Jobu weighs in on which rookie quarterback has had the biggest impact on the league, and who might take home the Rookie of the Year.
Eleven quarterbacks were drafted into the NFL in last April’s amateur draft. Some, like first overall pick Andrew Luck, and second overall pick Robert Griffin III came highly regarded and seemed destined for great things in their professional careers. Others, like seventh rounders B.J. Coleman and Chandler Harnish, snuck into the league with far lesser fanfare. We knew some of the top guys would be walking right into starting jobs, and most of the others would sit for a year at least, or even prepare for a career of carrying a clip board for a nice salary. So who’s the best of the best? Let’s go to the video tape!
1. Andrew Luck – Indianapolis Colts
Everyone knew Andrew Luck’s pedigree coming out of Stanford last year. Big League Clu and I covered the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes (I was wrong in my prediction, I admit it) as the NFL draft day approached. We all knew he could, and probably would, be something special… some day. I don’t think any of us really realized how quickly he would change the Indianapolis Colts, though.
Colts fans must have felt a little déjà vu in week 1. Luck put up 309 yards with 1 TD and 3 INTs in his first game as a pro, which almost identically mirrored the debut of the man Luck replaced. In 1998, against the Miami Dolphins, Peyton Manning threw for 302 yards with 1 TD and 3 INTs. Unfortunately for the Colts, both games were losses. Unlike Manning though, Luck went on to experience a lot of success in his first season as a pro. While Manning finished his rookie season 3-13 with promise of future successes, Luck finished his surprising rookie season at 11-5, and led the Colts to the playoffs.
His final numbers even surpassed those of his predecessor too. Luck completed 54% of his passes this season and threw for 4,375 yards, 23 TDs and 18 INTs. While the 18 INTs was second in the league, it’s ten less than Manning had when he was a rookie. Luck also broke some of Manning’s records (although many of them had been broken by Cam Newton just last season). He now owns the record for passing yards and attempts by a rookie, so congratulations to him. If he manages to get the Colts deep into the playoffs this season, though, that will be worth a whole lot more than some statistics. With Coach Chuck Pagano back from his battle with cancer too, things are looking up for the Colts!
2. Robert Griffin, III – Washington Redskins
As a Giants fan, and a proud RGIII fantasy owner, I’ve gotten a first hand look at just how good Griffin has been this season. Like Luck, Griffin has completely turned around a floundering franchise, and has given the Redskins fans something to be excited about for the first time in quite a long while. Griffin has electrified the field with both his arm and his legs this year, and he helped my fantasy team make it all the way to the finals. I personally thank RGIII for the $150 I made from that.
On paper, Griffin has had one of the better all-around seasons in league history. I’m not going to say it’s the best, like Redskins coach Mike Shanahan did, but it’s pretty impressive. Griffin has thrown for 3,200 yards and 20 TDs, which, although impressive, aren’t record breaking like Luck’s passing yardage totals. When you add in Griffin’s 815 rushing yards and 8 TDs to the mix though, he becomes a lot more impressive. My favorite RGIII statistic though is that his 20 TDs were only accompanied by 5 INTs. That 4/1 ratio actually ties Griffin with Tom Brady (32 TDs, 8 INTs) for the best in the NFL this season! Griffin is also 2nd in the league with a 104.1 QB Rating (Aaron Rodgers, 106.2).
All these great numbers have led the Redskins to an 10-6 record, and the NFC Eastern Division crown, which RGIII helped seal up with a 28-18 win against the Cowboys on Sunday night. For the Redskins to beat out both the Giants and Cowboys for the division is something that I thought might happen a few years into his career, but certainly not in the man’s rookie season!
3. Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
If you were to have told me on draft day that Russell Wilson would be battling it out for the Rookie of the Year and leading the Seahawks to the playoffs by January, I might have called you a crazy person… either that or you’re Russell Wilson’s parents or something. That’s because the fact that Wilson is even starting is a pretty big shocker. This off-season, the Seahawks spent a good amount of money on Aaron Rodgers former backup, Matt Flynn, and it was assumed he would be the one leading the offense in 2012. After all, he did throw for 518 yards and 6 TDs in his one spot start in 2011.
But Wilson outplayed Flynn in the pre-season. To their credit, the Seahawks gave the third round pick, who is making considerably less than Flynn, the starting job. Wilson has done nothing but reward Seattle for that decision. He put up 3,118 yards this past season with 26 TDs and just 10 INTs, impressive numbers for a 10 year veteran, let alone a rookie. In fact, the 26 TDs tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record from 1998. He also ran for another 432 yards and 4 TDs which, although not nearly as impressive as Griffin’s total, are still pretty darn good. Wilson seems to find a way to win, from close games to blowouts, including a three game stretch from Weeks 14-16 where the Seahawks put up 150 points against the Cardinals, Bills and 49ers. With a 20-13 win in week 17, Wilson and the Seahawks actually finished 11-5 as well.
My favorite thing about Wilson is something that has pretty much held him back his whole career, and that’s his height. At 5’11”, Wilson is the shortest starting quarterback in the league. His powerful arm and mobility have helped him overcome that “handicap” and become a truly successful quarterback in the NFL. This is something that could help change the way people think about what NFL QBs should be. You don’t need to be 6’5″ to throw the ball down the field. As a Boston College alum, and default Doug Flutie enthusiast, I really do appreciate Wilson’s talent, lack of height and all.
Who is Taking Home the ROY?
This really is a tough choice. Without being able to judge playoff performance, and basing this on just the regular season, I think I have to go with RGII on this one. His QB rating, TD/INT ratio and the fact that he’s an elite player with both his arm and legs put him ahead of the other two in my book. It’s been an exciting year, and this quarterback class might be the best of all time (no disrespect to Dan Marino, Jim Kelly and John Elway from the 1983 draft), and I’m just glad I’ve gotten to watch it all unfurl this year. Will these three guys end up being as good as the class of 1983? I’ll check in with you guys in 20 years!
Featured image courtesy of: http://www.voxxi.com/
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