Robert Griffin III has proven thus far to be the top rookie quarterback of the 2012 NFL draft class, but does he have the inside track to a Super Bowl over his fellow rookies?
Given the team-wide struggles of the Cleveland Browns and Indianapolis Colts, we can rule Brandon Weeden and Andrew Luck out of this conversation. Neither team is close to contending for the playoffs, and it's going to be at least three years before their rosters are stocked with enough talent to do so.
Now that two of the five are out, let's take a look at the final three.
Super Bowls are won by elite quarterbacks these days.
The past nine have been won by Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees.
Judging the remaining three quarterbacks purely on their ability to play the quarterback position, RG3 has a clear edge over Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson.
At the midseason mark, here are a few stats that back up this assertion:
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Yds. Avg.||TD||INT||YPG||Passer Rating|
RG3 has a rocket of an arm, is extremely accurate, makes good decisions with the football and doesn't turn the ball over as much as his fellow rookies. He's the clear-cut leader when it comes to pure quarterback skills.
Overall Team Strength
Right now, Wilson has the best team around him, though the offense still has severe limitations in the passing game.
The Dolphins and Redskins both have some flaws on their roster: The Redskins can't stop anyone's passing game and give up over 28 points per game. The Dolphins don't have any reliable receivers for Tannehill and also struggle to stop opponents' passing attacks.
The Seahawks' defense is ranked No. 10 in yards allowed and No. 3 in points allowed. Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin and the running game are the focal point of the team's offense, and Wilson isn't asked to do nearly as much for his team as Tannehill and Griffin are for their respective teams.
At this point in their careers, Wilson has the best team, followed by Griffin and then Tannehill.
AFC vs. NFC
These days, the NFC is overcrowded with good teams, while the AFC is really ripe for the taking.
After Week 7, there are 10 NFC teams with a record of .500 or better and eight of those teams with a record of 4-3 or better.
Teams like the Minnesota Vikings, Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers and Atlanta Falcons are getting stronger every year on the NFC side, making it more difficult for an upstart team like the Redskins to bust into the playoffs as a wild card.
Plus, as long as Eli Manning is alive and kicking for the New York Giants, RG3 and the Redskins will have a tough time winning their division.
Over in the AFC, there are currently eight teams with a record of .500 or better, but only three of them have a record of 4-3 or better.
The teams we all associate with the AFC (New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers) are all reaching the tail end of their powers, leaving the door wide open for a team like the Dolphins to emerge.
Of the three rookies I'm including in this argument, RG3's chances to be the first quarterback to win the Super Bowl aren't good. There's simply too much competition in the NFC for me to believe he's going to lead his team to win a Super Bowl in the next five years.
I give Wilson just as much a chance to win the Super Bowl as Griffin, because the Seahawks have an excellent defense and Pete Carroll's roster gets better every year.
Tannehill has the clearest path to a Super Bowl. The Dolphins play tough defense, can run the ball and have put together a 3-3 record this season without the benefit of having a No. 1 receiver or a solid offensive line.
Tannehill has shown incredible toughness in the pocket, and once he has a couple more targets, both at the wide receiver position and at tight end, the Dolphins offense will be tough to stop.
Since the AFC is so wide open these days, the Dolphins could become contenders within another year or two, given a few wise draft choices and free agency acquisitions.