May 27, 2022

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2022 NFL Draft: Are these rookie quarterbacks better than who QB-needy teams already have?

What’s the deal with the quarterback class in the 2022 NFL Draft? Are we going to see three or four passers in Round 1? Are any of these quarterback even worth a first-round pick? 

This article asks another, more specific question: are the top-three quarterback prospects, the passers most likely to land in Round 1, better than the veterans they could possibly replace? 

Now, I originally planned to have a wide array of answers to that question for each quarterback, then realized it’d make things too convoluted. You’ll see a “yes” or “no” below.  

Of course, this is not a clear-cut way to determine whether or not a team should select a quarterback in the first round. Team-building is significantly more complex than that. Some, most, or all of these teams could theoretically “get by” in 2022 with their penciled-in veteran starters before turning their attention to the 2023 quarterback class. 

Still, let’s work through the question with the five-most quarterback-needy teams in this year’s draft.

Top rostered QB: Jared Goff

Goff absolutely has his limitations. In the modern-day NFL, he’s close to being as stoic in the pocket as they come. The arm talent isn’t outstanding, but the big-time throws pop on occasion. In the correct environment, particularly one in which he’s not pressured frequently, Goff is a higher-end, “serviceable” bridge quarterback. 

Are draft prospects better? 

  • Malik Willis: Yes
  • Kenny Pickett: No
  • Desmond Ridder: No

Willis isn’t better today. But the disparity in overall talent level between the two is too sizable for Willis not to earn a “yes” here, especially considering what he can do with his legs as a scrambler and in the designed run game. 

I’m a fan of Pickett. He’s squarely my QB2 with a mid-first-round grade. I can’t confidently say he’s better than Goff right now or can be significantly better than him in the future. The same is true for Ridder, the other quarterback on whom I have a first-round grade. 

Top rostered QB: Sam Darnold

Collectively, we need to stop trying to make Darnold happen. His breakout season, one that elevated him to the top of the draft, came all the way back when he was a redshirt freshman at USC in…2016. In football years, that was like six decades ago. He’s a turnover machine, and while the flashes appear randomly, the pocket presence woes have never improved, and he routinely makes bad decisions. Also, by today’s new athletic standards for the quarterback position, Darnold should probably be considered average. 

Are draft prospects better? 

  • Malik Willis: Yes
  • Kenny Pickett: Yes
  • Desmond Ridder: Yes

For me, this is a no-brainer. And let it serve as an indicator as to what I believe the Panthers should do at No. 6 overall. Any of the turnover concerns with Willis aren’t as bad as they are with Darnold, and he’s a considerably more capable athlete with a stronger arm. Pickett isn’t nearly as turnover prone and provides at least a Darnold-level of physical talent. Ridder is much steadier from series to series and game to game and has more upside because of his athletic profile, even if his arm isn’t quite to Darnold’s level.

Top rostered QB: Marcus Mariota

We don’t really know what to make of Mariota at this stage of his career. Former No. 2 overall pick, flopped with the Titans, flashed in extremely limited action with the Raiders, and now he’s back with the coach he flopped with in Tennessee. 

Are draft prospects better?

  • Malik Willis: Yes
  • Kenny Pickett: Yes
  • Desmond Ridder: No

Willis is more of a gamer than Mariota with a stronger arm and a greater tendency to let it rip through tight windows. Mariota’s timid playing style always held him and his offenses back. Pickett’s an assertive thrower, too, with quarterback amnesia. If he makes a bad play, it doesn’t faze him. He’s ripping a strike over the middle on the next drive. Right now, I don’t know if Ridder is better, especially in Atlanta. The one main concern I have with Ridder isn’t traits-related. It’s that he was in such a comfy environment at Cincinnati over the past four years. We just don’t know right now how well he can handle legitimate adversity. And Mariota provides more improvisational upside than Ridder, who tested like a freak but doesn’t exactly show that type of dynamic playmaking skill on film. 

Top rostered QB: Drew Lock

I really liked Lock in the 2019 draft. He was my QB1, just slightly ahead of Kyler Murray. (Yes, I own up to my misses.) Did he get a fair shake in Denver? Probably not. Losing Courtland Sutton in Week 1 of his first full season as a starter was a crushing blow and a development-hindering occurrence. However, has he done much to suggest he’s just a quality situation away from breaking out? No. 

Are draft prospects better? 

  • Malik Willis: Yes
  • Kenny Pickett: Yes
  • Desmond Ridder: Yes

Willis is obvious. Pickett not as much, but “yes” feels right here. While Lock is probably a slightly above-average athlete at the quarterback position, he hasn’t been anywhere close to a dazzling ad-libber as the pocket collapses, and he’s made too many mistakes with the football. Pickett’s not going to put the ball in harm’s way often and has close to a Lock-level of throw-making capabilities despite not having quite as strong of an arm. The same can be said for Ridder, especially when it comes to making sound decisions and keeping the ball out of precarious situations. Athletically, Ridder feels a lot like Lockl, too.

Top rostered QB: Mitchell Trubisky

Trubisky rehabbed his reputation by spending a season as Josh Allen’s backup in Buffalo. Upon signing with the Steelers, there were nothing but glowing reports from Bills staffers and teammates about him. However, we have to be real here: Trubisky played sparingly in some garbage-time regular season outings and had one strong preseason showing. That’s it. His rehabbed reputation is more the byproduct of people not watching him make mistake after mistake for an entire season as opposed to him impressing with his actual play.

Are draft prospects better?

  • Malik Willis: Yes
  • Kenny Pickett: Yes
  • Desmond Ridder: Yes

Layup here, really. There’s more upside with all three quarterbacks, and it’s not crazy, in fact it might be considered sensible, that any of these three quarterbacks could/would be more efficient than Trubisky in 2022. Ridder was close to getting a “no” in this scenario, as I could envision a situation in which he struggles mightily in his first NFL season if he’s behind a porous offensive line. But then I remember he’s entering the league with 50 starts to his name. Trubisky has 50 career regular season NFL starts. Of course, college and pro starts are different, but the experience of being the center of an offense — any offense — absolutely matters.