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Which QB will have most successful rookie season?

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  • By Around The NFL staff NFL.com
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In 2014, a game between the Tennessee Titans and Tampa Bay Buccaneers would have been largely ignored by the football populace. Now it's one of the most intriguing games of Week 1 in the upcoming season.

One pick can change so much. Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will make both teams far more interesting, and help decide the next four years for both organizations. These are the picks that get general managers raises. Or fired.

So what quarterback will have the best rookie season? Considering stats, wins, and everything else, let's ask the Around The NFL crew.

Jameis Winston has the edge


On balance, Marcus Mariota should have a bit more help than Winston. Tennessee's offensive line looks better than Tampa's depressing unit from a year ago. The receiving options are comparable. While Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans are an awesome starting duo, Mariota is not hurting for targets with Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Dorial Green-Beckham, Delanie Walker, Harry Douglas and Hakeem Nicks.

Winston has the edge in coaching. I trust offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter's ability to develop a quarterback more than Ken Whisenhunt. But ultimately Winston gets my vote because he has the skill set that should more easily transition to the NFL. He can buy time in the pocket and is not afraid to be aggressive. It wouldn't surprise me if he had the type of season that Peyton Manning had as a rookie: A ton of interceptions, some big-time throws, and the obvious promise that things will get better soon. Winston remains the best quarterback in this class until proven otherwise. -- Gregg Rosenthal

Marcus Mariota is the pick


The spotlight won't be as bright, the offensive line will be better and Mariota is athletic enough to shake off some early mistakes. Head to head, his stats should be better than Winston's despite the fact that Winston has much better targets at the moment and is probably a better Day 1 prospect. Depending on how we define "best season," though, I could make a case for someone like Bryce Petty simply because he's in a great, low-pressure situation. As long as Petty isn't thrust into a starting role this year, he has the opportunity to be the consummate teacher's pet under offensive coordinator Chan Gailey and learn the system from the ground up. Ryan Fitzpatrick and Geno Smith have to take the heat this year. -- Conor Orr

Jameis by a hair


I'm not really concerned about the statistics, but Winston -- out of the gate -- is a better fit for a pro-style offense. So many of last year's issues in Tampa channel back to a terrible offensive line and the lack of a true play-caller. The Bucs have worked to address the front five while hiring Dirk Koetter as coordinator.

Winston also has two established wideouts -- Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans -- and an athletic tight end in Austin Seferian-Jenkins. That said, it's so unusual for rookie passers to thrive statistically. The so-called "better" season likely has Winston throwing for less than 3,000 yards and more picks than touchdowns. The Bucs and Titans picked first and second in the draft because they were comprehensive train wrecks last autumn. Both teams have improved, but not enough to make this a smooth ride. -- Marc Sessler

Winston of course


Jameis Winston is the clear favorite here. He's the most well-rounded quarterback in the draft, he comes from a pro-style offense in college and he's a mortal lock to start Week 1. He joins an offense with legitimate weapons, including a top five 1-2 combination at wide receiver in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans. Then there's the schedule: Winston gets six games against the Panthers, Falcons and Saints, teams that finished 21st, 27th and 28th in points allowed last season. He also gets four games against the milquetoast AFC South (J.J. Watt excepted). Put it all together and Winston is well set up for a smooth transition to the next level. Here's your early frontrunner for Offensive Rookie Of The Year. -- Dan Hanzus

Brett Hundley safe in Green Bay


While other quarterbacks will get pummeled on behind questionable offensive lines or struggle through growing pains on bad teams, Hundley will sit behind the best signal-caller in the NFL. All he has to do is follow Aaron Rodgers around like a puppy, keep his head down and show enough promise in select preseason moments. He's the only rookie whose season is certain and predictable in May. Learning from Rodgers for a year seems like a good gig for a late-round pick. Hundley can then show some flashes next preseason and Ted Thompson will be able to flip the fifth-round choice for a future third-round pick. -- Kevin Patra

The latest Around The NFL Podcast breaks down the 2015 NFL Draft, picking out the biggest winners and losers. Find more Around The NFL content on NFL NOW.

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