The Top First-Year Starting Quarterbacks in 2012
Aaron Rodgers? Tom Brady? Drew Brees? Who cares about them? We know what we have in them, but if you’re like me, you care about the future. With potentially 10 (!) starting quarterbacks coming out of the past two draft classes, and now with 6 as new starters this year, who will do the best THIS year. I know that’s a burning question to all of my dozen loyal readers, but you came to the right place.
1. Jake Locker – Tennessee Titans. Locker was named the starting quarterback of the Titans earlier in the week, taking over for incumbent 37 year-old Matt Hasselbeck. Locker has shown flashes of big play ability with his strong arm and his legs, but accuracy has been his main problem. After mostly sitting for a year, it is Locker’s time to show if he was worth of the #8 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. What he does have going for him, other than said arm and legs, is a strong receiver corp highlighted by the troubled Kenny Britt — who will serve a short suspension and is coming back from knee injury — 1st round pick and RGIII’s #1 target at Baylor, Kendall Wright, and an up-and-down tight end in Jared Cook. If Chris Johnson can rebound off a terrible 2011, Locker will have weapons all around him in a weak division that plays the Jaguars and Colts twice each.
2. Robert Griffin III – Washington Redskins. Known to many by RGIII, the #2 pick in this years draft, he has a lot of talent around him and a playoff caliber defense to help him through his rookie struggles. Last year’s Heisman winner, now has Mike Shanahan, former coach of Hall-of-Famer John Elway, to guide him through his career, and upgrades at wide receiver with the signing of the speedy Pierre Garcon, the reliable Joshua Morgan (former 49er) and an improving Fred Davis at tight end. You can’t forget that in Shanahan’s offense he could put me at running back and I could gain 1,000 yards — a solid run game is huge for any young starting quarterback. The only reason I don’t have RGIII as my top 1st year starter? The schedule. The NFC East goes three deep, maybe four depending on how good RGIII really is, and having to play the defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, the Dallas Cowboys, and the Philadelphia Eagles six times a year makes this division one of the deepest, if not the deepest, in the NFL.
3. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts. The #1 pick in this years draft and the ‘most NFL ready quarterback to come out of college ever’ comes in at third for our first year starting quarterback rankings. Luck comes into the NFL with unbelievable hype and ridiculous expectations that he can’t possibly live up to them, can he? We shall see. But after two preseason games he has looked pretty darn good. His problem is that he has the worst talent in the NFL surrounding him. A descending #1 receiver in Reggie Wayne, his #2 receiver, who somehow doesn’t have brain damage after four concussions, Austin Collie — who took another shot to the head on Sunday — is hurt. The offensive line is pretty terrible and the running game is headlined by Donald Brown, ouch. The Colts top two picks were safety valves for Luck with tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener, Luck’s favorite target at Stanford. I believe Luck will have the best career out of the six QB’s mentioned in this column, but he also has the most to overcome with the lack of talent and high expectations.
4. Matt Flynn/Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks. Of the six teams mentioned here, Seattle has the easiest schedule and a lot of talent around them, but not knowing who the starting QB for the Seahawks is moves them to #4. The Seahawks play in the hardest place to play in the NFL, they potentially have a top-5 defense if the pass rushers come to play, and the emergence of Marshawn Lynch, and the receivers (how are TO and Braylon Edwards going to co-exist in that locker room) give this team a chance to sneak into a wild card spot in the NFC. Matt Flynn is a guy that can play mistake free Football and run a West Coast offense, but Russell Wilson is a big time talent who flashes big play ability, the only reason he wasn’t taken in the first round is because of his height (5’10).
5. Brandon Weeden – Cleveland Browns. Weeden comes in as the oldest of the six QB’s, even though he’s a rookie, at 29 years old. He takes over an inept offense that was quarterbacked by noodle-arm Colt McCoy. The Browns did some major upgrading on offense over the offseason getting the best running back prospect since Adrian Peterson, with Trent Richardson, — who, if healthy, is a workhorse back for them — and drafting WR Josh Gordon in the supplemental draft to team up with Greg Little, the Browns have a formidable offense if Weeden can put it together. They are also in a tough division in the NFC North, and with executive Mike Holmgren and Head Coach Pat Shurmur potentially in their last year with the team, after the Browns got sold, this puts a lot more pressure on Weeden and that offense.
6. Ryan Tannehill – Miami Dolphins. Poor Ryan, he lost the only receiver that potentially could have done anything for him this season with Chad Johnson. Now his wide receivers look like this: Legedu Naanee, Roberto Wallace, Davone Bess, Chris Hogan, and Brian Hartline to name a few. Tannehill inherits a nice running game with Reggie Bush and newcomer Lamar Miller, but he lacks serious talent around him and is destined for a tough, tough year.
Who are your top first year starting quarterbacks for the 2012 year?