Pickett, Willis, Ridder: What chance do NFL rookies have of starting in 2022?

Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder, Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis, Matt Corral

As the 2022 NFL season draws ever closer, we look at the new batch of quarterbacks that have entered the league and what their immediate futures look like. 

This year’s quarterback class was one that not a lot of people really wanted to be a part of. A lot of the narrative going into the draft was that there wasn’t a ‘star’ quarterback in this class, in the same way that teams in the past have clamoured around Trevor Lawrence or Andrew Luck or Cam Newton over the past decade or so.

And that was reflected in how the draft played out, with just one going in the first round when the Pittsburgh Steelers took Kenny Pickett and the next one not going until the Atlanta Falcons called Desmond Ridder’s name at #74.

But draft night is in the past and now we must look to the future. Just how much football are these players likely to see this season, and could we see them take their first step to becoming a starter in the league? 

Whilst they might get some minutes here or there in relief or if a player gets injured, to start a game in the NFL, to have the trust of the coaches to lead an offense for a game is something different. But just what are the chances that these players see the field this season?

We’ve broken down all of the quarterbacks in this year’s draft class and taking into account a number of factors (all of which will become clear), predict what the chances are that they’ll start a game at some point this season.

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New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick

New England Patriots

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh Steelers, pick #20 – 90%

The majority of the noise coming out of Steelers workouts this summer is that Mitch Trubisky will be the starter come Week 1 of the NFL season, not least because Pickett himself apparently hasn’t been impressing some within the organisation. 

However, in our opinion, the Steelers will be competitive this year, in large part due to the defence that kept them in a lot of games last year and should continue to dominate through a large number of sacks, but won’t find themselves in playoff contention in the latter weeks. 

As a result Trubisky, having shown what he can do whether it be good or bad, will relinquish his starting place to Pickett in the final few weeks as the Steelers look to see what they have for the future. 

Desmond Ridder, Atlanta Falcons, pick #74 – 100%

In a pretty similar fashion to what’s going on in Pittsburgh, the line of succession does seem to flow through Marcus Mariota, who despite his resume in the NFL does appear to be coming in as a bridge quarterback, and then right on through to Desmond Ridder. 

The Falcons’ fate though won’t be as nice as that of the Steelers, and despite the other teams in the NFC South not looking all that great this year, they will probably fall out of contention very early, which will give the Falcons the chance to try him out, but perhaps a little earlier than Pickett. 

Malik Willis, Tennessee Titans, pick #86 – 50%

This one is slightly more tricky than the first two, as the Titans are likely to be contending for the division crown whereas the Steelers or Falcons might not be, meaning that barring injury Ryan Tannehill will need to stay in place deeper into the season as they look to secure the division and a sgood seed for the playoffs.

Willis will undoubtedly get minutes in relief during games, but it’s hard to see him starting many of them. His only chance might come in Week 18 if the Titans are looking to rest players for the playoffs, but with the Colts looking like they might cause a few problems, it’s not unthinkable to say that Tannehill has to start all 17 games to get them in.

Matt Corral, Carolina Panthers, pick #94 – 0%

Corral finds himself in arguably the toughest situation of all rookie quarterbacks, with the Panthers having recently acquired Baker Mayfield, with him and Sam Darnold set to battle it out for the starting role. 

Whilst Corral might be in line to develop and play for the future, you find it hard to think that whoever loses that battle won’t be the first man called up should anything happen to the other, whether it be through injury or needing to rest him for anything late in the season.

As a result, Corral will probably take up the 3rd string role and stay there for the whole season, hopefully with a chance of making something of himself in 2023.

Bailey Zappe, New England Patriots, pick #137 – 0%

In pretty much the same situation as Corral, if anything were to happen to New England Patriots starter Mac Jones then it’s obvious who is going to step up and take his place, and that’s Brian Hoyer, meaning it’s going to take something drastic for the Patriots to be starting him this season.

Sam Howell, Washington Commanders, pick #144 – 10% 

Whilst this might seem a copy and paste from the previous answer, only this time swapping in Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke in as the starter and backup, given Wentz and his injury record, you can’t rule out the possibility that he might spend some time on the sidelines. 

This might give Howell the chance to perhaps jump over Heinicke on the depth chart, but given how well he played for them last season, it would take something special to do that. 

Chris Oladokun, Pittsburgh Steelers, pick #241 – 0%

Currently ranks 4th on the Steelers depth chart behind Trubisky, Pickett and Mason Rudolph, would take a miracle for him to even make it out of preseason still on the Steelers roster. 

Skylar Thompson, Miami Dolphins, pick #247 – 20% 

The Miami Dolphins have shown in their use of Tua Tagovailoa, constantly chopping and changing him in and out of the lineup that there are some trust issues there, combine that with the injury record of presumed backup Teddy Bridgewater and it isn’t inconceivable to picture Thompson at least starting one game this year.

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