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From Wentz to Prescott: Charting expectations for rookie QBs

Of the 15 quarterbacks drafted in the 2016 class, 11 landed on the season-opening active roster. And entering Week 3, four rookie quarterbacks will start, which is four more than expected when training camp started two months ago. The real surpri...

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) looks to pass against the Cleveland Browns during first half Sept. 11 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz (11) looks to pass against the Cleveland Browns during first half Sept. 11 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Of the 15 quarterbacks drafted in the 2016 class, 11 landed on the season-opening active roster.

And entering Week 3, four rookie quarterbacks will start, which is four more than expected when training camp started two months ago.

The real surprise is that none of those four is Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who was the first overall pick and Los Angeles isn't ready to take the training wheels off him yet.

Here is a look at the four rookie passers set to start, from pre-draft to expectations for this weekend.

Carson Wentz

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Philadelphia Eagles (first round, 2nd overall)

North Dakota State, 6-5, 237, 40-yard dash: 4.77

Pre-draft report:

A two-year starter, Wentz thrived in North Dakota State's wide-open offense, taking snaps from under center and shotgun with several pro-style reads, including left-to-right and high-to-low progressions. He didn't consistently face top competition at the FCS level, but performed well in high pressure situations, including the 2014 and 2015 FCS National Championship Games (NDSU won both). He was only a 5-foot-8, 125 pound freshman in high school and didn't start at quarterback until his senior year, causing him to go under-recruited (similar path as Ben Roethlisberger). Although his internal clock and eye use need maturing, Wentz performs well within structure with his strong arm and touch, but can also improvise when the play breaks down, stretching out his legs to pick up chunk yardage if it's there (1,028 career rushing yards). He possesses a NFL-style skill-set with his size, athleticism and arm talent, including the field vision to work through reads and make sound decisions. Wentz is the top senior passer in the 2016 draft class and would benefit from a redshirt rookie season in the NFL.

Since drafted:

Many questioned the Eagles' decision to trade several valuable assets for a FCS quarterback with plenty of question marks. But Wentz has far exceeded expectations in his first two starts, even as a top pick. After a surprising trade that sent Sam Bradford to Minnesota, Wentz seemingly jumped Chase Daniel on the depth chart to be the opening week starter. And against the Browns and Bears the last two weeks, albeit two of the least impressive teams in the NFL, Wentz and the Eagles are 2-0 and if the rookie of the year award was given out this early, Wentz would have it locked up. The stats are solid (60.6-percent completions, three touchdowns, no interceptions), the throws from within the pocket are what have been so impressive, showing ball placement, timing and touch with the rush bearing down on him.

Expectations for Sunday:

While every rookie hits a wall at some point, Wentz isn't at that point yet. But the Steelers will provide an excellent test for his expedited maturation, especially from the pocket. Wentz tends to hold the ball until the final moment and has the toughness to take hits, but he can't continue to take the high number of body blows, especially after suffering fractured ribs in the preseason. We can fully expect Pittsburgh to test his pain tolerance in this match-up, putting as many hits as possible on the rookie quarterback.

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Jacoby Brissett

New England Patriots (third round, 91st overall)

NC State, 6-4, 231, 40-yard dash: 4.94

Pre-draft report:

A two-year starter in N.C. State's spread scheme, Brissett showed steady improvement since his forgettable start at Florida with consistent production the past two seasons for the Wolfpack, ranking top-five in school history in passing scores (43) and passing yards (5,268). At one point, he went 241 straight pass attempts without an interception, the third best streak in ACC history. Brissett is well-built with physical traits for the next level with his size, mobility and arm talent. He can make NFL throws, but is also slow to read and showed gun shy tendencies as a downfield thrower-was the king of dink and dunk and check downs inflated his completion percentage. Brissett should improve with NFL coaching and has the intangibles and enough talent to carve out a backup role, but tough to see him becoming a starter down the road due to his inconsistencies as a downfield passer.

Since drafted:

Although Jimmy Garoppolo has been entrenched as the No. 2 quarterback in New England, Brissett knew he wasn't only competing for the third-string job, but also the backup role for the first four games with Tom Brady suspended. And after Garoppolo went down with injury this past Sunday against the Dolphins, Brissett was saw the field earlier than most expected, completing 6-of-9 passes for 92 yards. The rookie did a nice job running the offense, but Patriots' play-caller Josh McDaniels kept things easy with short throws, screens and shallow patterns.

Expectations for Thursday:

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With Garoppolo not expected to dress, Brissett will be the guy with wide receiver and former college quarterback Julien Edelman ready to go as the emergency back-up. McDaniels will again keep the playbook simple for this match-up against the undefeated Texans, who rank third in the NFL in total defense. Although Rob Gronkowski is still banged up, Martellus Bennett and the tight end formations will be an important part of the New England game plan. LaGarrette Blount should get a healthy amount of carries to try and give Brissett third-and-manageable when he needs to throw the ball. But Houston not only has a defensive front that can rush the passer and stop the run, but a secondary that can cover and suffocate passing windows. This will be a tough stage for a rookie starting debut so the play-calling will be Brissett's best friend.

Cody Kessler

Cleveland Browns (third round, 93rd overall)

USC, 6-1, 220, 40-yard dash: 4.89

Pre-draft report:

A three-year starter in USC's pro-style scheme, Kessler was an ideal fit for the Trojans' offense due to his understanding of timing and tempo, posting impressive production each season. There is a lot to like about his football intelligence and make-up, doing an excellent job taking what the defense gives him, but panics and struggles to anticipate without a clean pocket. A highly productive college quarterback, Kessler has a low NFL ceiling due to his lack of physical traits, lacking the necessary arm strength to put the ball where he wants on a consistent basis. He might be able to stick as a short-term backup similar to Aaron Murray, but will struggle to elevate the players around him.

Since drafted:

Kessler has yet to see action in the regular season. He entered the season No. 3 on the Browns' quarterback depth chart, but due to injuries to Robert Griffin in the opener and backup Josh McCown last week, he is the next man up for Cleveland. During the preseason, Kessler completed 67.9-percent of his passes (19-for-28) for 92 yards and one touchdown and no interceptions. However, his rookie preseason will be best remembered for unintentionally running out of the back of the end zone for a safety.

Expectations for Sunday:

"You have to trust me on this one." - that was the response by Browns first-year head coach Hue Jackson on draft weekend when Cleveland surprised many around the NFL by selecting Kessler in the top-100 picks. Clearly the plan wasn't to start Kessler this early in his pro career, but that is the situation for the Browns who travel to Miami on Sunday. The Dolphins rank near the bottom of the league in total defense through two games, allowing 408.5 yards per game. However, Miami has a talented and experienced defensive line led by Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams and Cameron Wake and the Browns offensive line has graded as one of the worst units in the NFL so far. Also factor in that Cleveland's impressive rookie receiver Corey Coleman is sidelined with a broken hand and this match-up is far from ideal for Kessler's first start.

Dak Prescott

Dallas Cowboys (fourth round, 135th overall)

Mississippi State, 6-2, 226, 40-yard dash: 4.79

Pre-draft report:

A three-year starter in Mississippi State's spread scheme, Prescott received more Heisman attention as a junior in 2014, but he developed from a thrower into a more natural passer in 2015, showing improved pocket presence, eye discipline and decision-making. He is the most accomplished and decorated player in school history, finishing third all-time in the SEC in total career offense (11,897 yards). Prescott has the arm strength and running ability that translates to the next level, but his best NFL traits are his poise, veteran presence and leadership skills, coaching up and instructing teammates. Although he has evolved into a more detailed passer, Prescott's inconsistent pocket awareness and accuracy will likely keep him from becoming a full-time starter early in his NFL career-shows the traits to secure a backup job in the NFL, capable of spot-starts.

Since drafted:

Simply put, Prescott has proved everyone wrong so far - even the Cowboys. Prescott was far from Dallas' first option on draft weekend, in fact he was the sixth-rated quarterback on their draft board. After Cowboys backup Kellen Moore broke his leg in early August, Prescott stepped up and not only showed Dallas management that they didn't need to trade for a veteran, but maybe he could be more than a back-up. Then Tony Romo was injured in the third preseason game and Prescott was thrust into arguably the most pressure-filled role in the sport - Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback. He impressed during the preseason, but could he do it in regular season when games mattered? So far, so good. Through two games, Prescott has completed 62.7-percent of his passes (47-for-75) for 519 yards and a rushing score. In 12 games last season without Romo, the Cowboys managed only one win. So far in two contests with Prescott under center, Dallas is 1-1.

Expectations for Sunday:

The Cowboys host the Bears on Sunday night, the first primetime game for Prescott. After a very conservative offensive game plan and performance by the rookie in the opening loss against the Giants, Prescott took more downfield chances last week against the Redskins, falling eight yards short of his first 300-yard passing game. Defenses have worked hard to shut down the Cowboys' running game, forcing Prescott to beat them from within the pocket. The Bears will likely try and do the same, but the Prescott-to-Dez connection is starting to heat up. After only five targets in week one, Prescott threw in Bryant's direction 12 times against the Redskins with the receiver finishing with seven catches for 102 yards. The rookie quarterback has yet to register his first interception or passing touchdown, but the latter should change soon.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) is tackled by Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) during the second half Sept. 18 at FedEx Field. Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (4) is tackled by Washington Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan (91) during the second half Sept. 18 at FedEx Field. Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Related Topics: FOOTBALLCARSON WENTZ
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