There was an article on the Buccaneers' website this week about how many different rookie quarterbacks Tampa Bay could face this upcoming season. It got me thinking about how many rookie QBs are on the Lions' schedule for 2011, and a quick look at the rundown of games reveals that three teams could be starting first-year QBs: the Minnesota Vikings, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers. This means the Lions could have four games against rookie quarterbacks in 2011.
The Vikings selected Christian Ponder with the 12th overall pick. Many think that was quite a big reach and in a normal situation, Ponder would not see the field in his first year. The thing is, Minnesota has no quarterback depth right now. Chances are Ponder will be thrown into the mix early on, meaning there is a good chance he will be the starter when the Lions play at the Vikings on Sept. 25. By the time Minnesota comes to Detroit on Dec. 11, it seems certain that Ponder will be the starting QB.
The 49ers took Colin Kaepernick in the second round. Alex Smith isn't out of San Francisco's plans, but it's not clear if he will return since he is a free agent. Even if he does return, it's possible Kaepernick could take over as San Francisco's starter by the time the Lions play the 49ers on Oct. 16. Kaepernick can't work with coaches to learn the offense, but he is going to spend time with Stanford's Andrew Luck to learn the system Jim Harbaugh runs. That head start could be the difference between sitting and becoming the starter early on in the 2011 season.
Finally, the Panthers took Cam Newton with the No. 1 overall pick. Detroit takes on Carolina on Nov. 20, and the expectation is Newton will be the starter. More than likely he will get to line up (and run for his life) against former college teammate Nick Fairley, who helped Auburn win a national title along with Newton.