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Dak Prescott, Paxton Lynch grade highest among rookie QBs

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With three weeks of preseason play in the books, Daniel Jeremiah took a look back at how the top-drafted quarterbacks have performed in the extreme early going of their careers, handing out grades, identifying areas for improvement and setting expectations for the rest of the season. NOTE: Only quarterbacks drafted in the fourth round or higher were assessed -- thus, you won't find undrafted rookies like the Seahawks' Trevone Boykin or the Packers' Joe Callahan below.

Without further ado, the QB rookie progress reports:

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams

Drafted: Round 1, No. 1 overall.

Preseason analysis: Goff has been very average in the preseason. He's been at his best on quick-rhythm throws that allow him to predetermine where to go with the ball and get it out of his hand rapidly. He hasn't looked comfortable working deep into progressions, and he's had issues protecting the ball (in three games, he's thrown one pick and fumbled twice). In Goff's defense, the pass catchers he's throwing to have let him down in each game he's played. It's tough to get into a groove when you have so many dropped balls. GRADE: C+

Areas for improvement: He needs a lot of reps to gain more confidence and poise inside the pocket. He also will benefit from simply getting physically stronger. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, Goff has some room on his frame to add more weight and strength.

Expectations for rookie season: Goff didn't look like he was ready to start Week 1, but I imagine we will see him take over the position around midseason. I just can't see Case Keenum playing at a consistently high enough level to maintain his grip on the position.

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles

Drafted: Round 1, No. 2 overall.

Preseason analysis: We didn't get to see a lot of Wentz, who has been out since suffering a hairline rib fracture in the Eagles' preseason opener. But there were a lot of positives aspects of his play. Wentz showed excellent arm strength to drive the ball, and he uses his athleticism to extend plays. He was also very effective in the zone-read opportunities he was given. He did have several balls sail on him, although most were still catchable. GRADE: B

Areas for improvement: Accuracy -- especially when he's under duress -- is still an area in which he can improve. Wentz also needs to do a better job of protecting himself both in the pocket and on the move. He took some huge shots from Tampa defenders, one of which resulted in his injury.

Expectations for rookie season: I think the Eagles would love to have Wentz sit behind Sam Bradford for the entire season. If Bradford stays healthy, I believe this will be a redshirt year for Wentz. However, if he's forced to play, I believe he could handle it. He's mentally tough enough to survive the up-and-down moments that will come early in his development.

Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos

Drafted: Round 1, No. 26 overall.

Preseason analysis: Lynch was much further ahead than I anticipated during the preseason. His footwork was very crisp, considering the adjustment he's making from the offense he was in at Memphis. He displayed a huge arm and showed the ability to create with his legs. He is much more comfortable working on the edges as opposed to attacking the middle of the field. Lynch's touch and ball placement were a little spotty in the third week of the preseason. GRADE: B+

Areas for improvement: Lynch (six sacks in three games) still needs to improve his pocket awareness. He bailed early a couple of times, and he held the ball too long on occasion. He will get more comfortable in this area with more reps and game experience.

Expectations for rookie season: I know he's still pretty raw, but again, Lynch is much further along than I anticipated. His skillset is on another level than current Broncos starter Trevor Siemian. I believe he will take over the positon around the middle of the season.

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys

Drafted: Round 4, No. 135 overall.

Preseason analysis: Prescott put on a show in the preseason, completing 39 of 50 passes (78 percent) for 454 yards, five touchdowns, zero picks and a passer rating of 137.8. I can't recall ever seeing a rookie signal caller perform better than he did this August. Prescott showed tremendous poise, accuracy, velocity and playmaking skills. He completed several beautiful touch throws down the field, as well as small-window drive throws at the intermediate level. He wasn't especially anxious to uses his legs to create plays, but when the opportunity presented itself, he took full advantage. GRADE: A+

Areas for improvement: Prescott has improved his throwing mechanics dramatically since last fall, but there are still some issues that pop up at times. He has a tendency to lock out his front leg, and that can affect his ball placement. However, that is something that can be easily fixed.

Expectations for rookie season: Due to the back injury that will keep Tony Romo out for a significant length of time, Prescott is set to begin the season as the Cowboys' starter. I believe he will perform well during Romo's absence. He's playing behind the best offensive line in the league, and he has tons of talent at the skill positions (receiver Dez Bryant, running back Ezekiel Elliott, tight end Jason Witten). He won't have the same success he enjoyed in the preseason, but I believe Prescott can be efficient and productive. Look for the Cowboys to use him more in the run game than they did in the preseason.

Cardale Jones, Buffalo Bills

Drafted: Round 4, No. 139 overall.

Preseason analysis: Jones flashed some big-time tools in the preseason (he posted 7.4 yards per throw and 5.3 yards per rush in two games, plus 8.5 yards per run and a 93.8 passer rating in the preseason opener), but he was also very inconsistent. He has outstanding arm strength to drive the ball down the field and he throws well on the move. His decision-making and accuracy are still a concern. GRADE: C+

Areas for improvement: Jones should see better results once he cleans up some of his footwork issues. He needs to be more crisp and deliberate in his setup. And, again, his decision-making needs to be improved.

Expectations for rookie season: Jones won't see the field this fall, but he does have the tools to eventually develop into an NFL starter down the line.

Christian Hackenberg, New York Jets

Drafted: Round 2, No. 51 overall.

Preseason analysis: Hackenberg didn't play in the first two preseason games, but he did show some positive traits in Week 3 action. He has prototypical size and arm strength and he led a nearly flawless touchdown drive. However, after that drive, his lack of poise and inconsistent ball placement were concerning. He can really lock on his first read and get mentally stuck when that throw isn't available. GRADE: C

Areas for improvement: Overall, touch and accuracy are the biggest areas that needs to be improved on.

Expectations for rookie season: Hackenberg won't see the field this season, and he remains a long-term project at the position.

Cody Kessler, Cleveland Browns

Drafted: Round 3, No. 93 overall.

Preseason analysis: Kessler didn't see a lot of action in the preseason, attempting just 11 passes in three games. He had one nice back-shoulder throw and a couple of accurate quick passes, but he didn't look very comfortable in the pocket. He took two safeties in the first game (including one especially embarrassing gaffe) and he held the ball too long in each game viewed (four sacks in three games). GRADE: C

Areas for improvement: Kessler's feet are too busy in the pocket, and he needs to be more decisive. His deep-ball accuracy is another area that needs to be improved.

Expectations for rookie season: Kessler shouldn't see any action this season. In my opinion, he looks like a long-term backup quarterback.

Jacoby Brissett, New England Patriots

Drafted: Round 3, No. 91 overall.

Preseason analysis: Brissett struggled in the first contest, completing 53.8 percent of his passes and posting a passer rating of 67.1. He made poor decisions and his ball placement was inconsistent at best. But he got better each week, flashing the ability to read the entire field in the Carolina game in Week 3 (completing all nine throws for 85 yards, a score and a passer rating of 143.1). He has enough arm to make all of the throws. GRADE: C+

Areas for improvement: His touch underneath and down the field needs improvement. Brissett is actually most comfortable on the intermediate throws. Decision-making is another area where he needs to continue to improve.

Expectations for rookie season: It looks like he will be the primary backup while Tom Brady serves his four-game suspension. It would be best for him and the Patriots if he doesn't see the field this season.

Connor Cook, Oakland Raiders

Drafted: Round 4, No. 100 overall.

Preseason analysis: Cook has ideal size (6-4, 217 pounds), a quick release and plenty of arm talent. He showed the ability to throw with touch at times, but his deep-ball accuracy was spotty. He flashed the athleticism to extend plays. The biggest issue was his tendency to force the ball into high-traffic areas, which resulted in two interceptions. GRADE: C

Areas for improvement: Field vision and decision-making are the two areas in which Cook needs to improve. He has all of the physical tools and the upside to be an NFL starting quarterback.

Expectations for rookie season: He won't see the field this fall.

Follow Daniel Jeremiah on Twitter @MoveTheSticks.

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