Back in August, we graded the 2022 rookie quarterbacks based on their first preseason performances. Now that each signal-caller has one season under their belts, it is time to grade the class once again.
This first season of NFL play does not strictly project these players’ careers, but it does offer a glimpse into what the future could offer.
Matt Corral, Carolina Panthers: N/A
Corral was selected with the 94th overall pick. However, in the second preseason game versus the New England Patriots, he suffered a Lisfranc fracture which ended his season. When Corral played, he promised to be a good quarterback, but without any regular-season experience, we can’t accurately grade his performance.
Malik Willis, Tennessee Titans: C+
Willis got the starting job for five games after Ryan Tannehill suffered a season-ending ankle injury in Week 15. Willis’ stats weren’t that impressive; he finished the season with 276 yards and three interceptions. However, the rookie did show that he is a potential dual-threat quarterback, rushing for 95 yards and one touchdown. This is a very small sample size and doesn’t tell the whole story. We should get a better understanding of Willis in 2023.
Sam Howell, Washington Commanders: B-
Howell’s first start came against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 18. During that game, he went 11-for-19 with 169 yards and one touchdown. He certainly looked better than the quarterback he replaced, Carson Wentz. Although Howell only started one game, he showed sustainable flashes that he could be the guy in Washington after Wentz was released.
Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots: B+
Zappe started four games this past season and recorded at least one passing touchdown in each of his starts. All in all, the former Western Kentucky quarterback amassed 781 passing yards and five touchdowns. One could argue that he looked better than the Pats’ first-string quarterback, Mac Jones.
Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons: B
Like Zappe, Ridder started in four games. He came in when the Falcons’ playoff hopes were dead but showed significant potential. His best game was a win over the division-rival Tampa Bay Buccaneers in which he threw for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Ridder, who seems to be the Falcons’ franchise quarterback, finished the season with 708 yards and two touchdowns.
Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers: A+
Purdy was the last pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but that didn’t stop him from emerging as the 49ers’ starting quarterback. After Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo suffered season-ending injuries, Purdy took over and even led the 49ers to a three-game playoff run. Memorably, in the regular season, he led an epic comeback to defeat the Las Vegas Raiders in Week 17. San Francisco secured the NFC’s No. 2 seed, but Purdy suffered an elbow injury during the 49ers’ Conference Championship loss to the Philidelphia Eagles.
Purdy finished the season 114-for-170 with 1,374 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was clutch when he needed to be and even beat Tom Brady, becoming the first rookie to defeat the future Hall of Famer in their first career start.
All these rookie quarterbacks have a bright future in the National Football League. They endured a wide range of experiences regardless of whether they played due to talent or teammates’ injuries. Over the next few seasons, it will be very interesting to see how their careers play out.
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