NFL could have 4 rookie QB starters to open season

NEW YORK (AP) - Cam Newton and Andy Dalton were the only rookie quarterbacks to start every game last season. This year, four rookies have a chance to do the same thing.

Start with Andrew Luck for Indianapolis and Robert Griffin III for Washington, toss in Ryan Tannehill for Miami and Brandon Weeden for Cleveland, and you've got a quartet of QBs drafted with immediate starter potential.

Dating back to 1950, it would be the first time four rookie quarterbacks start their team's first game, according to STATS LLC.

"Quarterbacks are learning earlier, learning faster, and they've gotten so much better over the years," says NFL draft consultant Gil Brandt, the former Dallas Cowboys general manager.

And, of course, NFL teams covet franchise quarterbacks and will do just about anything to lock one up for a decade or so.

Luck and RGIII appear to fit the bill. Luck was the No.1 pick in this NFL draft Thursday night, and Colts owner Jim Irsay envisions the Stanford star following in the footsteps of four-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning, now with Denver.

"I think it is really fortunate that we get to put the piece in place now and build around the franchise quarterback," Irsay said.

The Redskins gave up three first-round picks and a second-rounder to have Heisman Trophy-winning Griffin replace the wildly inconsistent Rex Grossman.

Tannehill was the No. 8 overall pick by the Dolphins, who have gone through 16 starting quarterbacks since Dan Marino retired in 1999. It sure seems like a good match because his coach at Texas A&M, Mike Sherman, is Miami's offensive coordinator under new coach Joe Philbin. Even though he started only 19 games in college, the wide receiver-turned-QB wasn't picked to sit behind Matt Moore - or anyone else.

"I didn't take him with the eighth pick in the draft for him to be a backup quarterback," Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said. "I picked him to be a starting quarterback in this league at some point to have an impact on the team and help us win games and championships. That's the expectation."

Brandt calls the 6-foot-4, 222-pounder the "real deal."

"He's everything you want. Smart, accurate, has speed, and good feet," he adds. "The only knock on him is that he hasn't played a lot. But here's how good he is: He is the only quarterback to beat Oklahoma, Nebraska and Texas in the same year, and did it over a six-game span."

In Cleveland, all indications are the 28-year-old Weeden from Oklahoma State is in and Colt McCoy is out after a season in which the Browns ranked 30th in scoring, averaging 13.6 points per game. Weeden was the No. 22 overall pick.

"I wasn't concerned about his age," Browns coach Pat Shurmur said of Weeden, who spent five years in baseball's minor leagues before returning to football. "I was impressed with his maturity and production on tape. We became very fond of him."

Seven other quarterbacks were chosen: Brock Osweiler by Denver in the second round; Russell Wilson by Seattle and Nick Foles by Philadelphia in the third; Kirk Cousins by Washington in the fourth; Ryan Lindley by Arizona in the sixth; B. J. Coleman by Green Bay and Chandler Harnisch by Indianapolis in the seventh.

Harnisch was Mr. Irrelevant, the last player chosen, as the Colts began and concluded the draft with QBs.

Arizona State's Osweiler becomes Manning's heir apparent in Denver. But with Manning coming off neck surgery, anything could happen.

"I'll be ready to roll," he nonchalantly said in a conference call Friday night. "Regardless of whatever the situation is this year, I'll be ready when my name gets called."

The 6-7 Osweiler, a former high school hoops standout, threw for 4,036 yards and 26 TDs last season. He likes where he landed.

"A lot of quarterbacks might be upset having to sit behind somebody, where I look at it as a tremendous opportunity to learn from one of the best, if not the best to ever play the game," Osweiler said.

"He's the guy we liked that we think has a bright future," Broncos coach John Fox said.

The knock on Wilson is his height - 5-11. Brandt, though, points out the Wisconsin star didn't have many passes blocked last season, and has "unbelievable leadership ability." Wilson had 33 touchdown passes and just four interceptions last season in leading the Badgers to the Rose Bowl.

The Seahawks already have Tarvaris Jackson and signed free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn. Brandt says Wilson could be the Seahawks' backup by his second season.

Foles, from Arizona, could compete with Mike Kafka and Trent Edwards for the backup job behind Michael Vick. Foles is a strong-armed pocket passer who threw for 4,334 yards last season.

With their surprise pick of Cousins, the Redskins became the first team to select two quarterbacks in the first four rounds since Green Bay in 1989. The Michigan State QB who won 27 games as a three-year starter could put some added pressure on RG3. But what else is new for a team that has started 21 quarterbacks over the past 19 seasons.

Griffin, though, isn't concerned, saying "they drafted me to be the solution ... and I plan to be that solution."

Spoken like a true franchise quarterback.

AP Sports Writers Michael Marot in Indianapolis, Steven Wine in Miami, Tom Withers in Cleveland, Pat Graham in Denver and Joseph White in Ashburn, Va., contributed to this report.

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