Brock Purdy shocked the world in 2022.
After the San Francisco 49ers’ first- and second-string quarterbacks went down with injuries, Purdy came in and the team only got better. The final selection of the 2022 draft – Mr. Irrelevant – led a Super Bowl contender to a 7-0 record before finally losing in the NFC Championship Game.
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While it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see another Mr. Irrelevant leading a team to playoff wins as a rookie quarterback, there are gems hidden throughout the 2023 class.
It’s unrealistic to expect any Day 2 or 3 quarterbacks to become a starter. But here are five late-round quarterbacks that could potentially follow Purdy’s path from irrelevance to importance:
Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
A five-year starter for the Bruins, Thompson-Robinson steadily improved throughout his college career. Last season was his best yet, posting career-highs in passing yards (3,169), passing touchdowns (27), completion percentage (69.6%), rushing yards (645) and rushing touchdowns (12).
New England Patriots
Thompson-Robinson is a projected Day 3 pick, but he could immediately step in as a backup in the right situation. He played under former NFL coach Chip Kelly, has great mobility and can create outside the pocket. Keep an eye on him if he’s drafted by a team with a dual-threat quarterback for him to learn under.
Aidan O’Connell, Purdue
Similar to Purdy, O’Connell didn’t peak during his senior season. The Purdue alum was at his best as a junior in 2021, when he posted 3,712 passing yards, 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
O’Connell has limited mobility but thrives in the pocket and has experience in a pro-style system under Jeff Brohm. With limited weapons, O’Connell led the Boilermakers to the Big Ten Championship Game. He’s probably best served as a game manager-type player, which is a similar trope that we heard about Purdy when he took over last season.
Stetson Bennett, Georgia
All eyes will be on Bennett when the draft reaches its final rounds. He was the starting quarterback for Georgia as the Bulldogs won back-to-back national titles in 2021 and 2022. But Bennett has plenty of flaws that will make him a longshot to become an NFL starter: he’s undersized (5-foot-11, 192 pounds) and older than most other prospects (turns 26 in October), to name a couple.
However, Bennett has a history of rising to the occasion, as he showed throughout Georgia’s title runs. He’s clearly a capable leader who a team can rally around. Is that enough to translate to the NFL? We will see.
Max Duggan, TCU
Duggan came out of nowhere in 2022, finishing second in Heisman Trophy voting and leading TCU all the way to the national title game. In his senior season, the 6-foot-2 Duggan totaled 3,698 passing yards, 41 total touchdowns (32 passing, nine rushing) and eight interceptions.
Scrappy and tough are the cliché characteristics often used to describe Duggan, but they reign true when you watch him play. Even though he needs work as a passer, Duggan should get a chance to compete for a backup and third-string role this summer.
Jake Haener, Fresno State
The least-known name from the smallest school on this list actually has the most similarities to Purdy. ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit compared Haener to Purdy after the Senior Bowl, when the Fresno State alum won MVP and showed off his impressive arm strength and decision-making skills.
Haener’s measurements (6-foot, 207 pounds) are nearly identical to Purdy’s (6-foot-1, 212 pounds). He’s also known more for his football IQ than his physical talent, according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein. Sounds familiar, if you ask me.