When Andrew Luck, the can’t-miss prospect from Stanford chosen first overall by the Colts, and Robert Griffin III, the the electrifying Heisman Trophy winner from Baylor taken second by the Redskins, walked across the stage at Radio City Music Hall last April, expectations had been raised that 2012 might provide a memorably great quarterback class. Yet the history of quarterbacks going first and second in NFL drafts suggested that one or the other would fail to live up to his considerable draft-night promise.
But Luck and Griffin were everything they were advertised to be — and perhaps more — as rookies last season. And when Russell Wilson, a less-celebrated third-round selection by the Seahawks out of Wisconsin, joined them in the NFL playoffs, the league had quite possibly its best season ever for rookie quarterbacks. Each set a rookie standard — Griffin had the highest passer rating ever, Luck had the most passing yards and Wilson tied the record for touchdown passes.
So that is the standard by which this year’s less-glittery rookie quarterback class, headed by West Virginia’s Geno Smith and Southern California’s Matt Barkley, will be judged.
Good luck with that.
“Compared to last year with all the guys at the top, I don’t think there’s anybody like that,” former NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck said. “But that doesn’t mean that nobody will go there.”
The current debate is whether any of the available quarterbacks are worthy of going in the first round Thursday night.
“Barkley is the most ready to play,” Casserly said. “With most of them, you could be talking about guys who end up being backup quarterbacks.”
The group does have its defenders.
“I’ve said from day one this quarterback class is better than everybody thinks it is,” Buffalo Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said at his team’s pre-draft news conference last week. “It’s better than the publicity that they get. And by that I mean there’s about five or six of those guys, maybe seven, that do a lot of things good and do them good enough to win. . . . I’ve said this from the start that two or three of these guys will be franchise quarterbacks. I believe that.”
Nix pointed out that there was relatively little pre-draft adulation, at least by quarterback-hype standards, last year for Wilson or the year before that for Colin Kaepernick, a second-round choice by the San Francisco 49ers in the 2011 draft from Nevada who took the team to the Super Bowl last season as a second-year pro.