft is a three-day, seven-round event where teams try to land the best rookie players for their next season. The draft is heavily scrutinized by fans and analysts. Teams with the worst records receive earlier draft picks, and they hope to land future superstars who will bring them to Super Bowl glory. There are projected to be four quarterback picked in the first round, a very high number. This year’s class of quarterback’s boasts five impressive prospects, which means the only question left is how many will be taken on the first day? The “Big Four” include Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Southern California’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and U.C.L.A.’s Josh Rosen. The underdog choice is Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.

Former Heisman trophy winner Lamar Jackson is arguably the most exciting player in the entire draft. Jackson’s unique athletic ability helps to overcome his lack of accuracy, having completed less than 60 percent of his passes over the past three seasons. In addition to issues with accuracy, many worry that his slight frame 6 feet 2 inches,  214 pounds coupled with his style of play may not mesh well at the pro level. Despite his shortcomings Lamar Jackson was able to dominate the competition his past two seasons at Louisville with 96 total touchdowns and should be considered a first round talent due to his incredible athleticism and arm talent. Jackson is projected by many to be picked late in the first round.

Josh Allen is one of most intriguing quarterback prospects in this years draft class. Allen brings ideal size and athleticism to the position coming in at 6 feet 5 inches and nearly 240 pounds all while running the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds. This ability coupled with a rocket arm have led many to overlook his less than ideal stats 56 percent completion ratio and 16 touchdowns to 6 interceptions and poor level of competition (Wyoming competes in the FCS Mountain West Conference) and rank him at the top of their draft boards. The fresh success of Carson Wentz, a FCS North Dakota State graduate, greatly aids Allen in his endeavour to be the first signal caller selected this April.

U.S.C.’s Sam Darnold is the overall safest quarterback in the draft. He is a fantastic decision maker and possesses a high football I.Q. In addition, Darnold possesses a great frame 6 feet 2 inches, 221 pounds which N.F.L. scouts value highly. In 2017, Darnold completed 63 percent of his passes for 4,143 yards. He’s projected by many to be the first pick in the draft.

Josh Rosen is seen by team executives as a high-risk, high-reward pick. He has the best mechanics in the draft and has a fantastic ability to read coverages. Rosen is a risky pick due to his off-the-field issues and general lack of leadership skills. Rosen is known to have controversial takes on many aspects of football culture and is not afraid to challenge authority, which is often seen as a negative trait among N.F.L. coaches.  He had a very impressive freshman year, but has cooled off slightly since. With all this in account, Rosen is still being considered as the first pick.

Apart from his height of 6 feet, 2017 Heisman trophy winner Baker Mayfield, possesses every skill you would want in a quarterback. Mayfield is one of the most dominant competitors we have seen in a while. It is a common belief that he can go in day one and be a competitive N.F.L. quarterback. Mayfield has been very open to the prospect of being drafted by the Browns, a view Josh Rosen does not share. It remains to be seen whether the Browns have mutual feelings for Mayfield.

Between the stacked quarterback draft class and the numerous quarterbacks switching teams through trades and free agency, the N.F.L. seems to be moving towards another exciting season. Will any long-suffering teams find their quarterback of the future in the first round? Or will this year’s best quarterback be a sleeper pick that no one was expecting from the later rounds. The best quarterback of all time, Tom Brady, was a sixth round pick, number 199 overall. It remains to be seen who will be the next generation’s Tom Brady and take his crown as the greatest of all time.

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