Although Deshaun Watson lost in a shootout to Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks, the rookie quarterback from Clemson has been nothing short of spectacular for the Houston Texans. After a four-touchdown performance on Sunday, Watson now has the record for most touchdown passes in a player’s first seven NFL games with 19. We are only halfway through the season, and Watson already has the rookie record for most three-passing touchdown games in a season with four.
How was this man the third quarterback taken in the draft? How did the Browns not grab him first overall? More importantly, how was Tom Savage the original starter for the Texans? Nonetheless, Watson looks like a franchise quarterback, something that Houston has never seen before.
Will Watson finish his rookie season better than these standouts? Here, we have developed a list of rookie quarterbacks from the 2000s, who had stellar first seasons.
Ben Roethlisberger (2004)
13 starts: 13-0, 18 total TDs, 11 INTs, 66.4 comp. pct., 2,621 yards
It would be almost impossible for anyone to top what Big Ben did to start his professional career. Originally, Roethlisberger was the third quarterback on the depth chart, but the backup, Charlie Batch, went down with an injury in the preseason. Then Tommy Maddox suffered an injury in Week 2, giving the 11th overall pick from Miami (OH) a shot earlier than expected. After almost bringing the Steelers back in their Week 2 loss to Baltimore, Roethlisberger remained the starter for the rest of the season.
Big Ben wound up finishing the regular season with a 13-0 record as a starter. He helped end the New England Patriots record 21-game winning streak by throwing a pair of touchdowns and no turnovers in a 34-20 victory. The following game, Roethlisberger and the Steelers defeated the Philadelphia Eagles, who were 7-0 at the time. At the end of the season, Roethlisberger was unanimously selected as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Pittsburgh ended up losing to the Patriots, 41-27 in the AFC Championship Game. While Roethlisberger struggled and threw three interceptions, the Steelers had found their quarterback for years to come.
Vince Young (2006)
13 starts: 8-5, 19 total TDs, 13 INTs, 552 rushing yards, 2,199 passing yards
Unlike Roethlisberger, who played with an all-time great defense, Young joined a four-win Titans team after being selected third overall in the 2006 NFL Draft. After Kerry Collins was benched because of an 0-3 start, Young took over and excelled.
He went on to win eight of his thirteen games. Four of those eight wins were fourth-quarter comebacks, including the Titans 24-21 victory over Eli Manning and the Giants. After being down 21-0, Young rallied the troops and statistically had the best game of his career. He finished with 249 passing yards, two touchdowns, 69 rushing yards, and a passer rating of 107.9.
The following week against Eli’s brother Peyton, who had his Colts sitting at 10-1, Young led another come-from-behind win over Indianapolis. This was the first time in NFL history that a rookie quarterback led two 14-point or more comeback wins in the same season.
Due to a Philip Rivers injury, Young was named to the 2007 Pro Bowl. He would also go on to win the NFL Rookie of the Year.
Matt Ryan (2008)
16 starts: 11-5, 17 total TDs, 11 INTs, 61.1 comp. pct., 3,440 passing yards
The year before Ryan was selected, Atlanta finished 4-12. As a rookie, Ryan led the Falcons to an 11-5 record, which was good enough for a spot in the playoffs.
His first NFL pass resulted in a 62-yard touchdown to Michael Jenkins. He went on to become the first Falcons rookie quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards in a season. In the history of the NFL, only 12 quarterbacks have thrown for over 3,000 yards in their rookie season.
In his first playoff start, Ryan was up against Kurt Warner, who is 15 years older than Ryan. While Ryan threw a pair of touchdowns, the Falcons ultimately fell to Warner’s Cardinals 30-24. For his stellar regular season, Ryan was named AP NFL Rookie of the Year.
Cam Newton (2011)
16 starts: 6-10, 35 total TDs, 17 INTs, 60.0 comp. pct., 4,051 passing yards
Although Newton and the Carolina Panthers only managed to win six games, the Auburn star showed the world why he was the first overall pick in his draft class.
Right off the bat, he became the first rookie to throw for over 400 yards in his first career game. Newton also became the first rookie quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards.
“Superman” Cam was named the NFL Rookie of the Year, and was also an alternate, and later a member of the NFC Pro Bowl team.
Andrew Luck (2012)
16 starts: 11-5, 28 total TDs, 18 INTs, 4,374 passing yards
Just like Newton, Luck was selected first overall, and was immediately called on to start. The successor to Peyton Manning led the Colts into a Wild Card game, which they ended up losing to the Ravens.
During the season, Luck and the Colts upset Aaron Rodgers’ Packers on a game-winning touchdown pass, in which Luck found Reggie Wayne with 35 seconds left. In Week 9 against Miami, Luck threw for 433 yards, which became the new record for most yards in a game by a rookie quarterback. In a late December game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Luck broke the record for most passing yards in a season.
Russell Wilson (2012)
16 starts: 11-5, 30 total TDs, 10 INTs, 64.1 comp. pct., 3,118 passing yards, 489 rushing yards
Even after the addition of Matt Flynn, Russell Wilson was named the starting quarterback in August. Wilson helped the Seahawks reach 11 regular-season wins and earned his first playoff victory by defeating the Redskins 24-14 in come-from-behind fashion. In the divisional round, Wilson threw for 385 yards, but Seattle fell to Atlanta, 30-28.
Wilson finished the regular season with a passer rating of 100.0, which was good for fourth in the league. His 26 passing touchdowns tied Peyton Manning’s record for most touchdowns thrown by a rookie.
Robert Griffin III (2012)
15 starts: 9-6, 27 total TDs, 5 INTs, 65.6 comp. pct., 3,200 passing yards, 815 rushing yards
As a rookie, RG3 looked like the real deal. In his starting debut, Griffin threw for 320 yards and two touchdowns in a victory over the New Orleans Saints. He became the first rookie quarterback to be named NFC Offensive Player of the Week in a debut game. Griffin was also named September’s Offensive Rookie of the Month.
Following a bye week in November, the Redskins voted RG3 an offensive co-captain. After the nomination, in a game against the Eagles, Griffin became the first rookie in NFL history to throw for 200 yards, pass for four touchdowns, and rush for over 75 yards in a single game.
A lingering knee injury caused Griffin to slow down, and ultimately led to the end of the Redskins season, as Washington was defeated by Seattle in a Wild Card game. He would undergo surgery, and as we know, nothing was the same.
Still, Griffin was selected to the Pro Bowl, and also won the 2012 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award.
Dak Prescott (2016)
16 starts: 13-3, 29 total TDs, 4 INTs, 67.8 comp. pct, 3,667 passing yards, 104.9 quarterback rating
Tony Romo’s preseason injury changed Dallas forever. Romo now works for CBS, and Prescott is busy leading America’s team.
Last year, Prescott set the records for highest passer rating by a rookie quarterback (104.9) and highest touchdown to interception ratio (5.75:1). His 67.8 completion percentage was good for fourth in the league. Prescott was a major contributor to Dallas’ 11-game winning streak, spanning from Week 2-13.
The Cowboys won the NFC East, but were defeated by the Packers in the divisional round. In that loss to Green Bay, Prescott threw for 302 yards and had a quarterback rating of 103.2. His incredible season made him the obvious choice for NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. He edged out his teammate, Ezekiel Elliott, by seven votes.
Featured image from Bleacher Report
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