The 2016 NFL Draft wasn’t supposed to be known for their quarterback class outside of the top two picks Jared Goff and Carson Wentz. Luckily, a few other QBs from the class weren’t listening to the media’s projections.
Wentz played well, although he hit a rookie wall after three terrific games into his NFL career. He started all 16 games, had some highs and lows, and looks the part of a franchise QB in Philly.
Goff had a rougher go during his inaugural season. He hit more bumps than Wentz, but had very little help to make his adjustment to the NFL any easier.
Aside from Goff and Wentz, a few others made names for themselves in their rookie seasons.
Of course, everyone knows the Dak Prescott sensation. Him and fellow rookie Ezekiel Elliott took the NFL by storm and became a deadly QB-RB combo in just their first season together. Prescott even came away with OROY, which is fantastic considering he wouldn’t have started without a Tony Romo injury.
Cody Kessler and Paxton Lynch were also given chances to show their talent with the Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos, respectively.
Lastly, Jacoby Brissett, New England’s 3rd QB, even started two games and went 1-1 while Tom Brady served his suspension for his involvement in Deflategate.
Let’s go assess what 2017 will bring for a few second year QBs.
- Goff started 7 games and threw for 1,089 yards with 5 touchdowns, 7 interceptions, and 5 fumbles. Not great numbers for a player who the Rams mortgaged the future to draft. Goff simply had no supporting cast as a rookie. The previous OROY, Todd Gurley, couldn’t get the ball rolling in his second season, which hurt Goff’s development. Aside from a line that couldn’t help Gurley run or protect Goff, Goff had mediocre talent at the receiver position. When Kenny Britt is your go-to guy, you’re probably not passing the ball at will on opposing defenses. Lucky for Goff, the LA Front Office aimed to please him in the draft. The additions of Gerald Everett (TE), Cooper Kupp (WR), and Josh Reynolds (WR) should give Goff more talent to throw to throughout the season. The fact that they are all young like Goff will help progress development within the group. Look for improvement in Year 2, but nothing spectacular, just yet.
- Wentz looked like a rookie sensation through the first 3 weeks of 2016. He hit a rookie wall, which is understandable and couldn’t produce consistently throughout the entire season. Philadelphia’s response to whether they think Wentz is the future? Having one of the best offseasons of any team in the league. Free agency brought in Alshon Jeffery and Torrey Smith to form a powerful 1-2 combo on the outside. The rest of the Eagles’ young, talented, yet underachieving wide receivers can battle for time on the field alongside Jeffery and Smith. Bringing in LeGarrette Blount will only help Wentz in the redzone. Lastly, that defense? What was already strong became even better with a great draft. Wentz should be the happiest man in Philadelphia.
- This was the biggest surprise of the 2016 NFL season, by far. Prescott not only played exceedingly well for a 4th-round rookie who was thrust into action, he simply dominated at times. Yes, he had the best offensive line in the NFL, as well as a fellow wunderkind in Elliott. The Cowboys were magical last season. Unfortunately, though, those magical teams usually don’t stay magical the following season. Think of the 15-1 Super Bowl losing Carolina Panthers. Things can’t go always go the right way, the magic wears off. I think the Cowboys as a team will regress a step in 2017, but it won’t be Dak’s fault. A couple key pieces of his offensive line are gone, but the offensive group is still strong. The overachieving 2016 defense won’t have the same mojo in 2017.
- Lynch and Brissett had limited time on the field for their respective teams this past season. Both played in 3 games, but both have different stories for 2017. Brissett is buried behind Brady and Jimmy Garappolo, and will only play this year if both are injured again. Lynch enters 2017 in another battle with fellow Broncos QB Trevor Siemian. Siemian looked more impressive in his second year, but his ceiling may be as a game manager. Lynch was drafted in the first round for a reason, and it is not to sit on the bench for too long. Lynch could start as soon as Week One, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if we only see him sparingly like in 2016.
- Kessler is facing a better scenario than the other two. Well maybe not a better scenario (he plays for the Browns), but certainly a better chance to start. Brock Osweiler’s confidence aside, the Browns opening day QB battle should come down to Kessler or DeShone Kizer, a 2017 draftee. I envision this battle’s outcome to be the same as the Siemian-Lynch scenario: The later-round-yet-more-experienced player will get the starting day nod. I’m not sure if Kessler will last the entire season, whether it be injury problems or performance issues, but he should be the starter in Week One. If any coach can develop Kessler, it’s Hue Jackson.