Ranking the Top Young Quarterbacks in the NFL
In 2012, rookie quarterbacks took the league by storm, as Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson led their teams to the playoffs. Second-year QB Colin Kaepernick won the starting job for the 49ers halfway through that season as well and led his squad to the Super Bowl. While all of these young QBs made it look easy from the start, it isn’t that easy. For every great young QB, there are two Akili Smith’s, Tim Couch’s and David Carr’s. Here are the top five young quarterbacks in the league:
1. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Indianapolis Colts fans are lucky. In 1998, they drafted Peyton Manning first overall and the future Hall-of-Famer got them a Super Bowl title during his tenure. Following multiple neck surgeries and a missed season, Manning was released by the Colts and with the first overall pick in 2012, the Colts selected Andrew Luck. One of the top quarterback prospects ever evaluated, the Stanford product has delivered in his first two years. The Colts have made the playoffs in both seasons and Luck picked up his first playoff win this past season, leading a second-half comeback to secure the victory. In addition, he has been selected as a Pro Bowler twice.
Luck is the son of former NFL QB and current West Virginia University Athletic Director Oliver Luck. He definitely has the QB genes. He already is well-known as one of the most intelligent QBs in the NFL and has great athletic abilities. In addition to his 52 career passing touchdowns, he has punched in nine touchdowns on the ground. What’s even a greater accomplishment are the weapons that Luck has achieved these stats with. Last year, they had virtually no running game and leading wide receiver Reggie Wayne tore his ACL early in the season. Luck continued to thrive and is poised to step into that top tier of QBs – which includes Manning and Tom Brady – very soon even though he is just 24 years old.
2. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: Wilson was a third-round pick coming out of college. He was dubbed as too short. Seattle saw something in him and selected him. Wilson has rewarded them with great play and a Super Bowl ring this past season. Wilson does not have the size or arm strength as your prototypical QB like Luck, but he is a dual threat, makes excellent decisions and is a great leader.
While Luck has had to carry the Colts the past two seasons, Wilson hasn’t been asked to do as much. The Seahawks boast one of the top defenses in the league and a powerhouse running game. Wilson has just had to manage the game and make plays when called upon. He has performed well though and scored 64 total touchdowns and will be tasked to do more this season as he enters his third as a starter and will be in line for a big contract extension next offseason.
3. Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford has a cannon for an arm. The former number one recruit out of high school was taken first overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2009 NFL Draft. While his team has had its fair share of losses along the way, Stafford isn’t to blame for those. They have gone through coaching changes and have had poor defenses. Stafford became the fourth quarterback in NFL history to throw for over 5000 yards in a season in 2011. The Lions also clinched a playoff berth that year. Stafford has teamed with All-Pro WR Calvin Johnson to form one of the top duos in the NFL. Despite a losing record as a starter, Stafford is ultra-talented and has put up great individual stats as a starter, setting the NFL record for fastest player to 13000 career passing yards.
4. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers: Kaepernick got paid this offseason. The dual-threat QB signed a six-year deal worth up to $126 million, putting him as one of the highest-paid in the NFL. Kaepernick is so talented as he is extremely fast and can throw the ball as hard as anyone. He has yet to put it all together yet and has had his fair share of struggles in the passing game. What he has put together though are some mind-boggling plays that very few could ever do, reminding us all of how talented he really is.
Kaepernick is a lot like Wilson in that he hasn’t had to carry his team. The 49ers have one of the top defensive units and a great ground game. Kaepernick has not developed as a passer, completing less than 60 percent of his passes last season. However, his legs are a huge threat. In a playoff game two seasons ago against the Green Bay Packers, he broke a single-game NFL record for most rushing yards by a QB with 181 yards on the ground. If Kaepernick can develop as a passer, he moves up on this list.
5. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: Newton has been a lightning rod since his days at Auburn University. The former Heisman Trophy winner and first overall pick finally led his Carolina Panthers team to the postseason this past year. The two-time Pro Bowler broke several records during his rookie season as he rushed for over 700 yards and passed for over 4000. Newton has immense amounts of talent and it has been on full display his entire career. This past season though, Newton matured into a good decision-maker, completing over 61 percent of his passes and throwing only 13 interceptions.
Newton faces even more of a challenge this upcoming season as the Panthers lost their top two wideouts and didn’t upgrade in the backfield. Once again, he will have to do a lot on his own and continue to develop as a passer and make sound decisions. The Panthers defense is one of the best in the league and should be again next year, but if Newton can put the team on his back and get them back to the playoffs, he will continue to rise up this list.