Marcus Mariota

For the entirety of their professional careers, quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota will be compared to one another. They were taken first and second overall, respectively, in the 2015 NFL draft. They each won the Heisman Trophy during their college careers — Winston at Florida State in 2013, Mariota with Oregon in 2014. Mariota’s Ducks knocked Winston’s Seminoles out of the 2014 College Football Playoff. They even made their NFL debuts against one another last season, with Mariota again coming away with the victory. During the 42-14 onslaught, Mariota became the second player ever (along with Hall of Famer Fran Tarkenton) to throw four or more touchdown passes in his first NFL game.

By any standard, their rookie seasons were both resounding successes, but what should be expected in 2016? Considering how each player stacks up compared to previous rookie quarterbacks, Winston and Mariota could be primed to make a sizable leap.

Since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970, both players rank in the top 12 among rookies in passer rating. Mariota sits right below Hall of Famer Dan Marino on the list, while Winston is one spot behind reigning MVP Cam Newton, another Heisman Trophy winner (2010).

That leaderboard represents a wide spectrum of quarterbacks. Marino is among the best to ever play the position; Wilson, Roethlisberger and Rypien have six Super Bowl championships between them; and Newton was just named the league’s best player. Shifting down to the next tier of the group, Ryan is a three-time Pro Bowler, Bulger made two Pro Bowls with the Rams and Bridewater made his first Pro Bowl last season. Though not all of these signal callers have been superstars, they all have had above-average to outstanding NFL careers.

Then there are the remaining two — Griffin and Glennon. Griffin was electrifying as a rookie in 2012, making the Pro Bowl and leading the Redskins to the postseason. Injuries have derailed his once-promising career, and he’ll look to rediscover his form with the Cleveland Browns in 2016. Glennon surprised many in 2013 when, as a third round pick, he started 13 games for Tampa Bay and performed well. With Winston now at the helm, though, Glennon seems destined for a career as a backup.

Though he didn’t fare as well as Mariota in passer rating, Winston made history by throwing for 4,042 yards, becoming the third rookie ever to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark. That’s 303 more than Peyton Manning passed for as a rookie, and Winston reached that total in 40 fewer pass attempts.

Seven of the players on this leaderboard (everyone but Bradford, Weeden and Tannehill) have been to at least one Pro Bowl, and Kelly will soon be joined by Manning in the Hall of Fame. Mariota’s absence from this list is largely a result of him missing four games last season due to injury. In terms of yards per pass attempt, Mariota ranks ninth among rookie quarterbacks since the merger with 7.62 YPA. Winston, at 7.56 YPA, ranks 10th, just ahead of Kelly and Marino.

Winston’s performance generally improved as the season went on. He threw a season-high five touchdowns in Week 11 against the Eagles, and four of his seven best games based on passer rating came in the last seven weeks of the season.

Mariota was more consistent on a week-to-week basis, but he also proved to be a dangerous running threat. He rushed for 2,237 yards during his college career and is much more mobile than Winston. His 252 rushing yards ranked eighth among all quarterbacks last season, but he ranked first with 7.4 yards per rush attempt.

Since the merger, Mariota and Winston rank second and fourth, respectively, in passer rating in their rookie seasons among quarterbacks taken with the first two picks of the draft. The 2015 draft was just the sixth time since 1970 that the first two picks were quarterbacks, and given how well the duo performed, it could go down in history as one of the best quarterback drafts the league has ever seen.