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QB Index: Deshaun Watson's stock up, Luck's down

In a year when Nick Foles was named the MVP of Super Bowl LII, there's a lot to reflect on. With injury striking several starters early on (Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Tannehill and Sam Bradford) and plenty of others throughout the regular season (Deshaun Watson and Carson Wentz), the quarterback position continued to be the talk of the league.

Just a week ago, the Kansas City Chiefs traded Alex Smith to Washington, leaving Kirk Cousins quite possibly as the most coveted free agent this offseason. In this exercise, I took a look at other quarterbacks whose stock went up or down heading into the 2018 offseason.

Stock up

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers got their quarterback, and he looked like a guy who had sat behind the greatest quarterback of all time for a few years. Garoppolo's skill set is great for Kyle Shanahan's offense, and we witnessed just the start of what will be something great in San Francisco. What Garoppolo showed with not a ton of talent to work with was telling in his five starts. The way Garoppolo is taking ownership of his new team, the 49ers might contend for the division.

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans: Before Watson arrived in Houston, Bill O'Brien was in the hot seat. Questions were raised as to whether he truly was the quarterback guru he was expected to be, because he had so many quarterbacks come through his system who had failed. But as soon as Watson came in, everything changed. O'Brien did a good job catering the system to the rookie's abilities by using the run-pass option, involving Watson in the run game, getting the ball to the biggest offensive weapon (DeAndre Hopkins), etc. Watson did incredibly well and probably saved O'Brien's job. With this talented quarterback, Houston could be the favorite to win the AFC South -- even after the success Jacksonville had this season.

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles: If Wentz hadn't been hurt, he would have been the league MVP. The things he didn't do in his first year -- pushing the ball downfield and extending plays, among others -- Wentz did in spades this year. He went above and beyond the X's and O's and made some incredible plays. Even with Nick Foles playing some of the best football of his career in Super Bowl LII and the postseason altogether, Wentz is Philly's quarterback of the future. There is no QB controversy. That's how well Wentz played in 2017.

Jared Goff, Los Angeles Rams: Goff was looked at as a guy with mechanical issues and whose mentality was questioned in Year 1. Sean McVay came in and the quarterback did a 180. His accuracy improved, he threw with confidence and he led a young team like a veteran. Goff improved to the level people thought he'd be at when he was drafted. His growth is promising for the Rams going forward. I just wish the organization had brought McVay in a year earlier.

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears: In Year 1, Trubisky operated a pretty traditional offense. He wasn't asked to do too much schematically, and he did a solid job with that. It was a year of learning and getting acclimated to the NFL. Bringing in Matt Nagy, who elevated Alex Smith's career in Kansas City, puts Trubisky in a perfect situation. Trubisky showed enough in his first year -- toughness, accuracy, leadership -- that he can be a good quarterback, so with the Bears' defense, run game, offensive line and Nagy, Trubisky is poised to take the next step.

State of confusion

Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: Expectations were high after Prescott's Offensive Rookie of the Year campaign. With the same offensive coordinator and offensive weapons, I expected him to take a step forward in Year 2. But he struggled in several major areas, including third down and red-zone situations, and in dropback passes, especially when he was without Ezekiel Elliott. When Zeke was on the field, Prescott was in a rhythm and generated offense, but it was evident that the quarterback needs his running back to make the offense consistently go. I just didn't see enough from Prescott.

Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders: Being personally connected to this one, I know there were a lot of variables that led to Derek's down season. In Todd Downing's first year of play-calling for the Raiders, it was an absolute mess. There wasn't consistency in the game plan and players weren't on the details; these are issues that start at the top. Also playing a big part in the offensive struggles was the fact that Derek returned too quickly from his back injury. Everyone plays injured, but that was a major injury, and it made him less comfortable in the pocket and more inconsistent. I've had that injury and was out for a month. Tony Romo had that injury and never came back. The Raiders had a terrible year, by all standards. Now, it's a waiting game to see what the Jon Gruden-Derek relationship is going to be.

Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans: Similar to Prescott, Mariota was great when the Titans' ground game was firing. He's been inconsistent since he came into the league, but a lot of that had to do with the coaching staff. I want to see Tennessee involve Mariota in the run game and utilize him the way Carolina utilizes Cam Newton. Mariota's a good player and needs a game plan that allows him to use his athletic ability, because he's never going to beat anyone if he stays in the pocket. (I'd like to see him throw a few more TDs to himself.)

Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars: Bortles played some good football, especially in the postseason. But what was he thinking when he said he's "not a natural thrower of the football"? I've never heard a quarterback at this level admit that, but I think Bortles really believes that. That said, I don't think we can expect more than what we saw in the postseason. Bortles, who also had wrist surgery last week, has peaked.

Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings: Keenum undoubtedly had the best season of his career. Yet, I get a sense from Minnesota and the league that teams will be interested in the free agent, but not at the level he's expecting. I think teams think that 2017 was the peak for Keenum, and they'll bring him in to compete with a young guy for a starting job.

Major injury concerns

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Luck is hopeful that he'll play again, but the last couple of seasons have forced everyone to question if his shoulder can hold up. And I have to think Luck's availability (or lack thereof) had something to do with Josh McDaniels backing out of the Colts' head coaching job. I really like Luck, but he's put himself in these injury situations too many times. He holds the ball too long and tries to do too much. Luck must play a lot smarter to protect his body, because he's a fragile piece of china.

Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings: It's cliché, but a quarterback's best ability is his availability. Bradford's battled a lot of injuries in his career, including a knee injury that sidelined him for 14 weeks this season. He's a talented player, but it seems like it's just a matter of time before his body breaks down. I don't know if many teams will take a big chance on him.

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings: The fact that Bridgewater was active and able to play after that horrendous injury is remarkable in itself. The question now is: Will he ever be a starter in the NFL again? Bridgewater backed up Case Keenum while Bradford recovered from his knee injury, but he was demoted to third string when Bradford was cleared prior to the NFC Championship Game. It isn't a good sign when the Vikings, who have supported Bridgewater and valued him as their future even after his injury, didn't feel confident with him as their QB2 in the postseason.

End of the road

Trevor Siemian/Paxton Lynch, Denver Broncos: At the beginning of the season, I fully expected Lynch to beat out Siemian for the starting job. But Lynch, who is more naturally gifted and has a higher ceiling, didn't take the opportunity given to him. If Siemian would have simply managed the game, he could've been the outright starter without question, but turnovers plagued him. If you have a quarterback (two, in this case) who can't hold on to the starting job with an above-average defense, what are you doing? I won't be surprised when there are two new quarterbacks in Denver next season.

Christian Hackenberg/Bryce Petty, New York Jets: The Jets' quarterback situation was similar to the Broncos' in that they had two young guys who couldn't solidify the starting position. Neither player has been in the league for more than three seasons, but it's clear that the Jets don't value them as the future. Thirty-eight-year-old journeyman Josh McCown beat both of these guys in camp and was the starter until his hand injury. The Jets have been searching for their franchise quarterback for awhile, and they'll have to keep searching.

Follow David Carr on Twitter @DCarr8.

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