INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL draft’s best quarterback is at the scouting combine this week. Just ask one of them.
Asked inside the downtown convention center Friday if he is this draft’s best quarterback, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield kicked things off with “absolutely, and if you don’t have that mindset, then something’s wrong.”
Mayfield, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Southern California’s? Sam Darnold all have the potential to be the top quarterback selected. Many personnel evaluators around the league have said this year’s group has tried to show elite-level confidence in the informal interviews at the combine, even more than the usual confidence the position requires to succeed.
Mayfield, asked about the possibility of going to Cleveland?at either No. 1 or No. 4 in the draft — given that the Browns are 1-31 over the past two seasons — said he is ready “to be a franchise guy.”
“They’d get a winner. If anybody’s going to turn that franchise around, it’s going to be me,” said the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, who had three seasons of at least 3,700 yards passing for the Sooners.
Rosen, too, seemed intent to show he is the most ready to lift one of the teams near the top of the draft board.
“I think I’m the best quarterback here,” Rosen said. “… I think I make quick decisions, very quick and decisive decisions. I always say if you can get three, four reads into your progression you’re going to increase your opportunity to get the ball down the field.”
Darnold carried himself with slightly more humility than his peers but still said he believed he would be ready to start as a rookie, even if that meant doing it for the winless Browns.
“I’m always accepting of a challenge,” Darnold said. “And I think it would be an amazing thing to do. I think it’s just another opportunity to show why I’m a good quarterback and why I think I’m a good quarterback. … I really want to prove to people I’m capable of leading a franchise.
“I don’t think it’s my position to be talking about anyone else or saying I’m the best quarterback in the draft. I think that’s for other people to decide. I’m really just here to try to put my best foot forward … and show teams why I should be with their organization, and if they don’t want me, they don’t want me.”
Rosen had five games last season with at least three touchdown passes and five 400-yard passing games. He said he wanted to emphasize to teams that he is a safe bet as a starter and will be a good teammate and leader.
Asked Friday if he is ready to start as an NFL rookie, Rosen quickly said “absolutely.”
Allen and Darnold have trained together in their pre-draft work, and Allen said earlier this year that he knew he had “a lot of flaws as a quarterback” but “can be that guy to lead a team.”
Allen had just two seasons as a starter at Wyoming and played in just 11 games last season due to injuries. But he has consistently flashed a power arm, including at the Senior Bowl practices in January.
His 56.3 career completion rate is a cause for concern for some in the NFL, given that quarterbacks often have a difficult time substantially improving that statistic when they face more man-to-man coverage in the NFL with smaller throwing windows.
Allen met with nine teams Friday night. After that, he plans to eliminate accuracy concerns this weekend and at his pro day on March 23.
“Hopefully, when we step on the field and throw, people see improvement,” Allen said. “Whenever my feet are set, I’m as accurate as anybody.”
Darnold, too, played just two seasons of college football and will not even turn 21 until just before he opens his first NFL training camp in July. Darnold became USC’s first 4,000-yard passer last season, with 4,143 yards, and he threw 57 touchdown passes in his two seasons as a starter combined.
Allen — whose go-to word is “super” — is prepared for any draft scenario. His assessment of the Giants’ quarterback situation was particularly telling. He wants to play but is willing to sit behind Eli Manning for a while.
“If I got the opportunity to go and sit behind him for one or two or even three years and learn everything I could, grabbing him whenever I had a question, and hopefully he would answer it for me. Just seeing what he would do on and off the field would be really big for myself,” Allen said.