2018 NFL Draft: First round sets record for quarterback picks

Terence Moore

This is about the NFL's silliness regarding Lamar Jackson. It's just that I'm going to set up the whole thing with the following: During the NFL's made-for-television draft Thursday night at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, a slew of quarterbacks were selected in the first round, including a record four in the top ten, and each of them was "Bigger Than The Biggest Man On Campus" at their university.

That said, there's a "but" for all of those guys.

The Cleveland Browns made Baker Mayfield the No. 1 overall pick, and he has the spirit of a brawler during games, BUT he was a mess off the field at Oklahoma.

Wait a minute. Didn't the Browns just go through something like that with somebody named Johnny Manziel? Yep, and Manziel said of Mayfield to Barstool Sports during a podcast released earlier Thursday, "He got in a little bit of trouble last year, but that's just part of being in college." Uh-huh. Which brings me to the biggest BUT of all here, which is we're talking about the Browns, with 28 different starting quarterbacks since NFL returned to Cleveland in 1999. The thing is, when it comes to botching QB picks through the years in the draft, we're also talking about the New York Jets, owner of the No. 3 pick. They've searched for the next Joe Namath since the real one did his Super Bowl thing 49 years ago. Bryce Petty, Chad Pennington, Geno Smith, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mark Sanchez . . . Those were just some of the better signal callers for the Jets in recent years. No wonder the Jets became the second team Thursday to snatch a quarterback. They picked Sam Darnold, the golden boy at Southern Cal after a brilliant start to his career with the Trojans. BUT Darnold had a rocky ending last season when he went from Heisman Trophy favorite to prolific turnover machine. It didn't help his NFL cause that he looked miserable in the Cotton Bowl during last season's 24-7 loss to Ohio State after getting sacked eight times and three turnovers. Josh Allen didn't have such issues during his career at Wyoming, where he was impressive enough with his size (6-foot-4, 237 pounds) to bring significance to a previously hapless program. He also is relentless. Consider this: Nobody wanted him to play college quarterback, and that was after he sent more than 1,000 correspondences to coaches everywhere. Only Wyoming responded to snatch a hidden jewel, BUT before you have a diamond, you have coal, and the coal to Allen's game is inaccuracy, mostly due to happy feet along the way to strange (OK, dumb) decisions. Even so, the Buffalo Bills made Allen the third quarterback taken in the draft after they thought about his ruggedness during those brutal winters, autumns and even summers around Lake Erie, moved up five spots and grabbed the No. 7 pick from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for hopes of another Jim Kelly.

Maybe Allen is, BUT . . .

It's not as if Allen is Josh Rosen, noted for his various injuries, sometimes indifferent attitude toward playing football and overall quirkiness. He had a hot tub in his dorm room as a freshman at UCLA before he posted a picture on social media of him wearing a cap ripping Donald Trump while golfing on one of his courses. None of that kept the Arizona Cardinals from moving up to swap places with the Oakland Raiders (from 15 to 10) to find somebody to play catch with Larry Fitzgerald.

That's fine, BUT the Cardinals could have had Louisville's Lamar Jackson back at No. 15, and with a little imagination, he's a right-handed Michael Vick as a dual-threat quarterback at the highest level. In fact, the man himself told Move The Sticks podcast earlier this year, "I could not believe what I had seen. I could not believe the things he was able to do," Vick said. "It was a spitting image of me." Oh, well. The 15th pick, the 10th, the 20, the 23rd . . .31st . . . Jackson was still there, looking nearly as comfortable for the evening as Roger Goodell, booed early and often by Dallas Cowboys fans who remember the NFL commissioner's lengthy feud with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. All Jackson did during his Louisville days was win the Heisman. He later became the only person in college football history to run for more than 1,500 yards and pass for 3,500 in consecutive years. BUT more than a few NFL player personnel folks sounded like their counterparts from the league's Neanderthal days, when black quarterbacks were held to a weird standard. And that standard? Well, those NFL cavemen said black quarterbacks needed to play another position, you know, just because. That's why I joined everybody with more than a 30-year-old memory when the word in the upper circles of the NFL was that Jackson couldn't throw farther than from here to there with accuracy. The word also was that he should switch to wide receiver, defensive back, anything that didn't involve taking a snap from center in the NFL. The "word" was wrong about Jackson, because he should have been picked in the upper half of the NFL draft. BUT . . . Pick No. 32, the last one of the first round. The Ravens worked a trade with the Philadelphia Eagles to save Jackson and the NFL from embarrassment. Not coincidentally, the Ravens official making the selection was Ozzie Newsome, and not just because he is an African-American who wanted to do a favor for another African-American. It was because Newsome is one of the most respected NFL player personnel guys of all-time, and he knew something on the way to retirement after a Pro Football Hall of Fame career as a tight end.

He knew you shouldn't mention Lamar Jackson and "BUT" in the same sentence.