Let’s reset the 2018 NFL draft. Everyone back in the pool.
A couple months ago nobody was asking this question, but it seems relevant today: If the draft was redone, does Baker Mayfield still go before Sam Darnold? Mayfield was the No. 1 pick to the Cleveland Browns. After Saquon Barkley went second, Darnold was taken by the New York Jets at No. 3.
With Mayfield in a deep sophomore slump, Darnold is coming off of what might be his best NFL game. Darnold leads the Jets into a tough matchup against the New England Patriots on Monday night, a game that can be live-streamed on the Yahoo Sports app.
Facing the Patriots’ No. 1 defense should be a good test of Darnold’s progress, but either way, at least it appears he’s progressing.
Sam Darnold had a huge game against Dallas
Darnold came down with mononucleosis after the first game of this season. He returned last week against the Dallas Cowboys, and looked great.
Darnold was 23 of 32 for 338 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a 24-22 victory. It was even more impressive considering how awful the Jets offense was without him. Darnold clearly lifts up all of his teammates. He made good decisions and threw the ball really well. It was the kind of game that should make the Jets feel very good about their situation at quarterback.
A few months ago, Mayfield vs. Darnold wasn’t a question. Darnold had a typical up-and-down rookie season, making too many mistakes but also showing glimpses of why he was the third pick of the draft. He had some amazing highlight throws, but they came with plenty of poor decisions. It wasn’t abnormal for a rookie quarterback. Meanwhile, Mayfield was an instant star. Despite Hue Jackon’s brilliant decision to not start Mayfield the first three games of last season, Mayfield had an NFL rookie record 27 touchdowns. He showed up on television commercials everywhere. He was the quarterback the Browns franchise had coveted for almost two decades. He clearly looked like the right pick.
Now? It’s complicated.
Baker Mayfield has struggled
Mayfield is struggling badly this season. His accuracy has cratered and he’s been very bad under pressure. He has five touchdowns and 11 interceptions, which is staggering considering he plays with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvis Landry and Nick Chubb, among others. It’s hard to believe he could go from finishing second in the offensive rookie of the year balloting to a liability, but his start to this season has been concerning. Mayfield still could end up being one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks. He was brilliant for a rookie last season. It’s just a bit tougher to gauge now.
Asking if Darnold has passed Mayfield is a big overreaction to one game, obviously. But part of the beauty of the NFL is we overreact every week. Darnold was a mega-prospect at USC, then his final season there his draft stock slipped just a touch due to turnover problems. And he might always have those turnover issues. Maybe the game against the Cowboys was an outlier and the Patriots will shut him down. Or, perhaps the Cowboys game was the start of something big for Darnold and the Jets.
We’ll get to see on Monday night. Nothing that happens this week, or even for the next year or two, will definitively answer if Mayfield was the right choice at No. 1 or if Darnold ends up being the better player. But perhaps after Monday night, and a matchup against the Patriots with the football world watching, we’ll have a little better idea of how good Darnold is.
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