Grading Rookie Quarterbacks’ Preseason Debuts


Rookie quarterbacks are expected to know a lot of information about the game as soon as they get drafted. However, the rookie year can be a major challenge for any player, especially signal-callers. A player’s skills, football IQ, and development will all play a role in how quickly and easily they transition into the NFL.

Some players can be immediate studs as rookies, such as Russell Wilson. Other players suffer and are instantly dubbed busts, like JaMarcus Russell and Ryan Leaf. Let’s assess and grade how each rookie quarterback performed this past week in their first-ever NFL starts. 

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers: A 

The first quarterback off the board, Pickett faced immediate criticism for the high pick with which he was selected. He played his first NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks this past weekend, going 13-for-25 with 95 yards and two touchdowns. He had an excellent performance and led Pittsburgh to a win in his first taste of professional football.

Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons: B+

Ridder, a third-round pick, looked solid in his preseason debut, going 10-for-22 for 103 yards and two touchdowns. He led the Falcons in rushing with six carries for 59 yards, and his overall quarterbacking led the team to a 27-23 win over the Detroit Lions. It was certainly a solid performance from the Cincinnati product.  

Malik Willis, Tennessee Titans: B

Another third-round pick, Willis made his first-ever start against the Baltimore Ravens last Thursday. His performance was decent as he went 6-for-11 for 107 yards. He finished second in rushing with five carries for 38 yards and one touchdown. However, the Titans decided to bench Willis because, according to head coach Mike Vrabel, “he wasn’t throwing the ball enough.” Logan Woodside finished the job in Willis’ place, completed 14 of 24 passes for 102 yards, but he also threw two interceptions in the process.

Matt Corral, Carolina Panthers: C-

Corral stepped in after P.J. Walker played most of the game. When all was said and done, he went just 1-for-9 with 11 passing yards. His performance wasn’t flashy, but now he has something to build on. Corral still has the potential to be a great quarterback in the NFL and will look to bounce back over the remainder of training camp and the preseason.

Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots: B-

Zappe was selected in the fourth round. He made his start against the New York Giants, going 19-for-23 for 205 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Zappe couldn’t quite pull off the comeback win as New England fell to New York by a score of 23-21. 

Sam Howell, Washington Commanders: C 

Howell was selected in the fifth round after an impressive run at UNC. He entered in the second half of Washington’s preseason opener against Carolina and completed nine of 16 passes for 145 yards. Overall, Howell had a solid outing considering the limited amount of snaps he saw. 

Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers: C+

The 49ers made Purdy Mr. Irrelevant when they selected him with the last pick in the seventh round. He wasn’t in the game for too long after Trey Lance drew the start and saw plenty of snaps against the Green Bay Packers. Purdy finished 3-for-6 with 36 yards and one touchdown.

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