2023 Sophomore Quarterback Preview

In this series, we’re going to be looking at sophomore players position by position and looking at what they’ve done in their rookie season, plus their outlook for this upcoming year and the future. For this article, we’ll be looking at the sophomore quarterbacks and comparing where I have them ranked now versus where they were ranked for me last preseason. This year’s quarterback class was notably lacking, but that was known going into the NFL Draft last year. Make sure also to check out the other positional breakdown articles in this series!

Desmond Ridder

While Ridder is my top-ranked quarterback from the 2022 class, I wouldn’t be surprised if any of the next 3 guys on this list end up ranked ahead of the rest by next season. They are all in a very similar tier where they all have an opportunity to secure starting roles in fairly favorable situations. Ridder’s first few starts started out slow against some pretty solid defenses toward the end of the year against New Orleans and Baltimore. But in the final game of the season against Tampa Bay, he really showed some flashes, scoring his first two NFL touchdowns through the air. 

Going into 2023, the Falcons have no reason not to see what they have in Desmond Ridder. If the experiment fails, they should have a good draft pick to make a run at Caleb Williams or Drake Maye, or any other sleeper quarterback candidates in next year’s draft. It’s also notable that Taylor Heinicke is in the wings in Atlanta as well, but I’d be surprised if he jumps in the starting lineup outside of injury.

Ridder has a realistic shot to take hold of this job with a top-end supporting cast around him. While the team is lacking a bit of depth in the pass catchers area, they have elite talents in Drake London and Kyle Pitts. Plus the Falcons just added Bijan Robinson, a generational running back to take the heat off Desmond Ridder alongside Tyler Allgeier, who had a quietly impressive rookie season. And both are capable of providing value in the receiving game for Ridder as well.

2021 Rookie Rank: QB3

2022 Class/Overall Rank: QB1/QB22

Movement: +2

KTC (Market) Class/Overall Rank: QB3/QB28

PPR PPG GP Att Comp % Yards TD INT QBR
38.8 (48)
R. Att Yards YPC TD

Kenny Pickett

Kenny Pickett was the lone first-round quarterback in what has rounded out to be a fairly disappointing class as the NFL Draft might have suggested. Pickett was a quarterback without a lot of the physical tools but built his draft stock on an incredible final season at Pitt. While it wasn’t all great his rookie season, he showed flashes of abilities to build upon. But it seems clear Pitt is going to have to surround Pickett with a nearly elite supporting cast to lead them deep into a playoff run. Without drastic improvement, Pickett appears to be a game manager that doesn’t provide a lot of fantasy upside. 

But on the bright side, he is surrounded by a top-tier supporting cast. He has a defense littered with elite players that can erase some of his mistakes as he grows. There are pass catchers galore with both Diontae Johnson and George Pickens at wide receiver, plus Pat Freiermuth appears like he’ll continue to progress even further this year. Finally, Najee Harris has proven to be a top-end pass catcher to go along with his rushing ability to keep the defenses honest. The biggest question is if that offensive line can take a step forward to consistently protect Pickett in the pocket.

2021 Rookie Rank: QB1

2022 Class/Overall Rank: QB2/QB26

Movement: -1

KTC (Market) Class/Overall Rank: QB1/QB18

PPR PPG GP Att Comp % Yards TD INT QBR
159 (28)
R. Att Yards YPC TD

Brock Purdy

It’s my belief that Kyle Shannahan’s offense can make any quarterback look good as long as they can throw in rhythm and accurate passes. And Brock Purdy did just that last season, leading the team to an undefeated stretch to end the season and deep into the playoffs. That won’t go unnoticed by the coaching staff and will go a long way to securing his job into next year. That being said, Trey Lance was still a top 5 pick and has undeniable physical traits. And newcomer Sam Darnold is most likely there to be the backup and fill the void while both Lance and Purdy rehab from injury. Lance is the real concern as the hubris of the front office doesn’t want to look wrong, and it’s doubtful that they get the draft capital back in a trade to alleviate that concern.

We’ve seen in the past these dark horse quarterback candidates come out of nowhere and provide great value to fantasy teams and their NFL teams. And then the following season they fall on their face once the league has more tape on them and the franchise is quick to find a replacement, especially a team that is set up as contenders like the 49ers. See Davis Mills from 2021 to 2022. 

While I think Purdy has the best chance to win this job, Lance is going to be breathing down his neck to get playing time all season. And Purdy doesn’t have the physical tools or the fantasy upside for the risk at his acquisition cost. As long as he has the weapons around him in Kittle, Aiyuk, Deebo, and McCaffrey, he should look good on the field and in fantasy lineups. But how many slip-ups or bad games before they let Lance take a crack at it? It’ll always be a looming threat as long as he’s on the team, and one that I’m not positive Purdy will overcome.

2021 Rookie Rank: QB8

2022 Class/Overall Rank: QB3/QB29

Movement: +5

KTC (Market) Class/Overall Rank: QB2/QB15

PPR PPG GP Att Comp % Yards TD INT QBR
110.3 (33)
R. Att Yards YPC TD

Sam Howell

Howell only got playing time in one game this season, but what he showed there and in practices last year gave Washington the confidence to roll with him in 2023. I personally liked Sam Howell’s tape from college and was surprised to see him fall into the 5th round of the NFL Draft. He showed solid decision-making, a good arm, and surprising mobility with over 800 rushing yards in his final season at North Carolina. 

While it’ll take him time to continue to acclimate to the NFL speed as a former 5th-round rookie, he’s surrounded by some serious talent. He has Terry McLaurin who has solidified himself as one of the better talents at wide receiver in the league. Then there’s Jahan Dotson, a premier young talent at the position. And the Swiss Army Knife of Curtis Samuel along with a good duo of running backs in Antonio Gibson and Brian Robinson to take the heat off Howell. There’s some serious upside for both the Commanders and fantasy managers with next to no risk in taking the shot on Howell. The likelihood of a hit is statistically small, but in superflex leagues, the risk could be worth the potential reward.

2021 Rookie Rank: QB5

2022 Class/Overall Rank: QB4/QB30

Movement: +1

KTC (Market) Class/Overall Rank: QB5/QB29

PPR PPG GP Att Comp % Yards TD INT QBR
19.3 (58)
R. Att Yards YPC TD

Malik Willis

I think we saw enough and the Tennessee Titans also saw enough from Malik Willis last season. From a potential top 10 selection at the height of his NFL Draft hype to falling to the third round of the NFL Draft, and now fighting for a roster spot. His only hope is that Levis doesn’t fair any better than he did as a rookie and Ryan Tannehill finds the door sooner than later. But realistically, he’s fighting for a backup role to either Tannehill or Levis or even both.

2021 Rookie Rank: QB5

2022 Class/Overall Rank: QB5/QB43


KTC (Market) Class/Overall Rank: QB5/QB47

PPR PPG GP Att Comp % Yards TD INT QBR
22.3 (52)
R. Att Yards YPC TD

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Image Credit: Brett Davis – USA TODAY Sports