Sam Darnold becomes first quarterback from star-studded draft class to reach Super Bowl

 

The 2018 NFL Draft had five quarterbacks taken in the first round. 

A lot was expected from the quarterback class with some debate over who should be selected with the first overall pick held by the Cleveland Browns

The Browns chose Baker Mayfield over Sam Darnold, and both quarterbacks have played for multiple teams in their six years in the league. While Mayfield and Darnold were considered the top of the class, two of the three quarterbacks selected after them have had significantly more success in the league. 

Josh Allen has led the Buffalo Bills to five straight playoff appearances, while Lamar Jackson is about to win his second MVP with the Baltimore Ravens. 

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And yet, neither will be the first quarterback from the 2018 class to reach the Super Bowl. 

That honor goes to Darnold, though he won’t play in this year’s Super Bowl if things go the San Francisco 49ers’ way. Darnold will back up Brock Purdy as the Niners take on Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in Las Vegas. 

Let’s look at the careers of the five quarterbacks selected in the 2018 NFL Draft. 

Baker Mayfield – 4 teams in 6 seasons

Mayfield’s time in the NFL has been an up-and-down affair. 

After being drafted by Cleveland, a city starving for a franchise QB, Mayfield led the Browns to the postseason in 2020, the first for the organization since 2002. 

Things quickly deteriorated. 

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In March 2022, Cleveland traded for Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson, effectively ending Mayfield’s time with the Browns. Mayfield was traded to the Carolina Panthers, where he appeared in seven games before being released. Mayfield signed with the Los Angeles Rams and played in five games. 

Mayfield signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before the start of the 2023 NFL season and beat out Kyle Trask for the starting job. He experienced his best NFL season in 2023, throwing for a career-high 4,044 yards and 28 touchdowns while leading Tampa Bay to a wild-card victory over the Philadelphia Eagles. 

Mayfield will be a free agent, and new Tampa Bay offensive coordinator Liam Coen made it clear he’d love to have Mayfield back. 

“He’s an igniter,” Coen said during his introductory news conference Tuesday, per NFL.com.” “And that’s the type of guy you want to be around.”

Sam Darnold – Three teams in six seasons

Like Mayfield, Darnold has taken a winding path to his current team. 

Drafted by the New York Jets with the third pick of the 2018 draft, he was heralded as the man to fix New York’s QB problems. 

After just three seasons, the Jets dumped Darnold for Zach Wilson, who New York selected with the second pick of the 2021 draft. Darnold was traded to the Panthers, with whom he appeared in 18 games over two seasons. 

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Darnold landed in the Bay Area in the offseason and will be Purdy’s backup against the Chiefs. 

“Obviously, that’s what you dream of as a kid. Right when I got drafted by the Jets, and still to this day, it’s my goal to be able to bring a championship somewhere,” Darnold said Monday during Super Bowl LVIII Opening Night festivities in Las Vegas.

Josh Allen – Two-time Pro Bowler

Allen was considered a project when the Bills selected him with the seventh pick of the 2018 draft out of Wyoming. 

The project quickly turned into a star. 

Allen has quickly become one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL, leading the Bills to five straight playoff appearances and the AFC championship game in 2020. Allen has thrown for over 4,000 yards in each of the last four seasons and has been selected to the Pro Bowl twice. 

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Despite his individual success, Allen and the Bills have been a disappointment come playoff time. 

Buffalo has failed to reach the conference championship game in each of the last three seasons, with the Chiefs standing in the way of a Super Bowl berth. For the third time in four years, Mahomes and the Chiefs sent Buffalo to the offseason when Kansas City went on the road and defeated the Bills three weeks ago. 

Josh Rosen – Out of the league

“Chosen” Rosen was taken by the Arizona Cardinals with the 10th pick of the draft. 

“There were nine mistakes ahead of me,” Rosen told NFL Network after being drafted. 

Rosen’s prediction did not ring true. 

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After just one season, the Cardinals drafted Kyler Murray with the first pick of the 2019 draft, and Rosen was traded to the Miami Dolphins. He appeared in three games for Miami during the 2019 season, throwing for 567 yards, one touchdown and five interceptions. 

The Dolphins released Rosen before the 2020 season. Rosen last appeared in a game for the Atlanta Falcons during the 2021 season. 

Lamar Jackson – Soon-to-be two-time MVP of the league

Jackson was the last pick of the first round of the 2018 draft and the fifth QB taken. 

Jackson has arguably had the most successful career of all the QB’s selected in 2018. He’s on his way to his second MVP trophy. 

He threw for a career-high 3,678 passing yards in 2023 and ran for 821 yards. Jackson led the Ravens to a 13-4 record and the top seed in the AFC playoffs. 

Despite the regular season success, Jackson and the Ravens struggled mightily in the AFC championship game, scoring just 10 points in a loss to the Chiefs. 

“Lamar Jackson is a phenomenal success,” head coach John Harbaugh said at the team’s end-of-season news conference, according to ESPN. “He’s a phenomenal success as a football player. He is a phenomenal success as a person, as a leader, as a family man. In my opinion, there’s nobody better in this league, especially nobody better for the Baltimore Ravens and for this organization, for this city and just from a historical perspective. I’m excited about the future.”

Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report