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Allen and Jackson play starring roles from 2018 draft class

Buffalo's Josh Allen and Baltimore's Lamar Jackson have emerged as the top quarterbacks from the 2018 draft class as the teams meet in Baltimore.

BALTIMORE — It’s a moment that still stands out.

The day before the 2018 draft standing alongside Vic Carucci on a practice field across from AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

Sam Darnold out of USC, one of the top quarterback prospects available was standing, hands in his pockets, talking with reporters.

I remember Vic nodding in his direction and saying to me, “look at him with his hands in his pockets. He’s hiding them… small hands.”

Many executives across the NFL viewed that as a potential problem in terms of handling the football, particularly in bad weather.

I remember the conversation because it accentuated the many questions surrounding that quarterback class with the Bills selecting in a pivotal moment for the franchise. 

Baker Mayfield, who was first overall to Cleveland, didn’t make the trip to Dallas.

The others were on that same practice field for an NFL Play 60 event, and media availability.

There was UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and of course, the other Josh…. the kid from Wyoming built for tough weather, but questions about accuracy loomed large in what’s become a passing league.

Then there was Lamar Jackson. As a Heisman Trophy winner at Louisville, he needed no introduction. The athleticism was there, but could he ever develop the command of an offense and be the type of passer he’d need to be?

There were some who projected him as a receiver in the NFL.

Mayfield went first to Cleveland.  Darnold third the Jets. Josh Allen of course went seventh overall to Buffalo and Rosen 10th to Arizona. Jackson went to Baltimore with the final pick of the first round.

Credit: AP
Wyoming's Josh Allen, left, is presented with his Buffalo Bills jersey by Commissioner Roger Goodell during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Any questions about who the top two quarterbacks turned out to be from the 2018 draft class?

Credit: AP
Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, presents Louisville's Lamar Jackson with his Baltimore Ravens jersey during the first round of the NFL football draft, Thursday, April 26, 2018, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Allen and Jackson meet effectively for the third time as the Bills face the Ravens in Baltimore.

The Bills' defense did a good job of limiting Jackson to 145-yards passing and 40-yards rushing in a 24-17 loss to Baltimore in 2019.

The Bills won the 2020 divisional playoff match-up with Jackson leaving the game injured after throwing a 101-yard interception returned for a touchdown by Bills CB Taron Johnson.

Both appeared but didn’t start in the Ravens' 47-3 win to open the 2018 season in Baltimore.

Beyond that, the list of accomplishments is long. Jackson was the league MVP in 2019. Josh Allen finished second in the voting in 2020 and has led the Bills to three straight playoff appearances.

This year, the teams are both 2-1. Allen is the NFL’s third-leading passer throwing for 1,014 yards, nine touchdowns, and two interceptions. He’s rushed for 113-yards and a score.

Jackson is in the running for another MVP having thrown for 749-yards, ten touchdowns, and two picks while rushing for 243-yards and two scores.

ESPN has ranked Allen and Jackson as the third most productive pair of quarterbacks to have come from the same draft class since 1967.

Together, they represent what the quarterback position has evolved into. Outstanding athletes with a combination of arm strength and mobility.

Those attributes, combined with outstanding leadership led to Allen being rewarded with a six-year contract extension worth $258 million.

Jackson is in the final year of his rookie deal, essentially betting on himself to get what he feels is the right deal.

Allen says he admires Jackson’s ability to compartmentalize the business side and focus on football while at the same time balancing the risk-reward.

“It will pay off I’m sure,” Allen said.


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