Young Quarterbacks Like Deshaun Watson Are Dominating the NFL

It’s never been a better time to be a young NFL quarterback. Week 3 of the 2019 NFL season was the first time that a whopping 20 quarterbacks under the age of 27 started a game in the same week. So why are young quarterbacks like the Texans’ Deshaun Watson dominating the NFL? 

Which teams have young quarterbacks at the helm? 

In the last five NFL drafts, 56 quarterbacks have been selected. For Week 3, 20 teams had young quarterbacks start. The commonly held belief used to be that quarterbacks need plenty of time to learn and grow on the bench before assuming the starting job. In recent years, however, NFL quarterbacks have started at younger ages. 

Look at last season’s final four. Jared Goff led the Los Angeles Rams while second-year QB Patrick Mahomes led the Kansas City Chiefs. One made the Super Bowl and one nearly did on his way to winning NFL MVP. While experience can help a quarterback grow, it’s no longer a prerequisite for success.

How young NFL quarterbacks are performing 

As mentioned before, Week 3 saw a record number of young quarterbacks start the game. Here are just a few of them and how they performed via CBS Sports

  • Kyle Allen, Carolina Panthers: 23 years old, four touchdowns, 261 yards 
  • Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans: 24 years old, three touchdowns, 351 yards
  • Patrick Mahomes, Kansas City Chiefs: 24 years old, three touchdowns, 374 yards
  • Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts: 26 years old, two touchdowns, 310 yards 
  • Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears: 25 years old, three touchdowns, 231 yards
  • Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints: 26 years old, two touchdowns, 177 yards 
  • Daniel Jones, New York Giants: 22 years old, two touchdowns, 336 yards
  • Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 25 years old, three touchdowns, 380 yards
  • Gardner Minshew, Jacksonville Jaguars: 23 years old, two touchdowns, 204 yards
  • Carson Wentz, Philadelphia Eagles: 26 years old, two touchdowns, 259 yards
  • Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys: 26 years old, two touchdowns, 246 yards
  • Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans: 25 years old, 304 yards
  • Mason Rudolph, Pittsburgh Steelers: 24 years old, two touchdowns, 174 yards
  • Josh Allen, Buffalo Bills: 23 years old, one touchdown, 243 yards

There were several others, but the point is clear. Not every single one of these young QBs performed well. But the sheer volume who started represents a sea change. Things are trending younger.

Why NFL teams are turning to young quarterbacks 

The quarterback is the most important position, which means the best ones make a lot of money. A look at the NFL’s highest-paid players of all time reveals more representation among quarterbacks than any other position. 

The problem with spending a lot of money on a quarterback is that it stops a team from spending in other areas. Look at Joe Flacco with the Baltimore Ravens. He received a massive deal after a great 2013 postseason that led Baltimore to a Super Bowl. The Ravens awarded him a hefty extension and weren’t able to add talent elsewhere. The team suffered, Flacco declined, and they’ve since jettisoned him for Lamar Jackson

By succeeding with an effective quarterback still playing on a rookie deal, teams are essentially exposing a market vulnerability. They get premium performance at a premium position for the best possible value. It’s a trend you’ll see more teams gamble on in the future.