NFL News & Analysis

Who will win Panthers', Steelers' and Seahawks' QB battles? NFL sources weigh in

Spartanburg, South Carolina, US; Carolina Panthers quarterbacks Baker Mayfield (6) and Sam Darnold (14) on the field during training camp at Wofford College. Mandatory Credit: Griffin Zetterberg-USA TODAY Sports

• NFL sources were most torn about the Seattle Seahawks' QB battle between Drew Lock and Geno Smith.

• Baker Mayfield was the unanimous choice to win the Carolina Panthers' starting signal-caller job.

• While Geno Smith brings more experience to the table, it was Drew Lock who narrowly won out among the NFL sources we polled.

Barring injuries and anything truly unforeseen, we know which quarterbacks will be starting for 29 NFL franchises. But for three teams, quarterback competitions continue to rage on in training camps across the country.

We polled NFL coaches, executives and scouts around the NFL to predict who will start for the Carolina Panthers, between Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold, the Pittsburgh Steelers, between Mitchell Trubisky, Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph, and the Seattle Seahawks, between Geno Smith and Drew Lock.

Here’s what they had to say:


Candidates: Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold

You know the story already. The Panthers acquired Darnold in a trade with the New York Jets last offseason, he struggled in 2021 and they wound up waiting for Mayfield’s price to drop before grabbing him from the Cleveland Browns for a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick and reduced salary.

The Panthers gave up more for Darnold and are paying him more than Mayfield, but Mayfield has been the much better quarterback since each player was drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. Mayfield has earned an 84.0 PFF grade in that span of time, while Darnold has a 60.7 grade. Last season was Mayfield’s worst in the NFL, and his 63.6 PFF grade was still better than Darnold’s 54.7 mark.

Sources we polled were unanimous in predicting Mayfield would be the starter. And one source with knowledge of the situation said he would be shocked if Darnold came away with the job.

One source within the NFC South thought Darnold had a chance at the job. He did pick Mayfield, however.

“Baker is better than Sam, in my opinion, but Sam been there longer, and (head coach Matt) Rhule seems to see something in him.”

A source within the organization did stress that it’s been a legitimate competition in camp, and the two quarterbacks are swapping first-team reps at practice. The Panthers can take their time to announce a starter with three preseason games still to go.

Sources pick: Mayfield


Candidates: Mitchell Trubisky, Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph

Based on reports out of Steelers camp, Trubisky has taken the majority of first-team reps in practice, though there has been a rotation in Pittsburgh that includes Rudolph taking occasional snaps with the starting offense.

The Steelers gave Trubisky a two-year, $14.3 million contract this offseason but can get out of it with minimal dead money hitting their cap after the 2022 season. They then turned around and added Pickett as the only first-round quarterback of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Only one person took Rudolph as the 2022 starter, with the rest of our sources predicting Trubisky would win the job.

It seems smart to see what Trubisky can do since the Steelers are tied to him with $5.25 million guaranteed. It wouldn’t be shocking to see Pickett or Rudolph receive opportunities if Trubisky, who served as Josh Allen’s backup with the Buffalo Bills in 2021, falters.

Sources pick: Trubisky


Candidates: Geno Smith and Drew Lock

This appears to be the most wide-open (and some might say uninspiring) quarterback competition in training camp this summer despite the fact that Smith is taking the majority of first-team reps in practice.

Smith, 31, served as Russell Wilson’s backup last season and led Seattle to a 1-2 record while earning a 73.9 PFF grade. Lock is still only 25 years old and has produced a 61.8 PFF grade across 1,375 snaps over three NFL seasons.

“I’d give Smith the slight edge because he’s safer with the football and won’t lose a game due to his decision-making,” an AFC scout said. “Though I do think we’ll see Lock at some point.”

Another AFC source theorized that Seattle promised Smith a legitimate chance to start in order to get him to re-sign this offseason.

“Which is why you see all the rhetoric coming out of there that it's his job to lose,” the scout said. “Ultimately, I think Lock will start more games this year.”

An NFC analytics executive believes the Seahawks would be better off if Lock wins the job.

Ultimately, it was close and came down to just one vote, but Lock edged out Smith among the people we polled.

Sources pick: Lock

One NFC personnel director summed things up:

Lock: more talented 

Mayfield: better overall QB

Trubisky: more experience


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