MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Vikings have quarterback Teddy Bridgewater back for their second week of organized team activities and while they're preaching patience with him, history suggests it's more likely than not he will start a game during his rookie season.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, 78 percent of rookie first-round QBs have started a game during their first season, with 49 percent of them starting within their team's first five games and 29 percent starting in Week 1. Essentially, there's a strong precedent for Bridgewater taking over the starting job at some point this season, though exactly how soon remains to be seen.
The Vikings have talked about a "redshirt" season for Bridgewater, and coach Mike Zimmer pointed out last week the Vikings "have two quarterbacks that have taken teams to the playoffs by themselves," though we'd be remiss not to point out the role of the Thomas Jones-Jamaal Charles running back tandem (2,363 yards for Kansas City in 2010) and Adrian Peterson's MVP season (2,097 yards in 2012) in helping Matt Cassel and Christian Ponder reach the postseason. But it's tough to imagine the Vikings holding Bridgewater back if he proves to be ready for the job. He has seemed intent on mastering the offense quickly during his short time with the Vikings, and he could be in the right situation to be rewarded if he's good enough during training camp.
In recent years, first-round quarterbacks have seen a slight uptick in their performance as rookies, compared with their predecessors. From 2008-13, first-round rookies have averaged 12 starts per season, winning 46 percent of those games. Sixty-nine percent of those rookies have started in Week 1. While that trend owes plenty to the pressure teams face to get rookie QBs on the field, credit should also be given to quarterbacks who are handling more complex offenses in high school and college and are entering the league more comfortable with NFL schemes.
First-round rookies from 1970-2007 started the first game of the season just 20 percent of the time and won an average of 37 percent of their starts during their rookie season. As a whole, the NFL seems to be getting slightly better at setting up highly drafted QBs for success. With the weapons he'd have at his disposal, Bridgewater could be in a good position if he does wind up starting this season.
The five-week threshold we discussed earlier could be worth keeping in mind. The Vikings open the season with three road games, as well as home dates with the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons, in a 25-day span. If Cassel can't get the team off to a good start early, a 10-day layoff before an Oct. 12 home game against the Detroit Lions could be a good juncture for Bridgewater to enter the lineup. He'll have plenty of time between now and then to make his case to play earlier. But based on what we've seen from previous first-round QBs, it would be rare if Bridgewater made it through his entire rookie season without starting a game.