One of the most talked about storylines during every NFL preseason is the play of the incoming group of rookie quarterbacks. While that can be unfair when judging the player, this year is no different.
Three signal callers were drafted in the first round of the 2017 draft and each of their respective new teams — Chicago, Kansas City and Houston — traded up to acquire their services. DeShone Kizer rounds out the “Big Four” quarterbacks from this class as the Cleveland Browns’ second-round selection. It should be noted that on draft day, I ranked these four in this order: Patrick Mahomes, Kizer, Mitch Trubisky and Deshaun Watson.
Below I have ranked these four knowing what we now know after three preseason appearances. Joshua Dobbs, a fourth-round pick by Pittsburgh, Nathan Peterman, Buffalo’s fifth-rounder, and Cooper Rush, an undrafted free agent that landed in Dallas, also have been included in these rankings.
1. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Mahomes has been up and down this preseason, but in very many ways, that is exactly who he is as a player right now. His tools keep him firmly at this top spot, though, and the preseason has shown us elite arm talent as well as an uncanny ability to extend plays and operate out of structure.
Mahomes is an excellent athlete. But wow, he is still very much a work in progress. But, as alluded to, we knew all this when Kansas City selected him to succeed Alex Smith. This preseason is no reason to change our thoughts on Mahomes. With Andy Reid at the helm and Smith as a guide, Mahomes is in an excellent situation to learn slowly and develop into a very good starting quarterback that opponents hate lining up against.
2. DeShone Kizer, Cleveland Browns
Physically, Kizer looks like a cross between Dante Culpepper and Ben Roethlisberger. And his skill set is somewhat of a blend between those two highly talented quarterbacks as well. Kizer is set to start the regular season as Cleveland’s starting quarterback, which is highly encouraging.
More so than Mahomes and especially Trubisky and Watson, more as been asked of Kizer this preseason. Hue Jackson, an excellent developer of quarterbacks, has put Kizer in position to make big-time throws and the young man is delivering. While his Week 3 performance was up and down, Kizer’s development with Corey Coleman was very encouraging. Have the Browns finally found their franchise quarterback? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, but maybe.
3. Mitch Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Trubisky has been extremely impressive. He shows very good command and precise accuracy. Few may have realized just how good of an athlete Trubisky is, and his ball placement while throwing on the move has been excellent.
Chicago is doing a nice job of game planning around his strengths, as most of their pass plays have Trubisky getting the ball out quick. Nonetheless, his timing and ball placement have exceeded all expectations. And no one is now criticizing the Bears for trading up one pick to bring Trubisky to Chicago. Bears fans should be thrilled.
4. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Watson has done a lot of good things in an NFL uniform. It is probably just a matter of time before he is Houston’s starting quarterback with only Tom Savage standing in his way. Watson has shown poise, and after following Savage, his athletic ability and ability to extend a play really stands out.
The worry here is that Watson doesn’t have a particularly strong arm. While he is completing passes in the preseason, his ball placement is worrisome.
5. Nathan Peterman, Buffalo Bills
The Bills seem to really like Peterman, and you can see why. He is never going to be a power thrower and that might always be a problem late in the season in Buffalo, but his arm strength appears better in the NFL than it was at Pitt.
He is a smart player with a firm hold of the system. Peterman is a poised player who could have a career path similar to someone like Brian Hoyer. Don’t be surprised if he is starting games at the end of a lost Bills season in 2017.
6. Joshua Dobbs, Pittsburgh Steelers
Dobbs has some starter traits, which is why he isn’t at the bottom of this list. But Dobbs has not been impressive at the pro level as of yet. With Ben Roethlisberger and Landry Jones sidelined at times since Dobbs has been on board, he has thrown a ton of passes in his short pro career.
As you could expect, his arm strength and zip on his throws has fallen off. But overall, Dobbs’ arm is good enough and he is certainly a plus athlete. But he looks to be well over his head and his general accuracy is a major concern.
7. Cooper Rush, Dallas Cowboys
This seems like a slight on Rush, especially after what all was said about him. But the fact is that for an undrafted free agent to even be in this conversation is a great win for Rush and the Cowboys overall. Dallas looks poised to be in a highly enviable position at the quarterback position.
The key is that not only are Dak Prescott and Rush very young with their best years ahead of them, but the Cowboys will have next to nothing financially invested in the most expensive position on the field. As for Rush, he has looked like he belongs, which is something few rookie quarterbacks can say.
He has completed 32 of his last 36 passes and his accuracy looks to be his greatest trait. His arm strength is questionable, though, especially when attacking the perimeter of a defense. But Rush isn’t bashful and will take shots downfield, often progressing from deep to short. He should back up Prescott ably for years to come.
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