From a couple of rookies who stole the spotlight, to a veteran defying the doubters, to a second-year MVP. Breakout Live reveals the top breakout quarterbacks from the 2018 NFL season.
The Browns made Mayfield the 1st overall pick in the 2018 draft, conjuring images of all the failed Cleveland Browns quarterbacks before him and echoes of Johnny Manziel for some of his off-the-field behavior.
John Dorsey had a plan and emphatically stated Mayfield would sit and learn behind FA acquisition Tyrod Taylor, for fear they’d ruin their prized rookie like so many 1st-round quarterbacks before him.
An abysmal 1st half performance by Taylor on a Thursday nighter against the Jets in Week 3 and an unfortunate concussion pressed Mayfield into duty. In that moment, you could feel something change like the weather when a storm is coming. This would prove to be the perfect storm for the Browns, as before the night was over the Browns would win their first game since December 2016, and the factory of sadness was blown away, with hope and excitement left in its wake.
Mayfield had the Browns in playoff contention over the last few weeks of the 2018 season, playing at an NFL MVP level since Week 9 once Hue Jackson got out of his way.
While only 6-7 as a starter, Mayfield threw 19 touchdown passes over the final 8 games, breaking Peyton Manning’s rookie touchdown pass record with 27, which is really incredible considering he didn’t play the first 2.5 games.
The rookie from Oklahoma possesses a quality far beyond his numbers. An intangible quality and a charisma not seen since Brett Favre took the NFL by storm back in the mid 90s.
In 2017, Watson took the league by storm with 19 touchdown passes vs. 8 interceptions in just 6 games as a starter before an unfortunate non-contact torn ACL injury in practice ended his season.
Watson came into 2018 with questions about being a flash in the pan and if he’d continue not only his touchdown pass prowess but also his penchant for tossing interceptions, as he averaged more than one per game during his rookie season. Oh, and also how he’d respond coming off the the ACL he tore in early November of 2017.
The Texans started with 3 straight losses which left them at 0-3, and many wondered if Watson was fully healthy. 9 straight wins later those concerns were answered as the Texans wound up winning the AFCS and actually headed into the final week of the season with a shot at the 2-seed overall. The achievement is more impressive in light of the fact Watson lost his deep threat in Will Fuller early in the season, and he was without hotshot rookie KeKe Coutee for much of the season.
One interesting fact about Watson’s second season is he threw 7 interceptions in his first six games, which seemed to point to a trend coming off his 1-plus interceptions per game during his rookie season. In 9 of Watson’s 10 remaining regular season games, he’d throw no interceptions and ended with just 9 on the season.
Overall, Watson would finish 11th in passing yards and 6th in passer rating and was one of only 5 starting quarterbacks who threw single-digit interceptions with more than 300 passing attempts.
His season would end on Wild Card Weekend as he posted just his 3rd sub-70 passer rating of the season.
Much like Deshaun Watson’s 2018, things didn’t start off too well for Andrew Luck, who was trying to return and rebound from a shoulder injury in 2015 that limited him to just 7 games and ultimately cost him all of the 2017 season after opting for surgery.
The Colts started a disappointing 1-5 while Luck’s arm strength was a regular topic of conversation during the team’s first 3 games. His passes lacked the zip we’d normally see from Luck, or any NFL quarterback for that matter. Frank Reich pulled Luck from the Eagles game in Week 3 in favor of Jacoby Brissett in Hail Mary situations, only exacerbating concerns about Luck’s surgically-repaired shoulder.
If you look at the numbers, Luck averaged only 6.0, 5.8, and 4.1 yards per attempt over his first 3 games. In only one other contest the rest of the way would that average dip below 6.2, and that was the shutout loss at Jacksonville.
Captain Andrew Luck led the Colts to wins in 9 of their last 10 games and an improbable run into the playoffs as a 6-seed and a convincing win over the Texans at Houston in the Wild Card round, before running into a buzzsaw in Kansas City.
Luck would finish 5th overall in passing yards, and only one other quarterback threw more than Luck’s 39 touchdown passes, showing Luck and his shoulder were back in 2018.
Jackson was the last of the 5 first-round quarterbacks taken in the 2018 NFL draft, and also the last of the 5 rookies to get his shot as a starter.
Over his first 9 games of his rookie season, Jackson was used as a bit player similarly to how the Saints use Taysom Hill. Jackson would attempt only 7 passes in his first 9 games while running it 28 times, creating tension between him and Joe Flacco, who felt his days were numbered as the Ravens starting quarterback, with their quarterback of the future sitting behind him.
After a 4-5 start and talk of John Harbaugh’s firing, the Ravens made the monumental and controversial decision during their bye week to place their fate in the hands of the electric rookie from Louisville.
While Jackson offered little as a passer, he literally ran the Ravens to the AFCN crown in a style of offense not seen in the NFL in decades.
With Jackson at the helm, the Ravens reeled off wins in 6 of their remaining 7 games with the lone blemish an overtime loss at Arrowhead.
The Chargers came to Baltimore Wild Card weekend and cooled off Jackson, who quite frankly didn’t look ready for prime time or for the Chargers’ unique defensive scheme. He toiled through the first 50 minutes before leading a furious rally that would come up just short.
On the season, Jackson would pass for over 200 yards only once in a game, finishing with just 1201 passing yards through the air and a respectable 84.5 passer rating. Jackson surprisingly led the NFL in passer rating in the 4th quarter among all quarterbacks with a minimum of 6 starts (119.9). On the ground, Jackson would rush for 695 yards and scored 5 touchdowns, just one fewer than what he accomplished through the air.
He loves ketchup on macaroni and sounds like Kermit the Frog when he speaks, but few players wrecked the NFL the way Mahomes did in his maiden voyage as the Chiefs starter.
The Chiefs knew exactly what they were doing when they traded up from the 27th spot in the 2017 Draft up to 10 to select Patrick Mahomes. Put into the perfect situation, Mahomes came in with some fanfare but none of the pressure that accompanies a bold draft move like the one the Chiefs made.
Mahomes was afforded the opportunity to sit and learn from a former 1st-overall in Alex Smith who was more than willing to take his eventual replacement under his wing. The young Mahomes would learn well, as a year with Alex Smith smoothed out his rough edges and bad habits he picked up at Texas Tech as a risk-taking turnover waiting to happen.
In the opener in Los Angeles, Mahomes tossed 4 touchdown passes and followed it up with 6 the following week at Pittsburgh, for an NFL record 10 through the first two games of a season.
There was no slowing this train as Mahomes became the darling of the NFL with new hyperbolic terms and accolades thrown his way with each passing week. Left-handed passes, no-look passes entered the NFL lexicon due to the maverick nature of the league’s newest and biggest star.
Not only would he lead the Chiefs to the 1-seed, he likely secured the NFL MVP in the process in throwing for an unthinkable 50 touchdown passes. Only Ben Roethlisberger would throw for more yards than Mahomes, but the Chiefs phenom would have 95 fewer attempts than Big Ben. The Chiefs offense under Mahomes would average a league best 35.3 points per game.
Only the venerable Tom Brady and a coin coming up heads as it fell to the Arrowhead turf prevented Mahomes from taking his team to the Super Bowl in what was truly a unique season from a player who looks to be a generational talent.