Which rookie QB will have the greatest impact in 2016?


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(Paxton Lynch photo courtesy of the University of Memphis)
(Carson Wentz photo from the Talk of Fame Network library)

Talk of Fame Network

Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t supposed to be ready as a rookie quarterback.

It’s a big jump from college to the NFL – and an even bigger jump from a small-school conference such as the MAC, where Roethlisberger played his college ball at Miami (Ohio). The Pittsburgh Steelers selected Roethlisberger with the 11th overall pick of the 2004 draft and were content to let him sit and watch for a year behind Tommy Maddox.

But an injury to Maddox put Roethlisberger on the field in September, and he would not give the job back. He went 13-0 as a rookie and wound up winning the Super Bowl in his second season. Roethlisberger has now taken Pittsburgh to three Super Bowls, winning two of them.

Rookie quarterbacks can have immediate impacts. Andrew Luck took the Indianapolis Colts to a 11-5 record and a division title in his rookie season in 2012. Russell Wilson also took the Seattle Seahawks to an 11-5 record that same season.

So which rookie will have the biggest impact in 2016? Some may open the season as the starter, some may come off the bench – but there will be opportunities for these quarterbacks as rookies. And that’s the subject of our Talk of Fame Network poll this week – which rookie quarterback will have the greatest impact? Here are your six options, all draftees:

Connor Cook, Oakland, 4th round. The surprising slider in this draft. Cook was a three-year starter, the Unitas Award winner as the nation’s top senior quarterback in 2015 and Michigan State’s all-time leading passer. He posted a career 34-5 record with bowl victories over TCU, Stanford and Baylor, Big Ten title game victories over Ohio State and Iowa and a regular-season victory over Oregon. He passed for 9,194 yards and 71 career touchdowns. He arrives in Oakland behind Derek Carr on the depth chart.

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(Connor Cook photo courtesy of Michigan State University)

Jared Goff, LA Rams, 1st round. Goff was Cal’s all-time leading passer even though he elected to skip his senior season to turn pro. It was the right decision – the Rams traded a king’s ransom (six premium draft picks) for the right to select him with the first overall pick of the draft. Goff passed for 500 yards in a 2013 game against Washington State and five other 400-yard games. He passed for 12,220 yards and 96 touchdowns in his college career but won only 15 of his 36 starts.

Christian Hackenberg, NY Jets, 2nd round. Like Cook and Goff, Hackenberg left Penn State as his school’s all-time leading passer. But his stock was on the decline after a superb freshman season under Bill O’Brien when he passed for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns. But O’Brien left for the NFL the following season and Hackenberg never again reached those heights in the offense of James Franklin. He wound up starting all 38 games of his career, but his 48 TD passes were offset by 31 interceptions. He posted a 21-17 record as a starter.

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(Christian Hackenberg photo from the Talk of Fame Network library)

Paxton Lynch, Denver, 1st round. Like Hackenberg and Goff, Lynch elected to skip his senior season to turn pro and was rewarded with a first-round selection by the defending Super Bowl-champion Denver Broncos on a trade up. And the Broncos just so happen to have a vacancy at the quarterback position with the retirement of Peyton Manning. Lynch passed for 8,865 career yards with 59 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. In 2015 he took the Tigers to their first 10-win season since the 1930s and left Memphis with a 22-16 career record.

Dak Prescott, Dallas, 4th round. The Cowboys tried and failed to trade up for both Lynch in the first and Cook in the fourth before settling on Prescott. He left Mississippi State as the school’s all-time leading passer and brings to Dallas the best set of legs at the quarterback position since Roger Staubach. Prescott rushed for 2,521 career yards and 41 touchdowns.  He also passed for 9,376 yards and 70 touchdowns and twice won the Conerly Award as the best college player in the state of Mississippi. He posted a 23-10 career record. He arrives in Dallas behind Tony Romo on the depth chart.

Carson Wentz, Philadelphia, 1st round. Like the Rams, the Eagles traded a king’s ransom (five premium picks) to the Browns for the right to select Wentz with the second overall pick of the draft. Wentz was a two-year starter, a two-time captain and a two-time MVP of the FCS championship game MVP. Like Roethlisberger, he’ll be making the biggest jump in competition in this class. He passed for 5,115 yards and 45 touchdowns and rushed for another 928 yards and 13 scores in his career. He posted a 20-3 record.

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