Everyone is tracking Bryce Young (Panthers), Anthony Richardson (Colts) and CJ Stroud ( Texans) , the stars of the 2023 draft. So far CJ has the highest ROI ( NFL record 80 pass attempts without a pic to start a career) , while both Bryce and Anthony will be out with injuries this week. But, what about the Brand X QB class of 2022? The guys that seem to run under the radar?
These are the four starters for week 4 :
Kenny Pickett, Steelers
There was only one first round QB taken in 2022 , Kenny Pickett (Steelers) , the hometown boy from Pitt. With the Panthers Pickett had a phenom senior year passing for 4,319 yards with 42 TD passes. He was named 1st team All-American and finished 3rd in the Heisman voting. Pitt won the ACC Championship and finished 11-2 their best record since 1976
As a rookie in week one of 2022 Pickett was named the backup to Mitch Trubisky. By the 4th game he had worked his way into the starting lineup. He threw his first TD pass in week 6 , but, left the game with a concussion. After sitting out the concussion protocol, he was back in the lineup until week 14 when he , once again, suffered a concussion. He would eventually start games in weeks 16 and 17 and become the first rookie QB in NFL history to throw a game-winning TD in the final minute of the 4th quarter in two straight games. Pickett would finish his rookie season with 7 TD passes vs 9 Ints along with 3 Rushing TDs.
In 2023 the Steelers offense has started slowly. But, last week vs the Raiders coach Mike Tomlin observed “we got our mojo back”. In large part due to Picket’s play. The sophomore QB was 26 of 39 for 244 yards and a TD. The win has the Steelers in first place at 2-1 in the AFC North. But, where is Kenny Pickett in the pecking order of NFL QBs. Well, there is still work to be done. Starting this season the Mike Sando QB Tier rating had Pickett as a tier 4 QB ranked at #25 among starters. I’ve seen other QB ratings where he is ranked similarly. The Steelers are still trying to find that post- Roethlisberger identity. Already in 2023 they have adjusted OC Matt Canada’s role from not only play-calling, but, to QB coach in order to work even closer with Pickett. At this point, Pickett as a successful first round draft choice is too early to call. Above all, he needs to stay out of concussion protocols in order for his development to continue. My rating: Jury still out.
Sunday Oct 1 at Houston Texans and CJ Stroud
Desmond Ridder, Falcons
I got to meet Desmond at Falcon’s training camp in August and he is an impressive young man, as both an athlete and a person. He’s physically imposing as a QB (6’3” 210 lbs) and an athlete (4.5 forty) with a quick smile that is immediately warming. We know he had a stellar career at Univ of Cincinnati starting 48 games and going 42-6 including 13-1 his senior year. He produced 87 TD passes vs 28 Ints along with another 28 Rushing TDs. But, Desmond had to wait until round three of the NFL Draft to be the second QB taken in the 2022 draft.
Why the wait? Hard to say with the glowing results, but, there has been questions about his decision-making with the football. Both throwing into coverage , and, holding onto the ball a bit too long. The Falcons started off 2022 with Marcus Mariota as QB1. That lasted into December when it was clear the Falcons were not headed to the playoffs. Ridder was named the starting QB in week 15 vs the Saints. Desmond would finish 2022 with a 2-2 record (the Falcons would end 7-11) with 2 TD passes and 0 pics. He would be sacked 9 times in the 4 games.
Desmond Ridder is in an ideal situation for a developing QB. Arthur Smith has installed an offense similar to the success model from his previous team in Tennessee. The O is built around the run (think Derrick Henry), play-action pass and a very stout defense. It has made Ryan Tannehill a very successful QB. And so far, it looks to me like Arthur Smith and OC Dave Ragone are play-calling to protect the football by not asking a lot of Ridder. The Falcons started 2-0 by running the ball (they may have the best RB tandem in NFL with rookie all-American Bijan Robinson and last year’s 1,000 back Tyler Allgeier), short possession-type passes and defense. But, it hit the wall in week 3 as the Falcons were shut down offensively last week in Detroit by the upstart Lions 20-6.
Ridder has posted high completion percentages in every game, but, the average per attempt of 6.2 yards Is one of the lowest in the league. Moreover, 3rd down conversions are not manifesting. Against Detroit the Falcons were 4 for 14 on 3rd down and 0-1 on fourth down. The Falcons coaching staff is doing a great job of keeping the load off of Ridder, but, he’s going to need to step up on critical transition playmaking and avoiding sacks with quicker decision making. My rating: Jury still out.
Sunday Oct 1 vs Jacksonville Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence in London, England
Sam Howell, Washington (I refuse to call them Commanders)
Sam Howell has put up some gaudy numbers during his football career. At Sun Valley HS in North Carolina he passed for over 13,000 yards and 145 TDs while rushing for another 60 TDs. He became the first true freshman to start at UNC and in 2019 he threw for 401 yards and 3 TDs in his first game (and win) vs rival North Carolina State. He was named ACC rookie of the year with an FBS record 38 TD passes for a freshman. His sophomore year he threw for 550 yards and 6 TDs vs Wake Forrest. Seriously???
So entering his senior year at UNC he was high on the NFL Draft watch list. However, Sam would sustain a shoulder (non-throwing shoulder) injury and not replicate the type of numbers he generated in his previous seasons at UNC. He would, however, leave UNC having thrown at least one TD pass in every game he played in college. But, his draft stock fell and he would be the sixth QB taken in the 2022 draft in the 5th round by Washington.
Sam mostly sat, watched, and learned throughout his rookie 2022 season with Washington. He did start the final game of the season after Washington had been eliminated from the playoffs. In that game he completed 11 of 19 passes for 169 yards with a passing and rushing touchdown in a 26-6 upset win over the Dallas Cowboys. Credit the Washington staff for a game plan that protected their rookie QB while still generating 26 points against a tough Cowboy’s defense.
Sam was named QB1 by head coach Ron Rivera after competing in training with with Jacoby Brissett. The feeling is Howell’s mobility adds a dimension to the Commander’s (ouch) offense. But, make no mistake Sam Howell is a work in progress. He was the 6th season opening starting QB for Washington in the last 6 years. This offense is crying out for stability. As you might expect its been a mixed bag for Howell in the early going. In opening with wins over the Broncos (35-33) and Cardinals (20-16) Sam out-played his competition registering 3 TD passes vs only 1 pic. But in week 3 Washington hit the wall vs the Bills (37-3) in a blowout that saw Howell throw 4 pics to the Bills. It will not get any easier this week vs the Eagles and one of the league’s best defenses. My rating: Jury still out.
Sunday Oct 1 vs Philadelphia Eagles and Jalen Hurts
Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers
We all know it took two 49er QBs (Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo) to be knocked out of the box before the team got around to playing Brock Purdy. Purdy, of course, had been drafted as not only the last Quarterback in the 2022 draft, but, the last player taken in the seventh and final round. Mr Irrelevant. But, he wasn’t considered irrelevant at Iowa State where he was a four-year starter that graduated as a three-time All-Big-12 quarterback and the holder of 32 school records including 81 TD passes. More telling is the fact that Purdy’s tenure at ISU marked the first time the school had four consecutive winning seasons since 1923-27.
The scouting report on Purdy included phrases like “not a very good athlete” and “limited arm strength”. I guess they also skipped over the small part about his reputation as a proven winner at Iowa State. But, credit the 49ers as they selected the QB that everyone else took a pass on. It didn’t take him long to make his point. Brock took over for Garoppolo on December 11 , 2022. In his first start he defeated Tom Brady’s Buccaneers 35-7 and threw 2 TD passes and ran for another. He would start the last 5 games of the regular season throwing for 13 TD passes against only 4 pics while winning all five games.
He would continue the success into the playoffs beating the Seahawks and becoming the first rookie QB to throw 4 TD passes in a playoff game. He also became the lowest drafted Quarterback to ever win a playoff game. It all came to a sudden end in the NFC Championship game vs the Eagles when Brock Purdy suffered an injury to his right (throwing) elbow. The 49ers down to their 4th QB lost the game and Purdy was diagnosed with a complete tear of his ulnar collateral ligament.
But the injury didn’t keep Purdy down for long. He was surgically repaired and worked hard all off-season. By the start of the 2023 season he had worked his way back into the QB1 job as Garoppolo was gone to free agency and Trey Lance traded to the Cowboys. With the opening win vs. the Steelers Brock Purdy became the first QB in NFL history to win his first six career regular season starts and throw at least two TD passes in each of those starts. So, to date, Mr Irrelevant is 8-0 in career regular season starts with 17 TD passes against only 4 Ints. My rating: the most exciting NFL story still evolving at the QB position. Can’t wait to see more!
Sunday Oct 1 vs Arizona Cardinals and Joshua Dobbs