Throughout the season, the Rookie Report Card has covered some of the biggest rookies and not only looked at their performance to date – but also their long term upside. Now that the regular season has wrapped up and fantasy owners are looking towards the future, we have an opportunity to take one last look at the 2018 season and assess the rookies – A final report card if you will.
We covered 34 rookies throughout the season, including four of the five top quarterbacks. Let’s put a bow on the season by taking one more look at those signal callers’ first shot under center on Sundays. As well as a quick glimpse into their futures.
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Baker Mayfield, QB CLE
Season Stats: 310/486 passing, 3,725 yards, 27 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 39 carries, 131 rushing yards, seven fumbles lost
When we last visited Mayfield’s rookie season back in week 12, he was the number 11 quarterback in DLF’s consensus rankings and I mentioned he should have been at least ninth and potentially as high as seventh. It seems that the last five weeks of the regular season helped our rankers agree as he’s now in the nine spot.
Mayfield was everything we wanted him to be as a rookie: Poised in the pocket, athletic when necessary and very accurate, he exceeded expectations – particularly after Freddie Kitchens took over the offense following the Hue Jackson firing.
If there are question marks surrounding Mayfield going into his first off-season, how the coaching staff comes together over the next handful of weeks is the one the looms largest. While most dynasty owners would prefer Kitchens remains in Cleveland – at least in some capacity – to continue working with the young star, there are no guarantees of that happening. At the very least, we should hope the Browns’ front office brings in an offensive mind with a history of helping progress quarterbacks.
Outside of the coaching search, the turnover numbers Mayfield posted including 14 interceptions and seven fumbles will remain something for dynasty owners to monitor going forward but with the amount of weapons already in place for the rookie, the sky is truly the limit.
With top-five upside on a weekly basis as soon as 2019, it would take a lot for me to deal Mayfield. And in a super-flex or two-quarterback league, he’s nearly untradeable.
Sam Darnold, QB NYJ
Season Stats: 239/414 passing, 2,865 yards, 17 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 44 carries, 138 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown, two fumbles lost
Since Darnold was covered only a couple weeks ago, there’s no point going into too much detail here. But if you read that report you know I’m convinced Darnold has a very bright future.
Another quarterback who will have a new coaching staff and with that most likely a new offense to learn in 2019, dynasty owners should take a breath before setting expectations too highly going into next season. But with a quality head coach hire and a couple additions at the skill positions, he has what it takes to make a noticeable leap in 2019.
Calm in the pocket, willing to take a hit to deliver the football and accurate coming out of USC, those strengths were hit-and-miss early in the season but started to show through consistently in the Jets’ final games. Some (myself included) would say he’s already started to make that second year leap we all hope he makes.
Because Mayfield will carry such a high price tag this off-season, Darnold is the young quarterback I’ll be targeting in trades. Considering his touchdown to interception ratio (17:15), his modest yards per attempt numbers (6.9) and the lack of big games he posted as a rookie, many dynasty owners may still have a lukewarm approach to him in the coming months. I’m going to see if I can take advantage.
Josh Allen, QB BUF
Season Stats: 169/320 passing, 2,074 yards, 10 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 89 carries, 631 rushing yards, eight rushing touchdown, two fumbles lost
Allen was the ugly duckling of the five quarterback prospects over the summer when it came to anybody judging the rookie class with a platform to talk about it. “Incredible arm strength,” they’d say. Followed immediately by, “horrible accuracy.”
It got old hearing it. But if his rookie season is any indication, it was spot on.
While it was fun to watch Allen uncork rocket balls between defenders and run with reckless abandon for touchdowns which helped him post five QB1 games including three over the final month and a half of the season, as dynasty owners it’s our responsibility to look at his 52.8 completion percentage and 10:12 interception ratio as at least some level of confirmation of what most expected from Allen as a pro.
I began the final paragraph of the Josh Allen Rookie Report Card back in week three with by writing the following.
“Allen was masterful in Minnesota in week three and dynasty owners should be thrilled with his performance.”
Some dynasty owners are probably “thrilled” with his season overall because those final numbers and few quality performances made his fantasy season look good – especially with expectations so low to start the year. But the truth is that his rushing numbers nearly exclusively fueled his success as a fantasy quarterback and very few expect that success on the ground to be sustainable.
I completed that final paragraph back in week three with…
“While nobody should be rushing to put him in their lineup even in deep super-flex leagues, there’s certainly hope that the critics that were so loud over the last six month could have been wrong about the gunslinger.”
While I was incorrect about starting Allen as a rookie, I still believe what I wrote about him. Nobody should be rushing to make him a starter in 2019 despite his strong fantasy finish as a rookie. But while I’m still skeptical that Allen will suddenly become an accurate quarterback that will limit mistakes, he did enough as a rookie to keep his fans optimistic going into 2019.
Josh Rosen, QB ARI
Season Stats: 217/393 passing, 2,278 yards, 11 touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 23 carries, 138 rushing yards, five fumbles lost
If there was a rookie signal caller that disappointed in 2018, for me it was Rosen.
Despite having never truly been on the Rosen bandwagon during draft season, I was cautiously optimistic that he could overcome some of his weaknesses from college and become a quality pro. But many of the problems Rosen showed in college continued to show up as a rookie.
Whether it was his insistence on holding the ball in the pocket which forced him to take sacks, his inaccuracy on downfield throws or insistence on forcing balls into coverage or making poor decisions with the ball instead of throwing the ball away, Rosen was incredibly inconsistent in college and whether it was due to a lack of talent around him in the NFL or his not being prepared for playing on Sundays, wasn’t able to find any consistency in Arizona as a rookie. Appearing overwhelmed at times and showing little anticipation on his throws led to a 55.2% completion rate and 19 turnovers in 14 games.
Some will point to a combination of poor protection, inadequate coaching and a lack of weapons as reasons he wasn’t able to develop in his first season. With only Larry Fitzgerald and an extremely poorly used David Johnson as playmakers, Rosen didn’t get a fair shake at being successful without a doubt.
Now however, the Cardinals are armed with the top pick in the 2019 NFL Draft and enough cap space to improve Rosen’s weapons as well as his protection, and are searching for the right coach to get the best out of their young passer.
Rosen owners everywhere should be hoping the Cardinals make a few good decisions this off-season and he makes some strides going into his second season. His dynasty upside depends on it.
Lamar Jackson, QB BAL
Season Stats: 99/170 passing, 1,201 yards, 6 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 147 carries, 695 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns, four fumbles lost
Jackson was a lot of fun to watch as a rookie but his first career playoff start against the Chargers on Sunday was a perfect reminder of the ups and downs that dynasty owners should have expected from him coming into the league and should continue to expect going forward. He was brilliant at the end of the game, scrambling and eluding rushers only to deliver off-balance throws to save the game for the moment. But he was also careless with the ball early – fumbling multiple times in the first quarter, was completely dreadful when trying to deliver the ball with any accuracy at times, and relied on his legs far too much while refusing to slide to avoid big hits.
If I had to explain owning Jackson in just a couple of words, they would be high risk.
Sure, the reward is through the roof. Jackson averaged 79 rushing yards per game over the Ravens’ final seven games, scoring four rushing touchdowns which is the equivalent of more than one-and-a-half touchdowns per game in fantasy points. Those numbers certainly offset a lot of the limitations that his passing stats offer fantasy owners, but when you factor in his enhanced chances of injury due to his playing style, I’m unsure he’s worth the risk – especially in dynasty.
If you’re a listener of the DLF Dynasty Podcast, you know that I’ve been skeptical of Jackson’s ability to play the style of football he did throughout his rookie season for an entire career. And if you read the week 14 edition of the Rookie Report Card, you also know I’m in favor trading him if you can get what he’s truly worth in dynasty – especially in leagues that award six points for passing touchdowns and in single QB leagues.
While I really enjoy watching Jackson play and am all in for owning him in re-draft and daily leagues because it minimizes the risk of owning him, I’m confident every other dynasty owner just as excited to watch and own him which will drive his price tag up in dynasty. Already the QB10 in DLF ADP as of December, the hype train is only beginning and is certain to gain steam as we approach the 2019 season. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are owners giving elite QB1 returns for Jackson this coming summer. And I won’t be able to say no to that despite his high-end QB1 upside.
Check back next week as we start covering the running backs.
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