It was a wild regular season for this weekly series that grades young quarterbacks. Why? Well, an NFL record 65 different starting quarterbacks -- counting Sam Howell in Week 18 -- took the field during the 2022 season, and many teams are leaning on first-or-second-year passers down the stretch, a few into the playoffs. For the third-straight week, we had nine of them see considerable action.
Let's dive deep into the individual efforts of each quarterback and assign a grade on a per-snap basis, taking every individual aspect of their performance into account. At least 10 attempts are needed to qualify for this piece, which is published each Tuesday during the NFL season.
This quarterbacks are listed in descending order of their season-long grades. There's a bottom section of non-qualifiers, which were the passers who did not have at least five separate appearances of significant playing time for their respective team.
- With under five minutes to go in the half, Purdy threw with perfect timing on a deep crosser run by Brandon Aiyuk. The throw had to arrive before he ran into coverage and did.
- On a third down later in the second quarter, Purdy made an anticipatory throw from the far hash to Christian McCaffrey on a comeback that had perfect accuracy to move the chains.
- In the first quarter, he tried a super-quick, sidearm toss to Deebo Samuel that skipped at the receiver's feet.
- On the next play, reversed his field in the pocket in an attempt to scramble and look a 17-yard sack.
- In the second, on a classic curl route run by Jauan Jennings, Purdy misfired and the ball fell incomplete.
Summary: After a rough start, Purdy settled in against the porous Cardinals defense at home and had another highly efficient performance.
Season Summary: Purdy was forced into action as a seventh-round rookie, and the 49ers offense didn't lose any steam. In fact, there's a case to be made that it got more efficient with Purdy than it was with Jimmy Garoppolo. San Francisco did a marvelous job scheming open throws for Purdy, but he also too was very good at understanding where to go with the football. His accuracy and improvisation were rock-solid all regular season.
Week 18 Grade: B-
Final Season Grade: B- (82.5)
- Early in the second quarter, Lawrence ripped a rocket to Christian Kirk over the middle for 16 yards through tight coverage.
- While fading to his left, Lawrence somehow got the ball all the way across the field to Kirk for four yards.
- In the third, Lawrence looked left then quickly got to the middle of the field to Marvin Jones and threw a rocket that hit the veteran in stride.
- Later in the third, he threw with ideal placement and timing on a slot fade to Kirk for 33 yards.
- In the second, he missed high on a swing pass to JaMychal Hasty.
- At the start of the second, Lawrence was late and behind on a seam throw to Evan Engram
- Lawrence totally missed Zay Jones wide open in the end zone in the third quarter.
- His last throw of the night was a long ball to Marvin Jones that sailed out of bounds.
Summary: Certainly not Lawrence's finest performance of the season, but there were a few of the awe-inspiring rockets that've been regular occurrences this season for the second-year quarterback.
Season Summary: Lawrence did it. He made the leap. Now, it wasn't to sure-fire elite quarterback status. Close though. The layups he missed repeatedly as a rookie were mostly erased from his film. The pocket presence was better. The big-time throws were more frequent. The arrow is distinctly pointing up for the former No. 1 overall selection.
Week 18 Grade: C+
Final Season Grade: B- (80)
- Early in the game, he threw a strike across his body to Diontae Johnson
- Late in the second, Pickett connected with George Pickens on a gorgeous back-shoulder.
- His next throw was almost identical, but Pickens was ruled out of bounds.
- In the fourth, Pickett ripped one of his best throws of the season, a laser to Connor Heyward down the seam for 27 yards.
- Pickett missed woefully on a deep dig early in the second quarter.
- Midway through the fourth he sailed a flag route to Johnson.
Summary: Fresh off his most exquisite performance of the season, Picket pieced together another strong game in Week 18 against the Browns. A lot of what he was asked to do was schemed up but there were a few strikes near the sideline and down the middle of the field.
Season Summary: Pickett had a very natural rookie-year progression. He started slowly and for a minute, there was some justifiable concern about his lack of development. As the season rolled into December, Pickett hit his stride. The arm-talent was there all season. He made better decisions and was more accurate the more he played. He didn't set the NFL on fire down the stretch but there were encouraging signs for his future late in his rookie campaign.
Week 18 Grade: B
Final Season Grade: C+ (78.75)
- In the first quarter, Jones threw with perfect placement and touch on a short touchdown toss to Jakobi Meyers in the back fo the end zone.
- The fourth-quarter touchdown to DeVante Parker wasn't the greatest throw down the sideline, but Jones gave his big, contested-catch receiver an opportunity to make a play on the football and he did.
- Early in the third he targeted Meyers on a short throw in the direction of the sideline that was undercut by a linebacker and nearly intercepted.
- Midway through that same quarter, Jones had Tyquan Thornton over the middle on a 3rd and 7 but the throw was behind the rookie receiver and led to a massive hit.
- In the fourth, he missed on an easy throw into the flat.
Summary: Jones operated the offense very well for the Patriots on the road against a quality defense. Did he make a litany of difficult, tight-window throws? No. But he got the ball to open receivers on time and accurately for most of this contest.
Season Summary: Did Jones take a step forward in Year 2? No. But after watching and tracking all of his rookie season, I was much lower on Jones entering his second professional season than most. The bad was ghastly to watch yet the former Alabama quarterback did finish on a positive note with strong outings in his final three contests and an "A-" performance in Week 14. Jones is not a physical marvel. He operates a very conservative offense -- part of which is likely due to his arm-talent and athletic limitations -- well in most scenarios.
Week 18 Grade: B
Final Season Grade: C+ (76.5)
Final Season Summary: Fields didn't play in Week 18. The development as a passer was slow but certainly materialized for Fields. The maturation as a runner was incredible. All season, Fields was amazing carrying the football. He played behind an average-at-best blocking unit and arguably the least-imposing receiver group in the league and mostly held his own after a historically pedestrian start. The Bears should build around their young, athletic, high-upside passer.
Final Season Grade: C+ (76.33)
- Mills' first throw of the game was fit into the arms of Brandin Cooks right before a defensive back dove underneath in an attempt to break up the pass.
- While it was a fantastic adjustment by the tight end, Mills placed a pass perfectly to Jordan Akins on a 19-yard touchdown. The throw was away from the defender.
- Late in the game, he delivered a strike to Cooks down the left sideline. Big-time velocity.
- Late in the first, Mills airmailed a pass to Chris Moore.
- Near the end of the third, Mills threw an ill-advised pass that was directly to DeForest Buckner and should've been intercepted but hit the ground.
- His next pass was picked by Rodney McLeod over the middle. Throw was late.
- Mills then lofted a pass too high for his rookie tight end.
- The next throw had far too much air under it on a target for Chris Moore and was picked again.
Summary: Mills battled hard in this last-second win over the Colts. It wasn't always pretty, and there was a stretch of some bad decisions and brutal throws in this one. However, his arm talent paid off when it mattered most.
Season Summary: After a hot finish to his rookie campaign, there was some thought Mills could take the next step and lock himself into being the Texans' long-term starter. That step was never taken by the young quarterback, although every once in a while he'd flash with a strong quarter, half, or game. Of course, the team around him didn't help to elevate. Mills proved he can play in the NFL but he'll have to fight for any future starting gig.
Week 18 Grade: C-
Season Grade: C (74.1)
- In the first, he scrambled to his right and right before he reached the sideline he somehow squeezed a pass into Tyreek Hill for 15 yards against tight coverage.
- The next play, while fading away from the throw due to pressure in his face, Thompson made a very strong throw to Durham Smythe downfield for 26 yards.
- While it was a tick underthrown because there was a rusher in his face, Thompson lofted a high-arcing pass to an open Mike Gesicki 30 yards down the field in the fourth quarter.
- Thompson got off a nice shovel pass to Gesicki right before he would've been sacked midway through the fourth quarter.
- Thompson made a dangerous throw to Mike Gesicki on a deep corner route that was nearly intercepted.
Summary: Thompson was under duress often in this contest, and had plenty of throwaways. The rookie otherwise impressive as an improviser. He showcased quality arm talent too and solid accuracy throughout against a stingy secondary.
Season Summary: Thompson saw considerable action in four contests as a rookie and, frankly, was a pleasant surprise as a passer and routinely demonstrated the athleticism he showcased during an illustrious college career which was likely a big reason he was drafted. Given the circumstances, Thompson was very good as a rookie
Week 18 Grade: B+
Final Season Grade: C+ (79.3)
Final Season Summary: Remember Zappe Hour! It was a fun for a minute for the Patriots, and there were some instances in which he showcased more aggression and better downfield ball placement than Mac Jones. There were also moments when we saw his athletic and arm-strength limitations. It was a decently encouraging rookie season from Zappe.
Final Season Grade: C+ (76.8)
- His second throw of the afternoon was a dime dropped over the shoulder to Michael Pittman that should've been a touchdown but was dropped.
- While not the most challenging throw of the week, in the fourth, Ehlinger looked middle, then left, then escaped to his right before throwing a rocket to Alec Pierce who came back to the football near the sideline.
- Ehlinger's second-quarter interception was a prime example of when a quarterback tries to do too much. He was being taken to the turf and tried a quick pass on his way down that went directly into the hands of the edge rusher in front of him.
- His second-to-last throw of the day was a miss from the far hash into the flat that was too high.
Summary: After a brutal start earlier in the season, Ehlinger fared much better this time around, at home, against the Texans defense. While there weren't many big-time, high-caliber throws, he ran the offense well and typically found open receivers in a hurry.
Season Summary: We didn't see much from Ehlinger, and most of his efforts were lackluster. What is positive is that he was more effective in the season finale than earlier in the season.
Week 18 Grade: B-
Final Season Grade: C+ (76.25)
- In the third, Howell threw with good anticipation on an out-breaking route at the intermediate level run by Jahan Dotson.
- With under a minute to go in that quarter, Howell dropped a gorgeous teardrop to Terry McLaurin down the right sideline for 52 yards.
- Howell's end-zone interception was very bad. He under threw the pass into double coverage.
- Early in the fourth, he forced a slant that was ultimately thrown far too low.
- His last throw of the day was a slight miss on a short out-breaker to McLaurin.
Summary: The Commanders didn't put much on Howell's plate in his first career start, which was the sensible thing to do, and after he got comfortable by scrambling when he didn't like what he saw down the field, Howell made one outstanding throw down the field and was careful with the football following his first-half interception.
Week 18 Grade: C-
Final Season Grade: C- (72.5)
- In the fourth, Ridder placed a perfectly thrown ball down the right sideline to Drake London.
- Ridder skipped a pass over the middle on his second read on his first drop back of the day.
- Midway through the second quarter, he overthrew an open tight end near the sideline.
- His second-to-last throw of the season was a misfire to Cordarrelle Patterson.
Summary: Ridder looked more confident in this game than any other in his rookie-season audition as the Falcons starter. Now, it was far from a perfect outing, but the velocity on some deep comebacks was impressive. There were some pocket-presence issues that need to be ironed out before next season begins.
Season Summary: Ridder settled in decently as the Falcons starter. He clearly has to play more comfortably in a muddied pocket and sharpen his accuracy at all levels. The arm talent and athleticism are there.
Week 18 Grade: D+
Season Grade: C- (71.8)
Final Season Summary: Wilson had a disastrous Year 2 in the NFL. The impressive throws were few and far between, and his play under pressure was arguably the worst in the entire league. The improvisation flashes he showcased as a rookie were largely not there, and he was routinely late or off-target with his throws at the intermediate level or down the field.
Final Season Grade: D+ (69.7)
Final Season Summary: Willis probably wasn't ready to play as a rookie yet was forced onto the field in a conservative, old-school offense with very limited weapons. Not the best scenario for the young passer. He did flash as a runner.
Final Season Grade: D+ (69.1)