- ESPN staff writer
- Previously a college football reporter for CBSSports.com
- University of Florida graduate
The NFL has a shortage of quality quarterback play. Yes, the top-shelf passers are brilliant in their playmaking and true franchise cornerstones, from a 44-year-old somehow getting better (Tom Brady) to a 25-year-old who just got to the Super Bowl (Joe Burrow). But the quarterback pantheon is top-heavy. There’s debate around the league as to whether the NFL has 32 true starters.
That’s where the 2021 draft class enters the picture. A group of six talented young QBs — Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields, Mac Jones and Davis Mills — have much to prove but will help define the 2022 NFL season. That six players from one draft occupy nearly 20% of the NFL’s starting quarterback jobs entering their second season is a rare occurrence (the 49ers haven’t ensured Lance is the starter as Jimmy Garoppolo remains on the roster, but the move is largely expected).
By unofficial count, the last time six drafted quarterbacks entered Year 2 entrenched as starters was 2000. That class played out like many draft classes before and after — with plenty of hits and misses. Daunte Culpepper and Donovan McNabb ascended, Akili Smith and Cade McNown floundered, and Tim Couch was out of the league after five years. All five players were top-12 picks in 1999. Second-round pick Shaun King guided the Buccaneers to a 10-6 record in his second year but didn’t sustain the momentum.
This year’s group enters 2022 brimming with optimism, but history says a few of them will eventually fall flat. So we surveyed a handful of NFL execs, scouts and coaches on which of the Year 2 quarterbacks are poised for a big year. Each ranked the quarterbacks 1-6, and what follows are the composite rankings based on 2022 expectations — not career arc. That’s an important distinction. Scheme, team fit and supporting cast are part of the criteria.
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