Tom Sorensen

Ranking the NFL draft’s best quarterbacks is tougher this year. Here’s the top 5.

If former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) goes late in the first round of the NFL Draft, somebody will get a deal.
If former Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) goes late in the first round of the NFL Draft, somebody will get a deal. AP

The NFL draft feels like a holiday. You wait and wait, wait and wait, and it’s as if the thing will never come. Mock drafts are an appetizer, and most NFL officials mock them. But some mock drafts nail it, or come as close as anybody could reasonably expect.

Three weeks from Thursday, live from Arlington, Texas, the NFL draft begins.

Most of the speculation locally has been, of course, about the Carolina Panthers, who pick 24th.

Forget the Panthers for a minute. How do you rank the five quarterbacks that will go in the first round? They are, in alphabetical order: Josh Allen (Wyoming), Sam Darnold (USC), Lamar Jackson (Louisville), Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma) and Josh Rosen (UCLA).

Last year, three quarterbacks went in the first round. Mitch Trubisky (North Carolina) went second, Patrick Mahomes II (Texas Tech) went 10thand Deshaun Watson (Clemson) went 12th.

I didn’t get it. Trubisky has talent. But after watching the quarterbacks in the ACC, I thought Watson was the obvious pick. I wrote that. Watson was having a superb rookie season for the Houston Texans until, on Nov. 2, he torn an ACL.

In terms of quarterbacks, this draft is more complicated. Allen is the biggest guy with the biggest arm. Darnold occasionally makes a throw that is brilliant. Jackson is wide receiver fast; a quick cut and he‘s gone. He can pass, too. Mayfield is little and tough and daring. Rosen isn’t terribly mobile, but when he’s not bored he can move the ball around.

I take Darnold first, Allen second, Jackson third, Rosen fourth and Mayfield fifth.

If Jackson goes late in the first round, somebody will get a deal. You could say that he needs to be in the right system, but can’t you say that about the other four?

What if Jackson is available at 27 when the New Orleans Saints make their first round pick? He probably won’t be. But he could be. The Saints’ starter is 39-years-old. His backups likely will always be backups. Draft Jackson, groom him and, should Drew Brees ever retire, his replacement waits.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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