As the 2023 NFL season approaches, we take a look at quarterbacks from the 2022 draft class. Whose sophomore season will prove to be a breakout? Our picks include three QBs who had their moments in the spotlight last year — but can they keep up that kind of momentum for an entire season when given the chance?
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers
Pickett already began to break out last season. After earning the starting job from Mitch Trubisky in October, Pickett showed significant improvement throughout the season, cutting down on interceptions and pulling through with huge game-winning plays several times.
This year, Pickett has had time to adjust to the pace of the NFL and has hopefully gotten most of the kinks worked out. He has a solid receiving corps of Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Allen Robinson, and Pat Freiermuth. The Steelers are clearly prioritizing him after selecting an offensive tackle in the first round of 2023, and they want their 2022 first-rounder to pay off.
Brock Purdy, San Francisco 49ers
Purdy, the Mr. Irrelevant of the 2022 NFL Draft, became one of the sport’s biggest stories at the end of last season. He took over the starting job after Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance were both injured and carried the Niners to an NFC West win and the NFC Championship Game. As a starter, he won seven games in a row, and the Niners ended up falling after he suffered an elbow injury late into the playoffs.
Well, that performance earned him the starting job, and if Purdy looks anything like he did at the end of last season, the Niners are in for a good 2023. They have Christian McCaffrey at running back, and the offense will center around him, but Purdy has Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, and George Kittle in his receiving group. He should be able to put together a breakout season if he can stay healthy and fully recover from his elbow injury.
Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots
Zappe made a big impact on the NFL world last year. The 2022 rookie, selected late in the fourth round, came into the Week 4 game against Green Bay after Mac Jones and Bailey Hoyer were both injured. He played in just four games last season but finished with a 70.7% completion rate and 781 yards.
While Zappe is starting the season as Jones’ backup on the depth chart, I don’t think it takes a terribly long stretch of the imagination to see him taking over the starting position partway through the season. There was already something of a QB battle last season, and if Jones either gets injured or doesn’t step up to the plate in the first few weeks of the season, Bill Belichick might be giving Zappe a real shot.