Setting up QB battles: Who’s leading, where rookies stand

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Let them sit or throw them out there? There is no clear right way to develop a young quarterback, and even sticking to the plan can be difficult for teams doing their best to nurture a franchise player.

With five first-round quarterbacks on NFL rosters this season, teams will be tempted to see what their substantial investments can do even if there is a serviceable veteran ahead of the newcomers on the depth chart.

Which quarterbacks will get the chance to take the reins as rookies? And which ones will end up with more snaps than their veteran teammates? Our NFL Nation reporters forecast what 2018 might look like for the five first-round quarterbacks.

Outlook for 2018: The Browns acquired Tyrod Taylor from Buffalo via trade and immediately said he would be the team’s quarterback this season. That plan has not changed with the drafting of Mayfield. The Browns hope Taylor plays well. They hope to win some games. The unknown: How quickly will Mayfield pick up the offense? Coach Hue Jackson already has said he will not hold Mayfield back, so if he comes on fast and if Taylor struggles early, it’s possible Mayfield could start some games as a rookie. The other factor: If the Browns struggle early, it might be tough to keep the uber-competitive Mayfield watching.

Chances he starts: Not likely.

Most likely QB to lead team in 2018 snaps: Taylor. If the Browns are to be taken at their word, Mayfield will take a year to watch and learn. General manager John Dorsey and Jackson both said they want Mayfield to sit. How this plays out will be up to Taylor and the rest of the team. If Taylor can get off to a decent start and the team wins some early games, the Browns will stick with him. If Taylor struggles and the losing continues, the Browns might junk their well-laid-out plan the way they have many times before. — Pat McManamon

Outlook for 2018: General manager Mike Maccagnan said Darnold will be given “every opportunity” to win the Week 1 job. Can he overtake incumbent Josh McCown? It will happen at some point, but the Jets don’t want to rush Darnold into the lineup. The players and coaches have a comfort level with McCown, who will be a great mentor to Darnold. They also have former Vikings starter Teddy Bridgewater, who is attempting to regain his old form after a devastating knee injury. Bridgewater could wind up as trade bait if healthy. Best bet: McCown starts the season, but Darnold takes over by Halloween.

Chances he starts: Absolutely.

Most likely QB to lead team in 2018 snaps: Darnold. We’re not burying McCown just yet — he will go into training camp as the starter — but the transition is inevitable. If Darnold is as good as the Jets believe he is, he’ll take over after a few games. They drafted him third overall after trading up, so it makes no sense to redshirt him. — Rich Cimini

Outlook for 2018: General manager Brandon Beane said Allen will begin his career as the No. 3 quarterback behind AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman. “I think Nathan and AJ are gonna be well ahead of him,” Beane told WGR-AM 550 last month. “Even though it’s a new offensive coordinator [Brian Daboll] here, and [McCarron and Peterman] are only a few weeks ahead by the time Josh gets here, they’re gonna be further along than even three weeks ahead [of Allen]. Josh has a lot of catching up to do. But if he wins the job, he wins the job. We’re not going to hold him back if he’s clearly the best guy for us.” Beane also believes it is not fair to label Allen as “raw,” suggesting the Bills would be comfortable starting him this season.

Chances he starts: Likely.

Most likely QB to lead team in 2018 snaps: McCarron. The Bills’ brutal schedule the first half of the season, with five of their first seven games on the road, could dictate how the quarterback position is handled. Even if McCarron or Peterman wins the starting job out of the preseason, either probably would be overachieving in finishing the first half of the season with a record above .500. In that case, it would not be hard to envision the Bills turning the reins over to Allen at some point during the lighter second half of the season, serving as quality development time for the rookie. But the bulk of the snaps could still go to the veteran. — Mike Rodak

Outlook for 2018: For now, Rosen will wait for his turn to be the Cardinals’ starting quarterback. Arizona didn’t give Sam Bradford $20 million this season — and possibly next season — to sit behind a rookie while he learns. But Rosen won’t be able to coast through this offseason planning on not playing in 2018. Bradford’s injury history suggests Rosen’s number could be called sooner rather than later, and he’ll need to be lucky. What will benefit Rosen greatly is Arizona’s plan to limit Bradford during OTAs, minicamp and training camp. That means Rosen will share snaps with Mike Glennon — for now, at least — and head into the offseason break in mid-June with far more snaps than he would have received had Bradford not been on a reduced snap count.

Chances he starts: Likely (to start at least one game).

Most likely QB to lead team in 2018 snaps: This is tough simply because the difference between Bradford and Rosen starting is an injury to Bradford. But I’ll say Bradford will lead the Cardinals in snaps in 2018, with Rosen close behind. Bradford is Arizona’s quarterback until he can’t be anymore, which, with his history, is tough to determine. But the Cards will stick with Bradford as long as they can. — Josh Weinfuss

Outlook for 2018: Ravens officials insist Joe Flacco is the starter and Jackson needs time to develop. It’s clear Baltimore doesn’t want to rush Jackson. The Ravens could try to get Jackson on the field as a rookie in special packages. As a dual threat, Jackson can jump in at quarterback and give defenses a totally different look. When Ravens offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg called plays for the Eagles in 2009, he played Michael Vick an average of five snaps per game while Donovan McNabb was the starter. Vick made an impact, scoring three touchdowns in the regular season and throwing a 76-yard touchdown pass in the playoffs. It’s uncertain whether Jackson will get the same opportunity this season because Ravens officials remain so vague. Asked how Baltimore will get Jackson involved immediately, Mornhinweg said, “Next question.”

Chances he starts: No way (barring injury to Flacco).

Most likely QB to lead team in 2018 snaps: Flacco. Over the past two seasons, Flacco has missed a total of 77 snaps at quarterback. It’s difficult to see Jackson getting a start this season unless Flacco has a significant injury or the Ravens are out of playoff contention early. This doesn’t mean Jackson will be holding a clipboard all season. Jackson is the most explosive player Baltimore has on offense, and the Ravens can use him in creative ways. Trickery on offense has never sat well with Flacco, however. In 2013, Flacco ripped the use of the Wildcat with Tyrod Taylor, saying it made the Ravens look “like a high school offense.” — Jamison Hensley

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