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Rookie Watch: The quarterback class

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Welcome to Around The NFL's "Rookie Watch" series, a week-by-week journey ranking this year's promising collection of first-year players.

Rookies bring hope to all 32 teams. In recent years, we've seen Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck immediately shake up the landscape on offense, while draft picks spent on J.J. Watt and Robert Quinn turned vanilla defenses into horror shows for opponents.

Between now and the end of the regular season, we'll chart this year's rookie class in an effort to predict which first-year players have the best chance at long careers in our nation's finest sport.

We took a broad look at the entire class after Week 1 and Week 2, ranked the running backs coming out of Week 3, unveiled our early picks for Offensive and Defensive Rookie of the Year after Week 4, and examined top undrafted rookies after Week 5.

Now let's take a look at this year's class of rookie quarterbacks. I'm not interested in ranking them from top to bottom after such a small sample size. Instead, we'll focus on some of the positives and negatives each passer brings:

The big three


Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars remain a semi-disaster, but there's tangible hope under center.

Of all the rookie passers, Blake Bortles offers the juiciest combination of size, arm strength, mobility and overall makeup. Nestled inside a talent-poor offense, Bortles has found ways to make plays and move the ball despite an attack laced with five rookie starters. His offensive line is an open barn door, and Jacksonville's ground game is dead on arrival: Like Derek Carr in Oakland, Bortles is being asked to do it all.

Bortles is quicker than Ben Roethlisberger and might already be his team's top option on the ground. The rookie has just 17 fewer rushing yards than Toby Gerhart on 32 fewer attempts. His fast feet are on display in the pocket, but he's seeing far too much pressure behind a line that's on pace to give up 72 sacks.

Game Rewind shows a young quarterback willing to take shots downfield. He's been accused of staring down his targets, but the rookie has improved in recent weeks, looking off defenders to make better choices. It's no surprise that all three of these starting rookie passers are struggling to read the entire field out of the gate.

Still, Bortles currently owns the NFL's highest third-down completion percentage, which is stunning considering how rarely his wideouts make plays for him. His seven interceptions over 143 attempts are the product of a few poor decisions -- his pick six to Pittsburgh's Brice McCain was a horrid toss -- but he lacks a pass-catcher who wins one-on-one battles.

An immediately better option than Chad Henne, Bortles brings energy to Jacksonville's passing game. His willingness to take risks is one reason the Jaguars have been alive inside of two minutes in back-to-back tight losses to Pittsburgh and Tennessee. In a talent-poor attack, he's found ways to keep a bad team in games. There's a lot to like.

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders

Like Bortles, Carr has been thrown into the fire with an ugly team. Unlike so many past Raiders quarterbacks, though, this one has promise.

In the pass below, Carr shows off his arm strength, easily lofting the ball 30-plus yards through the air to wideout Andre Holmes. He steps up in the pocket and shows good anticipation and downfield accuracy. Against the Chargers on Sunday, the rookie also helped his receivers with accurate throws against one-on-one coverage.

Carr's mobility is a plus. He shows patience on the throw below, nimbly rolling to his right and seeing the play through until he finds Holmes open in the end zone.

He hasn't been perfect. Carr gets trapped throwing off his back foot and occasionally lobs balls behind open targets. He nearly threw a terrible pick against San Diego after bailing on his right-side progressions to wing the ball across his body into the hands of Donald Butler, who dropped what would have been a killer interception.

What I like most about Carr is the fearlessness he brings to every outing. If I were the Raiders, I'd hire a coach with the proven ability to develop a franchise passer -- because Carr shows some of those traits.

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings

Bridgewater has earned rave reviews from Vikings play-caller Norv Turner for his work ethic, poise and attention to detail since replacing the injured Matt Cassel.

Minnesota has designed an offense for Teddy with a focus on play-action concepts behind a struggling offensive line.

When facing an active pass rush, the rookie often uses his feet to get out of trouble. Outside of the occasional designed run, Bridgewater is fond of springing from the pocket when he sees an open lane. I can't help but wonder if -- like Johnny Manziel in the preseason -- he's bailing too soon on some plays.

Like many rookies, Bridgewater is quick to resort to dumpoffs, especially when the heat is on. This doesn't always work out for him, as the rookie misfired on back-to-back throws to Jerrick McKinnon in the flats against New Orleans in Week 3. The second pass was a shaky lob off his back foot. When he's under constant pressure, too many of Bridgewater's throws target safety valves short of the sticks.

Teddy often shows solid footwork. He clearly has the athletic ability to make throws on the run. Against New Orleans, Bridgewater rolled to his right and whipped a pass into the outstretched arms of Cordarrelle Patterson, throwing to a spot where the defender had no shot to make a play. Patterson hasn't helped much, though, with Pro Football Focus noting that Vikings quarterbacks have a 40.9 passer rating with zero touchdowns and four interceptions when targeting the second-year wideout.

Minnesota's line has made life tough. Bridgewater was harassed in Sunday's ugly loss to Detroit, taking eight sacks and tossing his first pick of the year on an ill-advised toss into heavy coverage in the end zone.

His best work came in a win over the Falcons. Facing Atlanta's nonexistent pass rush, the rookie scanned the field, set his feet and made decisive choices. When protected, he finds his targets in space and makes his share of chunk plays downfield. That's encouraging.

In the shadows


Johnny Manziel, Cleveland Browns: With Brian Hoyer rolling, even the occasional gadget plays have dried up for Manziel. We still see the rookie as a tantalizing future option for a Browns team that -- for the first time in eons -- has a nice problem under center.

Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots: With reports of Brady's demise proving to be a sham, don't hold your breath for more Garoppolo anytime soon. To his credit, the rookie capped his solid preseason with a strong relief effort against the Chiefs in Week 4. Garoppolo isn't afraid to test defenses deep.

Logan Thomas, Arizona Cardinals: He remains a project. After his first NFL pass in Week 5 turned into an 81-yard score -- courtesy of Andre Ellington's freakish athleticism -- Thomas misfired on his next seven attempts. His biggest advantage is working under one of the league's top quarterback tutors in Bruce Arians.

Zach Mettenberger, Tennessee Titans: I include him only to say that Tennessee shouldn't shy away from giving Mettenberger a shot. Unless Ken Whisenhunt is sold on Jake Locker as the future of the franchise, the Titans might as well test the rookie if (and when) their season melts away.

We recap all the Week 6 action on a jaunty edition of the "Around The NFL Podcast." Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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