Will lightening strike twice for the Carolina Panthers in 2023? The franchise has only possessed the No. 1 overall draft pick twice, and each time they have selected a quarterback: Heisman Trophy-winning Auburn quarterback Cam Newton in 2011 and Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama quarterback Bryce Young in 2023. Newton, listed at 6-foot-5, 245 pounds, couldn't have a more diametrically opposed stature to that of Young, listed at 5-10, 204. Like Newton, Young will be .
What does that mean for Young's future? Well, of 24 quarterbacks to be selected first overall in the NFL draft and start at least two games in their rookie year in the Common Draft Era (since 1967), only three earned rookie year Pro Bowl selections: Newton ( for the 2011 season), the Colts' Andrew Luck (for his 2012 season), and the Buccaneers' Jameis Winston ( for his 2015 season). Only four, at this moment, have become Pro Football Hall of Famers: Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, John Elway, and Peyton Manning. However, 18 of them have earned at least one Pro Bowl selection in their respective careers.
With that in mind, here's a list of the wide range of outcomes for Young, both in his rookie year and career given his circumstances. The order of these rankings is based on how well these quarterbacks performed exclusively in their rookie year, and they were compiled primarily with the help of Pro Football Reference's Approximate Value metric, their attempt to put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year since at least 1960 given a player's statistics, accolades and team success in a given year. The player's accolades listed below their rookie year performance is an indicator for how their career turned out, but that doesn't factor into their placement here, as we rank all 24 based on their rookie campaigns.
24. 49ers QB Alex Smith (2005)
2005 rookie season stats: 50.9% comp pct, 875 passing yards, one passing touchdown, 11 interceptions, 5.3 yards/pass attempt, 40.8 passer rating in nine games played, seven starts
Alex Smith had a hard NFL career, especially as a rookie. He was thrown into a tough situation with the 49ers, severely lacking in weapons on the outside besides a 24-year-old Brandon Lloyd. Smith also had to make a massive transition schematically, going from running a spread option offense at University of Utah to a traditional pro-style offense in the Bay Area as NFL teams didn't pull as much conceptually from college as they do now. Smith was forced to fit into the system instead of the system being fit to his strengths and weaknesses. His starts came in Weeks 5, 7, and 13-17. Smith threw 10 interceptions before registering his first career touchdown pass in the regular season finale against the Texans, a 20-17 overtime win that ran the franchise's record to 4-12.
His career in San Francisco eventually turned around between the development of fellow rookie Frank Gore, a future Hall of Famer who was the third-round pick in Smith's draft class, and the arrival of head coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011. Smith peaked during his five seasons under Andy Reid with the Chiefs, earning all three of his Pro Bowl nods in his second NFL home from 2013-2017.
23. Rams QB Jared Goff (2016)
2016 rookie season stats: 54.6% comp pct, 1,089 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, seven interceptions, 5.3 yards/pass attempt, 63.6 passer rating in seven games played, all starts
Jared Goff got caught in the crossfire of a chaotic year during his rookie season in 2016. It was the Rams' first season back in Los Angeles after moving from St. Louis, and what would turn out to be then-head coach Jeff Fisher's last season coaching NFL football. After Case Keenum started the first nine games and the Rams had a losing record (4-5), Fisher made the switch to Goff despite a poor offensive line and lackluster receiving options (wide receivers Kenny Britt, Brian Quick, and Tavon Austin as well as tight end Lance Kendricks).
Goff struggled outside of a 49-21 defeat at the Saints in Week 12 when he completed 20 of his 32 passes for 214 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. He combined to throw two touchdowns and six interceptions across his other six starts. However, his NFL fortune turned around following the hiring of the youngest head coach in league history in Sean McVay the following season, an arrival that led to consecutive Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl appearance across the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Goff has since reinvented himself with the Detroit Lions, earning his most recent Pro Bowl selection for the 2022 season after leading the league in touchdown-to-interception ratio (29-7).
22. Giants QB Eli Manning (2004)
2004 rookie season stats: 48.2% comp pct, 1,043 passing yards, six passing touchdowns, nine interceptions, 5.3 yards/pass attempt, 55.4 passer rating in nine games played, seven starts
Notable career accomplishments: Four-time Pro Bowl selection, two-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Super Bowl MVP, Giants all-time leader in passing yards (57,023) and passing touchdowns (366) -- both figures currently rank as the 10th-most in NFL history
Eli Manning rode the bench to begin his rookie season despite the Giants trading three picks -- a 2004 third-round selection, a 2005 first-round selection, and a 2005 fifth-round selection -- to move up from the fourth overall pick to the first in order to secure his services. Kurt Warner, prior to his Cardinals career rebirth, started the first nine games of the season, but he gave way to Manning after the G-Men lost three of four games from Week 7-10.
Manning struggled through most of his rookie year, throwing eight interceptions and only three touchdowns in his first six starts. However, things finally clicked for him in the regular-season finale when he completed 18 of his 27 passes for 144 yards, three touchdowns and only one interception in a 28-24 win against the Cowboys. Just four years later, he was caught fire in the 2007 playoffs and handed the Patriots their only loss in 19 games played, to capture his first of two Super Bowl wins against Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. His career took a bit of dive following the second Super Bowl win as he only reached the playoffs one more time after the 2012 season, 2016, causing him to finish with a 117-117 record in 234 career starts.
21. Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw (1970)
1970 rookie season stats: 38.1% comp pct, 1,410 passing yards, six passing touchdowns, 24 interceptions, 6.5 yards/pass attempt, 30.4 passer rating in 13 games played, eight starts
Notable career accomplishments: Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 1989, four-time Super Bowl champion, two-time Super Bowl MVP, 1978 NFL MVP, 1970's All-Decade Team member, three-time Pro Bowl selection, 1978 First-Team All-Pro
Terry Bradshaw got thrown into the fire immediately, starting the first seven games of the 1970 in which he threw just two touchdowns and a whopping 12 interceptions. He got sent to the bench after that stretch, but upon his return to the starting lineup in Week 10, he threw three more interceptions and no touchdowns in a 34-7 slaughter at the Bengals. Bradshaw didn't start the rest of the year, but he participated in four more games. He ended up leading the entire NFL in interceptions with 24, tied for the fourth-most ever by a rookie quarterback in NFL history.
Bradshaw ended up finally hitting his stride statistically in 1975, a year after the Steelers selected the following offensive Hall of Famers: wide receiver Lynn Swann, wide receiver John Stallworth, and center Mike Webster.
20. Cowboys QB Troy Aikman (1989)
1989 rookie season stats: 52.9% comp pct, 1,749 passing yards, nine passing touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 6.0 yards/pass attempt, 55.7 passer rating in 11 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2006, three-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl XXVII MVP, six-time Pro Bowl selection
Troy Aikman ended up in one of the worst situations of any quarterback on this list as the Cowboys ended up going 1-15 in 1989, including 0-11 in his starts. It was Jimmy Johnson's first year as the Cowboys head coach following Jerry Jones' firing of Hall of Famer Tom Landry. His best start came in Week 13 against the Los Angeles Rams, in a 35-31 defeat, when he completed 19 of his 35 passes for 179 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception. Aikman had the Cowboys up 10, 31-21, but Dallas' 24th-ranked scoring defense (24.6 points per game allowed) couldn't hold on. Just a couple years later, Aikman earned the first of six consecutive Pro Bowl berths in 1991 and then three Super Bowls in a four-year stretch followed from 1992-1995.
19. Lions QB Matthew Stafford (2009)
1989 rookie season stats: 53.3% comp pct, 2,267 passing yards, 13 passing touchdowns, 20 interceptions, 6.0 yards/pass attempt, 61.0 passer rating in 10 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: Super Bowl LVI champion with Rams, 2015 Pro Bowl selection (following 2014 season), 2011 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
Matthew Stafford had the pleasure of being the Lions' first overall selection right after the franchise became the first team in NFL history to go 0-16 in 2008. Every week was an uphill climb for him in 2009, but he flashed in a big way in Week 11 against the Cleveland Browns when he threw a game-winning, one-yard touchdown to tight end Brandon Pettigrew with no time remaining to secure a 38-37 victory. He completed 26 of his 43 passes for a season-high 422 passing yards, a season-high five passing touchdowns, and two interceptions. The most impressive element of that performance was he played through a separated left shoulder on the game's final play to toss the winning score.
Play like this endeared Stafford to the city of Detroit forever and had them cheering him on when he helped lead the Rams to a Super Bowl victory in the 2021 season.
18. Falcons QB Michael Vick (2001)
2001 rookie season stats: 44.2% comp pct, 785 passing yards, two passing touchdowns, three interceptions, 6.9 yards/pass attempt, 62.7 passer rating; 289 rushing yards, one rushing touchdown on 31 carries (9.3 yards/carry) in eight games played, two starts
Notable career accomplishments: Four-time Pro Bowl selection, 2010 NFL Comeback Player of the Year with Eagles
Michael Vick entered the NFL with as much buzz as any quarterback prospect in recent memory. The Falcons didn't fully let Vick loose his rookie year, having him come off the bench in six of his eight games while Chris Chandler soaked up 14 starts. However, his electrifying rushing talent was evident as he averaged nearly 10 yards a carry when he tucked the ball and ran. That figure was a sign of things to come as Vick earned his first Pro Bowl selection the following season, a year in which he capped with the first playoff road win at Lambeau Field against the Packers in NFL history. Although legal issues around dog-fighting cost him some of his prime seasons from age-27-28, he bounced back to become a starting quarterback once again with the Eagles at age 30.
17. Buccaneers QB Vinny Testaverde (1987)
1987 rookie season stats: 43% comp pct, 1,081 passing yards, five passing touchdowns, six interceptions, 6.6 yards/pass attempt, 60.2 passer rating in six games played, four starts
Notable career accomplishments: Two-time Pro Bowl selection
Vinny Testaverde had to go head-to-head with 33-year-old Steve DeBerg after being selected first overall in 1987, a battle he lost early on. He ended up starting just four games, all losses in an uneven season. However, he ended up a late-bloomer by earning his two career Pro Bowl selections at 33 years old in 1996 and 35 years old in 1998. While he was held off by an older veteran at the beginning of his career, Testaverde ended up as the older, bridge quarterback in a number of his stops, which led to him bouncing around to seven different teams.
16. Broncos QB John Elway (1987)
1987 rookie season stats: 47.5% comp pct, 1,663 passing yards, seven passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 6.4 yards/pass attempt, 54.9 passer rating in 11 games played, 10 starts
Notable career accomplishments: Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2004, two-time Super Bowl champion, Super Bowl XXXIII MVP, 1987 NFL MVP, 1990's All-Decade Team member
John Elway was initially selected first overall by the Baltimore Colts, but after threatening to go play baseball instead, they traded him to the Broncos. He struggled to adapt to the pro game initially, but he closed his rookie year well, throwing five touchdowns to four interceptions in his final three games in Weeks 14-16, two of which were Denver victories. Elway and the Broncos took off the following three seasons winning at least 11 games each year. He couldn't finish the climb to the NFL's mountain top in his first three Super Bowl trips, but thanks to the help of fellow Hall of Famer Terrell Davis and head coach Mike Shanahan, Elway retired a back-to-back champion.
15. Texans QB David Carr (2002)
2002 rookie season stats: 52.5% comp pct, 2,592 passing yards, nine passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 5.8 yards/pass attempt, 62.8 passer rating in 16 starts
David Carr's career was undone by horrific offensive line play. He was sacked an NFL single-season-high 76 times his rookie season in 2002. He led the NFL in sacks taken in three of his first four seasons, including the third-most in a season all-time in his fourth year with 68 taken in 2005. Carr is a poster child for the argument of not playing your top prospect passer right away if his supporting cast will set him up to fail. He was able to secure a Super Bowl ring at the end of his career as Eli Manning's backup in the 2011 season. He'll be a what-if player because of how poorly his environment was around him in Year of 1 of the Houston Texans' expansion journey.
14. Atlanta Falcons QB Steve Bartowski (1975)
1975 rookie season stats: 45.1% comp pct, 1,662 passing yards, 13 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 6.5 yards/pass attempt, 59.3 passer rating in 11 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: Two-time Pro Bowl selection
Steve Bartowski was the Falcons' first franchise quarterback, and he held the team records for most career passing yards and passing touchdowns prior to Matt Ryan's arrival in downtown A-Town. He closed his rookie year well personally, throwing 10 touchdowns to nine interceptions. Bartowski is responsible for helping lead the Falcons to each of their first three playoff appearances in team history, but Atlanta was unable to advance past the NFC divisional round, winning just one of his four postseason contests.
13. Patriots QB Drew Bledsoe (1993)
1993 rookie season stats: 49.9% comp pct, 2,494 passing yards, 15 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 5.8 yards/pass attempt, 65.0 passer rating in 13 games played, 12 starts
Notable career accomplishments: Four-time Pro Bowl selections (three with Patriots, one with Bills), Super Bowl XXXVI champion as Tom Brady's backup in 2001 season
Despite being the answer to the trivia question "Which Patriots quarterback did Tom Brady back up before winning six Super Bowls in New England?", Bledsoe was a solid quarterback. He had one of the better statistical rookie showings of anyone on this list with nearly 2,500 passing yards and an even 15-15 touchdown-to-interception. The following 1994 season he led the NFL in passing yards with 4,555, earning him the first of three Pro Bowl berths in New England. Bledsoe was almost good enough to be the starting quarterback of Patriots Super Bowl championship team in 1996 before he (two touchdowns, four interceptions), and New England came up short in Super Bowl XXXI against Hall of Famer Brett Favre and the Packers.
12. Jaguars QB Trevor Lawrence (2021)
2021 rookie season stats: 59.6% comp pct, 3,641 passing yards, 12 passing touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 6.0 yards/pass attempt, 71.9 passer rating in 17 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: 2023 Pro Bowl selection (following 2023 season), helped lead Jaguars to a playoff win in 2022 season after trailing 27-0 against the Chargers after the team had the number one pick in consecutive NFL Drafts
Trevor Lawrence and the entire Jacksonville Jaguars franchise had a rocky 2021 with Urban Meyer as their head coach. However, after he was replaced by a Super Bowl champion head coach in Doug Pederson in 2022, Lawrence showcased why he was a first overall pick. His passer rating jumped 23.3 points from 71.9 to 95.2 from his first to second season, the second-highest increase by a number one overall pick in his first two seasons ever.
Trevor Lawrence Career
* Largest increase by No. 1 pick in Year 1 to Year 2 since Terry Bradshaw
Lawrence's breakout helped propel the Jaguars to become the second team in NFL history to reach the playoffs after having the worst record in the NFL in each of the prior two seasons, joining the 1999 Colts, who also had a former number one overall pick in his second NFL season, a player that will appear further down on this list, Peyton Manning.
11. Colts QB Jeff George (1990)
1990 rookie season stats: 54.2% comp pct, 2,152 passing yards, 16 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 6.4 yards/pass attempt, 73.8 passer rating in 13 games played, 12 starts
Notable career accomplishments: Led NFL in passing yards in 1997 with 3,917
Jeff George had an absolute cannon of a right arm, one that sticks out even today when re-watching his highlights on YouTube. However, that rocket launcher rarely translated to winning games over the course of his 12-season career since he compiled a 46-78 record as an NFL starting quarterback. George got hot over the final three games of his rookie season, throwing six touchdowns and only two interceptions en route to compiling a 95.9 passer parting in Weeks 15-17 of the 1990 season. That included wins against the Jets and Washington. He is an interesting player to ponder if things would have worked out differently in the more pass-friendly NFL of today.
10. Browns QB Tim Couch (1999)
1999 rookie season stats: 55.9% comp pct, 2,447 passing yards, 15 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 6.1 yards/pass attempt, 73.2 passer rating in 15 games played, 14 starts
Tim Couch had the misfortune of being the first draft pick for the expansion Cleveland Browns in 1999 after their original franchise left and became the Baltimore Ravens. Being the first pick of an expansion team as well as a Browns expansion team, meant he was in for a beating. Couch led the NFL that season with 56 sacks taken as he didn't have much of a supporting cast around him at any position offensively. His numbers being as good as they were, a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio and a passer rating above 70, despite his circumstances is downright miraculous. Unfortunately for Couch, he could only hold on for five seasons total in Cleveland before being out of the league entirely.
9. Patriots QB Jim Plunkett (1971)
1971 rookie season stats: 48.2% comp pct, 2,158 passing yards, 19 passing touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 6.6 yards/pass attempt, 68.6 passer rating in 14 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: Two-time Super Bowl champion with Raiders, Super Bowl XV MVP
Jim Plunkett was a rollercoaster as a New England Patriot, and the middle of his rookie season illustrated that perfectly. In Week 9 against the Bills, he threw for four touchdowns and one interception in a 38-33 win. The next week, he threw one touchdown and four interceptions in a 27-7 road loss against the Browns. Plunkett hit his stride late in his career, winning Super Bowls at age 33 and 35 while on his third team, the Raiders.
8. Bengals QB Joe Burrow (2020)
2020 rookie season stats: 65.3% comp pct, 2,688 passing yards, 13 passing touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 6.7 yards/pass attempt, 89.8 passer rating in 10 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: 2023 Pro Bowl selection (following 2022 season), 2021 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
Joe Burrow's NFL career with the Bengals looked to be very much in doubt when he tore his ACL and MCL just 10 games into his rookie season with the team's record sitting at 2-7-1. However, he very much earned his 2021 NFL Comeback Player of the Year award after leading the NFL in passing yards per attempt (8.9) and ranking second in passer rating (108.3) behind only NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers' 111.9 rating that season. Burrow also showed he has what it takes to lead the Bengals to the NFL's promised land, taking them to Super Bowl LVI in just his second season. They came up just one drive short of a title in their 23-20 loss against the Rams, but the future is bright as long as Burrow remains upright.
7. Rams QB Sam Bradford (2010)
2010 rookie season stats: 60% comp pct, 3,512 passing yards, 18 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 6.0 yards/pass attempt, 76.5 passer rating in 16 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
Sam Bradford nearly led the Rams to a playoff appearance after they chose him first overall, but they just missed sneaking into the postseason after he laid an egg in their regular-season finale. He threw an interception and no touchdowns to go along with 155 passing yards on 19-of-36 passing in the Rams' 16-6 defeat on the road against their division rival Seattle Seahawks. That loss cost them an NFC West title and the four seed in the NFC playoff bracket. His following seasons were marred by injuries with the exception of 2012, which caused him to bounce around the league in his final four seasons. Bradford suited up for the Eagles (2015), Vikings (2016-2017), and Cardinals (2018) to close out his career.
6. Colts QB Peyton Manning (1998)
1998 rookie season stats: 56.7% comp pct, 3,739 passing yards, 26 passing touchdowns, 28 interceptions, 6.5 yards/pass attempt, 71.2 passer rating in 16 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021, two-time Super Bowl champion (once with Colts and once with Broncos), Super XLI MVP with Colts, five-time NFL MVP (most in NFL history), 14-time Pro Bowl selection, seven-time First-Team All-Pro, 2012 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, 2000's All-Decade Team member, set NFL single-season passing yards record (5,477) and NFL single-season passing touchdowns record (55) in 2013 with Broncos
Peyton Manning was up against it as a rookie in 1998. He led the NFL in passing attempts (575) and interceptions (28, the most by a rookie in NFL history) while attempting to compensate for a lacking running game and the second-worst scoring defense in the NFL, 27.8 points per game allowed (29th out of 30 teams). However once Manning received a balanced offense courtesy of his front office selecting future Hall of Fame running back Edgerrin James fourth overall in the 1999 NFL Draft, the Colts flipped their record around from 3-13 in 1998 to 13-3 in 1999. James led the NFL in rushing yards, 1,553, and scrimmage touchdowns, 17, that season as both he and future Hall of Fame receiver Marvin Harrison were named First-Team All-Pro's while Manning earned his first Pro Bowl nod.
Manning put together one of the most dominant careers in NFL history in the years to come.
5. Browns QB Baker Mayfield (2018)
2018 rookie season stats: 63.8% comp pct, 3,725 passing yards, 27 passing touchdowns, 14 interceptions, 7.7 yards/pass attempt, 93.7 passer rating in 14 games played, 13 starts
Baker Mayfield, for the first three seasons of his career, had many Browns fans thinking they finally had their franchise quarterback. He set the then-NFL rookie touchdown passes record with 27, since broken by Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert -- the NFL's new highest-paid passer. Two years later, he totaled a career-best 26-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a career-best 95.9 passer rating while leading the Browns to their first playoff win since the Bill Belichick Era in the 1990's. To top it all off, that 48-37 playoff win in the 2020 postseason was in Pittsburgh against the the hated rival Steelers.
Mayfield suffered a shoulder injury the following season while diving to stop a defender from running an interception he threw back for touchdown, and that injury kickstarted the end of his Browns career. Fast forward to today, Mayfield is now on his third new team in two seasons as he has bounced from the Carolina Panthers to the Los Angeles Rams, and now the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he is now in a. A depressing decline after such a promising start.
4. Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston (2015)
2015 rookie season stats: 63.5% comp pct, 4,042 passing yards, 22 passing touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 7.6 yards/pass attempt, 84.2 passer rating in 16 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: 2016 Pro Bowl selection (following 2015 season)
Jameis Winston is the third and most recent quarterback on this list to earn a Pro Bowl selection for his rookie season. He is one of only four rookie quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 4,000 or more passing yards, and two of the others are ahead of him on this list: Cam Newton (2011), Andrew Luck (2012), and the NFL's rookie passing touchdowns leader Justin Herbert (2020). Playing in an offense with Mike Evans and 2015 First-Team All-Pro running back Doug Martin, Winston led a stat-stuffing attack.
However, his time with the Buccaneers and as a primary starting quarterback in the NFL essentially ended when he became the first player in NFL history to throw 30 or more touchdowns (33) and 30 or more interceptions (30) in a season in 2019. Winston has since spent the last three seasons with the Saints, and thanks to a torn ACL in 2021, he has been passed over as their starter by both Andy Dalton and now Derek Carr.
3. Colts QB Andrew Luck (2012)
2012 rookie season stats: 54.1% comp pct, 4,374 passing yards, 23 passing touchdowns, 18 interceptions, 7.0 yards/pass attempt, 76.5 passer rating in 16 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: Four-time Pro Bowl selection, 2018 NFL Comeback Player of the Year
Andrew Luck came right into the NFL out of Stanford and lifted the Colts back to the postseason with an 11-5 record just a year after enduring a 2-14 campaign when Peyton Manning was out with a neck injury. However, former general manager Ryan Grigson ruined him by not investing draft capital in offensive linemen, and Luck, who was spectactular, was out of the league after the 2018 season when his shoulder and the rest of his body couldn't take the punishment anymore.
2. Cardinals QB Kyler Murray (2019)
2019 rookie season stats: 64.5% comp pct, 3,722 passing yards, 20 passing touchdowns, 12 interceptions, 6.9 yards/pass attempt, 87.4 passer rating; 544 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns on 93 carries (5.8 yards per carry) in 16 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: Two-time Pro Bowl selection, 2019 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
People had doubts about how Kyler Murray's game would transfer to the NFL after lighting up college football scoreboards as a Heisman Trophy winner at Oklahoma, and he immediately proved he belonged. Murray became only the second rookie in NFL history with 3,500 or more passing yards and 500 or more rushing yards in a season along with the only player ahead of him on this list, Cam Newton. He helped drag the Cardinals back to the postseason in 2021 where they got overwhelmed by the eventual Super Bowl champion Rams. Following that run, injuries have devoured him and the Cardinals roster.
Murray tore his ACL in 2022 and much of that veteran-laden team from 2021 is now either washed up, on a new team, or retired. The upcoming season and how he bounces back from that injury will go a long way to determining the trajectory of his NFL career.
1. Panthers QB Cam Newton (2011)
2011 rookie season stats: 60% comp pct, 4,051 passing yards, 21 passing touchdowns, 17 interceptions, 7.8 yards/pass attempt, 84.5 passer rating; 706 rushing yards, 14 rushing touchdowns on 126 carries (led the NFL with 5.6 yards/carry) in 16 games played, all starts
Notable career accomplishments: 2015 NFL MVP, 2015 First-Team All-Pro, three-time Pro Bowl selection, 2011 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year
Cam Newton re-wrote the NFL record books in his award-winning rookie season. Newton broke an NFL record for the most passing yards in a rookie quarterback's pro debut, throwing for 422 yards on a 24-of-37 passing. He also added two passing touchdowns and a an interception on top of 18 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown in a 28-21 loss at the Cardinals. That was just a precursor of what was to come.
Newton did it again the next week, throwing for a career-high 432 passing yards in a showdown with eventual NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, a game the Panthers narrowly lost 30-23. He ended 4,051 yards, the first time a rookie threw for over 4,000 in league history and the 10th-most in the NFL that season. Newton also chipped in 706 yards and a 14 touchdowns on 126 carries for an NFL-best 5.6 yards per carry that season. Newton's 14 rushing touchdowns still stands today as the single-season NFL record for a quarterback. He became the shining example of why it's helpful to import a quarterback's favorite college concepts to help them shine in the NFL.
Newton's Panthers were the dominant team of the 2015 season, but they couldn't get past Von Miller, Hall of Famer DeMarcus Ware, and the rest of the Denver Broncos stingy defense in Super Bowl 50. The wear and tear from Newton's battering ram running style caused his body to break down over the course of his final four seasons in the league from 2018 to 2021. His 11-year career transformed the way the NFL incorporates dual-threat passers into the league today.