2022 NFL rookie QB class living down to expectations

Technically, the top two quarterbacks in this year's NFL Draft will go head-to-head this weekend, but you'd never know it.

This was predicted to be a weak rookie quarterback class, and we're starting to see why the league's teams — normally starving for promising passers at the top of the draft — took just one in the first two rounds. Rookie quarterbacks have combined for a total of eight touchdown passes in 2022, on course to be five times lower than the NFL average of 73.9 per year over the previous decade.

Mariota has 14 touchdowns in 12 games as part of the league's No. 31 pass offense, but the Falcons have remained in contention in a bad NFC South, so coach Arthur Smith has resisted the temptation to hand the keys over to the rookie and see what he can do.

Pickett, the first quarterback drafted and the only one with an extended stretch as a starter, has had a quiet start to his NFL career, with three touchdown passes in seven starts, along with three touchdown runs. You could argue he's the only rookie quarterback with any clear path to a starting job in 2023, with all the others behind established veterans or with teams that could simply draft another quarterback much higher in April.

It might only take a few losses for the Falcons to fall out of contention and convince Atlanta to sample what they have in Ridder, but aside from Pickett, the rest of the rookie class would need an injury to get on the field, with the Patriots and Titans in good position to make the playoffs with more experienced starters.

Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at