This is usually a fun article to write. Who doesn’t like talking about how rookie quarterbacks are going to rescue a franchise from obscurity?
This year, it’s going to be a struggle to get through this piece, but I’ll try.
In a weak draft for quarterbacks, is there anyone who can turn their team around? Is there anyone who could even come close to doing that? Will all these teams be drafting QBs again in a year or two?
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The Pitt product was the only quarterback taken in the first round and … well, I really wonder if he wasn’t local if the Steelers would have taken someone else like Malik Willis. I have no actual insight into the Steelers draft process, but that could have factored in, right?
Anyway, Pickett is being set up to succeed in Pittsburgh. Najee Harris at running back. Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool at wideout, plus the team drafted George Pickens. The offensive line was 11th in adjusted sack rate last season for Football Outsiders, but also gave Ben Roethlisberger the least time to throw of any NFL quarterback for Next Gen Stats. The team did sign some solid linemen this offseason that should bolster that line.
Pickett will have a chance., But he’s also going to be 24 already in his rookie season and it wasn’t really until the 2021 season that Pickett was able to put up eye-popping numbers. A four-year starter, 51.8% of his career passing touchdowns came as a senior. Maybe he’s the next Joe Burrow, who entered the league with the same concern about a one-year leap and if it was sustainable (and both had concerns about hand size), but … IDK, y’all. He’s got some decent mobility and accuracy, but fumbled a lot in college and has to get more comfortable in his pocket.
Will He Turn The Steelers Around? With good coaching and good weapons, Pickett doesn’t necessarily have to set the world on fire to get this team into the postseason. I think he’ll be fine in Pittsburgh, but if the Steelers have postseason success with Pickett, it won’t necessarily be because of Pickett.
The Falcons went 7-10 last season, marking the third time in four seasons that the team won exactly seven games. The only other season over that span saw the team go 4-12.
For as good as Matt Ryan has been over the last decade, it was time for a reset in Atlanta. Ryan’s a Colt now, and the Falcons are set to start Marcus Mariota in the short term with Ridder being the eventual starter.
Will Ridder find success? He’s a third-round quarterback and the last third-round quarterback who I’d consider a success (without having to make qualifications like “he looked good for a third-rounder) was Russell Wilson in 2012. Good players slip through the cracks, but because QBs always get overdrafted, draft capital seems to matter more at this position than at any other one.
As for what Ridder can do in Atlanta, he’ll be surrounded by a questionable supporting cast and enters the league with some big questions about his consistency and accuracy. Ridder is athletic, but even at Cincinnati, he had some issues putting the ball where it needed to be:
Will He Turn The Falcons Around? I don’t see it. More than most years, the 2022 rookie quarterbacks need to have a good team around them to succeed. Ridder doesn’t have that and there’s such a talent void here after Kyle Pitts and (hopefully) Drake London that I don’t see that issue being fixed by 2023 either. The Falcons will be looking for a new quarterback in a year or two.
Willis was my favorite QB in this class. Sure, he played at a low level of competition at Liberty, but the tools seem to be there.
Probably the most athletic QB in this class, the main concern for Willis is making right read and making sure he hits his targets. I like his arm from a strength perspective, but not sure about it from an accuracy standpoint at this point. He completed 61.1% of his passes last season; for comparison, Pickett was at 67.2%. Some of that is that Pickett played with better talent, but not all of it.
The good news for Willis is he landed in a good spot. The Titans have a QB in Ryan Tannehill, so they can be patient with him, and the team has had consistent success with Mike Vrabel as head coach.
Will He Turn The Titans Around? That’s a weird question, because he doesn’t really need to turn this team around. What he needs to do is be prepared to play if he’s needed in 2022. If Tannehill continues to play well, Willis may never even start in Tennessee. Not someone I’d be betting on, but I do think that if Tannehill struggles and Willis is named the starter in 2023 or 2024, the team won’t miss too many beats.
The Panthers were widely expected to take an early-ish quarterback in the draft. By the time they actually did, it was the third round. On the bright side, Corral has a decent shot to start in 2022 because the guy ahead of him on the depth chart is Sam Darnold, who the Panthers traded for last season and who was not impressive. So Corral could play early, but will his play lead to success for Carolina in the short and long term?
Corral had some fumble issues in college and it’s unclear if he’s going to be able to make quick decisions when the speed of the game ramps up at the NFL level. He’s athletic though and has a really lively arm. The skills are all here.
Will He Turn The Panthers Around? I think Corral could be a solid player for Carolina. I like the tools. However, draft capital is working against him and the Panthers have struggled under Matt Rhule. It’s likely the team is looking for a new head coach next year, and bringing in a new coach is always worrisome for a QB like Corral, who the team won’t necessarily be super invested in. I lean on the side of Corral not being the guy in Carolina, even if I like him more than I necessarily think I should.
Okay, as much as I love Bailey Zappe, he won’t be supplanting Mac Jones in New England. I just wanted to mention him here because he was drafted ahead of Sam Howell.
But hey, Zappe is a great story! Started his career at Houston Baptist. Ended up playing one record-setting year at Western Kentucky. Is from Victoria, TX, which is also where Stone Cold Steve Austin and Kevin Kolb are from.
Will He Turn The Patriots Around? No. Zappe is likely a career backup. Any chance he had to start would have required him to be drafted elsewhere.
Sam Howell – Washington Commanders
Howell was thought by many to be the No. 1 QB in this class before the 2021 college season. But his 2021 season was … not as good as expected.
It wasn’t necessarily bad, though. His completion percentage dropped from 68.1% down to 62.5% and his yards per attempt from 10.3 to 8.8, but he still threw 24 touchdowns and he made huge strides as a runner, rushing for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns, up from 146 with five scores the year before.
In fact, part of me thinks that Howell showing advancement as a runner makes him more intriguing. He shouldn’t have fallen this far in the draft.
Will He Turn The Commanders Around? Can anyone? Howell’s lack of draft capital and the fact that Washington brought in Carson Wentz means that Howell isn’t likely to get a chance in Washington until 2023 at the earliest, and that’s only if Wentz is bad enough to lose the job. Howell strikes me as someone who’ll have the occasional spot start during his career, during which time he’ll look solid but it won’t turn into a starting gig.
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