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The 2022 NFL Draft is officially in the past and there was no shortage of surprises on any one day of the event.
It was well-known the quarterback class was wide-open both ahead of the 2021 college football season and that it remained that way up until April. While watching new Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett go a full two rounds ahead of now-Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis was among the most intriguing things, so was the order in which quarterbacks came off the board (or didn’t at all) on Day 3.
Here’s a look into each quarterback selected on the final day of the event and what they bring to the team that selected them.
Round 4, No. 137: New England Patriots: Bailey Zappe, WKU
This was one of the biggest surprises of the draft, as many pinned Zappe as a late-round prospect or a priority free agent. Zappe joins a quarterback room led by former Alabama signal-caller Mac Jones, who posted the best season among rookie quarterbacks last year after being selected by the Patriots at No. 15 overall.
It’s hard to envision a scenario where Zappe pushes Jones early (or if ever in New England, so long as Jones continues to build off to foundation he’s already lain there) while he’s making the transition, though his former coach, Tyson Helton, sees it as a possibility based off of what he saw out of him on the field and from a mental perspective at WKU.
“Bailey’s what I call the great American quarterback. Off the field, he’s the kindest, nicest guy. ‘Yessir. No sir.’ On the field, he’s like what you want all the great ones to be. He’s cutthroat,” Helton told Henry McKenna of The Patriots Wire. “He’s highly competitive, extremely smart, always poised and he’s got a major ‘it factor’ about him.”
Zappe put out a lot of film to like at WKU, though sometimes struggling with short and intermediate throws, something that seemed to be the case of the first day of the Senior Bowl though he cleaned it up in a big way and showed he could hang with high-level competition for the remainder of the showcase. He throws a well-placed deep ball, has enough mobility to bail himself out of bad situations and maintained a high level of overall accuracy. It doesn’t hurt that he broke the FBS records for most passing yards (5,967) and touchdowns (62) in a single season, either, running WKU’s altered version of the Air Raid offense in which required a deep understanding of protections and had a run game element, at maximum efficiency.
“I think when we got to WKU, we integrated a lot of power run scheme,” Zappe told me at the Senior Bowl of the Hilltoppers’ offensive scheme. “Your powers, your counters, all of that. At HBU, we kind of did more inside zone, outside zone. We had a little bit more run game when we got to WKU intermixed with that Air Raid—everybody thinks we’re just straight Air Raid.”
There’s no doubt he has the ability to be a consistently reliable backup in New England between his football IQ and the respectable way he carries himself fits with the “Patriot Way.”
Round 5, No. 144: Washington Commanders: Sam Howell, UNC
It’s not a stretch to believe one could look back at this draft and see Howell as one of the bigger steals across all positions, granted that he reaches his ceiling. The Commanders have utilized a quarterback with a good sense of mobility in the past with Taylor Heinicke and they get a signal-caller with underrated mobility with this selection. Howell fits Scott Turner’s offensive system well with his deep ball, bringing plenty of arm strength to the table. Howell told me earlier this year during the Senior Bowl that he thought he had one of the best arms in the class.
“I feel like I’ve got the best arm in the class,” Howell said. “I have the ability to make every throw on the field.” “I think I bring great leadership. I think I can rally a team better than anyone else. I have no limitations mentally or athletically. I can make any throw, I can run the ball, and mentally, I can handle anything an offensive coordinator wants to do.”
Perhaps his biggest transition will be continuing to get used to NFL footwork, considering there wasn’t a large amount of emphasis on footwork at UNC for Howell. If Howell develops well, he could give Heinicke some stiff competition for the No. 2 spot.
For now, the Eagles seem committed Carson Wentz as a long-term starter with the four-year, $128 million contract he signed. There was a time that Howell was considered the best quarterback in the 2022 Draft class, though him sometimes struggling to make the most of performing behind a subpar offensive line and with a lacking supporting cast caused his stock to drop in the eyes of some. If Howell translates to the NFL as that player some were putting at No. 1 at the position, it’s reasonable to believe there’s starting potential down the line here whether it’s with the Commanders or elsewhere.
Round 7, No. 241: Pittsburgh Steelers: Chris Oladokun, South Dakota State
Oladokun was snubbed from the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, but gets a chance to show he can compete for a backup role in Pittsburgh. He’s still a developmental prospect who should be expected to be a practice squad player at least for this season and it seems more than just unlikely that he ever makes a push for a starting job, especially in Pittsburgh, considering the Steelers drafted former Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett in the first round at No. 20 overall.
As with all late-round prospects, this is a no-risk pick the Steelers don’t have to remain tied to. He’s got decent arm talent and brings an intriguing level of athleticism and should be more than just a camp arm if he continues to grow what impressed Pittsburgh in there pre-draft process. He’ll need to improve his decision-making and placement on certain throws to keep himself consistently on a practice squad or roster, but has solid physical tools that make him an appealing raw prospect with some potential. It’s going to be a tough transition, but that’s nothing new for Oladokun who has experience in both a simple Air Raid offense and a more complex offense, spending time at USF, Samford and SDSU.
“I’ve played in a lot of different systems so I definitely have a strong ability to pick up and learn different systems,” Oladokun told me ahead of the draft. “I’ve played in systems where we threw the ball 60 times per game and systems like this past year when I played in a pro-style offense. Obviously, that’s more geared toward the league.”
For what it’s worth, Oladokun also already has a head start on developing chemistry with one of his new teammates. He spent some time throwing with Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson, a player he’s been familiar with since his high school days, ahead of draft.
Round 7, No. 247: Miami Dolphins: Skylar Thompson, Kansas State
This is a quarterback many had pinned as going undrafted after he dealt with injury setbacks throughout his college career, though he showed flashes when he was on the field at 100% capacity. This is an interesting choice made by the Dolphins here, who are perhaps looking for a project prospect who could potentially become their third-string quarterback.
There’s obviously no question that Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater will have roster spots, but Thompson does have the chance to become the third quarterback either at the bottom of the roster or on the practice squad, with Chris Streveler serving as his competition.
The 25-year-old rookie brings a lot of experience to the table, and says he prides himself on his ability to make things happen either with his legs or with his arm when things break down. He’s also confident that Kansas State prepared him well for the next level, though the way the offense was set up didn’t allow him to post eye-popping numbers.
“We were a pro-style system, so there was a lot that was on my plate both pre-snap and post-snap,” Thompson told me earlier this offseason. “We did everything out of the huddle and our play calls were pretty wordy. We tagged almost everybody on what their route was. As far as the run game goes, we would do a lot of double run calls where I had some control over which run play we were going to run based off of what front we were getting. It was challenging to learn at first but when I got comfortable with it and understood it more, I loved it, getting to dictate a lot of how the game was going to go.”
Round 7, No. 262: San Francisco 49ers: Brock Purdy, Iowa State
Purdy was 2022’s “Mr. Irrelevant” as the 49ers nabbed him with the final pick. Purdy projects as a player who can be a strong backup in this situation after showing significant year-over-year improvement at Iowa State between 2020 and 2021. Purdy was a highly-touted prospect ahead of the 2020 season, but his stock was quickly derailed as he showed issues with decision-making and pocket awareness.
As his stat line in 2021 perfectly reflects, though, Purdy took a positive step this past season. He finished out the year with a 71.7% completion percentage, 3,188 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions. One of the traits Purdy says he’s most proud of is accuracy, something that boils down to him having some of the best lower-body mechanics in this quarterback draft class.
One of the biggest knocks on Purdy from analysts was the deep ball, though Purdy did show it a handful of times on tape and it had several successful passes of 20 yards or more at both the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine and at his pro day. It’s important to also take into account the Cyclones offense was tailored to standout running back Breece Hall, and though it’s easy to see why with a talent like that, it’s equally easy to see how that could restrict a quarterback from showing his full ability in every area.
“We wanted to run the ball really well and then we get in certain situations where we have to throw it, we throw it,” Purdy told me this offseason. “For me, whenever I get that knock, if we alter the playcalling to, ‘Hey, let’s attack and throw it deep’ I know that I can do that. I did that growing up and I did that early on in my career. You’ve just got to watch the film for yourself to really see that.”
49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan compared Purdy to Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Nick Mullens, who proved a viable backup.
“He was a four-year starter, who played at a very high level in college and people want to know how he can do it at this level and that’s probably why we got him where we did, but this is a very hard position to play and he does it extremely consistent,” Shanahan told reporters. “I love how balanced he is in the pocket, I love that he’ll hang in there, doesn’t need good protection to get rid of the ball and usually if someone’s open he gets the ball to the right spot.”