5 best rookie quarterback seasons in NFL history

The NFL has boasted its share of excellent rookie quarterbacks throughout its history, especially over the last decade. Here are the five best.

Honorable mentions

Robert Griffin III, 2012

15 starts, 65.6% comp%, 3,200 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, five interceptions, 815 rushing yards, seven rushing touchdowns

The second overall pick, RG3 looked like the next big thing as a rookie. He was the definition of a dual-threat, leading the Washington Redskins to a 10-6 record and a playoff berth. The Redskins gave up a ton to draft him, but he appeared to be worth it. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury late in the season, and was rushed back for the playoff game, where he tore his MCL and ACL. Griffin never truly recovered, although he is still in the league as a backup for the Baltimore Ravens.

Dan Marino, 1983

Nine starts, 58.4% comp%, 2,210 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, six interceptions, 28 rushing touchdowns, two rushing touchdowns

Marino is one of the most prolific passers in league history, and that was evident from the start. He went 7-2 as a starter, as the Miami Dolphins Phinishedfinished 12-4, losing to the Seattle Seahawks in the divisional round of the playoffs. He set the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season with 48 in 1984, a mark that stood for 20 years.

Now, for the top five:

5. Baker Mayfield, 2018

13 starts, 63.8% comp%, 3,725 passing yards, 27 passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions

Mayfield, the first overall pick in 2018, was expected to sit behind Tyrod Taylor as a rookie. That changed late in Week 3, as Taylor suffered a concussion against the New York Jets and Mayfield stepped in, leading the Browns to a comeback win, their first victory since the 2016 season. He went 6-7 as a starter on the year, and broke the rookie passing TD record despite playing just 13.5 games. Considering what the Cleveland Browns had been prior to him taking over, Mayfield’s season was historic in more ways than one.

4. Cam Newton, 2011

16 starts, 60.0% comp%, 4,051 passing yards, 21 passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 706 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns

Newton was responsible for 35 touchdowns as an NFL rookie, and although his Carolina Panthers went 6-10, it was clear that he was the man to lead them for nearly a decade. Injuries have slowed him down, but there’s no way he should still be a free agent right now.

3. Russell Wilson, 2012

16 starts, 64.1% comp%, 3,118 yards, 26 passing touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 489 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns

When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round, the move was met with skepticism. Wilson had been a solid player for North Carolina State and Wisconsin, but he stood just 5’11”, and the team had just signed former Green Bay Packers QB Matt Flynn to a three-year deal worth $26 million.Wilson ended up beating out Flynn for the starting job in training camp, and has never looked back. He went 11-5 as a rookie and has never missed a game in his career, despite playing behind a consistently porous offensive line. He has never won fewer than nine games in a season, and is on his way to becoming an NFL Hall of Famer.

2. Dak Prescott, 2016

16 starts, 67.8% comp%, 3,667 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, four interceptions, 282 rushing yards, six rushing touchdowns

The 2015 Dallas Cowboys finished 4-12, and longtime franchise QB Tony Romo’s future was uncertain due to injuries and age. The team attempted to trade up for both Paxton Lynch and Connor Cook, but ended up settling for Prescott in the fourth round. Instead of a developmental backup, the Cowboys had found their next franchise guy. Prescott led Dallas to a 13-3 record, and although he has only one NFL playoff win in four years, with how rare franchise QBs are, the Cowboys cannot afford to lose him.

1. Ben Roethlisberger, 2004

13 starts, 66.4% comp%, 2,621 passing yards, 17 passing touchdowns, 11 interceptions, 144 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown

Roethlisberger didn’t have the statistical success of the others on this list, but winning is the ultimate goal, and he did that better than any other rookie QB in NFL history.

Taking over for the injured Tommy Maddox in Week 2, Roethlisberger went 13-0 as a starter, and sat out the final game of the 2004 campaign to rest for the playoffs, as the Pittsburgh Steelers finished 15-1. Roethlisberger also led his team to a win over the Jets in the divisional round before falling to the New England Patriots. His rookie year set the stage for a Super Bowl victory in 2005 and another in 2008. After suffering an injury last season and missing really the first significant time of his career, Roethlisberger is back for at least one more NFLrun in the Steel City.

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