Three teams selected quarterbacks in the first round of this year’s NFL draft, with another taking a pass-thrower in Round 2. But there’s no guarantee we’ll see each quarterback debut during their respective rookie seasons.
Last year, five QBs were taken on Night 1 of the draft. Four of them were starting by Week 3 and the fifth took over in Week 11.
Here are the circumstances in which the first four passers drafted this year find themselves, and some educated guesses on if and when each will start in Year 1.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals
There’s little room for discussion here. Unlike last season, when the Cardinals had Sam Bradford starting in front of Josh Rosen, there’s no veteran mentor to stand in Murray’s way. The runway is clear for the No. 1 overall pick in April’s draft.
Head coach Kliff Kingsbury has suggested it’s no certainty Murray begins the season as the starting quarterback, offering only a “we’ll see.” His own general manager overruled him, though. As Steve Keim said in May, “we didn’t draft him No. 1 overall to ride the pine.”
Kingsbury is building his offense around the reigning Heisman Trophy winner. Expect Brett Hundley to be holding a clipboard in the season opener.
Prediction: Murray debuts Week 1 vs. Lions
Daniel Jones, Giants
Jones’ path to the starter’s job is far more challenging than Murray’s. The Giants have expressed optimal confidence in Eli Manning continuing as their starting quarterback. General manager Dave Gettleman said after the draft the team may employ the Brett Favre-Aaron Rodgers model, in which Jones sits on the bench “for three years.”
Manning’s performance in 2019 will determine how soon we see Jones. Head coach Pat Shurmur already put the onus on the veteran, telling him it’s his job “to keep this guy off the field.”
The Giants are in full rebuild mode. Though they’ll play a fourth-place schedule in 2019, they’re expected to struggle to compete. If New York is hovering around .500 and Manning is playing above his 2017 and 2018 numbers, the team will likely redshirt Jones.
New York does own a late bye week, an ideal scenario to grant Jones an extra week of preparation before taking over. It’s followed, however, by matchups with heavyweights Chicago, Green Bay, and Philadelphia in Weeks 12, 13, and 14. The Eagles contest is a Monday nighter, and it’s unlikely Jones would play Week 15 on a short week, even if it is against the lowly Dolphins.
If the season is lost late in the year, a softer start for Jones may come on the road against the Redskins, who could be starting a rookie quarterback of their own in 2019.
Prediction: Jones debuts Week 16 at Redskins
Dwayne Haskins, Redskins
If Haskins is to make his pro debut this season, he’ll have to beat out two veterans in training camp and overcome the protests of a franchise legend.
Joe Theismann believes Haskins should sit his rookie year, especially considering the Redskins’ early-season schedule. They open against the Eagles, Cowboys, Bears, Giants, and Patriots – a difficult stretch for even the most hardened quarterback.
Case Keenum, whom Washington acquired in a pre-draft trade, figures to start the year under center. Should he and the team play poorly through that opening stretch, the calls for Haskins should be loud and sustained by Week 6 when the Dolphins are on tap.
There’s little reason to rush the future of the franchise, especially a quarterback with just 14 college starts under his belt, but top QB prospects are rarely held back when they get to the pros.
Mitch Trubisky entered the league with 13 college starts and was under center for the Bears by Week 5 of his rookie season.
Prediction: Haskins debuts Week 6 at Dolphins
Drew Lock, Broncos
Lock was the lone quarterback taken in the second round of this year’s draft, and he makes this list because there exists a potential scenario in which the rocket-armed passer sees live action in 2019.
Broncos GM John Elway traded for Joe Flacco under the belief the 34-year-old veteran is just entering his prime. The expectation in Denver is for Flacco to start all 16 games and have the Broncos challenging for a playoff spot this upcoming season.
Their schedule, however, is unforgiving. The Broncos face the Bears, Packers, Jaguars, Chargers, Chiefs, Colts, and Browns – all before their Week 10 bye. The Vikings, Chargers, Chiefs, and Texans await afterward.
If the Broncos are out of the playoff picture by December, it’s possible the rookie finishes out the stretch against the Lions and Raiders. This is all dependent on Lock’s development through the year, of course.
Flacco is owed $20 million in 2020 and $24 million in 2021, but the Broncos could cut him without any dead money counting against their salary cap. They can pull the plug on the Flacco experiment at any time and start the clock on the Lock era.
Prediction: Lock debuts Week 16 vs. Lions