INDIANAPOLIS — While Southern California’s Sam Darnold sat out Saturday’s throwing drills at the NFL Scouting Combine, the other top-ranked quarterbacks took center stage in the competition to be drafted first overall by the Browns on April 26.
Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield had good showings at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and earned positive reviews from NFL Network’s analysts during the broadcast. UCLA’s Josh Rosen turned in a solid performance, and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson had an uneven session.
Analyst Daniel Jeremiah called Allen “the big winner of the day” and thought Mayfield had the second-best outing.
Considered the early favorite by many draft experts to become the No. 1 overall pick, Darnold declined to throw, opting to wait until USC’s pro day on March 21.
Led by new General Manager John Dorsey and coach Hue Jackson, the Browns, who have the Nos. 1 and 4 overall selections, had all eyes on the QBs. They were split into two groups, with Allen and Lamar Jackson throwing in the morning and Rosen and Mayfield in the afternoon. New QBs coach Ken Zampese was on the field while Dorsey and Jackson watched from a suite.
“Josh Allen stole the show, but you look at Baker Mayfield, what he did in that second group, he was outstanding,” Jeremiah said. “Lamar Jackson, a little bit up and down, but I thought overall it was a solid day for him. Josh Rosen, a really good day.”
“I thought (Rosen) was as advertised as probably the best, smoothest thrower,” analyst Charles Davis said. “Baker Mayfield was as accurate as he said he was going to be.”
Allen captured the spotlight with his cannon of an arm, and he demonstrated increasingly consistent footwork, a key to him improving the well-known accuracy issues that contributed to him completing just 56.2 percent of his passes at Wyoming.
“He takes my breath away with some of the throws he makes,” analyst Mike Mayock said. “… He can throw it 70 or 80 yards without even trying.”
Allen wowed observers with back-to-back completions on deep go routes after he underthrew a wide receiver on the first one. Host Rich Eisen said one bomb traveled 60 yards, the other 66 yards.
“He’s showing off a little bit, and I don’t blame him,” Mayock said of Allen. “I’m wondering if Darnold’s over there going, ‘Man, I should have thrown.’?”
The 66-yard pass elicited audible buzz in the stadium.
“I think that’s the first time that I’ve ever heard a collective group of coaches say, ‘Ooh,’?” analyst and former NFL quarterback David Carr said. “I mean that was everybody and the fans up top.”
Allen continued to draw comparisons to Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. They possess prototypical size and played in the same offense in college. Allen ran the 40-yard dash in 4.75 seconds on Saturday. Wentz posted 4.77 seconds in 2016, when the Browns passed on him by trading the second overall pick.
“Very similar. Same size, same body type. This is a big, strong quarterback that can push the ball down the field,” Mayock said. “If you’re John Dorsey with Cleveland at one and four, Josh Allen, you’ve got to look at him. He can play indoors, outdoors, all 32 stadiums, cold weather, warm weather, big hands, big arm.
“He’s got a bigger arm than Wentz. He’s a better athlete than Wentz. I don’t know if he brings the intangibles to the table that Wentz does, the leadership and the football IQ, but that’s what the decision makers have to do in the next two months.”
Although Allen excelled, there were times his trouble with accuracy surfaced.
“When I was watching him warm up, the first couple of throws, I was just kind of thinking, ‘Wow, that’s crazy how hard that kid throws,’?” Carr said. “But his first slant was high and to the left about four or five feet to the left, and I was like, ‘Where did that come from?’?”
Despite lacking ideal height, the 6-foot-? Mayfield lived up to the hype that comes with being the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.
“He was very smooth, very free and easy,” Jeremiah said. “And I thought overall, if you had any questions about Mayfield’s arm talent … those were erased today.”
Carr admitted his expectations for Mayfield were exceeded.
“Baker’s arm is more live than I expected,” Carr said. “He’s got a little bit more zip than I thought he would have on it because even the deep throws that he made to the sideline were not a lot of arc, and he was able to get it out there.
“I thought he was going to have to be a guy that would have to anticipate, throw a little early. But these in cuts that he threw, he threw three really good tight spiral footballs down there. So I’m pleasantly surprised.”
Jeremiah praised Rosen for unleashing three deep balls in a row “that were as good as you’re going to see.” Rosen missed a few throws, though, including one on a slant route.
The reviews weren’t as complimentary of Lamar Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner who intrigues many teams, including the Browns.