(The Root) — Once praised only for their athleticism and running ability, black NFL quarterbacks today are bucking a system that has stereotyped them since the beginning of the National Football League. The new crop of black NFL quarterbacks are eager to show everyone that they can torch opponents with their feet but just as easily can pick apart a defense with their arms and brains. This NFL season, a projected nine black quarterbacks could start for their teams on week 1, more than the NFL has ever seen in a single season.
1. Josh Freeman, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Back in 2009, when Freeman was drafted 17th overall by the Bucs, very few NFL fans had ever heard of the guy. Now, after a few up-and-down seasons and a couple of coaching changes, Freeman looks to add his name to the list of elite quarterbacks in the NFL.
2. Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins
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RG3's rookie year was filled with spectacular plays and sighs of relief from a fan base clamoring for something positive. It ended in devastation when Griffin III tore his anterior cruciate ligament and had surgery to reconstruct the ACL and repair the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee. Held as the savior to Washington Redskins football, RGIII is now (relatively) healthy and determined to build on a future that seems limitless on and off the field.
3. Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
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Funny thing about the NFL: Things can change in a blink of an eye. Just ask Kaepernick, who was catapulted into the 49er starting job last season after Alex Smith was sidelined with a concussion. Now described as the new golden boy of the Bay, Kaepernick has been given the keys to one of the most storied franchises in all of professional sports.
4. E.J. Manuel, Buffalo Bills
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The only quarterback taken in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft wasn't supposed to make an immediate impact for the Bills. However, after an impressive training camp and preseason, Manuel separated himself as the future of the Buffalo Bills. A knee injury has slowed him down for the time being, but the Bills have made it clear that when he's healthy and ready to roll, he's their man.
5. Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
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Newton's rookie year was overshadowed by another quarterback who hardly outplayed him: Tim Tebow. Very few even remember that Newton was the only rookie to ever pass for 4,000 yards in a single season. In year 2, Newton struggled to become a leader in Carolina, and the Panthers continued to stay at the bottom of the standings. Everyone knows Newton has the tools; now he has to prove he can win.
6. Terrelle Pryor, Oakland Raiders
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The late and legendary owner Al Davis made one last pick before he passed. That pick was Pryor in the 2011 supplemental draft. After a controversial career at Ohio State, Pryor was rumored to be damaged goods. Yet since he outplayed Matt Flynn this preseason, it seems the Raiders are ready to throw him the starting job. If this happens, Pryor could soon be damaging defenses on Sundays.
7. Geno Smith, New York Jets
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When the Jets drafted Smith in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft, many believed that Mark Sanchez's time was up and a new Jets savior had been anointed. Even Jay Z signed Smith to his sports agency! Both Sanchez and Smith showed an inconsistency so polarizing in the preseason that their coach, Rex Ryan, is believed to be in jeopardy of losing his job. A late preseason injury by Sanchez could be the nudge Smith needs to start week 1 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
8. Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles
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Who would ever have thought that Vick would be the elder statesman among any group of athletes? However, in this new crop of black NFL quarterbacks, he is not only the president but also the prototype. Named the starter by new Eagles coach Chip Kelly, Vick is on a mission to show the league he can return to his explosive heyday.
9. Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks
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