GRADING NFL STARTING QUARTERBACKS in the NFC

by Wayne Root

Last year's NFL quarterback carousel turned out some wild moves, including the unexpected trade that sent Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams. 
 
The 2022 offseason has produced a fair share of drama, too. Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady retired. Brady then un-retired. Aaron Rodgers stayed in Green Bay, which was a mild surprise given last year's drama-filled offseason. Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan were all traded. 
 
Free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft will dictate a few more switches.
 
NFL EAST QUARTERBACKS
 
DALLAS COWBOYS 
Who starts in 2022? Prescott signed an extension that runs through 2026. More pressure will be on third-year coach Mike McCarthy in 2022. Prescott is now 1-3 in postseason starts. The Cowboys’ offense starts and ends with Dak Prescott. We’ve seen what can happen when the talented quarterback is injured. Behind him are Ben DiNucci, Will Grier, and Cooper Rush. Like so many other teams, Dallas has to keep Prescott upright and healthy. Grade: B
 
NEW YORK GIANTS
Who starts in 2022? New general manager Joe Schoen and co-owner John Mara have backed Jones, who enters the final year of his rookie contract with a new head coach. Jones will start barring an unforeseen blockbuster trade. Daniel Jones’ leash is short and tight heading into 2022. Will Brian Daboll work Josh Allen magic with the former Duke star? A long shot. Tyrod Taylor is a veteran backup. Davis Webb has done nothing but linger and linger. Wonder if a USFL QB could find his way onto Big Blue’s roster as a backup… That’s how weak Webb is. Grade: D+
 
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
Who starts in 2022? Hurts will be the starter, and it would be wise to keep Gardner Minshew on as a reliable backup. Minshew played well in two starts while Hurts was dealing with an ankle injury. Jalen Hurts is one of the quarterbacks people are looking to thrive in Fantasy Football. The reality is Philly has done a lot to help the former Alabama/Oklahoma star and he needs to put up the numbers. Gardner Minshew probably deserves a spot to start somewhere else. Reid Sinnett and Carson Strong are also on the roster in Philadelphia. Grade: B
 
WASHINGTON COMMANDERS
Who starts in 2022? The Commanders will open the 2022 season with Carson Wentz under center after a bold offseason trade with the Colts. Washington sent a second- and third-round pick in 2022 and a third-round pick in 2023 in exchange for Wentz, who enters his seventh season. Carson Wentz has arrived and this is his third team without leading a team anywhere memorable. That Super Bowl in Philly was Nick Foles. Taylor Heinicke provided some thrills but is a nice backup, to be honest. Sam Howell comes off a lackluster last season at North Carolina and Cole Kelley is a 6-foot-7, 250-pound QB from Southeastern Louisiana who feels like he is heading toward tight end in D.C. Grade: D+
 

NFC WEST QUARTERBACKS
 
ARIZONA CARDINALS 
Who starts in 2022? Murray will start and it is the final year of his rookie contract. Given the NFC wild card  flop against the Rams, it's a prove-it year for Murray and coach Kliff Kingsbury to see if they can take the next step together. Murray wants a long-term contract with the Cardinals. Kyler Murray is the quarterback—if he is happy and Arizona finds a way to make him satisfied with his contract. Easier said than done. Other names on the roster are Jarrett Guarantino, Colt McCoy, and Trace McSorley. Would seem Kliff Kingsbury would need to have Murray to have playoff hopes. Grade: C+
 
LOS ANGELES RAMS
Who starts in 2022? Stafford, entering his 14th season, has one year left on his contract but he is a candidate for an extension. He will be the Rams' starter in 2022. The trade of the decade or this century as the Rams landed Matthew Stafford and earned Super Bowl rings. Behind Stafford are Bryce Perkins and John Wolford, which means hold your breath if the star gets injured. Grade: A-
 
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
Who starts in 2022? The 49ers continue to gauge which teams are interested in Garoppolo, but that trade market has stalled a bit. If the 49ers roll with Lance, then Garoppolo could be stuck as a backup. Raise your passing hand if you are tired of the Jimmy Garoppolo or Trey Lance debate? Someone please step up and earn the job. Brock Purdy and Nate Sudfeld feel like players who will be around camps for many years. Grade: C-
 
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 
Who starts in 2022? The Seahawks traded Wilson after eight seasons, and they got Drew Lock from Denver in return. Lock might be the Week 1 starter, but this feels like a good opportunity to get Ole Miss' Matt Corral in the first round. You go from Russell Wilson to Geno Smith, Drew Lock, and Jason Eason and wonder what the grade will be? Grade: F
 

NFC SOUTH QUARTERBACKS
 
ATLANTA FALCONS
Who starts in 2022? The Falcons traded Ryan to the Colts for a 2022 third-round pick on Monday, and that created the largest dead cap hit in NFL history. Atlanta signed veteran Marcus Mariota, who spent the last two seasons as a backup in Las Vegas. The Falcons also have the No. 8 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Arthur Smith will be expected to move the Falcons forward in his second year as coach. Not sure that is possible with Marcus Mariota. Desmond Ridder could be a future answer but not in 2022 unless Mariota is shelved due to injury, which has happened frequently in his career. Then there is Feleipe Franks, who played QB in college and has seen some time learning to play tight end. Grade: D
 
CAROLINA PANTHERS
Who starts in 2022? It's going to be Darnold unless the Panthers can find a willing trade partner. That won't be easy either. Darnold is due $18.8 million in 2022, and that is a huge cap hit. The Panthers missed out on Deshaun Watson, and they do have the No. 6 pick. Will Rhule use that to draft either Liberty's Malik Willis or Pitt's Kenny Pickett? Arthur Smith will be expected to move the Falcons forward in his second year as coach. Not sure that is possible with Marcus Mariota. Desmond Ridder could be a future answer but not in 2022 unless Mariota is shelved due to injury, which has happened frequently in his career. Then there is Feleipe Franks, who played QB in college and has seen some time learning to play tight end. Grade: 
 
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Who starts in 2022? Sean Payton dropped the first bombshell when he announced he will be taking a break from coaching. New Orleans is bringing back Winston on a two-year deal, and Hill is under contract for the next four seasons. Which quarterback will win the starting job? Jameis Winston will be the quarterback, apparently. Andy Dalton looks to be the backup along with Ian Book, who heads into his second year after a college career at Notre Dame. Taysom Hill is still listed as a QB but it feels as if the ship has sailed — sunk? — on him being the heir apparent to Drew Brees. Grade: C-
 
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS 
Who starts in 2022? Brady retired on Feb. 1, but then he reversed course and announced he is returning on March 13. That 40-day retirement didn't last long. Brady, who turns 45 in August, is back for at least one more season. Tom Brady returns after retiring for 40 days. The Bucs and Todd Bowles have to be thrilled. Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin, and Kyle Trask are the players hoping age and injury don’t catch up to the GOAT in 2022. Grade: B+
 

NFC NORTH QUARTERBACKS
 
CHICAGO BEARS
Who starts in 2022? Fields is going to be the starter, and new coach Matt Eberflus needs to be creative in maximizing that talent. Foles is under contract for one more year. Dalton remains a free agent. Everyone was gushing over Justin Fields and then reality hit. The rookie year was less than mediocre but not all of it fell on the former Ohio State QB. Nathan Peterman falls smack in the journeyman category. Speaking of that, Trevor Siemian is another who is wandering around the NFL. Grade: D-
 
DETROIT LIONS
Who starts in 2022? SN's latest mock draft has the Lions taking Sam Howell with the No. 31 pick, which was acquired in that trade with the Rams. Goff's contract runs through 2024, however, and it's a massive cap hit. He will be the starter for second-year coach Dan Campbell. Jared Goff took the Rams to a Super Bowl, which they lost. He’s just OK and isn’t going to be the guy to lead the Lions for years and years to playoff success. David Blough and Tim Boyle just linger in Detroit, it seems. Dan Campbell got the team moving forward in his rookie season as coach. Trying to do it again and take huge steps with Goff will be a challenge. Grade: C-
 
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Who starts in 2022? Rodgers is back after signing an extension, but he lost his favorite target in Davante Adams. Jordan Love, the first-round pick in 2020, likely will be a trade chip ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. Aaron Rodgers continues to be a one-team QB no matter the drama, controversy, or issues. He also is one of the best in the game. The key will be for Green Bay to find a way to succeed deep into the playoffs and get No. 12 another ring. Jordan Love remains behind him and that’s not comforting. Danny Etling is in Green Bay after multiple stops around the league. If Rodgers is out for any length of time, Matt LaFleur will not have another 13-win season. Grade: B+
 
MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Who starts in 2022? Mike Zimmer is out, so the Vikings will have a new coach in 2022. There won't be a large market on Cousins via trade unless a franchise is desperate, so expect to see him in Week 1 for Minnesota. Kirk Cousins just gets large contract after large contract no matter the results. He has a new coach this year in Kevin O’Connell. Does anyone think it will make a huge difference? Didn’t think so. Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond, and Nate Stanley are behind the veteran. Grade: C-

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