During the 2022 NFL regular season, 35 different quarterbacks started more than five games. Of those 35, only a mere 12 were not former first-round NFL draft picks.
That’s not to say late-round quarterbacks are a lost cause, as plenty have become accomplished starters and even MVP candidates. The Seattle Seahawks took Russell Wilson in the third round and won a Super Bowl. The Philadelphia Eagles took a chance on Jalen Hurts in the second round and nearly did the same. Twenty-three years ago the New England Patriots took Tom Brady all the way in the sixth round and won enough that it will continue to be an annoying trivia question for eternity. But on the whole, most teams do not draft a quarterback on day two or three of the NFL draft with the intention of relying on them as long-term starters.
Regardless of starting equity, however, backup quarterbacks remain a valuable asset in the NFL, so here’s a prediction for where the quarterbacks outside the top four of Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Anthony Richardson, and Will Levis could end up once it’s all said and done.
Hendon Hooker – Green Bay Packers
The only option on this list who truly has a shot at sneaking into the back half of the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft, Hooker is most definitely not making it past round two. Green Bay is soon to be in need of a backup signal caller with Aaron Rodgers all but willing himself to New York, requiring the promotion of three-year backup Jordan Love to starting status.
Trading the four-time league MVP would then make either Danny Etling or possibly Zach Wilson the new backup, should the latter be included in the trade package. With Love still being more theory than reality, bringing in the consensus QB5 to both compete with Love for the starting spot as your franchise transitions to a new era and/or offer a solid backup plan should be injured in the near future would be a prudent move.
Tanner McKee – Minnesota Vikings
Reports have come out recently that the Vikings are a team to watch in trading up for one of the top four quarterbacks, or perhaps they might just use the 24th overall pick on Hooker should he still be available. However, I believe that there are much more QB-needy teams out there than Minnesota. Kirk Cousins is about as close as one gets to being a literal Mendoza line when representing whether a team can contend with a quarterback or not, but so many more teams are in greater need of getting a projected starter in the building.
The Vikings’ current QB2 is Nick Mullens, who signed a minuscule contract with the team during the 2022 offseason and is the definition of physically limited. McKee would be a solid round-two or round-three pick for the Vikings with his throwing accuracy and ability to layer the ball at multiple levels. Additionally, with Kevin O’Connell’s quarterback-friendly system and a true trump card at receiver in Justin Jefferson, McKee could step in nicely in spot starts in place of Cousins, as the extreme problems he showed at Stanford in both escaping and managing pressure could be handled better in Minnesota.
Dorian Thompson-Robinson – Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs are quite obviously the one team in the NFL that for at least 15 more years will not be drafting a quarterback with the hope that he starts in a meaningful game. However, the legend himself Chad Henne finally called it quits after the 2022-23 Super Bowl run, leaving only Shane Buechele and Chris Oladokun in the QB room behind Patrick Mahomes. Henne famously saved the Chiefs against the Browns in the 2020-21 Playoffs when he scrambled 14 yards on third down to clinch the game and was never afraid to put his body on the line despite being of slender frame at the QB position.
Enter Thompson-Robinson, a five-year starter at UCLA who put it all together in his final two years with Chip Kelly and the Bruins—and played QB with the same attitude and confidence of a cornerback who hates receivers. Never afraid to scramble, never afraid to lower his head and pick up first downs when needed, Thompson-Robinson would be a great late-round pick for the defending champs and offer dual-threat versatility within an offense that often relies on the quarterback’s ability to scramble and create once a play breaks down.
Tyson Bagent – New England Patriots
There are already some whispers going around about whether New England should move on from Mac Jones following a dismal sophomore season. Plus, Bailey Zappe performed well enough in his starts to give him a reputation as a quality backup. If the Patriots decide to neither trade up nor take Levis should he fall to pick 14, look for them to go after the draft’s man of mystery in Bagent.
The record-breaking quarterback from D-II program Shepherd flashed at the Senior Bowl and is an intriguing upside swing due to his 6-foot-3 stature and live arm. He might be technically unrefined and unproven having played at a lower level of competition than his draft-class peers, but far be it from Bill Belichick to go against the grain and spend a draft pick on the project quarterback from the school that no one has ever heard of.
Jaren Hall – Seattle Seahawks
The Seahawks are in a fantastic position entering the 2023 NFL Draft. They’re coming off a playoff berth, were able to lock down Geno Smith at a more than reasonable contract, and still can add to their riches with the draft’s fifth overall selection.
There’s a real debate as to whether Seattle should strike while the iron’s hot and swing for a franchise-changing QB at No. 5, especially should Richardson fall that far. For now, I’ll bank on them taking either Will Anderson Jr. or Jalen Carter at that spot and opting to instead bolster their QB talent behind Smith in the later rounds.
Drew Lock is the team’s only other quarterback on the roster at this time and has his fair share of shortcomings. Hall would be a fun project pick in the later rounds, and his quick-twitch running ability would give the Seahawks a different and useful look that neither Smith nor Lock currently offers.
Max Duggan – New York Giants
The Giants have already invested quite a bit of resources into their top two quarterbacks, handing out a shockingly large contract to Daniel Jones following his breakout season and already having one of the league’s best backups in Tyrod Taylor locked down. But with Davis Webb’s retirement, New York is in need of a QB3. They’ve already hosted visits with both Hooker and Sean Clifford, but I have them going after TCU’s Max Duggan in this scenario.
Spiritually, Duggan projects as a poor man’s Daniel Jones in the way he plays. He’s a solidly built, four-year starter who is willing to air it out, has suffered in previous years from some baffling decision-making and errant passes, but most importantly, is 100% willing to put his body on the line in the ground game. Just watch his iconic game-tying drive from the Big 12 Championship if you don’t believe me, as he essentially decided to run his body into the dust until he reached the end zone.
Given that Brian Daboll found great success this year in weaponizing Jones’s legs and turning him into a straight battering ram at times, Duggan could be a perfect stylistic match for the Giants.
Clayton Tune – Detroit Lions
Similar to the Seahawks, the Lions are in a great position with the sixth overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and a quality roster that is on the upward swing. Now if it were me, I’d probably look into taking one of the top-four quarterbacks in this class, either via trade-up or by waiting for one to fall to No. 6, understanding that though Jared Goff offers a comfortable baseline, his limited ceiling will always be staring you in the face. However, most reports seem to confirm the sentiment that Detroit and its management love Goff and will be sticking with him moving forward. But that shouldn’t preclude them from drafting a projected backup in the later rounds—especially with their current QB2 being Nate Sudfeld, who infamously was brought into a game because the team he was on trusted that he would lose it.
The Lions are reportedly trying to lock down Teddy Bridgewater as their new backup, but should that not come to fruition, Tune would be a great day-two or day-three choice. He’s an experienced starter and is very accurate in the short and intermediate areas, making him a passer that Detroit can trust should Goff ever need relief.
Stetson Bennett – Jacksonville Jaguars
Of all the predictions I’ve listed here, this one is the most vibes-based. The Jaguars are definitely in need of some depth help at quarterback, with only C.J. Beathard and Nathan Rourke currently backing up franchise savior Trevor Lawrence. Given the entire persona and perceived ethos of Bennett, he feels like a perfect cultural fit with the franchise that let its mascot wear an American flag speedo for an entire game. Plus, I also like to imagine Bennett really getting on Lawrence’s nerves during QB room meetings by reminding him that he has more national championship rings than he does.
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