Rookie QBs with the best chance to start in Week 1

Quarterback competitions are the premium television of training camp: a drama that often lingers for weeks, with potential plot twists dotted all throughout. The new crop of quarterbacks selected in the 2017 NFL Draft didn't quite have the ready-to-contribute punch of previous classes, although history tells us some of the rookie signal callers will be on the field sooner than teams would lead us to believe.

That's why we're breaking down the races early ahead of training camp. Here's what the field looks like heading into the rookies' debut:

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans

Drafted in: Round 1, No. 12 overall.

Competition for the job: Presumptive starter Tom Savage, veteran Brandon Weeden.

Path to the starting lineup: This is one of the more interesting training camp quarterback battles, in that it feels like a true battle. Those who know Savage insist he's going to surprise people this summer -- something he wasn't able to do in a brief stint as starter last year, with concussions cutting his opportunity short. The Texans were clear in their comfort level with Savage, but they continue to leave the door open for Watson. Like the Bears, the Texans would not have drafted a quarterback in the first round if they were more than just comfortable with their current option. Watson's best bet is to surprise in the classroom first, seeing as head coach Bill O'Brien's playbook is notoriously complex. From there, pedigree could take over.

Chance to start Week 1: 25 percent. Watson has so many elements to his game and could end up the player favorite by the end of training camp (we already know who fellow Clemson Tiger DeAndre Hopkinsis rooting for). O'Brien is not going to settle for being average offensively again this year and will go for the player who gives him the most dynamic option.

Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears

Drafted in: Round 1, No. 2 overall.

Competition for the job: Presumptive starter Mike Glennon, veteran Mark Sanchez, veteran Connor Shaw.

Path to the starting lineup:As the Chicago Tribune noted (and as the Bearsreiterated Wednesday), the hope is for a clean transition scenario -- in which Trubisky might not see the field at all in 2017 -- to unfold. This sort of plan has worked according to design exactly once in the last decade, with seemingly every other NFL club that has tried it failing to replicate the Aaron Rodgers-Brett Favre succession in Green Bay. That said, Trubisky has some tough sledding ahead of him. Not only does he have to master the playbook, but he has to edge out Sanchez, who, while not the traditional definition of a "threat," is a savvy, experienced backup quarterback and can learn an NFL offense quickly. This is a Bears team that needs to show tangible improvement on the field. It would be hard to imagine the current regime handing its hopes to a rookie who is not ready, simply for a look at a future said regime might not be around for.

Chance to start Week 1: 15 percent. The preseason could surprise us, but the only way to imagine a Trubisky Week 1 start is a stellar fill-in performance during the preseason opener and an even better outing against a similar competition level faced by Glennon during the second week. Carson Wentz surprised in a similar way last year, though the Eagles' trade of Sam Bradford to Minnesota helped cleared the way on Philadelphia's depth chart.

DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns

Drafted in: Round 2, No. 52 overall.

Competition for the job: Veteran Brock Osweiler, second-year quarterback Cody Kessler, second-year quarterback Kevin Hogan.

Path to the starting lineup: Kizer, Kessler and Osweiler have each had at least one piece written by a legitimate news outlet this spring or summer linking them to the Browns' starting job this offseason, which makes this situation all the more fascinating. Given the team's current roster construction, the smart money would be on Kizer playing, if he has a realistic grasp on the playbook by Week 1. There are simply no other players on the roster with Kizer's physical tools or pro-style head start, in terms of his college experience. The Browns knew he would be a project mentally and mechanically, but they wooed head coach Hue Jackson away from Cincinnati specifically because of his ability to speed processes like this one along. The Browns have a top-10 offensive line on paper, which can help ease the rookie yips, but will Kizer get a chance to play behind them during the preseason?

Chance to start Week 1: 15 percent. This is a team hinging its future on collecting young, controllable talent and throwing that talent into the fire. Why wouldn't that also hold true for the quarterback position? The Browns are in no significant hurry to show the type of tangible improvement that would save a coach's job, and their acquisition of top-tier offensive linemen this offseason leads us to believe they could be prepping for a rookie to play behind them.

Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs

Drafted in: Round 1, No. 10 overall.

Competition for the job: Starter Alex Smith, veteran Tyler Bray, 2016 undrafted free agent Joel Stave.

Path to the starting lineup:A management shakeupin Kansas City could lead to some more interesting personnel decisions down the road. While it's unclear whether drafting Mahomes was the decision of head coach Andy Reid or former general manager John Dorsey, Reid has taken a keen interest in Mahomes and is carving out significant practice time to ensure Mahomes' development stays on track. The Chiefs would not have made this move if they did not think the offense was operating at full potential. Mahomes is a shoo-in for the No. 2 job at the end of the summer, but he would have to be absolutely stunning in training camp to make Reid rethink his current pecking order beyond that.

Chance to start Week 1: 10 percent. Never say never. Smith was stunningly supplanted by Colin Kaepernick halfway into a stellar season in San Francisco (though in that instance, Smith's concussion issues opened the door for Kaepernick). While Smith is among the league's winningest quarterbacks over the past four seasons, seeing him lose momentum in this race wouldn't be the most unbelievable training camp development of all time.

C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers

Drafted in: Round 3, No. 104 overall.

Competition for the job: Veteran Brian Hoyer, veteran Matt Barkley, undrafted rookie free agent Nick Mullens.

Path to the starting lineup: This is a steep climb for anyone, but especially for Beathard. He'll have to supplant a quarterback in Hoyer who already has a connection with head coach Kyle Shanahan. Barkley also played well in stints last year. However, general manager John Lynch and Shanahan have not been shy about talking up Beathard, even likening him to former Shanahan project Kirk Cousins. It's tough to knock Shanahan's ability to find QB talent in the mid to late rounds so far.

Chance to start Week 1: 2 percent. The 49ers will want to turn some heads, despite this being part of a long rebuild, which means playing with Hoyer, with whom Shanahan has won games in the past. That being said, there is a lingering fascination with Beathard, who is earning praise as the type of accurate game manager who typically thrives in Shanahan's system. His arm strength and on-field smarts could elevate him more quickly than expected.

Nathan Peterman, Buffalo Bills

Drafted in: Round 5, No. 171 overall.

Competition for the job: Starter Tyrod Taylor, veteran T.J. Yates.

Path to the starting lineup: Taylor will be the starting quarterback of this team, though Peterman was not without his cheerleaders this offseason. Various draft analysts were obsessed with the Pitt product, and given the wide-open nature of this year's QB prospects and a new coaching staff in Buffalo, one is never completely sure of what can happen during camp.

Chance to start Week 1: 1 percent. Like we said, anything can happen with a new coaching staff and coordinator. This could be the type of season in Buffalo where the team cycles through two or three different quarterbacks as they stack the roster for the future. If Peterman is starting Week 1, though, chances are, the offseason is not going according to plan.

Davis Webb, New York Giants

Drafted in: Round 3, No. 87 overall.

Competition for the job: Starter Eli Manning, veteran Geno Smith, veteran Josh Johnson.

Path to the starting lineup: The battle to watch here will be between Smith and Johnson, not Webb and Smith. Webb will ease into a developmental term as Manning's backup, but he will likely have help on the roster this year. The last time the Giants drafted a developmental project (Ryan Nassib out of Syracuse), they tailored the roster in a similar fashion. While it would be encouraging to see Webb beat out Smith and Johnson, he simply needs to tread water effectively this summer.

Chance to start Week 1: 0 percent. Manning is one of the most injury-resistant players in modern NFL history, despite taking a significant amount of thuds over the years. He has never missed a start and won't be supplanted during a season in which the team has Super Bowl aspirations.

Joshua Dobbs, Pittsburgh Steelers

Drafted in: Round 4, No. 135 overall.

Competition for the job: Starter Ben Roethlisberger, veteran Landry Jones, undrafted rookie free agent Bart Houston.

Path to the starting lineup: Dobbs -- and the Steelers -- would be thrilled if he were simply good enough this preseason to allow the team to dump Jones and roll with two quarterbacks. Like the Giants with Davis Webb, the Steelers are taking a flier on a potential -- but nowhere close to guaranteed -- future successor.

Chance to start Week 1: 0 percent. Barring a downright unfair string of preseason injuries, this will be Ben Roethlisberger's team until he chooses to retire.

Brad Kaaya, Detroit Lions

Drafted in: Round 6, No. 215 overall.

Competition for the job: Starter Matthew Stafford, 2016 sixth-round pick Jake Rudock.

Path to the starting lineup: There is none for Kaaya, who can, at best, hope to graduate from the Jim Caldwell and Jim Bob Cooter offensive academy with an advanced degree after his rookie contract expires. Stafford will break the bank at some point this offseason and ink a significant long-term deal.

Chance to start Week 1: 0 percent. This is about finding a long-term backup solution.

Chad Kelly, Denver Broncos

Drafted in: Round 7, No. 253 overall.

Competition for the job: Potential starters Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, undrafted rookie free agent Kyle Sloter.

Path to the starting lineup: While this seems like a tremendous hurdle, the Kelly situation is different from that of another quarterback taken in the seventh round. This is a quarterback with a pedigree that corresponds to a much higher round and an interested developer in John Elway. If Lynch and Siemian do not perform up to expectations, it is not completely outside the realm of possibility that a healthy Kelly could earn snaps at some point in 2017.

Chance to start Week 1: 0 percent. Kelly was placed on the non-football injury list to start camp and is still recovering from a wrist injury. This is a two-horse race for now.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content

Purchase single game tickets for the 2022 season