The 2022 QB class
The 2022 quarterback class has been widely regarded as a weak one for fantasy. The NFL seemed to agree when they only drafted one quarterback in the first round of the 2022 NFL draft. Still, there is plenty of opportunity to capitalize on the 2022 quarterback class. You just need to put it in the correct perspective.
The key will be patience with this class. Since they were not highly regarded, they fell down the draft boards of NFL teams. Just one went in the first round. And the second quarterback didn’t go until the 10th pick of the third round. Not a ringing endorsement from a league that has drafted guys like Johnny Manziel, Mitch Trubisky, Christian Ponder, and Paxton Lynch in the first round. But there may be hope.
Remember when young QBs sat behind a veteran to learn?
It used to be commonplace to draft a quarterback and let him develop behind a seasoned veteran. Joe Montana started just eight games in his first two seasons. Patrick Mahomes, Brett Favre, and Aaron Rodgers all sat for at least a year. Let’s face facts, though, none of the quarterbacks in this class are coming into the league with the expectations they will be the next Mahomes or Rodgers. And that is a good thing.
So what are realistic expectations? Kirk Cousins’s career arc is an interesting one. Cousins played in 14 games and started 11 games in his first three seasons. Since becoming a starter in 2015 (his 4th season), Cousins has put up 5 QB1 seasons. Tyrod Taylor spent four seasons on the bench in Baltimore before moving on to Buffalo, where he put up QB16, QB8, and QB16 seasons. Not super-sexy, but for the price you paid at the start of those runs, it was well worth it.
Let’s look at this class through the lens I described above.
Kenny Pickett, pick 1.20, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pickett is the one quarterback in the class to receive first-round draft capital. He will likely start the season on the bench behind Mitchell Trubisky, but Trubisky will have a short leash. After failing in Chicago, Trubisky gets a chance at redemption in Pittsburgh. I would like to see him redeem himself, but unfortunately, I think the Steelers will be looking for an opportunity to move to Pickett.
Pickett is going mid/late first in rookie drafts. His sleeper ADP is currently pick 144 at the end of the 12th round. In a start 10, Superflex league Pickett will be a bye week quarterback for the next couple of seasons. However, if you are patient with his development, he has a Derek Carr ceiling. Look for Pickett to settle into that QB14-20 range in 2024.
Desmond Ridder, pick 3.74, Atlanta Falcons
Ridder was the second quarterback off the board to the rebuilding Atlanta Falcons and second-year head coach Arthur Smith. The Falcons are deep into a rebuild that saw them bring in Marcus Mariota to fill the void at quarterback caused by the trade of Matt Ryan. Ridder, like Mariota, is a great athlete who has some accuracy issues when it comes to passing the ball. Mariota’s contract and Ridder’s draft capital say both will be fighting for their spots on the roster for the next couple of years. If the Falcons take one of the elite QBs in the 2023 class, both will be on the outs.
For the sake of this article, we are going to assume the Falcons are not in a position to draft one of the elite quarterbacks in 2023 and discuss Ridder. Mariota is signed for two years. The Falcons will not be a great team, so I think Ridder gets a shot at the starting job. Accuracy is his current Achilles heel. If he can take the NFL coaching and bump up his 62.1% college completion rate, he will get a shot at the starting job toward the end of 2023. He profiles very similar to Mariota, who never quite put it all together. Ridder has a QB15-24 range of outcomes if he improves marginally. If the team wins games, the coach and Ridder will have some security.
Malik Willis, pick 3.84, Tennessee Titans
This is the real wild card in the 2022 quarterback class. Willis has a very high ceiling but also a very low floor. The biggest knock is that he played weak competition at Liberty University. Willis transferred to Liberty after throwing just 11 passes in two seasons at Auburn. He played just 23 games at Liberty.
Willis will start his career backing up veteran Ryan Tannehill. It will be a big step up from Liberty University to the NFL. Patience will be key for managers who roster Willis. Tannehill is signed through 2023, so unless Willis comes on strong this season, I expect 2024 to be the year Willis takes over. Willis is currently going at pick 189 on sleeper, a full round ahead of Ridder.
Matt Corral, pick 3.94, Carolina Panthers
Matt Corral landed in the worst situation of the quarterback class of 2022. What seemed like a promising hire in Matt Rhule has been a bit rocky, with Christian McCaffery suffering injuries that last two seasons. The Panthers traded for and then exercised the fifth-year option on Sam Darnold. For a few games, that looked like a great move. And then it didn’t. Darnold fell apart after CMC suffered an injury. Then Darnold sustained an injury of his own. The Panthers brought back a washed-up Cam Newton and tried to piece together the rest of the season.
Darnold is back for 2022 and is currently atop the depth chart. A bowl game injury has kept Corral out of the pre/post-draft process. That may explain some of the draft fall for Corral. At 6’1″ 205. Corral plays bigger than his size, which might lead to injuries in the NFL. He was an accurate passer in college who ran a lot of RPOs. The Panthers are not tied to Darnold after 2022, and he is likely gone. Corral may see some starts this year if Darnold falters. At pick 207 (17th round), Corral is a perfect taxi squad player. You should know by the end of 2022 when his shot will come.
Bailey Zappe, pick 4.137, New England Patriots
Zappe was the least talked about quarterback in this group. Most had him behind even Carson Strong, who went undrafted. This was a classic Bill Belichick pick, earlier than many expected, but a player with good skills and great leadership potential. I don’t see Zappe unseating Mac Jones, but this is just the type of player Belichick will trade to a quarterback-needy team in two or three years.
I see Zappe spending the next three years getting passed around as a dynasty trade throw-in. If the opportunity arises, Zappe is the type of guy that will grab the starting role and hold onto it for a few seasons. He is a low ceiling/high floor player. He will settle in as a low-end QB2, and you need those guys in Superflex leagues.
Sam Howell, pick 5.144, Washington Commanders
This pick showed just how much farther I need to go in my quarterback evaluation skills. I like Howell a lot. Howell has excellent ball placement on deep passes, he is mobile (enough), has good pocket presence, and has started since his freshman year. Then he dropped to the fifth round, where he will back up Carson Wentz.
Wentz has been quite the polarizing player for fantasy managers. While most are out on him now, there are still a few believers. Find them if you are trying to get rid of Wentz. After a dismal year in Indianapolis, Wentz will be trying to resurrect his career. His contract runs through 2024, but the Commanders can get rid of Wentz after 2022 with $0 dead cap. Howell can go to camp with Washington with no pressure and get acclimated to the NFL. Howell may not pan out, but he is worth a shot at pick 180 (15th round) in startup drafts.
What does it mean?
There are no sure things, especially at quarterback. For every Peyton Manning, John Elway, and Patrick Mahomes, there is a Jake Locker, EJ Manuel, and Akili Smith. To be successful in dynasty, you need to find the Dak Prescott’s, Kirk Cousins’, and Tom Brady’s as well. Will any of these guys join the ranks of the latter group? I don’t know. I do know that with some patience, and at their current cost, this class might just deliver a few QB2s, and in Superflex, that is very important.
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