Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Brandon Weeden already have secured starting jobs. Their other 2012 first-round quarterback counterpart, Ryan Tannehill, has a shot at the Miami Dolphins gig and will start Friday night's preseason game against the Carolina Panthers. Keeping in mind that Peyton Manning tossed 28 interceptions in his first NFL season, which of these four rookie quarterbacks will have the most picks in 2012? Who will have the least?
Luck will take most chances, leading to most interceptionsThis is an easy one. Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has followed the model set by Peyton Manning, and his interception totals will be no different. In fact, I expect Luck to have a remarkably similar rookie season to that of Manning: He'll play a lot and lose a lot.
Indianapolis has a patchwork, transitioning defense, a dearth of skill players on offense and a leaky offensive line. That formula, coupled with the fact that Luck should start 16 games, means he will be throwing a lot with his team trailing. He'll be counted on to be a playmaker, which will lead him to take chances. The interceptions should pile up.
Meanwhile, I expect Robert Griffin III to use his legs when the pocket breaks down, limiting his picks. And I'll be surprised if Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden start all 16 games.
Opportunities will be limited for Tannehill, so his pick total will be lowestFun question. I don't expect Weeden or Tannehill to start the entire season. Even though Luck and Griffin should outplay their counterparts, the huge volume of throws they will make puts them at risk.
Luck will be asked to take the most chances, so he's my pick for the most interceptions. Tannehill will have the least. He's been careful in camp and I doubt he starts more than 10 games.
Presence of safety-net tight ends will limit Luck's mistakesNot sure about the most, but I believe Luck will have the least. Luck has the best field vision and judgment of all these quarterbacks. He also has the ability to escape from the rush and make plays with his feet. Even when he is running, he can still focus downfield to throw the ball to an open receiver or throw it away.
Also, the Colts did a smart thing in drafting two tight ends -- Coby Fleener of Stanford and Dwayne Allen of Clemson. The tight ends were a big part of Luck's offense in college, and obviously he has a great rapport with Fleener. I look for the same thing to happen with the Colts. The tight ends give Luck an outlet, and he'll be comfortable dumping off the ball there.
Weeden has best chance at throwing 20 interceptions this seasonWeeden's belief in his arm strength, preference to work from the pocket and mediocre receiver group give him the best chance at hitting the 20-interception mark this season. If the Browns decide to trade last year's starter, Colt McCoy, they'll be stuck living through the soon-to-be 29-year-old's early struggles.
Expect Tannehill to throw the fewest interceptions this season. Even if veteran Matt Moore doesn't step in for Tannehill midseason (or start the first few games to let the rookie learn from the sideline), new Miami offensive coordinator Mike Sherman will move his rookie around and limit the need to gamble downfield.
Vet-looking Luck will have least INTs; Weeden will out-pick Tannehill for mostUpon first glance, this is easy: Brandon Weeden. But when you look into it further your answer is ... Brandon Weeden. But it's equal parts talent and circumstance. Let's eliminate Luck and RG3 because, my word, do they already look comfortable under center, Luck especially. Watching his first game, Luck looked more at ease than half the league's quarterbacks. He throws the least INTs, and I'd be surprised if his number topped 12.
I think Weeden is a better QB than Tannehill, but there's no safety net in Cleveland -- meaning there's no really good backup the team can lean on if he struggles. Weeden's going to play 16 games (as long as he can stand on two legs) against a brutal schedule. He can throw 20 TDs, but he'll probably have just as many picks.
Tannehill won't be given as much leeway as Weeden. He could start the season in the No. 1 spot, but if he has five or six bad games, Miami will let him "sit and learn" while Matt Moore or David Garrard pilots the team. So he won't get the chance to lead rookies in INTs.