Rookie quarterbacks are a mixed bag when it comes to starting in the NFL right away. Which one of the 2014 crop has the best chance to go first?
Blake Bortles – Jacksonville Jaguars
He was the first quarterback taken so that would have to make him the favorite, right? Not necessarily. Head coach Gus Bradley has said his primary goal is to get the entire Jacksonville Jaguars roster up to a winning level before focusing on quarterback. That can be translated to the idea he wants to wait until the offense is talented enough to handle a franchise player. Blake Bortles is a long-term investment. Bradley understands that. So he seems perfectly willing to hold the rookie in reserve for the time being while riding things out with veteran Chad Henne.
Johnny Manziel – Cleveland Browns
Don’t ask him the question because Johnny Manziel will tell you he believes he will start opening day for the Cleveland Browns. While his confidence is a good sign, reality tells a different story. Head coach Mike Pettine, his staff and the front office seem to have great confidence in veteran Brian Hoyer who went 2-1 for the team last season before tearing his ACL. There has even been talk of a contract extension for him. If Manziel were anywhere close to starting that wouldn’t be in their plans. As it stands Pettine seems to have his mind made up.
Teddy Bridgewater – Minnesota Vikings
There really is no clear-cut starter on the depth chart for the Minnesota Vikings. Head coach Mike Zimmer has tasked new offensive coordinator Norv Turner with sorting out the situation between veterans Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and rookie Teddy Bridgewater. Cassel and Ponder both started games during the 2013 NFL season. Cassel probably played better and seems like the early favorite for the lead job. However, Bridgewater is very much in the mix. He’s reportedly responding well in practice and has the confidence of coaches. Whether that’s enough to put him over the top remains to be seen.
Derek Carr – Oakland Raiders
The Oakland Raiders started their NFL off-season by going out to get a starting quarterback by trading for veteran Matt Schaub from Houston. The hope is that he could rebound from his tough year to lead a developing team back to relevance in the AFC West. Things seem on track for that plan to unfold, at least until Derek Carr began to foul them up. The rookie 2nd round pick was initially meant as insurance for the long-term, but his progress so far has exceeded expectations. Almost to the point where a few voices have offered the possibility that he may just unseat Schaub before the season begins.
Tom Savage – Houston Texans
In terms of sheer physical potential, there might not have been a more intriguing name floating around draft boards than Tom Savage. The Pitt product has the complete reptoire from a rocket arm to a 6’5″ frame, good mobility and understanding of a pro style offense. That is why the Houston Texans picked up, but not until the 4th round. Savage still has some issues to work through, which is why veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is currently favored to start in Houston. No changes seem imminent but preseason is still to come.
Zach Mettenberger – Tennessee Titans
Jake Locker seems like the odds on favorite to start for the Tennessee Titans. He played well last year before injuries took a toll on him. At the same time, if you ask rookie Zach Mettenberger his opinion there is no question. He plans to start week one. That’s pretty boastful for a 6th round pick still recovering from a torn ACL. If it were almost any other team he would sound crazy, but Mettenberger knows his situation. Confidence in Locker isn’t exactly strong, which tells him that if there is even a slight opening he’s going for it. Obviously health and absorbing the offense will be critical, but it sounds like half the battle is already won.