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Rookie QB Rankings: Russell Wilson moves on

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

After ranking the rookie quarterbacks every week, I recapped the rookie quarterbacks' entire season last week. The evil editors at NFL.com didn't even really want a playoff version of this column, but it just felt wrong to stop tracking the players now.

Consider this a bonus track to the 17-track compact disc of the regular season. Compact discs are shiny round things that played music in the 1990s.



Robert Griffin III, Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck are each up for Pepsi Max Rookie of the Year honors. The winner will be announced at the NFL Honors awards special on Feb. 2. Vote here ...

1. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

I had a really hard time separating Wilson from Andrew Luck this week. Both played well, but not quite at their peak level of performance. Wilson gets the edge because he made just as many big plays in fewer chances. Wilson's two best throws were on conventional drop back passes from the pocket. His 27-yard out to Sidney Rice was a terrific play on both ends. Another deep out to the opposite side of the field to wide receiver Golden Tate showed off Wilson's arm strength. Wilson also made a terrific throw to tight end Zach Miller on a two-point conversion.

The Redskins blitzed Wilson a lot to mixed results. He failed to recognize who was coming a few times and took too many sacks (5) on a day that Washington's pass rush wasn't that great overall. But Wilson also stood in against the blitz well a few times, completing a monster third-and-10 pass to Miller with 8:22 left in the fourth quarter. (The Seahawks still trailed at the time.)

Wilson has definitely enjoyed cleaner games. His ballhandling on the read option plays has been an issue, fumbling once. He left the pocket early a few times. Greg Cosell of NFL Films has noticed Wilson's tendency to miss open receivers deep down the field as he starts to run, and that happened again in this game. He overthrew a couple receivers deep, including Doug Baldwin for a potential score late in the game. He got away with a careless throw in the red zone that could have been picked off. Even when Wilson makes mistakes, however, good things happen.

Twice he made the wrong read on a read option play, finding a defender waiting for him on the outside. Wilson improvised well, just following running back Marshawn Lynch into the hole for big gains. With Lynch running well and the Seattle defense controlling games, Wilson just needs to hit a few big plays and avoid big mistakes. He did that against Washington.

2. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

After a rough stretch of games late in the season, Luck played well in his final two games. He made a few key mistakes in his first playoff game, but played much better than he's been given credit for. Luck scrambled for first downs on three separate third downs. He completed more difficult, contested throws than Wilson and Griffin combined. Luck's protection failed him, as usual, with at least ten knockdowns in the game. Paul Kruger dominated all day for Baltimore and too many free rushers came at Luck during blitzes.

Luck's accuracy was typical for his season. He missed a few chances for big plays down the field, but was solid overall. His receivers did not help him. Drops killed two drives and there were five drops overall. Receivers fell twice on routes on third downs. Donnie Avery's drop inside the red zone with 11:53 left in a one-possession game was one of the biggest plays of the game. Luck's biggest mistakes were the fumble in the first quarter and his throw behind Reggie Wayne on the goal line. The Colts didn't have a big margin for error and Luck had to play his very best. He played about average for him. (Which is awesome for a rookie.)

Watching the game again, I came away with a much different feeling than I did watching it live. Luck played like he did all season and had a good performance overall. His team's shortcomings were too much to overcome.

3. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

RG3 was obviously not his normal self, but he was close enough to start the game. His first quarter runs looked improved from the Dallas game. Everything changed on Griffin's roll out to his right on the goal line late in the first quarter. (For what it's worth, it really didn't seem like the loose turf was a factor on the play RG3 was hurt again.)

After the play, Griffin's speed and accuracy suffered. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Griffin could plant on his throws, but he wasn't accurate. He had more "bad passes" per throw than any game I charted this year. He missed by a wide margin on a number of plays, which you just didn't see often. Credit must be given to the Seattle defense too. Griffin had to re-load so many times because his receivers weren't open.

At one point, Troy Aikman wondered if the team should remove RG3 because he couldn't perform his normal functions. Aikman was talking about Griffin's limping on runs. I think the injury was a bigger problem for Griffin as a thrower before he was knocked out of the game. His accuracy defined his season. He wasn't that same accurate guy on Sunday, even on a day he was mostly protected well.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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