Fantasy Files: QB Class of 2013

After I finish my 40 minutes or so on the elliptical (sorry, no Jesus/50 Shades gal, much to Matt Rittle’s chagrin), I have a clarity of mind that could be dangerous. Let’s see what I said today into my little iPhone recorder.

I was listening to the Rich Eisen podcast, which I don’t always do because it does what most podcasts do that are kind of long in that they have a little internal conversation to begin and either you really love that stuff or you hate it. I’m on the “hate it” side. Rich had Matt Taibbi on and I’m one of the few football freaks who also reads Matt’s Rolling Stone rants. Unlike me, he rants with facts.

In any case, they were talking about Eisen’s absolute glee when the New York Jets selected Geno Smith in the draft. He did it for the same reason why I hate-watched The Following. Sometimes a train wreck is so entertaining. I went on a mental tangent and thought about rookie quarterbacks and their usage.

Think about what the San Francisco 49ers did with Colin Kaepernick last year. It’s similar to what the University of Missouri did when Brad Smith was a senior and Chase Daniel was a freshman (they did it again when Daniel was a senior and Blaine Gabbert was the heir apparent). The team gave Daniel a series in the second quarter, when the game was in doubt and not in a fourth-quarter blowout situation, and it helped Daniel become a record-setter and Heisman finalist. When the 49ers put Kaepernick in against the Jets, running a bit of read-option, nobody expected him to be the guy taking the most critical snap of the NFL season in the Super Bowl a few months later.

How does one best “break” a young NFL quarterback? Russell Wilson, Andrew Luck, and RGIII all started from Day One, and all but Wilson were anointed starters from the first minicamp. All three led their teams to the playoffs. That’s a serious outlier. Usually a QB either stays exclusively on the sidelines or gets thrown out there. Think about Carson Palmer and Daunte Culpepper, two guys who didn’t play a snap in their “rookie” year and earned the starting gig the following season. Two years ago, the Titans signed Matt Hasselbeck to be the starter, but Jake Locker got a lot of playing time, and in non-blowout situations, which helped his development before last year’s shoulder injury.

This year’s rookie class seems more throwback. The success of last year’s crop (and Kaepernick feels like a fourth rookie) means that Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel may get those gigs before they are ready. Will it destroy them a la David Carr? We’re about to find out.

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