2017 NFL Rookie Quarterback Rankings

I’ve watched all of the preseason games thus far and have written about them in my Preseason Recap page. In my write-ups, I’ve discussed fantasy football implications and broken down how most of the rookies have looked. While doing so, it dawned on me that it might be interesting to rank the rookie quarterbacks (those chosen in the first five rounds) and assign grades to how they’ve performed and handled themselves this offseason.

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Updated Aug. 21

  1. Mitchell Trubisky, Bears. Grade: A
    PRESEASON WEEK 3 ANALYSIS: Mitchell Trubisky played most of the second half. He finished 10-of-15 for 128 yards and a touchdown, but did not get off to a good start. He missed Kendall Wright in the flat on his initial throw, then overshot Kevin White while under heavy pressure. Trubisky tossed some dump-off passes to his running backs on the next possession, but was nearly intercepted while staring down his receiver. He was also whistled for a delay-of-game penalty on a fourth-and-1 attempt, thanks to some confusion prior to the intended snap. However, Trubisky improved after that. He hit a receiver for a 12-yard strike on the third drive, then launched a 45-yard touchdown bomb to Tanner Gentry. Trubisky looked calm in the pocket and went through his progressions. It wouldn’t surprise me if he made a start for the Bears prior to mid-season.

    PRESEASON WEEK 2 ANALYSIS: Mitchell Trubisky finished 6-of-8 for 60 yards and a touchdown. He played well, but regressed a bit in his second game. Trubisky took two bad sacks on his initial drive. He was worse on the second possession, as he should’ve thrown an interception. Cornerback Brandon Williams, who has made some strides since struggling last year, appeared to catch the pick at first glance, but the officials correctly noticed that the ball hit the ground. The third drive concluded with a touchdown, but all Trubisky did was throw two short passes to open players on bootlegs. Trubisky made some nice throws and quick decisions, but he looked like a rookie this time. Inconsistency is to be expected, however.

    PRESEASON WEEK 1 ANALYSIS: Mitchell Trubisky’s final numbers in his debut were 18-of-25 for 166 yards and a touchdown to go along with 38 rushing yards on three scrambles. He was even better than those stats indicate. He was poised in the pocket on most occasions, and his accuracy was remarkable for a quarterback seeing his first NFL action. I know it’s just the preseason, but we’ve seen rookie signal-callers struggle in exhibition games before. This result should not be ignored, and the Bears need to start Trubisky in the season opener if he keeps performing like this.

  2. DeShone Kizer, Browns. Grade: B
    PRESEASON WEEK 3 ANALYSIS: DeShone Kizer was named the starter this week over the struggling Brock Osweiler. Kizer definitely made Hue Jackson look like a very smart man based on this performance. Kizer finished 6-of-18 for 93 yards and an interception. However, he played much better than those figures indicate. Kizer didn’t open well, as he overthrew Corey Coleman. However, he fired an on-target ball to Kenny Britt for 13 yards after that on a third-and-8. He followed that up with a 32-yard completion to Coleman, who made a great diving reception. On the following drive, Kizer used his strong arm to complete a pass to Coleman for 11 yards from the back of his own end zone. Kizer read the defense well after that, launching a ball to Coleman for 13 yards on third-and-9. Kizer then completed a pretty back-shoulder throw to Coleman for 16, but Coleman was flagged for offensive pass interference. That led to an interception; on third-and-15, Kizer took a shot rather than dumping the ball off safely. He stared down his receiver, allowing the underneath coverage to tip the pass, which was picked by Vernon Hargreaves.

    Overall, I thought Kizer deserved a B+ or so for this performance. He made some great throws and wasn’t shy about gunning the ball downfield, which is exactly what Hue Jackson wants out of a quarterback. Kizer still needs to work on the mental aspect of his game, but he’ll be able to improve in that regard under Jackson’s tutelage. It’s also worth noting that this game was played in pouring rain, so that may have affected some of the throws. Kizer’s numbers could’ve been better anyway had some of the drops not occurred.

    PRESEASON WEEK 2 ANALYSIS: DeShone Kizer finished 8-of-13 for 74 yards. He was potent on the ground – five scrambles, 35 rushing yards, one touchdown – so it wasn’t all bad. However, Kizer showed that he’s not ready to start. Kizer showed off his arm strength early on with a strike to Corey Coleman for 20 yards. The Browns were moving the chains, but Kizer took a bad sack on a third down because he held the ball way too long. He was then very fortunate that he wasn’t intercepted on a late throw across the middle. Kizer was nearly picked again later. He telegraphed the pass, allowing the cornerback to jump the route. The Browns kept the ball on a penalty, but Kizer then overthrew Njoku for what should’ve been a 54-yard touchdown.

    PRESEASON WEEK 1 ANALYSIS: DeShone Kizer went 11-of-18 for 184 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL action. Kizer’s best drive was his third, as he opened it by eluding a heavy pass rush to find a receiver for a gain of 12. He took a sack after that, but he made up for it by launching a deep bomb for 52 yards. His receiver was tackled inches short of the goal line, so Kizer nearly had two touchdowns in this contest. Later, the Browns were down 14-13 with about 4:30 remaining, so Kizer had one final chance to win the game. Things weren’t looking good when he was stuck in a second-and-17 and a third-and-24, but Kizer got out of both situations with some deep completions. He was late on a pass that was overthrown, but he shook it off to connect on a 45-yard touchdown bomb to Jordan Payton, which was the decisive score. Kizer played against scrubs, but he looked like Cleveland’s best quarterback in this game.

  3. Deshaun Watson, Texans. Grade: B
    PRESEASON WEEK 3 ANALYSIS: Deshaun Watson finished 11-of-21 for 116 yards and an interception. Watson didn’t play well, but he should consider himself extremely fortunate that he wasn’t picked three times. He was nearly threw an interception while under heavy pressure. He lobbed a pass off his back foot into double coverage, and he was very lucky that the pass wasn’t picked. On the initial throw on the second drive, Watson hurled a pass off his back foot while under pressure, and a New Orleans player dropped a possible interception. Watson was finally picked later, as a pass of his was way too high.

    PRESEASON WEEK 2 ANALYSIS: Deshaun Watson finished 3-of-10 for 102 yards. He also had four scrambles for 10 yards and a rushing touchdown. Watson’s accuracy woes were on display in this contest, and most of his yardage came via explosive plays by his teammates. He initially completed a pass to Dres Anderson, but had bad ball placement; Anderson could’ve run for more yardage had the throw been more accurate. After a nice scramble, Watson overshot Anderson in the end zone, forcing the Texans to try a field goal. Things got worse after that; Watson had Ellington open for a first down, but was off the mark with his throw. Houston was forced to punt as a result. Watson was then nearly picked on his next possession because of an underthrown downfield pass. Watson began his final drive the same way; he was off on a heave to Chris Thompson. However, he fit the ball through a tight window to D’Onta Foreman that would’ve been an intermediate gain had Foreman not exploded for 63 yards. Foreman didn’t quite reach the end zone, but Watson did, eluding a defender on a scramble.

    PRESEASON WEEK 1 ANALYSIS: Deshaun Watson finished 15-of-25 for 179 yards to go along with three scrambles for 24 rushing yards and a touchdown on the ground in his NFL debut. He had a solid performance overall. He made some great plays and did a good job of buying time to avoid pressure for the most part. He also looked very poised in the pocket and was able to diagnose some of Carolina’s blitzes. However, his downfield accuracy wasn’t very good, and this was something several teams were concerned about leading up to the 2017 NFL Draft. Still, Houston should feel very optimistic about Watson’s debut. He needs to start over Tom Savage, who continued to be horrible in the same game.

  4. Patrick Mahomes, Chiefs. Grade: B
    PRESEASON WEEK 3 ANALYSIS: Patrick Mahomes had a mixed showing in his third preseason game. He barely completed half of his passes, going 8-of-15 for 70 yards, but he performed better than the stat line suggested. Mahomes was able to lead the Chiefs down the field on his third drive. He began with a couple of ugly passes – one over a receiver’s head; another behind the target – but he converted a third-and-10 while stepping up in the pocket. He then made his best throw of the evening, a 19-yarder in between three defenders while under heavy pressure. Mahomes, however, showed poor mechanics on his next attempt, as he was drifting in the pocket on a downfield shot, which sailed over his target’s head. Mahomes nearly threw a touchdown twice after that, but one ball was dropped, while the other was incomplete because his tight end couldn’t get both feet inbounds despite Mahomes delivering a ball on the player’s back shoulder.

    PRESEASON WEEK 2 ANALYSIS: Patrick Mahomes played for just a couple of drives in his second game. He finished 10-of-14 for 88 yards and two touchdowns along with 29 rushing yards on three scrambles. He still needs to work on some mechanical issues, but the upside is certainly apparent. Mahomes started off poorly, as he was nearly intercepted because he waited too long to release the ball. He almost scored on a scrambling touchdown, but was ruled down at the 2-yard line following a replay review. Mahomes managed to find Demetrius Harris for a 1-yard score off play-action. On the next possession, Mahomes made a dangerous pass, strongly throwing the ball into tight coverage. He improved after, however, converting a third-and-14 for a first down by buying time in the pocket. Mahomes followed that up with another touchdown on a screen. It was disappointing not to see him play more.

    PRESEASON WEEK 1 ANALYSIS: Patrick Mahomes finished 7-of-9 for 49 yards and a touchdown. It was a solid debut, and the numbers could’ve been much better if it wasn’t for a couple of penalties; he launched a 40-yard bomb on his first attempt that was complete, but the play was negated by a hold. Mahomes has since moved ahead of Tyler Bray on the depth chart. Kansas City fans have plenty to be excited for in the future.

  5. C.J. Beathard, 49ers. Grade: B-
    PRESEASON WEEK 3 ANALYSIS: C.J. Beathard played four drives in his third preseason game. We can’t look at the final stats because they were skewed by one play. Beathard went 7-of-13 for 159 yards, one touchdown and an interception, but 87 of those yards came on a short checkdown to Raheem Mostert on a third-and-23 play. Without that reception, Beathard was 6-of-12 for 72 yards, which is more indicative of how he performed. Beathard had some ball-placement issues, though the interception wasn’t his fault because the ball popped out of the receiver’s hands and into the arms of a Viking player. Beathard passed behind two targets on his second drive. He then launched a ball over George Kittle’s head and followed that up by overshooting another receiver. Beathard’s best throw was on his final possession when he gunned a pass to Trent Taylor on a third-and-long to gain 18 yards.

    PRESEASON WEEK 2 ANALYSIS: C.J. Beathard had a solid debut, and he followed that up with another good performance. Beathard finished 7-of-12 for 110 yards and a touchdown. On his second drive, Beathard fired completions of 39 and 29 yards, though his receivers had more to do with those big gains than he did. Beathard, however, didn’t make many mistakes. One error occurred when he overthrew an open receiver downfield, but that was pretty much it. I can’t decide yet whether or not I view Beathard as a capable starter down the road, but he’s at the very least going to be a solid No. 2 quarterback.

    PRESEASON WEEK 1 ANALYSIS: C.J. Beathard played the entire second half against the Chiefs. Things didn’t start well for him, as he took some bad sacks, but he caught fire in the fourth quarter, throwing two scores, one of which was a 46-yarder. Beathard finished 7-of-11 for 101 yards and two touchdowns.

  6. Nathan Peterman, Bills. Grade: C+
    PRESEASON WEEK 3 ANALYSIS: Nathan Peterman had a golden opportunity to take the job away from a Tyrod Taylor, as he was given the chance to play with the starters once Taylor was knocked out with a concussion. Unfortunately for Peterman, he failed to seize the job. He struggled for the most part, finishing 11-of-23 for only 93 yards. Peterman had some bad luck early, as a nice back-shoulder pass to Zay Jones was dropped. He also had two completions to Charles Clay and Jones negated by penalty. Things got worse after that though, as Peterman was nearly intercepted while under pressure. He heaved the ball while falling down, which was a rookie mistake. Peterman then threw behind Andre Holmes, and he did the same thing on a pass to Clay on a third down. Peterman was nearly guilty of another interception later, firing way behind Jones while under pressure. It wasn’t all bad for Peterman, as he and Jones drew a pass interference in the end zone. Peterman also saw three of his passes dropped, so his numbers could’ve been better. However, he looked overwhelmed playing against a starting defense for the first time. He’s not ready, but he’ll be Buffalo’s best option if Taylor misses time with a concussion.

    PRESEASON WEEK 2 ANALYSIS: Nathan Peterman finished 10-of-20 for 167 yards. He took a step backward this week from his strong debut, but he still played well at times. He was inconsistent, but that’s to be expected from a mid-round rookie. Peterman opened his evening with an inaccurate pass to Nick O’Leary, but he then fired a precise strike to his tight end down the seam, in between two defenders. Peterman then sailed a pass over O’Leary’s head in the flat, but then showed nice touch on a lob to Zay Jones in between the cornerback and safety for 10 yards. Peterman followed that up by nearly hitting Jones for a touchdown with an accurate fade pass, but Jones was able to get just one foot inbounds. Peterman struggled after that, however, as he missed Brandon Tate in the flat, then threw the ball late across the middle, which fell incomplete. Peterman then fumbled the ball, but was able to pounce on it.

    PRESEASON WEEK 1 ANALYSIS: Nathan Peterman saw action toward the end of the preseason opener, playing behind Taylor and T.J. Yates. Based on Peterman’s performance tonight, he could pass the pedestrian Yates in the near future. Peterman finished 13-of-25 for 112 yards and a touchdown to go along with four scrambles for 26 rushing yards. The completion percentage isn’t pretty, but Peterman had to throw away some passes because of pressure, and a fourth-down drop in the red zone was a real killer.

  7. Davis Webb, Giants. Grade: C-
    PRESEASON WEEK 3 ANALYSIS: Davis Webb saw limited action, completing 2-of-4 passes for 20 yards. His first pass was late across his body that the coaches certainly couldn’t have liked. Webb followed that up by heaving a ball out of bounds toward a receiver, and then he was nearly picked on a late, inaccurate throw, which would’ve been intercepted had a Giants receiver not knocked the ball out of Marcus Williams’ hands.

    PRESEASON WEEK 2 ANALYSIS: Did not play (coach’s decision).

    PRESEASON WEEK 1 ANALYSIS: Davis Webb didn’t get more playing time in the preseason opener. He entered the game midway through the fourth quarter, overthrowing his receiver on his first pass, being nearly intercepted in the process. He followed that up with a throw behind his running back. Webb got into a groove after that, finishing 8-of-16 for 67 yards. One incompletion was dropped; another was thrown away. Webb didn’t play poorly, but he didn’t look like anything special either. He’s a raw player, who needs lots of development.

  8. Brad Kaaya, Lions. Grade: C-
    PRESEASON WEEK 3 ANALYSIS: Brad Kaaya threw just two passes. One sailed over a receiver’s head, while the other was an embarrassing throw, where Kaaya had a guy wide open for about 15 yards, but floated the ball out of bounds. PRESEASON WEEK 2 ANALYSIS: Brad Kaaya saw more playing time this week, going 4-of-7 for 38 yards. His best play was throwing Jared Abbrederis open when he fired a back-shoulder pass to his wideout that was complete for 14 yards. Kaaya did a good job of recognizing the blitz on his final throw, passing it to the correct receiver for a 9-yard gain that put the team in field goal range. However, Kaaya also took a sack once because he held the ball too long. Kaaya’s real test will be in two weeks, as I imagine he’ll play at least an entire half of the final preseason game.

    PRESEASON WEEK 1 ANALYSIS: Brad Kaaya got some action in the fourth quarter of the preseason opener. The sixth-round rookie was once considered a first-round prospect by some, but he had a woeful 2016 campaign and slipped in the draft. Kaaya didn’t play poorly in his debut, but he didn’t do anything special either. He threw short of the line to gain on a third-and-6 on his first drive. Kaaya tossed a touchdown on the next possession, but it was a short pass, which receiver Dontez Ford turned into a score with some broken tackles. Kaaya later had an 11-yard completion wiped out by penalty, and then a drop ruined the possession. Kaaya went 8-of-11 for 71 yards and a touchdown in his first NFL appearance.

  9. Josh Dobbs, Steelers. Grade: D+
    PRESEASON WEEK 3 ANALYSIS: Josh Dobbs entered the game late in the fourth quarter. He was nearly picked on his first play, and then he dropped the shotgun snap. He was able to recover the ball, but took a 10-yard loss. Dobbs finished 4-of-7 for only 24 yards. One incompletion was a failed Hail Mary.

    PRESEASON WEEK 2 ANALYSIS: Josh Dobbs finished 10-of-19 for only 70 yards and the pick. The completion percentage is not ideal, and his YPA was an atrocious 3.68. Dobbs looks like he needs several years of development, but I still think he’s better than Landry Jones. Dobbs fumbled early on a blind-side hit by Grady Jarrett. He then spent most of the remainder of the opening half tossing ineffective checkdowns. Dobbs had opportunities to go downfield, including right before halftime, but he settled for an inaccurate short lob to a running back. Dobbs finally took some deep shots in the third quarter. A receiver of his dropped a gain of 15, and Dobbs was then nearly intercepted because he threw the ball too late. He also fumbled, but a penalty nullified it. His worst play occurred when he was being brought down for a sack. He desperately heaved the ball up for grabs before his body hit the ground, and the pass was picked off.

    PRESEASON WEEK 1 ANALYSIS: Josh Dobbs went 8-of-15 for 100 yards against the Giants. However, he threw two interceptions. The initial pick was an underthrown pass amid pressure, while the second occurred because Dobbs didn’t see Devin Taylor, who dropped into coverage. Dobbs has some potential, but is a major project. Still, he seems better than the anemic Landry Jones, who didn’t even play in this contest.

  10. Chad Kelly, Broncos. Grade: INC
    PRESEASON WEEK 3 ANALYSIS: Chad Kelly missed the third week of the preseason with a wrist injury.

    PRESEASON WEEK 2 ANALYSIS: Chad Kelly missed the second week of the preseason with a wrist injury.

    PRESEASON WEEK 1 ANALYSIS: Chad Kelly missed the first week of the preseason with a wrist injury.

As a reference, here were my final preseason grades for the 2016 rookie quarterbacks (did not do this last year):

Dak Prescott – A+
Paxton Lynch – B
Connor Cook – B
Jacoby Brissett – B
Cardale Jones – B-
Carson Wentz – C+ (only played the first game)
Jared Goff – C
Cody Kessler – C-
Christian Hackenberg – D
Kevin Hogan – F

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