Remember that one time three years ago when rookie quarterbacks actually mattered for a change? Since Andrew Luck, RG3 and Russell Wilson burst onto the scene in 2012 we’ve had but one 20-TD rookie season from a quarterback—Derek Carr sneaking across the line with 21 for Oakland last year.
Despite these recent foibles, NFL teams used the first two picks of the 2015 Draft on potential franchise quarterbacks. Fantasy owners don’t seem to be drinking the same Kool-Aid, given where Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota are falling in most dynasty drafts. Nonetheless, a rundown of the fantasy prospects for this year’s rookie quarterbacks class is in order.
JAMEIS WINSTON, BUCCANEERS 1.1 (FLORIDA STATE)
After wading through enough off-the-field red flags to lead a parade, the Buccaneers got comfortable with Winston as the face of their franchise and made him the first overall pick. He should open the season as Tampa Bay’s starter, with Mike Glennon his only impediment to playing time, and the Bucs have a solid group of receivers anchored by last year’s first-round pick Mike Evans. The Bucs also lack a solid ground game, which should put even more of the offensive onus on Winston. A modest upgrade to the production of Glennon and Josh McCown is to be expected, though that still leaves Winston shy of fantasy starter status. Those in leagues that dock points for interceptions may want to avoid Winston entirely, as his penchant for picks was the biggest on-field quibble scouts have with his game.
MARCUS MARIOTA, TITANS 1.2 (OREGON)
The Titans rejected offers from other interested parties and made Mariota the second overall selection behind Winston, ostensibly to replace incumbent Zach Mettenberger. That means Mariota will have to quickly digest what has been projected to be a steep learning curve in making the transition from spread offense to the pro game, picking up nuances like calling plays in the huddle and taking snaps from under center. On the bright side, Mariota will have an athletic group of pass catchers that includes holdovers Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter and fellow draft pick Dorial Green-Beckham. Plus you should be able to bank on some rushing stats from Mariota, as all Tennessee’s backfield brings to the table is Bishop Sankey, Shonn Greene and fifth-rounder David Cobb. If Mariota can put up Colin Kaepernick-Cam Newton rushing numbers—something along the lines of 500-600 yards and four or five TDs—all he would need to do is match Tennessee’s pedestrian passing numbers from a year ago to push for every-week fantasy starter status.
BRETT HUNDLEY, PACKERS 5.11 (UCLA)
Widely considered the third-best quarterback in this draft class, Hundley lasted until the fifth round and will get to train under Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay—a path to success that has worked for the likes of Matt Hasselbeck, Mark Brunell and others. Hundley has all the physical tools to be an NFL quarterback; it’s issues like accuracy and progressions that gave scouts pause. Worst-case he’s talented insurance for a Packers team that has struggled mightily when Rodgers has been injured; best-case he develops into a starter-level quarterback who nets Green Bay a tidy ROI—or allows the Pack to once again transition seamlessly from one franchise quarterback to another.
BRYCE PETTY, JETS 4.4 (BAYLOR)
While no other rookie signal caller is likely to see significant playing time this season, Petty has the clearest path to the field as New York’s new management is not beholden to Geno Smith. Petty faces the same learning curve as Mariota, but he has NFL-caliber size, arm and intangibles so he’s worthy of later dynasty consideration.
GARRETT GRAYSON, SAINTS 3.11 (COLORADO STATE)
The first quarterback off the board after Winston and Mariota went 1-2, Grayson is a functional quarterback with good mobility who gets to study under Drew Brees and Sean Payton. If the Saints are transitioning to a run-heavy offense Grayson might be their quarterback of the future, which is hardly a ringing fantasy endorsement.
SEAN MANNION, RAMS 3.25 (OREGON STATE)
Mannion isn’t going to carry a team, but he has the size (6-6, 229) NFL teams love and is capable of doing enough to warrant a “game manager” label. With development he could be the guy handing off to Todd Gurley at some point down the road, though that doesn’t project to much in the way of fantasy reward.