Two of the five rookie starters are definitely on a lower level than the other three, but we shouldn't take anything away from what they've been able to accomplish as such inexperienced signal callers. First, we have Ryan Tannehill, who drew a ton of criticism as the 8th overall selection in last year's draft. Those that were high on Tannehill even said that he was a raw prospect and would take some time to develop, but the Dolphins felt that he was their best option and started him right off the bat. He's led a team that went 6-10 last year to a 5-7 start to this season, and has Dolphins fans hopeful for the future. His numbers are far from impressive, with 2559 yards, seven touchdowns, and 12 interceptions, but that's in large part due to his inconsistency as a rookie. Tannehill has had an 86.0 quarterback rating or higher in half of his games this season. He still hasn't quite sold me long-term, but he's been better than I had expected so far.
Brandon Weeden of the Browns was another highly criticized pick, in large part due to his old age. Regardless, Weeden has led his team to a 4-8 record, which isn't very impressive, but when you consider that last year's team was 4-12, you have to think he's doing a decent job for a rookie. He's racked up 2820 yards - 2nd among rookies - and 13 touchdowns. He's improved the Browns' scoring output, and has the passing game no longer ranked in the bottom third of the league. With a scarcity of weapons to throw to, he's not doing too bad as a first year signal caller.
Now we can get to the top rookie quarterbacks, who have been turning heads and making headlines ever since opening weekend. Russell Wilson is the most intriguing of the three, as he is a 3rd round pick that dropped in the draft due to his height at 5'11''. All he's done to prove his doubters wrong is throw 19 touchdowns (most among rookies) and only eight interceptions (half as many as first overall pick Andrew Luck) while leading his team to a 7-5 record, positioning them well for the playoffs. His 95.2 quarterback rating is 7th best in the league, higher than Matt Ryan and Drew Brees.
Top pick Andrew Luck has been worth the hype, leading his Colts - who were 2-14 in 2011 - to an 8-4 record through the first three quarters of the season. His 3596 passing yards are good for 4th in the NFL, and he's racked up 17 touchdowns through the air. Probably his best statistic, however, would be his five game winning drives.
Regardless of how well he plays, Luck will forever be compared to Robert Griffin III, who has had just as impressive of a season. RG3's absurd 104.4 quarterback rating is 3rd best in the league, and he's already broken Cam Newton's rookie quarterback rushing record. He's thrown 17 touchdowns to only four interceptions, showing unprecedented poise and decision making for a rookie. He's led his team to three straight wins, putting them in playoff contention for the first time since 2008.
So, which one of these rookie studs is the best? Seahawks players will tell you it's Russell Wilson, but I'll have to disagree. Wilson has been fantastic, but the Seahawks are a team built on defense and the run game. They're ranked 4th in total defense, and 7th in rushing offense, allowing Wilson to game manage his way to victory. Wilson deserves a lot of credit for the Seahawks' 7-5 record, but as the signal caller in the league's 30th ranked aerial attack, he doesn't deserve too much credit.
The argument can be made that the numbers don't matter, and that Luck is better because he has his team at 8-4 and likely to make the playoffs. Not so fast... Griffin's offense scores more points than Luck's, and turns the ball over less - it's not Griffin's fault that the Redskins can't pull off more wins.
Though the Redskins and Colts are 23rd and 24th in scoring defense, the Colts' number is skewed by a couple of blowout losses. The Colts' defense has given up an average of 18.6 points per game in their eight wins - that number would ranked 5th in the league if they maintained it through their four losses. They've held opponents to 20 points or less in six of their eight wins. Luck hasn't had to put too many points on the board to win football games.
The Redskins have given up 22.2 points per game in their wins (and that's dragged down by a 31-6 win over the Eagles), which would rank 17th in the league if they maintained it in through their six losses, so Griffin has had to do more than Luck to earn his victories.
One final note: Griffin has almost no weapons to throw to. Pierre Garcon has been pretty good when on the field and healthy, but he's only played in six of the team's games and has been gimpy in a few of them. Luck's No. 1 receiver is a surefire Hall of Famer, and the receiving options around him (Avery, Hilton, etc.) are better than a washed up Santana Moss and some guy named Leonard Hankerson.
Don't get me wrong, I think Andrew Luck is exceptional and is having a historic season as a rookie quarterback, but Robert Griffin III would be having a historic season even if he wasn't a rookie. I can't think of a quarterback who ever ran like Griffin does while maintaining a quarterback rating of 100+. What RG3 is doing is ridiculous, and he may have a worse record than Luck, but I think he's had a more impressive season. Plus, the Redskins are one game back of the NFC East leaders with three of their final four games are against teams that have .500 records or worse, so absolutely do not count RG3 out of the postseason.