Continuing my ranking of the quarterbacks that will be 25 or under in 2018, we come to my favorite group. Analysis for this group includes explorations of the fragility of NFL careers, the importance of quality back-ups, and the NFL Draft equivalent of Oompa Loompa life lesson songs. Since most of these guys are back-ups or place holders, I’ve framed this discussion around where they are in their careers, followed by the best and worst case scenarios for their futures. I will use the same methodology in Tier Four.

Let’s get to it . . .

9. Teddy Bridgewater 

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How do things look in 2018?

I feel so bad for Teddy Bridgewater. Even though it looks like he’ll be the starting quarterback for the Jets in 2018, Sam Darnold will be taking over either late this season or early next season. While it’s great that Bridgewater looks like he’s healthy after a devastating knee injury, his career is on a far different path than I would have thought after the 2015 season. He’s gone from a promising 23 year old fresh off a playoff appearance to a 25 year old battling to be a placeholder.

Having said that, I am genuinely intrigued to see what 2018 has in store for Bridgewater and the Jets. With Isaiah Crowell in the fold and without Hue Jackson denying him carries (for some inexplicable reason), the Jets’ running game should be drastically improved. While he was still in Minnesota, Bridgewater showed he could excel as a play-action passer. With that in mind, he can approach this season as nothing more than a building block. There will not be high expectations and if things go awry, the Jets will turn it over to Darnold.

What’s the best case scenario moving forward? 

There is always the off-hand chance Todd Bowles decides he’d rather throw Josh McCown out there over Bridgewater. I find it hard to believe, as McCown is tailor-made to be Darnold’s mentor. So, assuming that doesn’t happen, Bridgewater will be the primary starter. I am a little wary of making grand predictions until we see how exactly his knee is holding up, but as I said above, this is the perfect offense for Bridgewater.

If he is indeed healthy, I could see him putting up numbers similar to those from Minnesota. His accuracy and well beyond his 25 years aversion to turnovers will be appealing next off-season. The Jets may decide to let it ride and develop Darnold for another season. Or another team might swoop in and take Bridgewater on as their starter for 2019. Interestingly enough, the perfect situation for this scenario lies in the same city. Don’t forget Pat Schurmur was around for Bridgewater’s recovery, Eli Manning is nearing the end of his career, and accuracy is critical to Shurmur’s West Coast attack.

What’s the worst case scenario moving forward? 

It’s very sad to write it, but the worst case scenario is clear. There is far too much we don’t know about his recovery from the knee injury. What we do know is that when it happened he suffered severe structural damage via dislocation. Early reports indicated all four of his knee ligaments were damaged when this happened. Eerily, it was considered even worse than the knee injury that prevented Marshon Lattimore from ever playing an NFL down.

No matter how you look at it, the odds of Bridgewater coming back completely healthy are slim. Even worse, the original injury wasn’t even a contact injury. What will happen the first time he gets hit? The thought must be in his head, so how will that affect him the first time a pass rusher gets close? We have no way of knowing either of these things until the games begin. Count me as one of those emphatically rooting for Bridgewater to be OK. And for this to be a story of perseverance, not the dreaded “Oh, I remember him, I wonder what might have been if . . .”

10. Jacoby Brissett

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How do things look in 2018?

Brissett exceeded expectations and did a fantastic job without a deep roster around him. He, like all former Patriots quarterbacks (more on that in a later article), showed he could control a game. His completion percentage was a bit low (58.8%), but he only threw 7 interceptions on 469 passes. As I ranted and raved about during the Draft coverage, the Colts’ offensive line has not been up to par in a long time. 52 sacks probably didn’t help Brissett feel comfortable in the pocket.

In the rare moments he wasn’t being chased all around the pocket, Brissett showed he could make all the “New England” throws. He located his deep ball, hit deep crosses in stride, and completed back-shoulder throws. He’s mobile, but not reckless. While better out of the shotgun, he can make throws from under center. Not to dump on the offensive line even more, but, again, one would have to assume he threw from the shotgun more because they struggled to protect him. Unfortunately for Brissett, he probably won’t be able to build off this success in 2018. Andrew Luck should be back and Brissett must look for opportunities beyond 2018.

What’s the best case scenario moving forward? 

Andrew Luck returns to being Andrew Luck. The Colts identify a young quarterback they can draft in the later rounds of the 2019 draft and float Brissett’s name on the market. Next season I could see openings in New York (Giants), Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, and Miami. I’m not sure he would be a great fit with the Giants, but any of the other three teams would be happy to have him.

There is a long tradition of NFL back-ups becoming coveted in the trade market. This is different. Unlike a lot of those other scenarios, there is a lot of game film on Brissett. Fascinatingly it is both with a very good team (the Patriots) and a very bad team (the Colts). I would expect this drive the market sky-high, meaning the Colts will be highly motivated to move him.

What’s the worst case scenario moving forward? 

The Colts, ever afraid of another Luck injury, keep Brissett as a back-up until 2020. Entering his prime years (25-29), it would make sense. When 2020 comes, the Colts, with Luck in and out of the lineup, convince Brissett to stay. By 2022, the Colts finally give up on Luck, trading the now 32 year old. Brissett is left to run a team running short on resources.

Luck finds success with the Pittsburgh Steelers. As he turns his career around, the Colts struggle in mediocrity. Because too many fans are incapable of seeing the big picture, their ire is directed at Brissett, not the ownership that put all this nonsense in motion. 2024 Patriots head coach Josh McDaniels goes out and rescues his former quarterback. By then, it’s too late. The inconsistent playing time over the years has wasted Brissett’s prime seasons. He, like Mitchell Trubisky in my last convoluted theory, ends up a precautionary tale of wasted potential. Cue the aforementioned Oompa Loompa song (the 70’s ones, not the stupid Tim Burton ones).

11. Deshone Kizer

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How do things look in 2018?

Speaking of those Oompa Loompa’s, we come to the ultimate precautionary tale. Poor Deshone Kizer. He had no business being on the field last season. Had he been drafted by rational organization, they would have realized this and found two veterans to ensure Kizer never had to play. Ironically, it would look a lot like the Tyrod Taylor/Drew Stanton cushion the new Cleveland regime has given Baker Mayfield.

That, as we know, is not what happened. Kizer was thrown on to the field with a team bereft of reliable receivers. Hue Jackson decided that even with a strong line and running back depth, it made far more sense to have his young quarterback carry the team. There were tantalizing flashes from Kizer. He has a strong arm and perfectly capable of making all the NFL throws. He, as he should have, just lost his confidence quickly. Being thrust in and out of the lineup did not help. New GM John Dorsey shipped him off to Green Bay on the dawn of free agency.

What’s the best case scenario moving forward? 

By some miracle Kizer ended up with the perfect organization. Barring another injury to Aaron Rodgers, Kizer won’t see the field for a few season. He gets to learn the West Coast-spread hybrid that’s all the rage these days from one of the pioneering coaches. Aaron Rodgers, as a former sit for a few seasons prospect, helps to mentor Kizer. Unlike Brett Favre, he seems more likely to get on board with an occasional mentor role. Even if he’s too busy, it would help Kizer just to watch how Rodgers manages a game.

He’s only 22, so if he could sit for three seasons, hitting market in time for his age 25 season, that would be ideal. With Rodgers sitting at 37, the Packers scour the draft for his replacement. They wish Kizer well and he, in turn, thanks them for all the lessons. The Los Angeles Chargers, floundering as the Rams dominate the market, turn to Kizer to replace the retiring Philip Rivers. On a team with both a solid defense and reduced pressure (all eyes in LA are on the Rams), Kizer unleashes the well-balanced passing attack he learned in Green Bay. There is much rejoicing.

What’s the worst case scenario moving forward? 

The worst case scenario would be the Packers cutting Brett Hundley after Kizer flashes potential during the preseason. Rodgers then gets injured in the midst of a dogfight for the NFC North crown. Once more Kizer is thrown on to the field too soon in a pass based offense. He struggles mightily and does the one thing Green Bay fans cannot abide: losing the NFC North crown to the Vikings. The Vikings take the Packers’ rightful place in the playoff bracket and ride it all the way to a Super Bowl.

As soon as the dust settles, the clips start coming. “What would have happened had Rodgers stayed healthy?” “What does this say for Rodgers’ legacy?” “Two Super Bowls, remember how important that is . . .” Packers’ fans are OK with this until it becomes weaved in with the greater narrative of “what might have been”. First comes the 15-1 team that lost to the Giants, then the Super Bowl berth that literally slipped through their fingers against Seattle. The front office decides to ditch Kizer and draft Rodgers’ long term replacement in 2019.

12. Paxton Lynch 

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How do things look in 2018?

The guy who was once hailed as the “quarterback of the future” will be battling it out with a virtual unkown (Chad Kelly) to be Case Keenum’s backup. This is something I never would have thought possible a year ago, but here we are. I, like John Elway, am still not sure what to make of Paxton Lynch. His tape is infuriating. One throw makes it look like they need to wait it out, then the next makes it look like he should be cut right away.

The biggest problems are bright red flags. When he entered the draft, his critics identified hitting receivers in stride and poor placement on sideline throws as his big weaknesses. As I watched his tape, those concerns were not just warranted, they are starting to manifest as persistent problems. He still shows brilliant feel in the pocket and can make all the throws. There’s just no consistency on the two routes noted above. If he is ever to succeed, he must fix that. Fortunately for him, he’s sitting behind a guy who excels making those throws.

What’s the best case scenario moving forward? 

Lynch is still only 24, so there’s still time for him. The Denver defense is going to trot out a pass rush better than we’ve seen in a very long time. Keenum just has to be marginally competent for them to succeed. In the off-season he only signed a two year contract. If Lynch can hold on to the backup role, he just might end up the starter in two years.

The defense is going to be so good that even if Keenum lays an egg, the franchise won’t bottom out completely. This means that by the 2020 draft, they won’t be sitting in a high enough draft position to make a run, without a significant asset expenditure, at a top quarterback. At that point it makes sense to give Lynch one last shot at becoming a franchise quarterback. If I were Lynch, I would devote my entire off-season to deep crossing routes and sideline throws. If he can just become mediocre in these areas, there is hope for him to hold down a starting job.

What’s the worst case scenario moving forward? 

It’s not hard. The worst case is that no amount of practice ever helps Lynch figure out the deep crossing or sideline routes. If this is indeed how things play out, he might be able to head to Canada. Unfortunately for Lynch, these exact routes are one of the few similarities between the NFL and CFL. If he can’t get them down, he’ll be out of football. 

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