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Mid-season rookie QB comparison: How does Rosen stack up?

We’re about halfway through the 2018 NFL season—time to check in on the rookie QB class. How do Baker, Sam, Josh, and Josh look so far?

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Arizona Cardinals
Rosen has looked mostly competent under center so far in 2018. How does he compare to the other rookie starting QBs?
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

With most teams having played 8 games (including the 2-6 Cardinals), we’re at about the halfway mark of the 2018 NFL season. That makes now a good time to check in on each of the rookie QB starters around the NFL—including our own Josh Rosen.

We tracked each of these four rookie starting QBs—Rosen, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold, and Josh Allenduring the preseason. (Plus Lamar Jackson, but he’s not starting in Baltimore so we won’t include him here.) At the time, Mayfield was at the top of the class, which made sense given he was the #1 pick.

Now, half a season into their careers, how do these young signal callers stack up? Let’s take a look at their team record, counting stats, efficiency stats, and ratings to compare their progress. Is Mayfield still ahead of the pack? How does Rosen compare to the rest—who were all drafted ahead of him? Let’s find out.

Team Record

Unsurprisingly, these teams have all been pretty bad. That tends to happen when A) a team is bad enough to be able to draft a QB early, and B) starts said QB the next season. But these teams have all been competitive at times:

  • Mayfield and the Browns have gone to overtime three times, with one win (over the Ravens)—and he beat Darnold head-to-head in his first start.
  • Darnold led a rout of Detroit in Week 1, put up 34 on the Broncos defense in Week 5, and outdueled Andrew Luck in Week 6.
  • Josh Allen was remarkably efficient in that Week 3 road win over the Vikings—still the most shocking upset of the season.
  • Rosen has had the Redbirds in every game except the Thursday night blowout loss to the Broncos, and he led the team from down two scores to beat the 49ers in Week 8.

It’s hard to say who stands out the most here. Interestingly, Rosen has the best winning percentage of all four QBs—but it’s in the fewest games and both his wins have come over the lowly 49ers. Allen has the best win of the bunch, but it’s not like he carried the team on his shoulders that day (the Bills defense won that game). Mayfield has the Browns looking much improved, but they’ve fired their head coach amidst their 4-game losing streak. To me, Sam Darnold gets the edge here—he has the most team wins (remember that wins is a team stat, not a QB stat), and has led the team to 30+ points in each. (Although there were some defensive scores in there.) Like I said, these teams area all pretty bad, but Darnold has led his team to the best record of the four.

Counting Stats

* Allen also has 155 rushing yards and 3 TDs. The other QBs have negligible rushing stats.

Since wins are really a team stat, let’s take a look at some of their individual stats. Allen has made some contributions with his legs, but he’s clearly well behind the other three as a passer (even though he probably has the most natural arm talent). Darnold has played the most (he’s the only one to start every game so far), so his leading yardage and TD totals aren’t surprising—but those 14 INTs stand out, especially off his 4-INT game against Miami last week. Mayfield is the only one with a positive TD:INT ratio, but he’s also taken the most sacks and fumbled the most. (Those numbers are close though.) Rosen’s numbers are… pretty underwhelming overall.

Hard to declare a winner here as well, but Baker Mayfield’s TD:INT ratio and strong yardage total are hard to argue against, even with his propensity for negative plays. (That INT total for Darnold leads the league by far, by the way.)

Efficiency Stats

Counting stats don’t tell the whole story though—that’s where efficiency stats come into play. And when you look at these stats, Baker Mayfield pretty clearly comes out on top again. He has the highest completion percentage, almost the highest YPA, and the best TD/INT percentages. Darnold and Rosen are very close here, with Darnold having the slightly higher YPA/TD% but Rosen with the higher completion % and lower INT%. Allen again lags here, with by far the lowest YPA and TD% and tied for the second-highest INT% (with Rosen). Allen doesn’t have a lot of help in Buffalo, but a YPA below 6.00 with an arm like his is alarming.


Another category where Baker Mayfield is the clear winner—he has the highest rating in all three metrics, looking every bit the part of #1 overall pick. Holding second place in all three though is our very own Josh Rosen. He obviously hasn’t been great (these guys are all in the bottom 5 or so in these categories league-wide), but he’s made the most of an untenable situation with a fired OC, subpar offensive line, and nonexistent depth at WR/TE. Darnold has perhaps slightly less talent to work with at the skill positions but is a turnover machine, while Allen (who, yes, has almost nothing around him offensively) has just looked lost running an NFL offense.

Final Thoughts

Here’s how I’d rank the four rookie QB starters thus far in 2018:

  1. Baker Mayfield
  2. Josh Rosen
  3. Sam Darnold
  4. Josh Allen

After 9 weeks, Baker Mayfield is still pretty clearly the best of the rookie QBs. He may not have started since Week 1 like Darnold or Allen, but he has a positive TD:INT ratio and grades out pretty well in efficiency stats and rating metrics. But of the rest, I think Josh Rosen has played the best—his numbers aren’t all that impressive (a lot of which can be blamed on Mike McCoy), but he’s been about as efficient as Darnold and has been rated slightly better. Plus he hasn’t thrown 14 interceptions. Allen is well behind all three—but even then, I’m sure Bills fans can’t wait for him to get healthy so they don’t have to watch Nathan Peterman anymore.

So what do we think of these rookie QBs so far, Bird Gang? How would you rank them? How would you assess Rosen’s performance thus far? Let us know in the comments!