There have been three regular starting rookie QB’s in the NFL — how have they graded out so far?
Being an NFL rookie quarterback is far from an easy job. The game is much faster than it in in college, the offenses and defenses are much more complex, and often times the rookie is playing a team with very little talent around them. That is certainly the case for this year’s group of rookie passers.
The trio of Oakland’s Derek Carr, Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater, and Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles have all been handed the reigns to their perspective franchise this season. While all three have shown flashes that justify their draft position and playing time, they’ve also all struggled at time and have made critical mistakes.
It is important to keep expectations for rookie quarterbacks conservative. The 2012 rookie class, which included Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, and Robert Griffin, has unfairly distorted the national expectations for rookie quarterbacks. That trio’s success in their first season is unprecedented and not a true predictor of how other rookies will develop after their rookie season.
Titans rookie Zach Mettenberger isn’t included. He hasn’t played in enough games to put together any sort of evaluation. If he continues to play, he’ll be included at the end of the season. For now, consider his midterm grade to the “incomplete.”
Read to find out how each NFL rookie passer has graded out over the first half of the season? Click the on over to page two and find out!
Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
The plan in Jacksonville wasn’t for Blake Bortles to play right away. Unfortunately, the losses began piling up and Chad Henne proved incapable of providing the bridge necessary to let Bortles sit and learn from the sidelines.
Instead, Bortles has taken his lumps out on the field. He’s made some plays, and also made some dreadful mistakes.
Bortles’ biggest statistical asset early on was his ability to complete a high percentage of his passes. It was clear that he was seeing the field well, and taking what the defense gave him. Unfortunately, that led to insanely low yards per attempt number.
In recent weeks he has been pushing the ball down the field more, but that hasn’t exactly led to good things for the Jaguars. His interception rate has spiked, and the change hasn’t generated enough big plays to counteract the effects of the turnovers.
The lack of a reliable running game and defense in Jacksonville hasn’t helped matters either. Jacksonville has spent most games well behind on the scoreboard, and asking their rookie passer to lead the comeback attempt.
Overall is hasn’t been an awful start for Bortles in Jacksonville. He needs to stop forcing things and get back to taking what the defense gives him. The big plays will come once the talent around him improves. There is no need to force the issue at this point.
2014 Midterm Grade: C+
|Yards per attempt||6.77||27th|
|% of passes intercepted||5.4||32nd|
|% 1st Down when Passing on 3rd Down||39.3||24th|
Teddy Bridgewater – Minnesota Vikings
Of the three rookie quarterbacks who have had considerable playing time this season, Teddy Bridgewater is having the most success. He’s led the Vikings to three wins, while the other two rookie passers have combined for just one.
Bridgewater has been good in two area that are meaningful toward his long-term success in the NFL. First, he isn’t turning the ball over a lot. There have been mistakes, but they haven’t they haven’t come in bunches as they often do for rookie passers.
The other area where Bridgewater has been successful is in converting on third downs. 45 percent of his third down passes have resulted in first-downs. That’s better than some big name players like Peyton Manning, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford.
Perhaps the most important part of Bridgewater’s play is that he isn’t costing his team wins. The Vikings are 4-5 and have won two straight games. He even orchestrated a come-from-behind win against Washington last Sunday.
There are also reasons to be worried. The biggest knock on Bridgewater during the draft process was that he struggled with accuracy deep down the field. That has been apparent already, including an incomplete pass this last Sunday on a completely uncovered Cordarrelle Patterson. This is an area where he must improve if he’s going to last as a starting NFL quarterback.
As Bridgewater adjusts to the NFL, Minnesota’s ability to stay competitive in the division will increase. While they likely wont be able to compete for a playoff stop this season, there’s no reason to believe that they wont be able to do so next year.
Midterm Grade: B
|Yards per attempt||6.71||28th|
|% of passes intercepted||2.5||21st|
|% 1st Down when passing on 3rd Down||45.3||14th|
Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
Of the three rookie quarterbacks who have played most of their team’s offensive snaps, Oakland’s Derek Carr was the the only Day 1 starter. He’s also the only one who hasn’t led his team to a win.
Carr is working with the weakest supporting cast of the three rookies, and is on arguably the worst roster in the NFL. His team ranks last in the NFL in rushing yards and attempts, and he lacks big-time weapons to help him in the passing game. Carr is being asked to carry then entire offense, which is never a good thing for a rookie passer.
Looking at Carr’s individual performance, and there are some reason to be optimistic. Carr’s footwork and ability to handle pressure, his flaws most often criticized pre-draft, haven’t been a problem. He’s also shown good accuracy, touch and ball velocity with his passes.
Carr has also done a good job of not turning the ball over. He right in the middle of the pack in the NFL in terms of interception rate. Given that he’s a rookie and that his team has no discernible running game, that is rather good.
The one major cause for concern at this point is that Carr isn’t completing many deep passes, and fewer than ideal amount in the intermediate range. Carr’s college offense was geared toward screens and other short passes, and Carr hasn’t broken free of that tendency.
If Carr is going to reach his potential as an NFL quarterback, he’s going to need to complete a higher percentage of his passes where the target is down the field. He cannot simply rely on dink-and-dunk passes that do not challenge the defense. He has the tools to do so, he just hasn’t shown a willingness to look for those passes on a consistent basis.
Overall, Carr has played well even though his team has not. Hopefully all the losses won’t lead the Raiders into giving up on a promising passer who isn’t causing the team’s problems on the scoreboard.
Midterm Grade: B+
|Yards per attempt||5.9||30th|
|% of passes intercepted||2.4||16th|
|% 1st Down when Passing on 3rd Down||37.6||25th|