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2012 QB class has potential to match 1983, 2004 and 2011


Browns rookie Brandon Weeden is part of a QB class already being rated elite. (US Presswire)  
Browns rookie Brandon Weeden is part of a QB class already being rated elite. (US Presswire)  

There are some defining years to measure quarterbacks and QB growth in the NFL. The 1983 draft is usually acknowledged as the greatest class of all time with three members in the Hall of Fame (Dan Marino, John Elway and Jim Kelly).

Fans of the class of 2004 claim that's the best class because it already has four Super Bowl championships. (Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger have two each) and the class of 1983 only has two. The class of 2011 shocked everyone with the unprecedented amount of playtime in their rookie season, led by a record-breaking campaign of Cam Newton when he cracked 4,000 yards passing.

No one knows if any class will match the 1983 group for Hall of Fame entrants or if any class will catch the Super Bowl titles of 2004, but if experience counts, the class of 2012 is on its way to something big. Something even bigger than the class of 2011 is definitely in the cards.

Here's a look at how much things have changed when it comes to playing rookie quarterbacks since 1983. I thought last year was hard to ever top, but we are on a course for new levels of rookie participation. It seems almost impossible to keep a rookie QB on the bench and justify learning from the sideline.

It remains to be seen if playing right away is the best thing for quarterbacks. Cam Newton almost had as many passing yards as a rookie as the entire class of 1983 or 2004, yet he struggles now. Andy Dalton is on his way to more interceptions this year than he had as a rookie.

Look at the projections for the class of 2012 at the bottom. I never thought one year after the 2011 production of the rookie class we would see an even bigger year.

1983Dan Marino173/2962210206
1983John Elway123/2591663714
1983Todd Blackledge20/3425930
1983Tony Eason46/9955715
1983Jim Kelly(USFL)   
1983Ken OBrien( DNP)   
2004Ben Roethlisberger196/29526211711
2004Eli Manning95/197104369
2004Matt Schaub33/7033014
2004Philip Rivers5/83310
2004J.P. Losman3/53201
2011Cam Newton310/5174,0512117
2011Andy Dalton300/51633982013
2011Blaine Gabbert210/41322141211
2011Christian Ponder158/29118531313
2011Jake Locker34/6654240
2012Andrew Luck160/288197188
2012Brandon Weeden165/2991912910
2012Robert Griffin149/223177883
2012Russell Wilson129/2101466108
2012Ryan Tannehill120/203147246

2012Andrew Luck365/65845051818
2012Brandon Weeden330/59838241820
2012Robert Griffin298/4463556186
2012Russell Wilson258/42029322016
2012Ryan Tannehill274/4643364914

Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.

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