Grading Every Drafted 2022 Rookie QB's Preseason Performance

David KenyonFeatured Columnist IVSeptember 6, 2022

Grading Every Drafted 2022 Rookie QB's Preseason Performance

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    Kenny Pickett | Justin Berl/Getty Images

    Since most starters don't have a major role during the NFL preseason, rookie quarterbacks often get thrown into the lineup early and often.

    During the 2022 exhibition slate, the four Day 1 or 2 selections in the 2022 NFL draft—Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis and Matt Corral—commanded the most attention. However, a seventh-round pick performed as well as any other member of the rookie class.

    Now, remember, the preseason isn't a perfect indicator of future performance. We're not suggesting these grades are long-term projections.

    This is simply a measurement of a few initial appearances for the eight drafted quarterbacks who appeared in a preseason game. The order is alphabetical based on team name.

Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons

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    At least initially in 2022, the Atlanta Falcons are banking on Marcus Mariota. While rebuilding the roster, they're aiming to extract the best of 2015's second overall selection.

    But we should be seeing Desmond Ridder along the way.

    The third-round pick out of Cincinnati threw two touchdowns and led a comeback win over the Detroit Lions during his debut. He followed that up with a 10-of-13, 143-yard showing opposite the New York Jets.

    Although he had a bit of a roller-coaster day against the Jacksonville Jaguars and threw two interceptions, he still finished 14-of-21 for 185 yards and a touchdown.

    Ridder is not definitely the Falcons' long-term QB, but the preseason suggested he deserves a shot sometime soon.

    Grade: B+

Matt Corral, Carolina Panthers

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    Although it's not shocking bad news, it is bad news nonetheless.

    Matt Corral left the Carolina Panthers' second preseason game because of a foot injury. Unfortunately, it will sideline the Ole Miss product for the entire 2022 campaign.

    During his brief appearances, Corral completed just 10 of his 24 attempts for 69 yards. The balance is acknowledging he had a rough preseason in a small sample size, yet the Panthers seemingly didn't put him in ideal positions to succeed, either.

    Considering the uncertain job security of third-year coach Matt Rhule, there may be a different staff in Carolina the next time Corral suits up.

    Grade: Incomplete

Skylar Thompson, Miami Dolphins

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    One of the gems in the preseason, Skylar Thompson put together a remarkable three-game run with the Miami Dolphins.

    Thompson hit 20-of-28 passes for 218 yards and a touchdown against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Then, he went 9-of-10 for 129 yards and a score against the Las Vegas Raiders and 7-of-10 for 103 yards and three touchdowns opposite the Philadelphia Eagles.

    The overall numbers for Thompson: 36-of-48 for 450 yards, five scores and zero interceptions.

    As a result, the seventh-round pick out of Kansas State made the 53-man roster. He'll be the third-stringer behind Tua Tagovailoa and veteran Teddy Bridgewater this season.

    Grade: A

Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots

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    Last year, Bailey Zappe smashed a couple of Football Bowl Subdivision records at Western Kentucky. That explosive season convinced the Patriots to grab him in the fourth round and work to develop him as a backup for Mac Jones.

    So far, not bad.

    Zappe impressed in his first contest, hitting 19-of-32 throws for 205 yards with one touchdown and one interception. New England lost, but he guided a go-ahead scoring drive late in the fourth quarter.

    Over the last two games, Zappe connected on 26 of his 39 attempts for 257 yards, zero scores and two picks.

    New England kept him on the 53-man roster, though Brian Hoyer will probably remain the second-stringer in 2022.

    Grade: C+

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Kenny Pickett | Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Based on the Pittsburgh Steelers' short-term financial investment in Mitchell Trubisky—one that suggests minimal faith in Mason Rudolph as Ben Roethlisberger's replacement—the former Chicago Bears starter will probably open the season as QB1.

    As with Desmond Ridder in Atlanta, however, Kenny Pickett likely won't be watching the whole season from the sideline.

    Pickett, the lone first-round choice in 2022, had a memorable debut and threw a winning last-second touchdown pass against the Seattle Seahawks. He ended the preseason 29-of-36 for 261 yards, three scores and zero interceptions.

    No matter if Trubisky begins the season as the starter, Pickett should have opportunities to play in 2022.

    Grade: A-

Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers

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    Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

    Following a disappointing end to his Iowa State career, Brock Purdy began his San Francisco 49ers tenure in a much different way.

    The final pick of the 2022 draft—popularly known as Mr. Irrelevant—played well enough in the preseason for the Niners to keep him on the 53-man roster over Nate Sudfeld.

    Purdy endured a few shaky moments that looked all too familiar to his college days, but he largely was a steady presence. He wrapped up the exhibitions with a respectable 30-of-49 line for 346 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

    Jimmy Garoppolo's highly uncertain future in San Francisco means Purdy could become Trey Lance's backup at any moment but likely no later than 2023.

    Grade: B

Malik Willis, Tennessee Titans

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    Justin Ford/Getty Images

    Malik Willis didn't have the strongest preseason among the rookie class, but he certainly had an exciting one.

    The dual-threat quarterback went 28-of-51 for 328 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He also scampered for 159 yards and a score on just 14 carries, breaking off a long run of 50 yards against the Cardinals on a perfectly timed scramble.

    Willis has plenty to learn to become an NFL-caliber passer. In fact, Titans coach Mike Vrabel yanked the Liberty product from his debut because Willis didn't throw the ball.

    The good news is he'll be the backup in 2022 anyway, and Ryan Tannehill is under contract for 2023, too. If Willis needs an extra year to develop further, Tennessee can be moderately patient.

    Grade: B-

Sam Howell, Washington Commanders

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    Carson Wentz will be the Washington Commanders' starter in 2022, and Taylor Heinicke should drop to the backup role after opening 15 games for the team last season.

    Barring a surge from Wentz, though, there will be clamors for Sam Howell as QB1 in 2023.

    Another dual-threat quarterback, the North Carolina product impressed with his mobility and rushed for 94 yards and two scores in the preseason. Howell hit 43 of his 69 passes for 547 yards with one touchdown and one interception, as well.

    Howell was viewed as a first-round talent entering the 2021 college season but slipped to the fifth round in the 2022 draft. Washington took a low-risk gamble on his upside, and Howell seems to be paying off.

    Grade: B+


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