NFL Draft: Nine quarterbacks to watch for the 2018 class

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Every year, fans disillusioned with the current quarterback draft class utter a common refrain: “Next year’s class is loaded. My team should tank next year and get one of those guys.”

That line of thinking often is dicey at best because nobody knows what could happen to a top prospect over the course of a year. For every Andrew Luck, there’s a Christian Hackenberg or a Brad Kaaya. But the potential 2018 draft class legitimately seems to have more promising young passers than recent years. Here’s an early look at which quarterbacks could hear their names called early in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Sam Darnold, USC, Sophomore

Darnold will be just a redshirt sophomore in
(Credit: Getty Images / Kevork Djansezian)

Darnold will be just a redshirt sophomore in 2017, but that didn't stop fans of quarterback-starved teams from bringing up his name alongside this year's rookie class. He certainly has the tools to back up the talk. He has prototypical size (6-4, 225 pounds), arm strength and accuracy, and capped off a strong freshman season by going 33-for-53 for 453 yards, five touchdowns and an interception in the Rose Bowl. He also has underrated mobility, rushing 62 times for 250 yards and two touchdowns.

Josh Rosen, UCLA, Junior

Rosen once was in a similar position to
(Credit: AP / Sam Craft)

Rosen once was in a similar position to Darnold. He burst onto the college football scene as a true freshman in 2015, when he threw for 3,669 yards, 23 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and immediately was anointed the 2018 class' top QB. But he couldn't follow up his success in 2016. He had surgery in November to repair a soft tissue injury in his throwing shoulder, but he wasn't exactly lighting it up before that. The 6-4, 220-pound Rosen has very good size and is a good pocket passer when healthy, and new offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch - a former Jaguars assistant -- could help him get back on track.

Josh Allen, Wyoming, Junior

Allen could have been a first-rounder in 2017
(Credit: AP / Ryan Kang)

Allen could have been a first-rounder in 2017 but opted to return for his junior season after leading the Cowboys to the Mountain West title game in his first full season as the starter. The 6-5, 235-pounder is a dual-threat quarterback, throwing for 3,203 passing yards and 28 touchdowns to go with 523 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground. But he has some gunslinger in him, and that has resulted in some glaring accuracy problems (15 interceptions, 56.0 completion percentage). Something that could work in Allen's favor: his coach at Wyoming, Craig Bohl, was Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz's coach for Wentz's first three seasons at North Dakota State.

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Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State, Senior

Rudolph has flown a little under the radar
(Credit: Getty Images / Brett Deering)

Rudolph has flown a little under the radar at Oklahoma State, but he has the skill set teams crave. The 6-5, 230-pounder has ideal size and has a very accurate arm at all depths of the field, completing 62.3 percent of his passes with a 55-17 career touchdown-interception ratio in three seasons. He has played in the spread for the Cowboys, so he'd have to transition to a pro-style, drop-back offense, but he has shown an ability to go through his progressions. With another season throwing to James Washington - another potential first-round pick - Rudolph could find himself in the top tier next season.

Lamar Jackson, Louisville, Junior

Jackson probably is the most electrifying quarterback in
(Credit: Getty Images / Andy Lyons)

Jackson probably is the most electrifying quarterback in this potential 2018 NFL Draft class. The 2016 Heisman winner has shades of Michael Vick in his game, torching defenses with blazing speed (1,751 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns last season) and a strong arm (3,543 passing yards, 30 touchdowns). He still needs to evolve from being a thrower to more of a passer (56.2 completion percentage), and his struggles late last season could raise a few concerns. Nevertheless, he has the playmaking ability to potentially be a high pick.

Luke Falk, Washington State, Senior

Falk will try to cap off a decorated
(Credit: Getty Images / Sean M. Haffey)

Falk will try to cap off a decorated career as one of college football's most prolific passers. He has thrown for 10,893 yards in three seasons-- including 4,400 yards in each of the last two seasons - as well as 89 touchdowns and 27 interceptions. He has the requisite size at 6-4, 225 pounds and has good pocket presence and touch, but he'll have to shed the "system quarterback" label that befalls quarterbacks who operate in schemes such as Cougars head coach Mike Leach's Air Raid offense.

Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma, Senior

Mayfield has finished in the top four in
(Credit: Getty Images / Justin K. Aller)

Mayfield has finished in the top four in Heisman voting in each of the last two seasons, so it's easy to see why he's so fun to watch. The former walk-on has a knack for making plays with both his arm (9,980 career passing yards, 88 TDs, 24 INTs) and legs (16 career rushing touchdowns). As with other "Air Raid" type quarterbacks, he'll have a big transition to the NFL. Plus, his smallish size (6-1, 218) and off-field history (he was arrested in February 2017 on charges of public intoxication, fleeing, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest) also will be red flags.

Jake Browning, Washington, Junior

Washington reached the College Football Playoff in 2016
(Credit: Getty Images / Streeter Lecka)

Washington reached the College Football Playoff in 2016 behind a stalwart defense (three players from that unit went in the first 43 picks in the 2017 draft), but the Huskies' offense, led by Browning, wasn't too shabby either. Browning has good arm strength, but what really shows up on tape is his ability to read defenses and deliver accurate passes. He has average size by NFL standards at 6-2 and 205 pounds and lost one of his top targets in John Ross, who went ninth overall to the Bengals.

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Trace McSorley, Penn State, Junior

McSorley turned it on late last season, throwing
(Credit: AP / AJ Mast)

McSorley turned it on late last season, throwing 12 touchdowns in his last three games, including four each in the Big Ten championship game and the Rose Bowl. He finished his first season as the Nittany Lions' starter with a school-record 3,614 yards, 29 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He has a big arm for someone of his size (6-foot, 205 pounds) and also has some mobility, rushing for 365 yards and seven touchdowns last season. Three of his eight interceptions came against USC in the Rose Bowl.

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