When will this year’s rookie QBs get in the game?
Though the 2013 NFL Draft proved a particularly frustrating one for quarterbacks, 11 players at that position still heard their names called at Radio City Music Hall. Several more QBs then signed on with various teams in free agency, with at least two or three finding franchises with openings on the depth chart.
Which of this year’s rookie quarterback crop will be the first to see the field as a starter? Here’s a guess, ranked from the least likely to get the nod in 2013 to those with a real shot at starting in Week 1.
10. Tyler Bray, Chiefs; Ryan Griffin, Saints; Collin Klein, Texans: Three of the more prominent quarterbacks signed as undrafted free agents, all will have to work just to make an NFL roster — let alone find some playing time.
While Bray entered the draft with the best arsenal of skills, Griffin found himself a potentially cushy landing spot in New Orleans. Should the former Tulane QB show a little upside this offseason, the Saints’ depth chart is open for reshuffling behind Drew Brees (Luke McCown and Seneca Wallace are currently in the mix to be Brees’ backup).
Klein signed with the Texans, and they’re willing to give him a shot at quarterback — other teams reportedly asked him about switching to tight end. He still has Case Keenum and ex-Cowboy Stephen McGee in front of him, plus starter Matt Schaub and backup T.J. Yates.
9. Brad Sorensen, Chargers; Zac Dysert, Broncos; B.J. Daniels, 49ers; Sean Renfree, Falcons: The four quarterbacks drafted in Round 7 (in that order). Aside from the preseason and possibly some late mop-up duty, seeing any of these guys on the field in 2013 would constitute an unexpected turn of events.
Heading into camp none will be higher than the third QB on their teams’ respective depth charts. Sorensen (with Charlie Whitehurst above him) and Renfree (Dominique Davis) might have the best chances to rise to the backup role. But all four also landed on teams with starters firmly entrenched at QB.
8. Ryan Nassib, Giants: There’s little separating Nassib from the Round 7 and undrafted QBs listed before him here. Giants GM Jerry Reese, after trading up to take a falling Nassib, said he hopes the former Syracuse star “never has to play” — if Nassib did take the field for key minutes, it likely would mean an injury had felled Eli Manning. Nassib’s real opportunity may come in two or three years, if the Giants decide they can swing him in a trade to a QB-needy team.
7. Landry Jones, Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger has missed a combined eight games over the past three seasons, and the Steelers have had to turn to their third- and fourth-string QBs at times. So, in that sense, Jones could be forced into action in the near future.
The best-case scenario for him, though, is to sit and learn behind Big Ben and backup Bruce Gradkowski for a couple years. Roethlisberger’s contract is up after the 2015 season — will the Steelers be ready for a new quarterback to take over then?
6. Matt Scott/Jordan Rodgers, Jaguars: A pair of undrafted rookies, Scott and Rodgers could make things interesting in camp. Scott, who thrived in Rich Rodriguez’s spread attack at Arizona last season; and Rodgers, the younger brother of the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers, likely will battle each other for a roster spot. But the victor there could shake up the depth chart.
Above either Scott or Rodgers will be embattled starter Blaine Gabbert and veteran backup Chad Henne. The Jaguars will give that duo every chance to lead the offense through the 2013 season. If neither succeeds, though, Jacksonville will start to look to the future and may be willing to give one of its rookies the reins.
5. Mike Glennon, Buccaneers: The inconsistent Glennon may not be all that ready to step in as a productive NFL quarterback. The Bucs may opt to roll the dice at some point anyway, should Josh Freeman falter early. Tampa Bay’s choice, in that scenario, would come down to the developing Glennon or the well-traveled Dan Orlovsky. It almost goes without saying that Glennon’s upside is much higher.
4. Matt Barkley, Eagles: Does anyone really know what Chip Kelly has in store for his offense? Barkley appears to be the No. 3 quarterback in Philadelphia behind Michael Vick and Nick Foles (maybe No. 4, if Kelly’s former Oregon QB, Dennis Dixon, excels). He also might be in line to win the starting job, if Kelly distrusts Vick in his scheme or Foles becomes trade bait.
Given the long wait Barkley endured on draft weekend, he has to be at least a little excited to be in this situation. A new coach and new scheme in Philadelphia means there is potential for major upheaval.
3. Tyler Wilson, Raiders: The Raiders traded down in Round 4 to add an extra pick later, then scooped up Wilson at No. 112 overall. Wilson never really reached the elite level many thought he would at Arkansas, but his toughness and ability to make every throw painted him as an intriguing prospect heading into the draft — NFL.com compared his skill set to that of Brett Favre.
So, what if the light flips on right out of the gate? The Raiders currently sit with Matt Flynn as their No. 1 QB and Terrelle Pryor at No. 2. At the very least, Wilson should feel confident in his chances of unseating Pryor, and Flynn lost the Seattle job (to another “Wilson,” coincidentally) last summer.
Oakland would love to give Flynn a little rope after trading for him. Wilson, however, could change the plans.
2. E.J. Manuel, Bills: The Bills used the 16th overall pick on Manuel and, generally speaking, teams do not spend first-round selections on quarterbacks with the plan to let them sit and develop. First-rounders often are expected to arrive guns blazing, ready to compete for the starting job.
There are varying opinions on Manuel’s NFL-readiness — I’d argue he could use a year or two more to develop — but new Bills coach Doug Marrone clearly believes in his rookie’s talents. And quarterback has long been a sore spot for the Bills, who dropped Ryan Fitzpatrick and added Kevin Kolb this offseason.
Kolb can hardly be considered a lock to run away with the starting job. Which means we may see Manuel from the get-go.
1. Geno Smith, Jets: Are the Jets really going to continue the Mark Sanchez charade for another season? Sanchez has flopped as the team’s starting QB and it is painfully obvious to everyone (including, one would suspect, the Jets’ front office) that the huge contract extension handed to him last offseason was a colossal error.
With the franchise trying to regroup and move forward, then — possibly (likely?) in Rex Ryan’s last year as head coach — does it make any sense to ride out the Sanchez storm when a younger, more promising option is on the sidelines?
Simply for everyone’s sanity in the Big Apple, the Jets should begin the Smith experiment as soon as possible. All that’s standing between now and that occurrence is New York biting the financial bullet by cutting Sanchez loose.