Why the rookie QBs might win now (or not)

A look at statistical benchmarks that 2012 rookie quarterbacks are chasing.

Five rookie quarterbacks are expected to start in Week 1 – Robert Griffin III, Andrew Luck, Ryan Tannehill, Brandon Weeden and Russell Wilson.

The Elias Sports Bureau researched back to 1950 and determined that the most rookie quarterbacks to start a season opener in any season was three, and that hasn’t been done since 1968 and 1969.

Five would be as many rookie starters as there were in the entire 2011 season. Those 2011 rookies were a combined 23-38 as starters, the most wins by a rookie class since the NFL-AFL merger.

Rookie QB Starters
Last Four Seasons

More often than not, teams with rookie quarterbacks take their lumps. The combined record of rookie starters in the last three seasons is 51-95.

But there’s always hope of a performance like in 2008 when Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco led the Atlanta Falcons and Baltimore Ravens to 11-5 records.

Let’s take a snapshot look at some notes about each of those soon to be making their NFL debuts:

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts

The Colts, who will make Luck the first rookie quarterback to start for them since Peyton Manning in 1998, will hope that Luck’s skills in the red zone carry over to the NFL.

The Colts had the lowest Total QBR (11.9) inside of the red zone in 2011. Luck excelled in the red zone throughout his collegiate career, throwing 52 touchdowns and just three interceptions in 183 pass attempts.

Most QBs Drafted With No. 1 Pick
Since 1967

The Colts had the lowest Total QBR (11.9) inside of the red zone of any team in 2011. Luck has excelled in the red zone throughout his collegiate career, throwing 52 touchdowns and just three interceptions in 183 pass attempts.

Since the start of 2010, no player in FBS had a higher touchdown to interception differential than Luck's +45.

Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins

Griffin is the fourth quarterback drafted by the Redskins in the first round since 1967. The other three: Heath Shuler, Patrick Ramsey, and Jason Campbell, were 34-55 as starters in Washington and never started a postseason game.

In head coach Mike Shanahan’s three seasons in Washington, Redskins quarterbacks ranked in the bottom half of the league in completion percentage, yards per attempt and touchdown passes.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

Tannehill will be the Dolphins 17th different starting quarterback since the 2000 season, the most in the NFL in that span. He’s the first quarterback the Dolphins have drafted in the first round since Dan Marino in 1983.

Tannehill made just 19 college starts and threw 15 interceptions in 2011. Only five quarterbacks in the FBS had more.

His 15 picks are the third-most by a first-round pick in his final college season over the last 15 years. However, the player with the most, the previously-mentioned Matt Ryan (19), turned out to do quite well in the NFL.

Brandon Weeden, Cleveland Browns

Weeden’s selection marked the second time in the last six drafts that the Browns took a quarterback in the first round, and according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Weeden is the oldest player to be drafted in the first round in the Common Draft Era (28 years, 195 days).

The Browns need for a presence at the quarterback position is a significant and lasting one. They’ve thrown for 131 touchdown passes since 2004, second-fewest in the NFL to the Oakland Raiders (130).

Over just the last two seasons, Weeden threw for 71 touchdowns. That was the second-most in the FBS over that time.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks

Wilson will be the Seahawks' first rookie starting quarterback since Rick Mirer in 1993.

QB Drafted 3rd Round or Later
Started Week 1 as a Rookie (since 1970)

He’s going to be the first quarterback drafted in the third round or later to start in Week 1 of his rookie season since Kyle Orton for the 2005 Chicago Bears.

One of the things the Seahawks will be looking for improvement in is third-down success.

Last season, Seahawks quarterbacks completed only 52 percent of their passes on third down, the fifth-lowest success rate in the NFL, and were sacked 22 times, tied for second-most.

Wilson was masterful on third down last season, completing 64 passes in 85 attempts (75 percent, best in FBS), with 16 touchdowns and only two interceptions.