Three rookie quarterbacks were taken in the top eight picks of the 2012 NFL draft, and all have proven to some degree or another that they were worth the investment. In Week 6, all three of these new faces of franchises will guide their teams to victory—with divisional race and playoff implications to boot.
Here is an ascending order breakdown of how these instant impact, highly touted signal-callers will get it done in Sunday's action.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins vs. St. Louis Rams
After a disastrous debut in Houston—facing arguably the best defense in the league, unfortunately—the No. 8 overall pick looked lost.
Tannehill had his college offensive coordinator calling his plays, but perceptibly little talent at wide receiver—a position he stopped playing in favor of quarterback not long ago.
It seemed he might be the worst of all the QBs in his draft class. But then, Week 4 happened.
The Dolphins ultimately lost the contest 23-20 in overtime to the Arizona Cardinals, but Tannehill threw for an eye-popping 431 yards on what was thought to be one of the toughest secondaries in football.
Against Cincinnati on the road last week, Tannehill dropped the turnovers and played a very efficient game, leading his team to a 17-13 victory over a playoff-caliber Bengals team.
Suddenly, the Dolphins are just one game behind New England in the AFC East, and their new QB is improving exponentially week to week. Meanwhile, the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills are collapsing around them because of spotty quarterback play.
St. Louis is coming off an impressive home victory over the Cardinals, but their defensive line had a field day on what is probably the worst o-line in the NFL. Tannehill's mobility will combat that pressure, as will the Dolphins' strong rushing attack led by the electrifying Reggie Bush.
Pass defense is definitely Miami's weakness, but Rams QB Sam Bradford doesn't have his No. 1 target to throw to in Danny Amendola. The No. 1 rush defense in the league will be able to bare down on Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson, leaving St. Louis extremely limited offensively.
This is just a bad matchup for the Rams, who do have a strong secondary but are vulnerable against the run. As long as Tannehill takes care of the football, this low-scoring affair should get Miami back to .500 on the season.
Final score prediction: Dolphins 16, Rams 6
Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins vs. Minnesota Vikings
In Week 5, the rookie's feet gave out from under him, resulting in a vicious hit from Atlanta Falcons linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. However, Griffin seems to be testing well from the concussion he suffered, and should be ready to play against the surprising 4-1 Vikings.
An improving defense is starting to back up what has been a consistently potent Redskins offense orchestrated by RGIII. Second-year Minnesota QB Christian Ponder is much improved from a season ago, but began to show last week that he will force some bad throws.
Griffin is an exceptional decision-maker already, and the injury he suffered last week was more of a product of field conditions than his awareness to avoid a hit.
The Redskins have a top-10 rushing defense, letting up just under 88 yards per game. That should effectively put the ball in Ponder's hands. While the Washington secondary is among the worst in the league, it will essentially be up to Ponder to outscore Griffin.
I'd take my chances with the rookie, who will be playing behind an ecstatic home crowd eager to see him just one week removed from what could have been a long-term injury situation.
This is a game that the Redskins need to have to keep up in the competitive NFC East, while the Vikings are the shocking leaders of the North division and are due for a letdown.
It will be very close, but Griffin is unlike any quarterback Minnesota has had to deal with. One might point to their run defense as being more stout than the Redskins', but no team has been able to keep both Griffin and Morris in check yet this season. I'll believe that when I see it.
In an exciting battle of two young, athletic QBs, Griffin has a big game and adds another highlight to his stellar rookie campaign.
Final score prediction: Redskins 28, Vikings 24
Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets
Now to the No. 1 pick, who was deemed the most NFL-ready QB in over a decade by more than a few scouts.
I mentioned that all three of these rookie quarterbacks proved to some degree that they were worth the hype.
If last week's incredible, emotional comeback victory over the Green Bay Packers doesn't justify Luck's college legend and premier draft status, I don't know what possibly could.
Luck has certainly benefited from having Reggie Wayne as his go-to guy on the outside, but he has shown resolve in getting through the growing pains of a rookie. In just four short games, he has the Colts exceeding expectations.
This matchup marks the beginning of a three-game stretch that is very winnable for Indy. They take on the winless Cleveland Browns in Week 7, then travel to Tennessee to face the Titans in an AFC South showdown.
That's right, the 2012 Indianapolis Colts—preseason power ranking cellar dweller—could very easily be 5-2.
They must take care of business first against New York, whose season is seemingly falling apart due to a rash of key injuries and more bad quarterback play from Mark Sanchez.
If there is any opposing, non-rookie quarterback on the Colts' schedule who can definitely be counted as inferior to Luck already, it would have to be Sanchez.
Rex Ryan has to throw everything he possibly can at Luck, who dealt with Dom Capers' complex 3-4 schemes like a veteran in Week 5. Luck hasn't won on the road yet in the NFL, but this is as good of an opportunity as any. Plus, it could spur the Colts into playoff contention.
The injuries to Jets skill players such as tight end Dustin Keller and wide receiver Stephen Hill offset key injuries to the Indianapolis defense: linebackers Robert Mathis and Pat Angerer, and starting CB Vontae Davis.
Shonn Greene must get going against a weak Colts run defense, because putting the game in Sanchez's hands especially with a depleted supporting cast won't work well.
Combine that with the negativity that will ensue at home if Sanchez struggles, and this just seems like a case of two teams going totally opposite ways.
Barring a miraculous Tim Tebow fourth-quarter comeback special, Luck and the Colts will sit at 3-2.
Final score prediction: Colts 23, Jets 17
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