Examining young QBs' chances of success with current teams



On the surface, this isn't a potential playoff picture-tilting showdown that could have a ripple effect throughout the AFC for weeks to come. However, it does feature quarterbacks selected in the top three of the previous two NFL drafts -- Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles (No. 3 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft) and Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (No. 2 overall in the 2015 NFL Draft).

Thus, Thursday night's game on NFL Network showcases two highly drafted quarterbacks entrusted with dragging typically moribund NFL franchises out of the doldrums of mediocrity. No big deal, fellas, just make a team a winner in a short amount of time or else said team might have to look for the next big thing coming out of the college ranks.

Also, so much of a young quarterback's eventual success depends on the supporting cast.

With all that hanging in the balance for these two young quarterbacks and their respective franchises, we take a look at the quarterbacks selected in the first two rounds of the previous two drafts and their chances of success moving forward with their current teams.

Here is how they rank:

Front office/coaching stability: Head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman appear to have the Vikings ahead of schedule, and already contending for a division crown against the heavily favored -- and four-time defending NFC North champion -- Green Bay Packers.

Other building blocks on roster: The Vikings have a young, talent-laden defense that's currently ranked ninth in the NFL. The Vikings invested heavily on that side of the ball in recent drafts. In 2015, the Vikings used a first-rounder on cornerback Trae Waynes and a second-rounder on linebacker Eric Kendricks. In 2014, the team used a first-rounder on linebacker Anthony Barr. In 2013, the Vikings used two of three first-round picks on defense, selecting defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd and cornerback Xavier Rhodes.

On offense, rookie receiver Stefon Diggs looks like a steal as a fifth-round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. Cordarrelle Patterson -- another first-rounder from 2013 -- has had an up-and-down NFL existence. Bridgewater hasn't made the step forward many expected after a promising rookie season, and is lucky to have the 30-year-old Adrian Peterson -- the NFL's leading rusher -- to lean on for support.

Front office/coaching stability: Head coach Jack Del Rio has the Raiders in the playoff hunt in his first year at the helm. There was once a time when it seemed that general manager Reggie McKenzie's job was in jeopardy. However, McKenzie has scored big with the team's last two first-round draft picks -- receiver Amari Cooper in 2015 and linebacker Khalil Mack in 2014.

Other building blocks on roster: The aforementioned Cooper and Mack provide cornerstones on each side of the ball from which to build. Cooper has helped Carr emerge as one of the league's top passers. With Carr, a true No. 1 receiver in Cooper and running back Latavius Murray, the Raiders have a power trio that would be the envy of many teams.

Front office/coaching stability: Head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht are each in their second seasons with the Buccaneers. After the team finished tied for the worst record in the league in 2014, the Buccaneers have shown significant improvement in 2015. This appears to be a team on the rise.

Other building blocks on roster: When Winston arrived in Tampa, the Buccaneers already had a potential top-flight receiver on the roster in Mike Evans. Evans was the team's first-round pick in 2014. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the team's second-round pick in 2014, has been riddled by injuries and has yet to emerge as a bona fide threat in the passing game. After taking Winston with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, the Buccaneers worked on building up his protection. Both second-round pick Donovan Smith and third-round pick Ali Marpet have started every game they've played in this season.

On defense, rookie linebacker Kwon Alexander -- a fourth-round draft pick -- is among the top candidates for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Alexander's emergence gives the Buccaneers a productive linebacking duo alongside fourth-year player Lavonte David.

Front office/coaching stability:Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley and general manager David Caldwell are each in their third seasons with the team. Like the Buccaneers, the Jaguars appear to be trending up.

Other building blocks on roster: Jacksonville was dealt an unfortunate setback on the first day of rookie minicamps when Dante Fowler -- a pass-rushing specialist the team selected with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft -- was lost for the season. The Jaguars must wait to see if his potential translates to the field. After the team took Bortles with the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft, it used both of its second-round picks on wide receivers. While Marqise Lee has been almost non-existent in the Jaguars' offense this season, Allen Robinson is having a breakout season. Helping ease the pain of Lee's lack of production is second-year receiver Allen Hurns, who went undrafted in 2014. Hurns currently is riding a streak of seven consecutive games with a touchdown reception. Running back T.J. Yeldon was taken in the second round of the 2015 draft, and he's produced two 100-yard rushing games already in his young career and is second among rookies (behind Todd Gurley, of course) in rushing yards. Perhaps Yeldon will turn out to be on the positive side of what have been scattershot performances by former Alabama running backs in the NFL.

Front office/coaching stability: The Titans stunned most everybody when they fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt in early November and made Mike Mularkey the interim head coach. While that instability would figure to threaten to derail the progress of the promising Mariota, he did follow up the dismissal of Whisenhunt with a thrilling four-touchdown performance in an overtime win over the New Orleans Saints.

Ruston Webster is in his fourth season as general manager of the Titans, but has yet to produce a winning team.

Other building blocks on roster: The Titans need to address the running back position. The team's current leading rusher is undrafted rookie Antonio Andrews. Tennessee took Bishop Sankey in the second round a year ago, and he's been a disappointment. Wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was a second-round pick this year, but he sat out last season while at Oklahoma and needs time to develop. If that development happens as anticipated, the freakish height-weight-speed guy could be fun to watch and give Mariota a go-to receiver.

Front office/coaching stability: Oh, boy. Head coach Mike Pettine and general manager Ray Farmer could be on the wrong end of yet another offseason of upheaval in Cleveland. The Browns currently have the league's worst record, and would own the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft if the season ended today.

Other building blocks on roster: The Browns finally made the move to start Manziel. With the season lost in the wilderness, it was a wise choice. So, what does Manziel have to work with on offense? Rookie running back Duke Johnson has shown promise, and he seems to havea rapport with Manziel. Wide receiver Travis Benjamin has displayed some penchant for the big play, but he's not a true No. 1. Josh Gordon is, but he's serving a season-long suspension. The Browns would be wise to continue their search for playmaking wide receivers. The "Barnyard Dog", Gary Barnidge, has been a revelation this season (he's currently third among tight ends in touchdown receptions), but he's already 30 years old. The offensive line is solid with future Pro Football Hall of Famer Joe Thomas manning Manziel's blind side.

Front office/coaching stability: While the Browns are the NFL's posterchild for front-office instability, the Patriots are at the opposite end of the spectrum with Bill Belichick serving as master and commander. Nearly a generation of on-field success that earned the franchise four Vince Lombardi Trophies will keep the status quo intact.

Other building blocks on roster: Garoppolo fits the "drafted in the first two rounds of last two drafts" criteria, but -- unlike the aforementioned quarterbacks -- wasn't expected to assume the starting controls shortly after his draft selection. The Patriots' current starting quarterback, Tom Brady, is busy cementing his status as the greatest quarterback in league history. It will be interesting to see what form the team takes if/when Garoppolo does take over as the Patriots' starting quarterback. Brady clearly will have retired. Will Belichick retire as well? Or, will Garoppolo wind up getting traded to another QB-needy team?

Follow Jim Reineking on Twitter @jimreineking.

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