One of the biggest advantages an NFL team can have in 2023 is a quarterback with a rookie contract. Of course, you still need your quarterback to play really well, but a player in the highest-paid position in the league who makes a relative pittance compared to his peers is easier to surround with high caliber talent.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what teams with rookie-scale quarterbacks in the draft did to help those players. We’re breaking things down by class, working from this year’s picks back to the players selected in 2020. (The class of 2019 is entering the final year of its rookie contract, but is also gearing up to sign overtime as we’ve already seen with Jalen Hurts. Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and possibly Tua Tagovailoa’s deals can’t be far behind .)
Without further ado…
Class of 2023: Bryce Young, CJ Stroud, Anthony Richardson, Will Levis
The Carolina Panthers sacrificed much of their available draft capital to advance for Bryce Young in the first place, filling most of the infrastructure around him with free agents and previously drafted players. That said, they did take a cue from many recent teams that had the No. 1 pick, selecting a wide receiver at the top of the second round in Jonathan Mingo. At 6-2, 225 pounds, Mingo is a huge target for Young, and with DJ Chark and Adam Thielen, there won’t be much pressure on him to be the team’s best receiver right away. Carolina also used a fourth-round pick for NC State’s Chandler Zavala, who can provide depth in the interior and potentially develop into a starter.
The Texans were at No. 2 and drafted Stroud, then made their big trade to Will Anderson. Due to the Deshaun Watson trade, they still had plenty of draft capital available, and used much of it to select two inland offensive linemen and two wideouts. Juice Scruggs, as his name suggests, is one of the strongest players in the draft and he should be the starting point of this team right away. Teams often like to pair their young quarterbacks with veteran centers, so it will be interesting to see how the Texans fare with two rookies in those positions. Tank Dell was one of the most prolific receivers in the country last year and despite his size (5-8, 165 pounds) he is a fantastic playmaker all over the field. With him, Xavier Hutchinson from the sixth round, and John Metchie III from 2022 joining Nico Collins and Robert Woods and Noah Brown signing free players, Houston has plenty of options for catching Stroud’s perimeter.
The most important thing the Colts did for Anthony Richardson was to hire Shane Steichen, who has worked with both Justin Herbert (who has a similar profile to Richardson) and Jalen Hurts (who has similar skills and athleticism) and helped make each from them to new heights. They also focused on drafting high-level athletes all over the field. Each of slot receiver Josh Downs, tackle Blake Freeland, running back Evan Hull and tight end Will Mallory recorded a relative athletic score of 9.0 or better with their performances at the NFL Scouting Combine, fitting the mold for what would be a faster game. must be. pace, open-space assault with Richardson at the helm.
Will Levis lasted into the second round and will likely have the luxury of sitting behind Ryan Tannehill for at least part of the 2023 season, and that’s likely to his advantage given the lack of playmakers the Titans currently have on their roster to have. Except for Derrick Henry, Treylon Burks and Chigoziem Okonkwo, the cabinet is pretty bare. And the offensive line was also in bad shape, which made the selection of Peter Skoronski in the first round necessary in the first instance. Returning in the third round, Tyjae Spears is talented, but reports have already indicated he is missing some of his knee cartilage, which could limit his impact and durability.
Class of 2022: Kenny Pickett, Desmond Knight, Sam Howell
The Steelers posted one of the league’s worst offensive lines for much of last season ahead of Kenny Pickett and thankfully made a few upgrades up front both in free agency (Isaac Seumalo) and in the draft. Pittsburgh moved three spots in the first round to land a huge tackle Broderick Jones, selected the top blocking tight end in the draft in Darnell Washington (thought he could add weight and become a tackle, in Jason Peters style), and got some center depth in Spencer Anderson. With a solid pass-catching corps already in place, it made sense to focus on the trenches.
The Falcons shied away from taking a quarterback in the draft and chose a running back and two guards instead. They’re going to give all the usual explanations about how Bijan Robinson isn’t just a running back, and how running the ball will protect the quarterback, and everything else. But this was a team that already ran the ball extremely effectively last year, with fifth-round Tyler Allgeier as the lead ball carrier. Going back in Round 1 meant letting go of an opportunity for a player with a bigger impact. Matthew Bergeron looks like a tackle-to-guard conversion coming into the NFL like Zack Martin and Brandon Scherff. The track record on those moves is pretty good, and the Falcons should be able to get some good play out of him on the inside.
Washington is oddly committed to Howell and oddly seems okay with his offensive staff, despite only adding Andrew Wylie and Nick Gates on free duty. The Commies used a day 2 pick on center Ricky Stromberg and a fourth round pick on tackle Braeden Daniels, then added Chris Rodriguez to their backfield already consisting of Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson. There probably isn’t much in the way of impact talent here.
Class of 2021: Trevor Lawrence, The 49ers, Justin Fields, Mac Jones
The Jaguars had one of the most successful offseasons in helping their quarterback last year, and spent a significant portion of their design capital trying to redo it. After losing Jawaan Taylor in free agency and likely seeing Cam Robinson suspended, they traded twice in the first round and still picked up Anton Harrison. With him, Robinson and Walker Little they should be able to find two good starters. Not resting on the laurels of Evan Engram’s first good season ever, actually, the Jags added Brenton Strange to the tight end. Travis Etienne doesn’t necessarily have a “bell cow running back” body, so Jacksonville added Tank Bigsby to help carry the load. And sixth-rounder Parker Washington has a chance to develop behind Calvin Ridley (acquired for the sixth round this year and a fourth-rounder next year), Christian Kirk and Zay Jones.
San Francisco barely had any choices thanks to the trade for Trey Lance, the trade for Christian McCaffrey, and several other roster moves, adding some tight ends in Cameron Latu and Brayden Willis, plus a wide receiver in Ronnie Bell. There’s really no telling which of them Kyle Shanahan will find a way to become a big playmaker and who he’ll decide he’s done with as soon as possible. That’s just the way it is with him.
Chicago’s best move to help Justin Fields was the trade from No. 1 to No. 9, which brought DJ Moore and a ton of extra change capital. Their choice trade for Chase Claypool in the second round was less successful, but at least he is still a talented player with a chance to contribute more in his second season with the team. Going down one spot and selecting Darnell Wright gives the Bears a plug-and-play right tackle, solidifying that side of the line alongside free agent Nate Davis. Tyler Scott and Roschon Johnson should at least have rotating roles at receiver and running back respectively in the fourth round, and Johnson in particular has a chance to become a three-down back.
The Patriots did their typical Patriots thing, charging on inside linemen (Sidy Sow, Jake Andrews, Antonio Mafi) before taking shots at a pair of late-round wide receivers (Demario Douglas and Kayshon Boutte). Given their track record, it seems reasonable to expect one or two of the linemen to become contributors and the receivers to burn out, but who knows.