San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy is a legit NFL MVP candidate as a sophomore. Mr. Irrelevant in the 2023 NFL Draft, he might soon go down as the best seventh-round pick in the history of the league.
To see someone like Purdy have this success at the highest level football has to offer is eye-opening. It’s also very rare given his draft status.
Look at it this way. Heading into Week 1 of the season back in September, 22 of the other 31 starting quarterbacks in the NFL were first-round picks.
Sure, Joe Montana and Tom Brady were not high-round selections. They are also considered the two-best quarterbacks in NFL history. But they are exceptions to the rule.
Seeing Purdy’s success got us thinking. What are five quarterbacks, either in college or at the professional level, who have an opportunity to follow in his footsteps? We look at this below.
Graham Mertz, Florida Gators
Mertz was a four-star recruit in 2018 and drew offers from schools such as Alabama, Georgia, LSU, Oregon, Clemson and Notre Dame before opting for Wisconsin. That’s much different than the recruiting route Purdy had to go through. But this is pretty much where the lack of comparison ends between the two.
Sure, Mertz struggled as a sophomore for Wisconsin in 2021 (10 TD, 11 INT). But he turned it around in his final season with the Badgers (19 TD, 10 INT) before putting up a stellar campaign with Florida in 2023. Mertz threw 20 touchdowns against three interceptions while completing a whopping 73% of his passes.
The accuracy Mertz showed with the Gators is something we didn’t necessarily see in Wisconsin. It has a comparison to Purdy standing strong, especially with the 6-foot-2 signal caller likely to be a late-round pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.
Tanner McKee, Philadelphia Eagles
A sixth-round pick out of Stanford this past April, McKee excelled during the preseason. There was even talk of him overtaking veteran Marcus Mariota as Jalen Hurts’ primary backup. Even working primarily with backups, he looked in control of Philadelphia’s offense. That’s something we saw from Purdy out of the gate when he replaced Jimmy Garoppolo as San Francisco’s starter last December.
While 6-foot-6 frame is much different than Purdy’s 6-foot-1 frame, he boasts the same type of anticipation in the pocket as well as a quick release. Sure it won’t be in Philadelphia. But McKee could very well have a future as a QB1 in the NFL.
Related: 2024 NFL mock draft
Stetson Bennett, Los Angeles Rams
Off-field issues and other dynamics led to the belief that Bennett would go undrafted this past spring despite a stellar college career at Georgia. That’s why it was so surprising that Los Angeles selected the 5-foot-11 signal caller in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Apparently, head coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead were enamored with what Bennett brings to the table. Unfortunately, something personal has kept Bennett away from the Rams during his rookie season. McVay has not opted to give specifics publicly as he respects the quarterback’s privacy.
What we do know is that Bennett was stellar in college. He finished fourth in the Heisman voting as a senior in 2022, completing 68% of his passes for 4,128 yards with 27 touchdowns and just seven interceptions. The accuracy is real. Meanwhile, these Rams will soon be looking for a heir-apparent to current starter Matthew Stafford. Internally, the team views Bennett to be that guy.
Jake Browning, Cincinnati Bengals
Browning is in a much different situation than Purdy before the latter took over as the 49ers’ starter last season. He was a four-star recruit out of high school, only to see his draft stock drop big time after a disastrous final season with Washington in 2018 (16 TD, 10 INT). This came two years after he finished sixth in the Heisman voting and seemed destined to be a first-round pick.
Fast forward a half-decade, and Browning is currently the Bengals’ starter with Joe Burrow sidelined for the season. He responded this past week by completing 32-of-37 passes for 354 yards with a touchdown in a surprise win over the Jacksonville Jaguars. This represented Browning’s second career start since initially entering the NFL as a practice squad member of the Minnesota Vikings back in 2019.
Browning’s path to being a QB1 was not easy. The same thing could be said about Brock Purdy, who was not highly recruited out of high school and found himself as an afterthought in the 2023 NFL Draft. The comparisons don’t end there. Both lack elite arm strength, but make up for it with on-field smarts and accuracy. Browning could very well prove himself as a starter over the final month-plus of the regular season. That’s for sure.
Sam Hartman, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
The 6-foot-1 Hartman had an elite final two seasons for Wake Forest, tallying 77 touchdown passes and just 26 interceptions. He just didn’t receive national attention due to the Deamon Deacons’ status as a program that doesn’t yield too much professional talent.
That changed once Hartman transferred to Notre Dame ahead of the 2023 season. Despite some minor struggles here and there, he put up solid numbers. That included completing 64% of his passes with 27 total touchdowns and eight interceptions.
Despite this, Hartman is seen as a likely seventh-round pick or priority free agent leading up to the 2024 NFL Draft. We would not sleep on him due to the quarterback’s leadership ability and plus-level IQ on the football field. That has translated to success for Brock Purdy despite his lack of elite all-around talent and athleticism.