Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Next Generation: Which Rookie Will Make The Leap?

This year is unprecedented when it comes to quarterbacks, with five teams deciding to start rookies over veterans.  Gone are the days where the number one quarterback has to have NFL experience to become the starter.  In 2011, Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Tyler Yates, Andy Dalton, and Mike Kafka all got playing time (with extremely varied results).  That is a substantial amount of rookies to start in one season.  Of those seven, five are coming into this year as the opening game starter.  We, my friends, are in a quarterback transition.  Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Carson Palmer, and Drew Brees are all coming close to the twilight of their career and many teams see a dead end with a project they picked at QB in the past couple years.  This explains why we now have ten first or second year quarterbacks starting in 2012. 

What to do with a rookie quarterback is an inexact science.  Do you sit him so he can learn under a veteran presence?  Do you start him from day one so you get your money's worth?  Do you tell him to go earn it so he becomes more competitive?  There are many examples for and against all arguments.  Anyone who says Peyton Manning started from day one is quick to hear that David Carr was thrust in too quickly.  People who point out that highly regarded Aaron Rodgers waited, they will also let them know that so did JaMarcus Russell.  There is a point-counter point to every argument.  So what do you do? It is a case by case scenario.  This year there are five cases in which a rookie is starting week one.  Here is how I think their careers will pan out.

Russell Wilson- Seattle Seahawks
Wilson was by far the biggest surprise as far as rookies being names the starters.  For one, he was only a third round pick.  He was thought to be the quarterback of the future instead of the present.  Another road block was that the Seahawks just signed sought after free agent Matt Flynn to be the starter.  Flynn struggled in the new system and Wilson became the starter.  He also beat last year's Seattle starter Tavaris Jackson so bad they traded him to Buffalo.  It isn't all sunshine and daisies for Wilson, however.  He is currently the smallest starting quarterback in the NFL.  Now I know the go to argument is Drew Brees, but he is even smaller than him.  At just under 5'11, Wilson is going to struggle to see over taller offensive linemen while trying to get used to the speed of the game.  Wilson has plenty of talent, but his physical set backs may become too much to handle.  Wilson has led the league in preseason passer rating, but as history has already shown us, preseason numbers don't mean much.  Once the games become real is going to be the real test for this young gunslinger.  He has some of the tools to become a great QB, but I think he, more than any of the other quarterbacks, at least needed a veteran backup.  Instead he has Matt Flynn and his whopping one NFL start.  There is no learning curve in the NFL.  If you are starting in this league you are expected to be great from day one.  Sorry Russell, I just don't think you're going to cut it.

Ryan Tannehill- Miami Dolphins
Is it bad that I don't like this guy strictly because he was picked by the current Miami regime?  Well, at least everyone knows when you have a rookie quarterback you pick up a veteran wide receiver that will be easy to work with.  They had to follow that rule, right?  Oh, you took Chad Johnson and then cut him.  Well then, throw that theory out the window.  Anyway, I like Tannehill.  I think he has enough talent and skill to one day become a decent starting quarterback in the NFL.  Unfortunately, this is not going to be the year.  Tannehill does not have the weapons around him to become a successful starter.  Can you name the starting wide receivers on Miami?  (Davonne Bess and Legedu Naanee to save you Google time.)  Tannehill started off the preseason great, but has completely fallen off since the first game.  Will he bring Miami back to the promiseland?  Probably not.  I see Tannehill as more of a Vinny Testaverde type, he won't work out in Miami but will move on to other organizations and have success.  Just another thing the Dolphins fans have to look forward to.

Brandon Weeden- Cleveland Browns
I am one of the few who really likes this pick.  I understand he is twenty-eight and has no NFL experience, but I feel like this is going to be more of an asset than a detriment.  It will cause a sense of urgency for Weeden.  He knows he needs to be good as quickly as possible.  This will drive him to greatness.  His maturity and knowledge is the edge he has on the Lucks and Griffins of the world.  That being said, he will indeed have a worse career than those mentioned, but will start off the year with better stats.  He will be a starter for a long time in the Cleveland organization.  This may sound like a drawback, but Weeden will give Cleveland something to cheer for for the first time since the King took his talents to South Beach.  I feel like there will be some sort of comradere on this offense.  They are young at pretty much every position and that will make them feel like they are in this together.  They will all trust Weeden more because he is like them, unlike if they were veterans and skeptical.  They will want to make each other better and be the little engine that could.  Weeden will make it through the season and start all sixteen games, something that I believe only Luck and him will accomplish.  I feel like the Browns and the Bengals are going to start an out with the old (Steelers and Ravens) and in with the new.  Imagine a league where the Browns are better than the Steelers.  It isn't here, but with Weeden at the helm it is coming.

Robert Griffin III- Washington Redskins
I am not convinced.  I have been saying since day one that one of the top two quarterbacks in this year's draft was going to bust, and it won't be Luck.  Saying that, I really like Griffin's skill and talent level.  What scares me is his size.  He is slightly undersized, which is something everyone in the NFL is going to try to utilize against him.  I feel like when he is on the field he will be the most exciting player, but we won't know how much he can stay on the field.  He reminds me of a Michael Vick type, only a better pure passer.  He is explosive and exactly what the Redskins needed to get the fans back into it.  Now before I get attacked by the towns people like I am Frankenstein, I think an injury is the only thing that could hold Griffin back.  He is such a great raw talent with a perfect head on his shoulders that you can't help but root for him.  He looks like he genuinely loves the game and would play for free.  He seems like he could be a Steve young type if he could stay healthy and have a long career.  If Griffin can learn something that Vick still has trouble with, to get down, he could have a Hall of Fame career.  If he can't and continues to go for that extra yard and take the extra hit, we may only continue to think what if.

Andrew Luck- Indianapolis Colts
How is it that the Colts are bad for three season out of the last fifteen and they get two of the best quarterback prospects since John Elway?  Jim Irsay did what needed to be done by letting go of Peyton to give this guy a fresh start with a team that can be his.  We don't want an Aaron Rodgers-Brett Favre saga here.  Luck comes into a Colts team which, before last year, had nine straight seasons of ten-plus wins.  The Colts were a staple atop the AFC South, winning nearly every year.  Now Luck is in charge of an offense which brings back stud Reggie Wayne and has Donald Brown taking over starting duties at running back.  Wayne will work with Luck to make him better, a big reason why he did not sign elsewhere.  Luck has been great this preseason with a sixty-two percent completion percentage and three touchdowns.  I know I said preseason doesn't matter, but he shows the games isn't going to scare him into bad throws.  He is showing flashes of greatness that we all knew he possessed.  Luck is going to dominate this league, period end of story.  He won't be exciting to watch, unlike RGIII, but he will get the job done week in and week out.  He will bring another championship back to Indianapolis within the next five years.  I know it sounds crazy, but this guy is that good.  He will cause a five game swing on the Colts record and rejuvinate the offense back to the top.  All this in his rookie year, imagine the career he has to look forward to.  How did Jim Irsay get so lucky again?

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