Year of the Pitcher is a term you hear quite often. Year of the Rookie Quarterback” isn't. But after this upcoming NFL season, I think it could be. Of the rookie quarterbacks in last year’s NFL draft, only two were Week 1 starters. This year, five of the 10 rookie quarterbacks drafted are starting. But what makes this year’s selection of quarterbacks better?
Many people would say these players are no better than any other previous draft class, they just came into the NFL at the right time. Those people could be right, or these rookies could be really good QBs. But none of that will matter if they don’t have a good team to back them up. In my opinion, the things that determine a quarterback’s success, almost as much as their natural talent, are the skills of their offensive line and their receivers. If you don’t have an offensive line, odds are you will be sacked a lot. If you are being sacked a lot, you can’t make good passes or runs. And if your receivers are not great targets, you will have trouble putting the ball into the end zone.
The five quarterbacks from the 2012 draft who started Week 1 games are, (in draft order) Andrew Luck (Colts), Robert Griffin III (Redskins), Ryan Tannehill (Dolphins), Brandon Weeden (Browns), and Russell Wilson (Seahawks). Here are my ratings of each of them:
Andrew Luck: I believe that Luck is the smartest quarterback in this rookie class. Rarely do you see a bad pass or blown play from him. Not only is he one of, if not the, smartest quarterback, he ranks right up there in physical ability and athleticism. He was drafted with the first pick by the Indianapolis Colts to replace Peyton Manning. Luck will be decently protected this year by his offensive line, but ever since the loss of center Jeff Saturday to the Packers, the Colts offensive line has not been as strong as it once was. On the receiving end, Luck was reunited with one of the receivers he played with in college, tight end Coby Fleener. The two are already comfortable, which will give Luck a good target.
Robert Griffin III: Coming off a Heisman Trophy-winning season, expectations are high for RGIII. His athleticism and playmaking ability will serve him well this year. Many people see him primarily as a running QB, but he proved the critics wrong by passing for 320 yards in the Redskins opening win over New Orleans.
Ryan Tannehill: I think Tannehill is a great quarterback who just needs more development and practice. When Tannehill gets in trouble, he tends to stare right at the receiver he is going to pass to and is often intercepted. He probably won’t make a huge impact his rookie season, but as time goes on, I think he could be a star.
Brandon Weeden: Weeden is definitely one of the most interesting guys in the draft. At 28 years old, he is an NFL rookie. Weeden was once a professional baseball player, but then went back to school at Oaklahoma State to play football. Obviously, Weeden is a tremendous athlete, which will benefit him greatly. But it will take a while to build up a strong program in Cleveland. Weeden struggled in their opening game, throwing four interceptions, but if the Browns stay faithful to him and don't trade him, in a few years he could be great!
Russell Wilson: I am an avid Iowa Hawkeyes fan, so it might be only natural for me to dislike Wilson. But I can’t. The guy is so talented and you just can’t ignore that. Earlier this year I wrote a post about how great Matt Flynn was and now Wilson has beaten out Flynn for the starting job in Seattle. This guy is such a threat with both his arm and his legs that teams will be very disappointed that they didn’t draft him when they had the chance.
Over the next few years, these are the guys to keep your eye on because they could well be the next MVPs, Pro Bowlers and Super Bowl champs.