As I mentioned in my 2012 Fantasy Rookie QB Preview, back in September, a rookie quarterback helping out in Fantasy Football play was a rare sighting. While a handful of good quarterbacks have helped Fantasy teams over the past few decades, seeing two Fantasy quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck become top 12 Fantasy QBs in their first year is unheard of.
Let’s look at the top 12 rookie QB Fantasy seasons of the past two decades. (We would have gone back further, but NFL stats weren’t separated for rookies before 1991.)
Top 12 NFL Fantasy Rookie QBs Through 2012
(Players in bold indicate they are still in their rookie season.)
1. Cam Newton, Carolina — 2011 – 366 Fantasy points
2. Robert Griffin III, Washington – 2012 — 305 Fantasy points
3. Andrew Luck, Indianapolis – 2012 – 270 Fantasy points
4. Russell Wilson, Seattle – 2012 — 255 Fantasy points
5. Andy Dalton, Cincinnati — 2011 — 211 Fantasy points
6. Vince Young, Tennessee — 2006 — 207 Fantasy points
7. Peyton Manning, Indianapolis — 1998 – 203 Fantasy points
8. Matt Ryan, Atlanta – 2008 — 195 Fantasy points
9. Sam Bradford, St. Louis — 2010 – 194 Fantasy points
10. Joe Flacco, Baltimore – 2008 — 180 Fantasy points
11. Rick Mirer, Seattle — 1993 — 179 Fantasy points
12. Ryan Tannehill, Miami — 2012 — 178 Fantasy points
Top Rookie Quarterbacks by Year Since 1991
1991 – Todd Marinovich (RoboQB) had three touchdown passes, but no rookie QB had more than 56 pass attempts that season!
1992 – Tommy Maddox, the future XFL MVP, led rookie signal-callers with 757 passing yards and five touchdowns. That’s it.
1993 – Finally, some rookie QB Fantasy help. Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer both threw for over 2,400 yards and 12 touchdowns. (I actually drafted Mirer in our Fantasy Rookie Draft that year as a keeper … Not smart with Jerome Bettis available.)
1994 – Future politician Heath Shuler led his rookie class with 1,658 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. (Trent Dilfer was busy throwing six interceptions in 82 attempts for my creamsicle Buccaneers.)
1995 – Kerry Collins burst onto the scene as the Panthers’ first pick (after they traded the top overall pick away to Cincinnati (Ki-Jana Carter). Collins threw for 2,717 yards and 14 touchdowns (19 INTs). Steve McNair threw for just 569 yards in a backup role.
1996 – Tony Banks threw 15 touchdown passes (and 15 interceptions), with 2,544 yards for the Rams in his rookie year. St. Louis had to be much happier with that rookie over rookie RB Lawrence Phillips, who rushed for 632 yards and four touchdowns in his rookie year.
1997 – Jake Plummer led the position among freshmen, with 2,203 yards and 15 touchdowns with the Cardinals.
1998 – Hello, Peyton Manning. He burst onto the scene with 3,739 passing yards, 26 touchdown passes and 28 interceptions. Andrew Luck recently broke his rookie passing yardage mark. Interestingly, Ryan Leaf, the No. 2 overall pick, was third in rookie passing behind Detroit’s Charlie Batch.
1999 – Tim Couch threw for 2,447 yards, 15 touchdowns and 13 picks, which is surprising to me. I don’t remember him throwing for that many yards. This was also the year that rookie QBs Donovan McNabb and Akili Smith took over for their teams, as these three QBs went 1-2-3 in the draft. But it was rookie QB Shaun King that got his team to the NFC Championship game against the Rams.
2000 – The rookie QB boon didn’t last into the new millennium, as Falcons rookie QB Doug Johnson led the position with just 67 attempts for 406 yards and two touchdown passes.
2001 – Even in 2001, it took a 29-year-old rookie QB to lead the group, as Chris Weinke threw for 2,931 yards, 11 touchdowns and 19 interceptions. He also rushed for six touchdowns! Michael Vick threw for 785 yards and rushed for another 289 yards.
2002 – For the fourth time in five years, the No. 1 overall draft pick was a quarterback. But David Carr would prove to be more like Tim Couch than Peyton Manning.
2003 – Byron Leftwitch led all rookie QBs by far that season. He threw for 2,819 yards, 14 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Kyle Boller and Rex Grossman weren’t much competition.
2004 – This was a great rookie QB year – not just because it gave us Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning and Philip Rivers, but because it gave us 11 rookie quarterbacks that threw at least five passes that year. That’s a lot.
2005 – Kyle Orton took over under center for the Bears, throwing for 1,869 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions as the leading rookie. (Alex Smith threw for 875 yards as the No. 1 overall pick, and Aaron Rodgers got just 16 pass attempts behind Brett Favre.)
2006 – Matt Leinart and Vince Young led this rookie class, both throwing for over 2,100 yards and 11 touchdowns. Young also rushed for over 550 yards, with seven touchdown runs. Jay Cutler, the class of this group eventually, threw for 1,001 yards and nine touchdowns.
2007 – Trent Edwards led this lackluster class with 1,630 yards and seven touchdown passes. But even worse was No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell’s 373 yards on 66 attempts. Also interesting, rookie Kevin Kolb didn’t get one pass attempt that season.
2008 – This was a big year for two rookie quarterbacks, with Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco throwing over 425 passes each. Ryan finished with 3,440 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions, while Flacco was a not-too-shabby 2,971 yards, 14 touchdowns and 12 picks.
2009 – Three other quarterbacks burst onto the scene in 2009, as Mark Sanchez led the group with 2,444 passing yards, 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions (a harbinger of things to come?). Matthew Stafford, however, threw for 2,267 yards, with 13 touchdowns and 20 interceptions in just 10 games. And Josh Freeman threw for 1,855 yards, 10 touchdowns and 18 interceptions.
2010 – Sam Bradford was the cream of this rookie crop, throwing for 3,512 yards, 18 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Fellow rookie QBs Colt McCoy, Jimmy Clausen and Tim Tebow didn’t eclipse 1,600 passing yards, or six TD passes. (Although, Tebow did rush for six touchdowns in Denver.) Personally, I don’t think Bradford gets much credit for this rookie performance. Granted, he threw the ball 590 times, but he also completed 60 percent of his passes. John Skelton was the fifth-best Fantasy rookie QB in 2010.
2011 – Cam Newton set the new standard for rookie Fantasy quarterbacks, throwing for 4,051 yards, 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. He also rushed for 706 yards and an amazing 14 touchdowns. Hidden by Newton’s big year is Andy Dalton, who threw for 3,398 yards, with 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Blaine Gabbert and Christian Ponder also threw for over 1,800 yards and 12 touchdowns to round out one of the most productive Fantasy rookie passing groups ever.
2012 – After 15 games, Luck has already broken Manning’s record for passing yards by a rookie, but even more amazing is how Russell Wilson has played in Seattle. He leads all rookies with 25 passing touchdowns. RG3 has been amazing, and he’s officially in on the discussion for Best Fantasy Rookie QB Ever, but let’s not forget what Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill have done for their teams, throwing for over 3,000 yards themselves.
Unfortunately, as great as the 2012 Rookie QB Class was, the 2013 Rookie QB Class does not look like it will be a great crop. One of the writers from DynastyFootballLeague.com, Paymon Shokooki, did a mock draft for rookies for dynasty leagues. It’s not looking good for quarterbacks!
So make sure you enjoy these rookie quarterbacks while you can!
David Gonos spent 5 years as a CBSSports.com Senior Fantasy Writer and three more years writing with SI.com. Over the past 17 years, his work has been published on NFL.com, MLB.com, FanDuel, FoxSports.com and USA Today. Since 2001, he has been tracking down the Top 50-plus Free Fantasy Football Draft Tools online. You can contact David Gonos here.