With two weeks of the new NFL season in the books, it is time to rank the record setting five rookie quarterbacks picked to lead their teams into the immediate future. Of the five, four have 1-1 records, with the odd man out sitting at 0-2. Two have had statement wins, announcing to the league they mean business, and two are leading teams with legitimate playoff hopes, although as week 2 has shown, anything is possible.
This list is based on statistics, strength of opponent and the ever faithful eye test. Keep in mind the season is still young and there are several months of football left to be played.
As always, a rankings list is a matter of opinion, and if you have one that differs, please feel free to leave your rankings in the comments below.
#5~Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks, 3rd round, 75th overall~
Immediately, the American Northwest is up in arms. How could Wilson be on the bottom of the list when his quarterback rating is a decent 81.1? The answer is in the way he was utilized in his first two games.
After losing a shocker to the Arizona Cardinals, in which he was asked to throw the ball 33 times, Wilson gets a huge win against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2.
The win was emphatic and helps erase the foul taste of losing to the Cards, but after reviewing the game film, it is clear that the rookie’s part in game plan had been reduced. The offensive play calling was split 41-20 in favor of the run, and of Wilson’s 20 attempts, six were for more than 10 yards. With a lead against the visiting Cowboys, it is no surprise to see the numbers skewed, but such a large differential between the two elements of the offense is disturbing.
Wilson has a very strong arm and is extremely accurate when he sets his feet or is rolling out to the right. He is 19-26 to the right side, but only one of those passes has gone beyond 20 yards. He looks hurried and uncomfortable at times and looks to run rather than throw when coverage is tight on his first two reads. He is doing a decent job as a starter in Seattle, but at this point he has shown nothing that says Matt Flynn couldn’t come in and run the offense the same.
It is because of this that Wilson lands at the bottom of this week’s NFL Power Rankings.
#4~Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns, 1st round, 22nd overall~
It is difficult to imagine anyone having as bad a start to their career as Weeden did in Week 1 against the Philadelphia Eagles. It was bad enough that he completed a miserable 34.3 percent of his passes and threw four interceptions to the visiting Eagles, he somehow managed to find himself caught underneath a huge American flag while the rest of the world looked on in glee. This was enough to have Browns fans in an uproar about the rookie many feel the organization overreached in an attempt to get.
This must have made it difficult for the 28-year-old Weeden to come back out the following Sunday and try to salvage his pride as the Browns played the Cincinnati Bengals in the battle for Ohio. But that is just what Weeden did.
Although his team lost in the final minutes of the game for the second week in a row, Weeden passed for more than 300 yards and two touchdowns without turning the ball over once. Had his defense not lost star corner back Joe Haden to suspension, he may have even gotten his team a win.
Weeden was also the beneficiary of a strong run game, but the elder rookie extended the run with his use of the check down. 22 of his 37 attempted passes were either dump offs or short passes. It wasn’t flashy, but he was very successful, racking up 261 yards and a touchdown.
At 0-2, Weeden is the only rookie on this list without a win, but the Browns rely heavily on him and after a demoralizing NFL premiere, he let the league know he can play.
#3~Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins, 1st round, 8th overall
With the least amount of experience at the quarterback position of the five rookie starters, Tannehill may be the starter that looks the most comfortable in his position. Starting for a Miami Dolphins team clearly in the middle of a rebuild stage, Tannehill has been sharp from the pocket, has an incredible arm and is confident in every pass he throws. He just lacks consistency.
In Week 1 against the Houston Texans, Tannehill faced one of the best defenses in the league and turned the ball over three times, which resulted in 17 points going the other way. Two of his 3 interceptions came from balls batted at the line of scrimmage and the third was just a plain old misread. The turnovers led to a two minute onslaught that propelled the Texans to a 30-10 win.
Facing his second highly ranked defense in Week 2, Tannehill led the Dolphins on a game opening touchdown drive against the Oakland Raiders, capping it off with a 13 yard bootleg he took in for an easy score. The Dolphins would go on to score four more touchdowns, including a 14 yard score from Tannehill to Anthony Fasano.
The Dolphins running attack played a major part in Tannehill’s success in week 2, but what separates him from Weeden and Wilson is his consistent use of the down field ball. Yes, both of the other two starting rookies heave the ball down field, but their ability is not showcased the way it is with Tannehill. For him, throwing 10+ yards down the field is the norm, doing so on 18 of his 30 attempted passes against the Raiders, not counting throw-aways or short passes turned into long gains. In comparison, Wilson took only six shots over 10 yards out of his 20 pass attempts in Week 2.
Weeden’s numbers are deceptive, having thrown the ball further than 10 yards 15 times, but six of those came during what was essentially the Browns first drive interrupted by a Adam Jones punt return. This leaves nine more passes of over 10 yards spread out over the remainder of the game.
Tannehill lacks consistency: at one point during Sunday’s game, he went for seven failed possessions before finally getting the team in position to score in the 3rd. If he can become a little more steady, the sky is the limit for the young Dolphin.
#2~Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts, 1st round, 1st overall~
There are many parallels between Andrew Luck and Ryan Tannehill. They both threw three interceptions in a week 1 blow out, both came back in Week 2 and put their team in a position to win, both have a rookie head coach leading the team and both feel the shadow of an NFL Legend hanging over all that they do.
For Luck, the shadow bears a bit more weight, with the NFL Legend still working his magic on another team after being forced out to make room for the young stud. Added pressure or not, he is well on his way to making his own name in the NFL.
In the first two weeks, Luck has thrown for 533 yards, the most among the five rookie quarterbacks, although he has yet to truly settle in and showcase his skills. Against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 2, Luck seemed to only know how to rifle the ball where ever it was going. There were no touch passes, no finesse throws, instead just brute force willing the ball to its target. This could have been due to the excessive turnovers he had in Week 1, but the added velocity poorly affected the accuracy of his throws and overall. The win against the Vikings is not very impressive.
What puts Luck in second position of the NFL Power Rankings is how well he is doing with what he has around him. Besides Reggie Wayne, the receiving corps are fairly tame. He has a rookie tight end he threw to in college, he has Donald Brown in the back field and his defense has already given up 750+ yards and 61 points.
Every win Luck gets is through sheer determination and the desire to make his team the best it can be. The fact that he is doing so much with so little secures his position above Tannehill as the #2 on this list, at least for this week.
#1~Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins, 1st round, 2nd overall~
Most likely, no one is surprised to see RGIII in the top spot of the power rankings. All he has done since Week 1 is electrify the National Football League and send Fantasy Football owners scrambling to check the waiver wires.
In his first NFL appearance, the Heisman Trophy winner went into the home of the New Orleans Saints, one of the loudest, craziest stadiums in the league as a rookie hopeful, and he came out a rising star.
A duel threat, RGIII is capable of beating a defense with his arm or his feet. He is smart and careful, yet he is not afraid to take a chance down the field. In both of his first two starts, Griffin has rushed for 124 yards, thrown a 60+ yard touchdown pass, burning the Saints for an 88 yard bomb, and the St. Louis Rams for 68. He has thrown for three touchdowns and run for two more while compiling the highest passer rating of the five rookies by an impressive 30 point margin.
RGIII has a beautiful spiral and is very judicious with the ball. Against the Rams, he completed 20 passes to eight different receivers, with all but two of his throws under 15 yards. This was in a game where he looked unimpressive and lost on a missed field goal as time expired. If the Saints game was his first, and the Rams not his best, the future may be super nova bright for this young man.
Unfortunately, winning may have just become much more difficult for Griffin’s Redskins, having lost two key members of the defensive unit to season ending injuries. This is crushing news to a team intent on making the playoffs, but if the first two weeks are any indication, RGIII won’t back down from the challenge of taking the team on his back and shouldering the weight of the load.
NFL Power Rankings…Don’t agree? Leave your Rant in the comments below and see how the list has changed when it comes back out in Week 4.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts and rants.