The 2017 NFL Draft didn't appear to be loaded with quarterbacks who could immediately make an impact in the NFL. Next year, names like Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen are already gaining a ton of hype. Those are the kind of players most bright NFL talent evaluators already believe will instantly find success at the next level — but the 2017 class had plenty of question marks.
The Chicago Bears signed Mike Glennon for a contract worth $19 million guaranteed, but then had a questionable move to trade up just one spot and select former North Carolina QB Mitchell Trubisky with the No. 2 overall pick.
Alex Smith has seemed to revamp his career in Kansas City, but the Chiefs surprised everyone when they also traded up and selected former Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes with the No. 10 overall pick. Word out of Chiefs' camp is that Mahomes has absolutely blown the coaching staff away. Smith better not slip up anytime soon.
Then we have the situation in Houston — a place that has been a capable QB away from being one of the top squads in the AFC — for what seems like the last five or so years. The Texans' brass has been high on Tom Savage since the Brock Osweiler plan failed — but then they made a trade to grab Clemson's Deshaun Watson (who I've always thought had the most upside of this class).
Finally, there's Cleveland, a franchise known for sabotaging the careers of young passers. There have been 29 starting quarterbacks for the Browns since the 1999 season, far more than any other franchise. Finally — Cleveland appears to be moving in the right direction by drafting young players and stockpiling picks. The Browns traded for Osweiler in the offseason and have been raving about him so far, but they also selected former Notre Dame signal caller DeShone Kizer in the second round who many believe is the future.
So here we are, with one preseason game behind us and tons of excitement swirling around each young QB. Suddenly it seems like all of their flaws, film breakdowns, maturity issues, poor mechanics and all of the critiques and criticisms that were made leading up to the NFL draft no longer exist.
Isn't it amazing what a few good practices and a decent showing in a preseason game can do?
So who's legit and who's not?
Here's my ranking of the four high-profile rookie QBs, in order of likelihood to start and find early success.
4. Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs
Preseason Game 1: 7-of-9, 49 yards passing, 1 touchdown
Patrick Mahomes first NFL passing touchdown! (Thought he was gonna run it in at first) pic.twitter.com/kEDFOmSJql
— James Murley (@Murley_33) August 12, 2017
Don't get me wrong here — I firmly believe Mahomes is the future in Kansas City. I also know Andy Reid is one of the smartest coaches in the NFL, and he has no reason to speed up Mahomes' progression as a NFL passer.
Mahomes shined in limited action in the Chiefs' preseason opener — only thickening the plot.
"He was, basically what he's been in the first part of training camp," Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star said. "Athletic, big arm, accurate, and raw."
Those are all positive signs and if Smith struggles, Mahomes could see the field sooner rather than later, but I still think it's going to be later. Smith is stable and has proven himself enough. We shall see.
3. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Preseason Game 1: 18-of-25 passing, 166 yards, 1 touchdown
Different league. Same result.
Mitch Trubisky is the real deal. pic.twitter.com/tSkQF0CpuQ
— Taylor Vippolis (@tvippolis) August 12, 2017
This one was a bit unexpected, but Trubisky put together the best outing of any of the high-profile rookie quarterbacks playing in preseason. The former UNC signal caller looked poised and confident — a far cry from him fumbling countless snaps under center a few weeks ago.
While I can see Trubisky being the long-term answer in Chicago, I still think it gets worse before it gets better. He will have both brilliant and head-scratching moments (assuming he's the starter) but there's just not much talent on the Bears' roster. It will take time — and I hope everyone in Chicago is patient.
Could Trubisky be the best QB of this class in 2017? Of course, especially if he starts all year.
2. Deshone Kizer, Cleveland Browns
Preseason Game 1: 11-of-18, 186 yards, 1 touchdown
This one has blown be away so far — and I can't say I saw it coming.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 11, 2017
Deshone Kizer looked fantastic in the Browns' preseason game against the Saints, and while it seems like the Cleveland coaching staff wants Brock Osweiler to work out, don't be shocked if the rookie gets early action.
Just take a few moments and break down this play from the Browns' young passer. This is veteran stuff — as he weaves away from pressure, sets his feet and still connects with Jordan Payton for a 45-yard touchdown.
When a kid looks this comfortable this early — it's hard not to think he could be special. Remember how Dak Prescott lit up the preseason stat sheet last year? It does matter.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly had tough criticism of Kizer coming into the NFL — and I'm not sure what his intentions were. It's an obvious practice to support your player even if he isn't ready, so that whole thing felt strange.
Kizer has all of the necessary tools. He might just be the franchise QB Cleveland has been starving for.
1. Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans
Preseason Game 1: 15-of-25, 179 yards passing, 3 rushes for 24 yards, one touchdown
— Chat Sports (@ChatSports) August 10, 2017
I never understood why Watson wasn't the top-rated QB of this year's class — and why there were 11 teams that passed on the former Clemson star. Sure, the new Texans' rookie is far from polished and there plenty of things that he can clean up, but for me, this comes down to one thing.
Watson shines in the biggest moments.
That's one of those intangibles you can't coach — and players either have it or they don't.
After a solid outing where Watson looked more than comfortable against the Panthers' backup defense — it sure seems like everyone is now hopping on the bandwagon. I don't want to say I told you so, but I did.
The Houston roster is loaded with talent and I think we all know Savage probably isn't the answer. It might not be Week 1 or Week 2, but Watson will be starting sooner rather than later.