Josh Allen and Sam Darnold have become good friends while training together this offseason in preparation for the NFL Draft. So it was no doubt by accident that Allen essentially threw Darnold under the bus at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month in Indianapolis.
Each of the high-profile quarterbacks was asked the hard-hitting question, “Are you the best quarterback in the draft?” Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield said yes. UCLA’s Josh Rosen said yes. Louisville’s Lamar Jackson said yes.
Allen’s response: “Yeah, absolutely. I don’t mean to say that in a cocky way, but I think every quarterback should think that. If you’re not thinking that you’re the best quarterback in this draft, you probably shouldn’t be here.”
Presumably unbeknownst to Allen, just minutes before Darnold had given this answer to that same question at the same podium: “I don’t think that’s up for me to decide. I’m really here to just show my best and tell teams why I’m a really good quarterback, and that’s pretty much it, honestly.”
It might be years before we know who actually was the best quarterback in this draft. But in just over a month, we’ll find out what NFL teams believe the answer to that question to be. Here’s a look at the competition Allen faces for that distinction.
Thankfully, we live in a sane enough world that the contrast of Darnold’s answer didn’t spark any real controversy. And despite his lack of braggadocio, there’s a very real chance Darold might be the quarterback chosen above all others. He chose not to throw at the Combine, which would suggest he believes he is already in pretty good standing.
The biggest issue surrounding Darnold is his ball security. He had nine fumbles and 13 interceptions as a redshirt sophomore in 2017.
“The number one priority of a quarterback is to protect the football,” he said in Indianapolis. “I’m aware of that, and I’m aware how much I turn the ball over and that it’s not OK. I’ve been addressing it this offseason. I’ve been working on keeping two hands (on the ball) in the pocket at all times. The only time I let go of the ball is to throw it.”
Another friend of Darnold’s, Rosen is considered perhaps the most polished quarterback in the group. His injury history has some teams worried, however. And some have questioned whether or not he is invested enough in football, considering he has shown interests in issues outside of sports.
“I’m not going to present a fake image of myself,” Rosen said. “... I want them to draft me. I don’t want them to draft someone they think they’re getting and then not get that guy. I think that’s also what your teammates want. Your teammates don’t want a fake shell of yourself. Your teammates want you to be you every single day so that you’re that reliable rock that they can count on.”
One of two Heisman Trophy winners in the quarterback class, Mayfield had the most successful career of any quarterback available. His Sooners reached the College Football Playoff in his senior year. His height has some concerned about his ability to translate that to the next level, though, and some have off-the-field questions about him as well.
“Teams ask me about my character, but until you sit down and talk to me directly, you might have an image that’s portrayed in stories or headlines,” he said. “But I love the game. I’m up front and honest. I know exactly what I’m about and that’s the most important thing. What you see is what you get. I’ve always been brutally honest and some people don’t like that because it’s rare nowadays.”
Jackson is also a Heisman winner, having won the award as a sophomore in 2016. His athleticism separates him from the other quarterbacks in the group, but that has been turned on him of late, as some have suggested he play receiver in the NFL. Jackson wasn’t having any of that at the Combine.
“No teams have asked me to play wide receiver,” he said. “I don’t even know where it comes from. ... Whoever likes me at quarterback, that’s where I’m going. That’s strictly my position.”
Jackson, who is black, was asked whether race was a factor in the wide receiver narrative. Allen, plenty athletic himself, was raised as an example of a player for whom a position switch largely hasn’t been recommended.
“I can’t speak for the media,” Jackson said. “They do their job. I do mine. I stay away from that question. I’m a quarterback. I don’t know anything about the rest of it.”