November 24, 2023 9:00am

C.J. Stroud's Rookie Season

Stroud is chasing Anrew Luck as the best rookie QB in NFL history

Photo of Rick Gosselin
NFL Correspondent

C.J. Stroud has one player standing in front of him in his quest to become the greatest rookie quarterback in NFL history – Andrew Luck.

In this week’s NFL Power Poll, we asked our panel of former players, coaches, officials, talent evaluators, writers and broadcasters to identify the greatest rookie quarterback in NFL history and offered up five options: Luck (2012 Colts), Dak Prescott (2016 Cowboys), Ben Roethlisberger (2004 Steelers), Matt Ryan (2008 Falcons) and Russell Wilson (2012 Seahawks). All quarterbacked their teams to the playoffs.

Luck won by a wide margin, receiving 75 of the 168 votes cast. Roethlisberger was next with 35 votes, followed by Prescott with 34, Wilson with 20 and Ryan 4.

Luck was the only one of the five options to be selected first overall in an NFL draft. Ryan was the third overall choice in his draft and Roethlisberger went 11th overall choice in his. Wilson was a third-round pick and Prescott a fourth. All except Roethlisberger became walk-in starters.

Luck inherited a 4-12 team but engineered a dramatic turnaround, leading the Colts to a wild-card playoff berth with an 11-5 record. He passed for an NFL rookie record 4,374 yards with 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. He went to the Pro Bowl that season.

“Ben had the best record,” said former Hall-of-Fame voter Vito Stellino, “but Luck had twice as many yards so he gets the nod.”

Roethlisberger was one of the two options who quarterbacked his team to a division title. He also was the only rookie to quarterback the majority of his team’s games and post a perfect record (13-0). He passed for 2,621 yards with 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

“Roethlisberger had four fourth-quarter comebacks and one game-winning drive in a 13-0 season against a strong schedule,” said Vic Ketchum, a long-time NFL reporter who covered the Steelers and Jaguars.

Prescott was a fourth-round draft pick of the Cowboys, who hoped to bring him along slowly behind veteran Pro Bowler Tony Romo. But when Romo suffered a back injury in the preseason, Prescott was thrust into a starting role. He was the other quarterback to deliver a division title, posting a 13-3 record for the Cowboys with 3,667 passing yards, 23 touchdowns and only four interceptions.

“Prescott's rookie season was extraordinary, especially since he was drafted to back up Tony Romo,” said Hall-of-Fame voter Ira Kaufman of “Prescott enjoyed a dream year in Big D. He played very well in a shootout playoff loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers. After the season, he was ranked the 14th best player in the league in voting by his peers, an extraordinary honor.”

Ryan and Wilkson both quarterbacked their teams to 11-5 records and wild-card playoff berths. Ryan passed for 3,440 yards and Wilson threw 26 touchdowns passes.

There was some clamor in the poll for Greg Cook (1969 Bengals) and Dan Marino (1983 Dolphins). But Cook posted a 4-6-1 record, passing for 1,854 yards with 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Marino started only nine of Miami’s 16 games, posting a 7-2 record with 2,210 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Stroud inherited a team that finished 3-13-1 in 2022 but has them in playoff contention this season with a 6-4 record. He has passed for 2,962 yards with 17 touchdowns and only five interceptions. His numbers project to 5,035 yards and 29 touchdowns over a 17-game season.

“Stroud is having a terrific season,” said Ulises Harada Carranza, an NFL opinion-maker in Mexico. “And let's not forget that the Texans were one of the worst rosters in all of NFL the last two seasons. He elevates an average WR corps and has had some incredible signature moments, like the comeback wins against Bengals and Bucs, and the demolition of the Steelers defense.”

Or second question involved Stroud. His Texans play the biggest game on the NFL schedule this weekend – they host the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars lead the AFC South with a 7-3 record with the Texans a stride behind at 6-4. The Jaguars have won six of their last seven games and the Texans bring a three-game winning streak into the contest. The Texans have already defeated the Jaguars in Jacksonville. So we asked our panel who wins.

In a closer vote, the Jaguars prevailed by a 98-70 margin over the Texans.

But Stroud gives the Jaguars a chance.

“The Texans are on a roll and Stroud has emerged as a strong candidate to become only the second rookie in NFL history to be named league MVP,” said Kaufman. “He's going to be a handful for a pretty good Jacksonville defense.”

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of significant key players in American sports today. It's member list draws on people from media, team management, and league management. It is not a scientific survey, but the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those who know most about the sport.

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