One of the most notable storylines heading into the NFL season was that five teams would be starting rookies at the quarterback position, the first time that has happened since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970. It does not need to be said that the focus of NFL offenses have shifted heavily towards passing and this increased scrutiny on the quarterback position has every team concentrating on finding their leader of the future. With over half the season finished up, let’s take a look at how these so-called “Franchise Guys” are holding up in their first year.
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: A
Sure, he’s had his struggles, but in almost every respect he’s held up to the hype that caused him to be unanimously considered the best player available in last year’s NFL draft. While his stats on their own do not seem incredibly impressive— eight interceptions, eight touchdowns and a 55 percent completion percentage— he has put in solid performance after solid performance. Additionally, he leads all rookie quarterbacks in QBR (he’s actually fourth in the entire league at the writing of this article), the quarterback rating system developed by ESPN last year.
Most importantly, he’s guided his team, one year removed from a 2-14 season, to contention for a playoff spot. His Colts have a 5-3 record and they currently hold one of the wild-cards. Also, the fact that he set the record for rookie passing yards in a game, throwing for 433 yards in a 23-20 win against Miami, is not too shabby either.
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins: A-
The Redskins paid a king’s ransom just to be able to draft Griffin and he has certainly showed flashes of extraordinary potential thus far. He holds the best completion percentage among all rookie quarterbacks, completing 66.8 percent of his passes, remarkable for a rookie, especially considering that his receivers have had a heck of a time holding on to the ball.
His only real flaw has been consistency, but that comes with the territory of being a rookie quarterback. Overall, he’s looked dynamic, somewhat of Michael Vick 2.0. Obviously there are some kinks to work out, particularly in closer games, as five of the Redskins’ six losses have come by a touchdown or less, but it seems like only a matter of time before RGIII figures out the art of the game-winning drive. This guy looks scary good, and he’ll be giving defensive coordinators fits for at least the next decade.
Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: B+
Yes, much of the talk about Wilson has been surrounding his Hail Mary pass against the Green Bay Packers, and the ensuing controversy surrounding it, but under the radar Wilson has actually been having a very solid rookie year. The stats speak for themselves, 62 percent completion percentage, 13 touchdowns with eight interceptions, and the 15th best QBR among starting quarterbacks.
If you take out two especially horrible games against the 49ers and Rams, he has actually been one of the better quarterbacks in the league. Again, it comes down to consistency, but on the whole he has far exceeded the expectations that are usually placed on third round draft picks. He has an absolute cannon for an arm (Ask Patriots fans) and I imagine we will be seeing highlights of him launching rockets for some time.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: C+
I don’t know if there is a quarterback who more perfectly exemplifies the ups and downs of a rookie NFL quarterback than Tannehill, as his play has been on the whole, pretty bad with a couple very bright spots. The bad: he’s completing 59 percent of his passes, has only thrown five touchdowns in eight games and he’s thrown more interceptions, six, than touchdown passes.
However, Tannehill has also improved since the start of the season and all of his interceptions came in the first four weeks. He is beginning to fit into the role of a game manager, which, for a rookie, is a good step and in his past four games he’s limited his mistakes and kept the Dolphins in games, allowing them to go 3-1. He may not blow you away with numbers or incredible plays, but since his team holds the second best scoring defense in the AFC, his steady play may be enough to propel them into contention for a playoff spot.
Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns: D
On the plus side, he’s second among rookie quarterbacks in passing yards. On the negative side, he’s thrown the second-most interceptions in the league, he has the second-worst completion percentage, he ranks dead-last in terms of QBR, oh, and he’s 29 years old. It’s actually too easy to mock Cleveland for spending a first round pick on a 28 year-old quarter who would take at least three or four years to mature, at which point he will be 32 years-old and on the verge of declining physically, but I wouldn’t do that.
But honestly, Cleveland Browns management, what were you actually thinking? The Browns have limped to a 2-7 start, and even though Weeden has looked terrible, they refuse to play the younger, and probably better, Colt McCoy in his place. I don’t get it. At this point, I just feel sorry for Browns fans.