Fourteen quarterbacks were drafted in May, and a number of them will figure heavily into their NFL teams' plans this season.
Last season we saw contributions at the position from a wide swath of rookies — early-round picks who were expected to start at some point (EJ Manuel and Geno Smith), mid-round picks who were forced into duty a little earlier than expected (Mike Glennon and Matt Barkley) and undrafted free agents who were desperation alternatives (Matt McGloin and Jeff Tuel).
Some previous rookie QB classes have been more top-heavy with first-day starters such as 2012 — Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson.
Where will this year's class fall?
So far, the first-year quarterbacks — listed in draft order — are off to a bit of a slow start, but training camp is where they will get a chance to separate themselves.
Jaguars QB Blake Bortles
The first quarterback taken in this year's class might have to be among the more patient in the group. Chad Henne is the almost no-doubt Week 1 starter, and he could remain in that role most, if not all, of the season.
So Bortles is No. 2, right?
Not if the season started today; it would probably be former Chiefs castoff Ricky Stanzi, who has impressed. Right now, Bortles and fellow Stephen Morris are taking their lumps in learning the system. Bortles has been a bit wild with his throws, per reports, and appears to be struggling with his footwork.
Now you know why the Jaguars are preaching patience with their talented but green thrower and could opt to sit him for the duration of his rookie season, a la Carson Palmer in 2003.
Browns QB Johnny Manziel
Heard of him? Right now, Manziel's most prolific work has been off the field, with swans and poolside photos. (And if Joe Haden has his druthers, Manziel would have his camera privileges revoked.)
Head coach Mike Pettine has made it clear that although there's a competition, the job belongs to Brian Hoyer now — Pettine said Hoyer is "securely ahead" — and the onus is on Manziel to pry it away from him.
The timing of a decision is key — too early, and you might not see enough growth from Manziel, and too late, you could fail to give your starter enough reps with the starters. Even though the feeling is that Manziel will pick it up once the pads are on and more game-like scenarios are put forth, Hoyer is the favorite right now to be the starter when the Browns head to Pittsburgh in Week 1.
So when might Manziel start if that's the case? Tough to say, but the first possibility would be following the Week 4 bye when the schedule softens, especially if the Browns and Hoyer struggled against the Steelers, Saints and Ravens the first three games.
Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater
If you're going to Vegas soon (eek, I am) and had to bet on a rookie to start a Week 1 game, this wouldn't be a terrible choice. But like the Manziel-Hoyer situation, Bridgewater must show he's clearly the better choice than Matt Cassel.
The guess is that won't happen. Not because Bridgewater won't show the Vikings something — and offensive coordinator Norv Turner already has praised the rookie's touch on deep balls, something that a few people questioned. But more because Cassel is a solid NFL quarterback who has worked in a half-dozen different systems and should be the best prepared for what looks like a tough opening part of the schedule. You have the great front seven of the Rams (on the road) in Week 1, a perennial title contender in the Patriots and the pressure schemes of Rob Ryan in the Superdome. There's a good chance Bridgewater is recused of that duty and saved for later in the season.
Raiders QB Derek Carr
But what about Carr?
Is there a chance he, not Manziel or Bridgewater, will be the first rookie to start? The Raiders gave up something in return for Matt Schaub, and it might take a lot for a coach on the hot seat to go to the rookie out of the chute.
But what if Carr — who recently overtook the No. 2 spot, ahead of Matt McGloin, who started six games a year ago and didn't embarrass himself – lights it up in training camp and Schaub regains his pick-six yips from last season?
Carr isn't likely to open the season as a starter, but it wouldn't be shocking to see him in there pretty early. One thing worth noting, though: The Raiders' schedule starts getting hairy in November, so head coach Dennis Allen has to play this one smart. Could it be a rookie showdown in Week 9 with Raiders at Browns?
Patriots QB Jimmy Garoppolo
It's going to be a long wait before Garoppolo beats out Tom Brady, but Garoppolo has used Ryan Mallett's occasional absence in minicamps to display that he belongs in the NFL and could ascend to the No. 2 role at some point.
Although Garoppolo has had some rookie moments in workouts, per reports, he also has shown some impressive grasp of the offense, as well as timing, accuracy and touch on his throws. The fact that Garoppolo is a football junkie, loves to play and bragged about being able to throw all day, he has a great chance to stand out during training camp and preseason against second- and third-team defenses.
Cardinals QB Logan Thomas
Could Thomas go an entire regular season without a meaningful snap? Absolutely.
Some were surprised the Cardinals didn't go deeper to find someone capable of pushing Carson Palmer this season, but Bruce Arians found a pet project in fellow Hokie Thomas, who is raw as heck but intriguing to the same degree.The fact that he didn't progress noticeably from his sophomore year over the next two seasons in college is worrisome, and it's almost certain that he'll spend a year as a redshirt as a rookie in the NFL.
Palmer will start and Drew Stanton figures to be the No. 2, with Thomas perhaps getting his first shot to play in 2015, trying to fend off Ryan Lindley for the No. 3 role this year (which should happen).
Texans QB Tom Savage
We know from Bill O'Brien that Ryan Fitzpatrick is the Texans' starter, but we don't know who will win the backup job. After T.J. Yates was traded to the Falcons, O'Brien said the backup role would be a battle between Case Keenum, who started half the season last year for the Texans, or Savage, the fourth-round pick.
If we're talking arm talent, Savage wins hands down, but Keenum has good, quick decision-making skills, as well as the experience edge.
Savage, if he impresses enough through August, could put himself in position to start in November or December. Fitzpatrick's hold on the job, we know, is quite temporary.
Chiefs QB Aaron Murray
Murray's first job will be to (a) convince the Chiefs' brass that he's all the way back from ACL surgery and (b) outshine second-year quarterback Tyler Bray.
Although Bray has the physical advantage to win the No. 3 job, he has been something of a knucklehead in the past and his performance doesn't always match his skills. Murray is the opposite: He's something of a cerebral overachiever and perhaps more of a fit with the kind of quarterback Andy Reid has done surprisingly good things with in the past.
Alex Smith is the starter and Chase Daniel is the backup until further notice. The Chiefs likely will keep a third, and Murray will have a decent shot at winning that job.
Bengals QB A.J. McCarron
Taken one slot after Murray in Round 5, McCarron was held back a little by an arm injury in the first part of OTAs, but he contributed and didn't look out of place, per reports. There is an excellent chance that he makes the team as the No. 3 behind Andy Dalton and Jason Campbell.
Right now, McCarron is battling with former undrafted Matt Scott, who was late of the Jaguars. With McCarron's experience, background and competitiveness — as well as some throwing talent — he would make for a strong third option, albeit one with a low ceiling.
Titans QB Zach Mettenberger
New head coach Ken Whisenhunt said that Charlie Whitehurst is the No. 2 QB behind Jake Locker. Could that change? Yes, but perhaps not until later in the season.
Whitehurst continues to draw an NFL paycheck without actually showing anything in a regular-season game, but he knows this offense well and will be the second option in case Locker can't stay healthy. For now, that is.
Mettenberger, too, must prove he's healthy (coming off ACL surgery). If so, he could earn his chance as a rookie. If Locker were to miss an extended period, Whitehurst might replace him in the short term, but Mettenberger could be called on later and given a look. Why not?
Bears QB David Fales
There is little chance of Fales winning the backup job, so his primary goal in training camp will be to shine among the ranks of Jimmy Clausen and Jordan Palmer, which might not be that hard.
Both of those player are on look-see type of contracts, and Fales was a sixth-round pick. His intelligence and competitiveness are off the charts and could endear the coaching staff with a strong camp and preseason. Really, you could argue that a Jay Cutler-Palmer-Fales QB room could end up being the smartest trio in the league.
Ravens QB Keith Wenning
Wenning will have a chance to beat Tyrod Taylor for the backup spot, but that is all he'll get. He must show it on the field, of course. You get the idea that the Ravens will be keeping their eyes open for veteran options, although Wenning has received praise from Gary Kubiak so far.
Jets QB Tajh Boyd
We discussed Boyd a little bit here last week in relation to Michael Vick and the Jets' situation. Basically, Geno Smith is the starter, Vick is the assumed backup, and Boyd is in competition with Matt Simms as the third quarterback.
First, we have to wonder if Vick is still into it; he's about 85 percent sure to be with the team at the end of training camp. So Boyd has a chance, and his skills are somewhere in between Smith and Vick — not nearly as athletic as Vick and without the arm talent or athleticism of Smith, but also not worlds apart from either. He's intriguing for sure, but Boyd also is no guarantee to make the Jets' roster out of camp.
Rams QB Garrett Gilbert
If the Rams keep three quarterbacks behind starter Sam Bradford and backup Shaun Hill, Gilbert will go head-to-head with Austin Davis for the spot.
The sixth-rounder Gilbert is a long shot still, even though he has shown some grasp of the scheme through spring and summer workouts. The bulk of the work to impress the team's brass won't come until training camp, though, and Gilbert — who has taken a wild ride to get to this point, from the national title game appearance to bottoming out to landing at SMU and remaking himself — will have a chance to impress.
If he doesn't make the roster, he's a strong candidate to land on the Rams' practice squad — if he's not claimed by another team.
Undrafted rookies of note: Brock Jensen, Dolphins; Dustin Vaughan, Cowboys; Connor Shaw, Browns; Brendon Kay, Steelers; James Franklin, Lions; Chase Rettig, Packers; Stephen Morris; Jaguars; Jeff Matthews; Falcons; Bryn Renner, Broncos; Kory Faulkner, 49ers.
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