Around the League  

 

Fresh off the wire

Rookie QB Rankings Season in Review: RG3 on top

Gregg Rosenthal will watch every rookie quarterback snap this season and rank them weekly.

When I started this weekly rookie quarterback review, I didn't expect to be treated to the most successful, productive rookie class in NFL history. I never thought three first-year starters would make the NFL playoffs.

Brooks: Top QB draft prospects
How does the quarterback class shape up for the 2013 NFL Draft? Bucky Brooks ranks his top five senior prospects. More ...

For this week's episode, I'm going to deviate from the usual format of ranking on the previous week's performance only. Let's recap and rank the entire season, with a highlight clip from my favorite performance of the season.

1. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

RG3 had my Rookie of the Year vote two weeks ago. Nothing has changed my mind since. Griffin came into the NFL with veteran traits: consistency, smarts and great decision-making. He was efficient and accurate from Day 1. It's insane to see a rookie lead the league in fewest interceptions per throw and yards per attempt. His play-fakes and zone-read ability keyed the Redskins' No. 1 rushing attack.

Recurring themes: I went back and read my notes for the whole season looking for common threads. From the get-go, Griffin's speed stuck out, not just on his runs but how quickly he pulls the trigger on throws. His accuracy stands apart from the other rookies. He leads receivers well. He bounces up after taking big hits. His deep ball is a thing of beauty. He occasionally didn't know when to give up a play, which led to sacks and too many fumbles.

Throw in Griffin's 815 rushing yards and seven scores, and it wasn't that tough a decision to rank him first based on the entire season. Griffin's highs weren't as high as Andrew Luck or Russell Wilson's, but there practically were no dips in Griffin's play. Griffin ranked first for the week among rookies five times, which actually is once less than Luck. But RG3 was second another seven times. Only three times in 15 starts was Griffin not one of my top two quarterbacks for the week. For comparison, Luck finished third or lower seven times. Wilson was third or lower eight times. Griffin was the only rookie who didn't have a week where he finished fifth. Yes, this is all subjective, and I'm a massive dork.

2. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

He didn't have the longest runs, but I'd call Luck the flashiest rookie quarterback. He made the most "wow" plays during the season with his throws. He completed far more ridiculous throws than the other rookies because he tried so many. His confidence was unassailable, a huge strength that also worked as a weakness because of his interceptions. The Colts ran a very aggressive vertical offense from Day 1, putting an awful lot on Luck's plate. He slumped for much of the final six weeks with his accuracy, but overall, he was everything the Colts expected and more.

Recurring themes: Luck arguably has had as much running value as Griffin and Wilson because he picked up so many key first downs. His pocket movement was sensational. Luck overcome consistently awful protection. He was excellent in the 2-minute drill all season. He made young receivers like T.Y. Hilton and Dwayne Allen better. Luck was the best in the NFL at third-and-long situations. He made a ton of tough throws but also a lot of bad decisions where he forced things. His accuracy could waver, and he really slumped late in the season. All the hits he took appeared to add up. His first 10 weeks were stronger than his last six.

Luck narrowly gets the second spot over Wilson because of how much he meant to the Colts' offense. Wilson was a piece to the Seattle Seahawks' puzzle for much of the season before exploding down the stretch. Luck was the Colts offense for most of the year.

3. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said it well. Early in the season, the Seahawks' offense was trying not to screw up. Wilson took charge of things by late in the season. No quarterback showed more progress during the year. Wilson's signature skill probably is his deep ball and ability to make something out of nothing when pressure seems to have him cornered.

Recurring themes: Wilson often left the pocket too quickly early in the year. He got far more calm as the weeks progressed. He makes quick decisions. He knows when to throw the ball away. His game is not based on improvisation, but he's fantastic at creating when he needs to. Wilson was consistently accurate. He learned how to find throwing lanes as the season progressed, and the Seahawks completed far more drop-back passes and mid-range throws. The tide started to turn in the Week 5 game against the Carolina Panthers, when Wilson began looking off safeties and identifying the blitz like a veteran.

In any other season, Wilson would be the Rookie of the Year. I'd take Wilson's 2012 campaign over any rookie season since at least Adrian Peterson in 2007. Wilson finished first in our weekly quarterback ranks four times (including a tie) in the final five weeks. It just took him a little longer to get going.

4. Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

Tannehill really has been lost in the shuffle this season, which is a shame. He has shown enough to be a true "quarterback of the future" Dolphins fans and management can be excited about. His play and quarterback attributes are far better than his numbers. Tannehill did a great job considering the weapons around him. He wasn't nearly the project many expected.

Recurring themes: Tannehill stands in tall against pressure. He has a big arm and can throw a nice touch pass. He can throw well on the move to either direction, something the Dolphins didn't do enough of during the season. Tannehill had streaks of wildness, especially in the second half of the season. His bad games were true "rookie games" but he always bounced back. While he wasn't quite as steady as the rookies above, he had a lot of shining moments. His Week 12 comeback against the Seahawks was a thing of beauty. Tannehill was dealing against Luck and the Colts, too. Tannehill is not afraid to make tough throws and completed a lot of passes into tight windows under pressure.

I'm not ruling anything out when it comes to Tannehill, but I expect him to at least be a solid NFL starting quarterback. With a little more help around him, Tannehill can challenge the quarterbacks above in future years.

5. Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns

Weeden probably wasn't as bad as you think this season. But he didn't quite show enough to make the next decision-maker in Cleveland believe he's "the guy."

Harrison: Power Rankings
With the 2012 regular season in the books, what is the NFL pecking order? Elliot Harrison has a brand new No. 1. More ...

Recurring themes: Weeden's decision-making and movement in the pocket often were slow. He quickly got better against pressure and has a very strong arm. Weeden sprinkled in a few "wow" throws each week, but he wasn't quite consistent enough. His touch was erratic. He was not afraid to try to difficult throws, which was a positive trait. He didn't always show a great feel for the position like the players above.

A new coach might not be a terrible thing for Weeden. He'll have to earn playing time next season, but he never seemed like a great fit for Pat Shurmur's system. The Browns will continue to look for a quarterback.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

Fan Discussion

NFL News
CONTENT
15