Whether you believe that rookie quarterbacks benefit from riding the bench for a year or benefit from being thrown out there immediately, there’s no denying that the rookie quarterback class of 2017 has been one of the hot topics of the preseason.
From No. 2 overall draft pick Mitchell Trubisky to Deshaun Watson to DeShone Kizer to Patrick Mahomes, the quarterback class that people didn’t think seemed ready for NFL action are surprising critics with optimistic preseason performances.
But when it comes to rookie quarterbacks, there’s usually a hesitancy to want to let them sit and learn. Sure, you have exceptions like Dak Prescott in Dallas last season. But Dak had an elite supporting cast in one of the best offensive lines in the league, along with talent in the receiving corp. and run game.
How do you know when your rookie quarterback is ready? Better yet, how do you know it’s the right time to start your rookie?
Basically, the team has to decide when they think it’s best. Usually, having a team that’s vying for a shot at the postseason — like the Houston Texans and Kansas City Chiefs — it’s easier to let your young quarterback sit back and learn. But when you have a team that is coming off a losing record that doesn’t seem poised for a postseason run — like the Chicago Bears and Cleveland Browns — it could make the decision a little easier.
Browns rookie DeShone Kizer became the first rookie quarterback this season to nab a week 1 start. Kizer, who was impressive early in the preseason, beat out Brock Osweiler for the job. And given the Browns’ abysmal record with quarterbacks in recent history, Kizer is eager to make sure that long list of mediocrity and disparity stops at him.
“You see that list grow and grow and grow and you hear the people and the chatter throughout the whole community,” Kizer told NFL.com. “So now to be put on that list and hopefully ending that list will be an awesome, awesome situation for me.”
While Kizer’s success in the regular season remains to be seen, what about the other rookie quarterbacks in the class of 2017? Who’s ready, who’s not, and who is poised to see a start in 2017?
Let’s take a look at three other high-profile rookie quarterbacks awaiting their shot at the starting gig:
Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
When Could He Start? Week 5, 2017 season
While Mike Glennon put together a decent performance in the Bears’ third exhibition game, he’s proven in the first two contests, as well as during his stint with Tampa Bay, that he’s merely a career backup. The Bears feel the need to start Glennon — whether it’s because of the $18 million guaranteed or the fear of starting Mitchell Trubisky too soon. As far as Glennon’s track record goes, it’s only a matter of time before his poor performance — and lack of athleticism when compared to Trubisky — ultimately results in Trubisky getting the nod.
The issue with Trubisky isn’t that he isn’t the most talented quarterback on that roster — he definitely is — but GM Ryan Pace is concerned with not risking Trubisky’s potential by rushing him to start. But the problem is, Trubisky has already shown in three preseason games that he’s far ahead of where the Bears expected him to be at this point. Not only that, but’s outperformed anointed starter Mike Glennon throughout preseason. So it’s not a matter of if Trubisky will start in 2017, it’s a matter of when will Trubisky start in 2017? And week 5 — where the Bears have 10 days to prepare for the Minnesota Vikings — seems like the best possibility.
Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
When Could He Start? Week 1, 2018 season
Houston Texans rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson is no stranger to the big stage. After three years playing in the national spotlight with Clemson, including a National Championship in 2016, Watson seemed the most NFL-ready of the rookie quarterback class of 2017. In his first game, Watson shined putting on display a combination of flash, mobility, and intangibles that showed that he has a bright future in the league. Sure, he’s made rookie mistakes. But his ceiling is certainly worth the risk.
Perhaps the one aspect working most against Watson is the fact that the Texans, a playoff team a year ago, will indeed be making another postseason run this season. It’s easier to place the reigns in the hand of your rookie quarterback when there’s nothing to lose. But with a Texans defense that’s getting back former Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, there is everything to lose. Veteran Tom Savage is the safe bet at quarterback. But that doesn’t mean that, should injury or regression happen, Watson won’t see some action this season. But as of right now, it’s not looking too likely with a playoff caliber team fighting to get back to the postseason.
Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
When Could He Start? Week 1, 2018 season
Since the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes with the No. 10 overall pick, the rookie quarterback has quietly been making his way up the depth chart. Following two solid preseason outings, Mahomes was upgraded from third string to backup quarterback. Mahomes has a set of intangibles that made it an easy decision for the Chiefs to trade up to No. 1o to draft him — his big arm, his mobility, and the potential for big plays.
But much like Watson, Mahomes will likely ride the bench as the franchise’s future quarterback as veteran Alex Smith leads the Chiefs in what they hope will be a postseason appearance. The Chiefs weren’t drafting a franchise quarterback for now, they were drafting a quarterback for the future, which means that Mahomes will likely get comfortable on the bench before he makes his regular season debut in what we can only assume will come in 2018 as Smith’s salary cap number rises in the final year of his contract. If the Chiefs feel Mahomes is ready come 2018, the future will be sooner than anticipated.