The 2015 NFL draft didn’t feature a massive number of quarterbacks who seem prepared to make the jump from college football to becoming starters in the NFL. With that said, though, there were two players who both have the potential to take the NFL world by storm immediately. While those two quarterbacks are obviously Jameis Winston (the top pick) and Marcus Mariota (the No. 2 pick), we now have one more interesting player to add to the mix.
When Geno Smith got “sucker punched” as Rich Cimini of ESPN explained, it meant that he would miss 6-10 weeks with a broken jaw. What makes the story even crazier is the fact that the whole thing apparently stemmed over a $600 debt he owed to linebacker IK Enemkpali.
While that’s pretty brutal for Smith, the question is, does this possibly open the door up for rookie quarterback Bryce Petty? In all honesty, that’s probably pretty unlikely, but he has a better shot at playing than the likes of Garrett Grayson, Brett Hundley and Sean Mannion do. Grayson finds himself squarely behind Drew Brees, while Hundley is learning from Aaron Rodgers. Lastly, Mannion is in St. Louis, where Nick Foles is getting strong early reviews.
So, that leaves us with three potential rookie quarterbacks who could expect to see playing time in 2015. How are they going to do?
1. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Buccaneers knew who they wanted when it came to the choice of Winston or Mariota. Winston is a vocal leader and he put up some incredible numbers as a freshman at Florida State. Best of all, as FOX Sports reported, he has already been named the starter. It’s not a huge surprise, because when you spend the No. 1 overall pick on a quarterback, you’re usually all-in on him.
So, should we expect to see the Winston who threw 40 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions in 2013, or the one who went for 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2014? He’s a tough man to figure, but if he really has spent massive amounts of time preparing for his NFL debut (and why wouldn’t he?) then we have to acknowledge that this is the type of competitor who comes out and almost refuses to accept any type of failure.
Winston will surely beat himself up over any mistakes early in his career, but it’s safe to figure that he ends up having a better season than Derek Carr did as a rookie in 2014. Carr threw for 3,270 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Winston may throw more interceptions than Carr did, but he may go for more yards and more scores as well, thanks to talented receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson.
Prediction: 3,800 yards, 25 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 2 rushing touchdowns
2. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
When the Tennessee Titans had drafted Marcus Mariota, it was widely known that Chip Kelly and the Philadelphia Eagles had made at least one, if not multiple offers for him. As Tony Manfred of Business Insider reported, the offer was even more outrageous than any NFL fan probably expected.
So what was the offer? Well, it included two first-round picks, a third-round pick, quarterback Sam Bradford (who they had just acquired), Fletcher Cox, Brandon Boykin and Mychal Kendricks. Jeff McLane of The Philadelphia Inquirer stated that Kelly said he never made the offer, but we all know at this point that it’s almost impossible to know whether or not that’s true.
Chip Kelly said that he didn’t offer players for the Titans’ No. 2 pick, only picks. Looked at the house, but never got out of the car.
— Jeff McLane (@Jeff_McLane) May 1, 2015
Obviously, the market for Mariota was a hot one. The Titans chose to hold off though, and they now officially have their future at the quarterback position. The question is, what will Mariota be able to do in his rookie season?
Based on what we saw from him in college, we know that Mariota does an excellent job of not turning the ball over. Through three seasons with the Oregon Ducks, Mariota threw a grand total of 14 interceptions, while tossing 105 touchdowns and rushing for another 29 scores. On paper, Mariota put up far better numbers than Winston did, but he played in the high-flying Oregon offense.
Mariota’s ability to avoid turnovers should continue into his rookie year, and it’s possible that he surprises many with his stat line, even if he doesn’t have the weapons that Winston has in Tampa. If Kendall Wright or Dorial Green-Beckham are able to step up, Mariota could rival Winston’s 25 touchdowns.
Prediction: 3,950 yards, 22 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, five rushing touchdowns
3. Bryce Petty, New York Jets
When the news broke that Geno Smith would be out 6-10 weeks, Jets fans probably got a bit excited about the potential for Petty to step up and lead this team. Unfortunately, it seems as though the Jets have no intent on bringing Petty into action this year. Ryan Fitzpatrick looks likely to get the nod as the starter for any time that Smith misses. That’s unfortunate news for Petty and the believers in his game, but it’s probably best for him in the long-term.
Even with all that being said, if Fitzpatrick struggles for the Jets, that it’s going to be tough for the team to not at least give Petty an opportunity. Smith could potentially miss until the week of October 20, which would leave him out until the sixth game of the season. While that’s not locked in, if Fitzpatrick can’t get the ball rolling for the Jets, Petty could very well see playing time.
We’re not saying Petty is going to come out and light the world on fire, but don’t be surprised to see him play in a couple of games this year before Smith returns. Even after that, he may get in some late season action also. His numbers are tough to predict, but we’ll give it a run here.