Most NFL coaches and starting players dislike pre-season games. They see them only as a chance to get injured prior to the regular season when the games really mean something. Week 1 starters only play a couple of possessions or maybe a quarter, then they are done. But for young players or those battling for a position, the pre-season presents a big opportunity.
Dallas Cowboys rookie quarterback Dak Prescott has been tearing up the pre-season. The fourth-round draft pick is competing for the second spot behind starter Tony Romo. Prescott, who has played well, was thrust into the starting lineup following an injury to Romo. Many fans and analysts think Prescott will do great during the regular season due to his pre-season success. He's thrown for a 78 percent completion percentage with five touchdowns and no interceptions—awesome numbers for sure, but how much can fans rely on pre-season stats to translate once the games matter for real?
To see if pre-season quarterback performances transfer to their regular season stats, we examined some of the best pre-season performances by rookie QBs in the past five seasons.
Sam Bradford was drafted first overall by the St. Louis Rams in the 2010 NFL Draft. In his rookie pre-season, Bradford threw for 338 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. A great pre-season led to a great rookie season, as Bradford won AP Offensive Rookie of the Year award. But since his first season, the 6-foot-4 quarterback has dealt with multiple injuries. He missed the second half of the 2013 season and all of 2014 due to a pair of ACL injuries.
The now 28-year-old Philadelphia Eagles quarterback still has an opportunity to live up to his potential, but right now his biggest struggle is staying healthy.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL Draft. The league had questions about his size (he's 5-foot-11, 200 pounds), but Wilson had a dominant rookie pre-season, completing 63.5 percent of his passes and throwing for 536 yards and five touchdowns with only one interception.
His pre-season success led to a dominant early career. In four seasons, Wilson has been to the Pro Bowl three times, including his rookie season. Over his first three seasons, he was the only QB in NFL history to maintain a passer rating of over 95.0. He won a Super Bowl in 2013.
The Buffalo Bills drafted quarterback E. J. Manuel with the 16th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. After a great college career and great NFL Combine numbers, Manuel fought for a starting spot as a rookie. His first pre-season helped his cause. Manuel didn't play a ton, but when he did, he lit up the defense. The 6-foot-5 quarterback threw for an amazing 78.8 completion percentage, with two touchdowns and no interceptions.
However, Manuel's initial pre-season success has yet to translate to his career. In his rookie season he started 10 games and led the Bills to a 4-6 record, throwing 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions with a completion percentage of 58.8 percent. Since then, Manuel has only started six games. He now sits behind Bills starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
The Oakland Raiders selected quarterback Derek Carr with the 36th pick in the second round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Several teams thought he was the best pure thrower in that Draft, and so far they aren't wrong. In his rookie pre-season, Carr completed 66.7 percent of his passes and threw for 108 yards per game, with four touchdowns with only one interception. His success has already started to turn around a once-struggling Raiders team.
In his first season, Carr had a 58 percent completion rating and threw 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Even though the Raiders struggled during his first year, Carr is still young. In his second season, his number improved greatly and so did the Raiders' record. The team is on the rise, and it seems that the 25-year-old quarterback is only going to get better.
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