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Breaking down the chances of rookie quarterbacks

There was a time in the not-so-distant past when an NFL quarterback's rookie season served as a glorified 12-month prep course.

That structure has loosened in recent years, and 2012 might be remembered as the year the mold was broken entirely. Five rookies will start for their teams in Week 1, something that hasn't happened since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970.

Consider the five QBs -- Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson -- to be part of a case study the rest of the NFL will follow closely. Their collective success or failure could affect the thinking of front offices for years to come.

So how will these five players fare? Let's take a look at who's set up for success, and who could be doomed to fail. The following list is less about talent and more the system currently in place around each QB.

This could be good ...

Pete Carroll is no dummy. The reason he feels comfortable turning the offense over to a third-round draft pick is because he won't ask Wilson to be a savior. The Seahawks have a strong defense and an outstanding running game led by Marshawn Lynch. If Wilson can protect the ball and make an occasional play, he's doing his job. Think Mark Sanchez early in his New York Jets career.

The Indianapolis Colts are building their entire team around Luck, and that includes an offense that the No. 1 overall draft pick already has grasped tightly. He has a legitimate No. 1 receiver to target in Reggie Wayne, and Austin Collie could be another 1,000-yard receiver if his health allows it. The Colts also drafted tight end Coby Fleener, a talented pass-catcher who brings an obvious level of comfort (he was Luck's teammate at Stanford).


After a spring and early summer of breathless hype, reality crept into the equation for RG3 in the Redskins' first three preseason games. Griffin didn't look bad by any stretch, but he's clearly still finding his footing in a vanilla offensive scheme. Griffin has a pair of quality veterans to throw to in Pierre Garcon and Santana Moss, but it's a stretch to believe he'll be the player you remember at Baylor -- at least initially.

A lot of Weeden's success or failure depends on the health of Trent Richardson, the dynamic rookie running back who had his knee scoped earlier this month. If Richardson is the player experts -- Jim Brown notably excluded -- believe he will be, Weeden will have the benefit of a game-changing playmaker lining up behind him. Weeden's age (he'll turn 29 in October) also gives him advanced maturity to handle the roller coaster he's about to ride.

You sure about this, guys?

Reggie Bush aside, who on that Dolphins offense qualifies as a threat? Davone Bess? Legedu Naanee? Anthony Fasano? Beyond that, Tannehill was viewed by the Dolphins as a project draft pick four months ago. Their owner said as much when he predicted Matt Moore would start in Week 1. But one injury to David Garrard and one impressive preseason game by the rookie was enough to win the gig. We're just not convinced the Dolphins are setting up Tannehill for success.

Follow Dan Hanzus on Twitter @danhanzus.

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