One development that undoubtedly shaped the 2019 NFL regular season was an assortment of quarterback injuries, which led to an unprecedented 17 first or second year passers making appearances at some point from Week 1 to Week 17.
I watched every play from those young quarterbacks each week, taking every individual aspect of their performance into account before assigning a grade. As the season progressed, I simply averaged the number grades (87.5 for a B+, 85 for a B, etc.) for each quarterback to arrive at a letter grade.
Below you’ll see Week 17 evaluations if that quarterback appeared in the regular season finale and season summaries and season grades for all first- or second-year passers studied in this project.
Season Summary: Jackson was borderline unfair in 2019, particularly after he cooled slightly following an explosive start to the season. Greg Roman’s offense provided Jackson many open throws and Baltimore might have the best offensive line in the NFL, but don’t get me wrong — from his refined pocket movement to his throw-on-the-run skills to his ridiculous impact as a runner, Jackson’s play was of MVP-caliber. He missed on a fair amount of long balls but routinely got through his reads, worked the short-to-intermediate levels of the field well and fit an assortment of tight-window throws to the intended target. Also, the former first-round pick rarely put the ball in harm’s way after September. Jackson had seven A games — including three A+ outings — and just three contests in the C range.
Season Grade: B+ (87.6)
Season Summary: Allen took the most sizable step forward of any second-year quarterback this season. His pocket presence and pocket drifting were significantly better than in 2018, as was his short/intermediate accuracy. His long-ball accuracy was simply not good for basically the entire year. In this evaluation project, all completions were not created equal, and Allen had the most impressive throws on his second or third read and/or after sliding away from pressure in the pocket. After some bad hero ball decisions early in the season, Allen took good care of the football while maintaining his stellar work at the intermediate level. He was a weapon with his legs in the red zone for the majority of the season. There were some blips along the way, and at times Allen moved out of clean pockets, but his steady play was a big reason the Bills went 10-6. The additions of John Brown and Cole Beasley along with an upgraded offensive line were key in Allen’s development.
He had one D grade, two C- contests, a pair of A performances and 10 outings in the B range. Because he threw just five passes — two screens, one pass behind the line, one throwaway, and one on-target deep ball — it did not make sense to factor in his appearance in the season finale against the Jets. If you want to count that outing (which I gave a B-), Allen’s season grade was 83.4.
Season Grade: B (83.5)
Best Throws: In the first half, Lock absolutely ripped a long throw down the numbers to Courtland Sutton through traffic. Then, while scrambling right, found an open receiver on a throw against his momentum for a third-down conversion. Near the end of the second quarter, Lock showcased impressive speed on a scramble to get a first down. In the third, off play-action, Lock got to his second read and threw a laser to Sutton on a crosser for 18.
Worst Throws: Under pressure on the first drive, Lock narrowly overthrew Courtland Sutton down the sideline. In the second, Lock missed high on an in-breaking route down the seam to Sutton. In the third, he sailed a throw down the numbers to DaeSean Hamilton.
Summary: Lock had a solid albeit unspectacular game against a bottom-third secondary at home to end the season, and the first half was better than the second.
Season Summary: Lock stepped in late in the year for the Broncos and acclimated instantly, often showing off his rocket of an arm and willingness to try and fit the ball through tight windows. His pocket presence was mostly good, and his scrambling ability was utilized often. There were a few bad decisions and off-balance throws, but the Broncos should certainly feel encouraged by what their rookie quarterback demonstrated down the stretch.
Season Grade: B- (81.0)
Best Throws: Late in the first, Murray lofted a seam shot to Dan Arnold for a somewhat easy touchdown. After a long stretch of incompletions, while rolling right, Murray found Christian Kirk through moderate traffic for 16 yards. In the final minute of the half, Murray dropped an absolute dime to Damiere Byrd down the sideline for 33 yards. In the third, Murray found Arnold with a step on his defender and hit him in stride for 37. His touchdown was a ripped slant to Byrd against tight coverage.
Worst Throws: He missed Kirk down the sideline with a woefully overthrown pass. He threw a long fade to Arnold before the end of the half that sailed out of bounds in the end zone. On his first interception, Murray hesitated, then threw behind Larry Fitzgerald. His second pick was a seam pass thrown too high for Arnold. In the fourth, he threw late on a sideline comeback that should’ve been intercepted but was dropped.
Summary: This game put the perfect cap on Murray’s season in terms of it being a microcosm of his rookie campaign. The wow throws there and so were the misses and bad decisions. He scampered around to create but also took him hits and sacks because of his improvising.
Season Summary: Murray started slowly, then heated up before a long stretch of solid but unspectacular play. He hit two consecutive brutal games before his finest pair of efforts leading into the season finale. His arm talent was noticeable in every game, and only a few flat-out inaccurate tosses led to big plays for the defense. He had some problems identifying coverages and his running was good, not great; the same can be said for his pocket presence, although he got antsier as the season progressed. Arizona’s blocking was subpar for the most part, and the receiver group didn’t do him many favors. While he was decently impressive overall, Murray’s stats were a bit inflated by Kliff Kingsbury’s screen-heavy offense. Murray had two D grades, a pair of D+ outings and three A- grades.
Season Grade: C+ (78.5)
Best Throws: Minshew scrambled right and ripped a sidearm pass to Dede Westbrook for a first down. He later stretched his arm strength to the limit on a perfectly placed long ball to Keelan Cole down the sideline, then on the next play found him in the end zone on a bootleg. On his last throw of the season, Minshew rolled right then threw across his body for a touchdown.
Worst Throws: In the red zone early, Minshew blatantly missed on throw into the flat. His interception was vintage Minshew, in that he bounced around in the pocket three or four times, but instead of creating a big play after doing so, he forced a short pass that went into the arms of Darius Leonard.
Summary: There were plenty of swing passes and short checkdowns in this one, but, as he did many times this season, Minshew made some impressive throws down the field despite his weak arm. He did hold onto the ball far too long a few times and his interception was a bad decision.
Season Summary: Minshew was a pleasant surprise for most of his rookie season. Initially, he took what the defenses gave him and diced secondaries with accurate, in-stride passes underneath to move to chains to go along with hard running. Then, some awesome throws at the intermediate level of the field started to occur before he hit a bit of a rough patch, which led to his benching. He wasn’t as special after his return, but Minshew did enough to deserve to be in a legitimate quarterback competition in 2020. He had two A grades, the same amount of D grades, and seven contests in the C range.
Season Grade: C+ (78.0)
Best Throws: His first throw of the game was a long-ball touchdown down the middle of the field. His wideout had a step or two, and Mayfield put it on him in the end zone. Later in the first, he somehow squeezed a ball through traffic for 19 on a third-and-15. In the second, he worked in a nice back-shoulder pass to Landry down the left sideline then hit Odell Beckham Jr. down the right sideline on the next play for 36. His next touchdown was a thing of beauty deep down the middle of the field to Landry, who was well covered. On a third-and-4 in the fourth quarter, Mayfield threw a strike to Kareem Hunt running from right to left for a first down. A few plays later, he had an awesome scramble — that included a cutback and a hard finish — for 11 yards to move the sticks on third-and-10. On fourth-and-goal in the fourth, he heaved one up to Beckham in the end zone, and the veteran receiver came down with it in traffic. Late in the game, Mayfield got to his second read and found Damion Ratley for 18 near the sideline.
Worst Throws: He threw an interception on a comeback to Jarvis Landry, who slipped on the play, but the pass was forced and likely would’ve been at the very least knocked away regardless of his receiver’s footing. In the third, Mayfield overthrew Beckham by roughly five yards on a deep ball into double coverage and was easily intercepted. Midway through the fourth, he threw an underneath pass in the red zone directly to Bengals defender Carl Lawson, but it was dropped. It may have been a miscommunication with his receiver. To end the game, Mayfield stepped into the pocket, pumped, then decided to float one downfield in the vicinity of Landry, but the ball sailed and was picked.
Summary: This game put a fitting end on a disappointing season for Mayfield. There were some high-caliber throws. There were plenty of sacks. There were some bad decisions and inaccurate tosses.
Season Summary: Mayfield was never really fully comfortable in 2019, and his pocket presence, accuracy, and decision-making all took steps back from where they were during his rookie season. He wasn’t helped by his receivers as much as many expected, and his offensive line wasn’t great, but not every pressure and sack was due to the average-at-best blocking unit. In general, Mayfield wasn’t as disastrous as his statistics, yet he undoubtedly did not look like the quarterback he was last year or during his time at Oklahoma. The former No. 1 overall pick got steadier as the season progressed but was overly antsy and aggressive — sometimes to a fault — during his second season in the NFL. As far as grades go, Mayfield never received an A grade all season but had just one D+.
Season Grade: C+ (77.3)
Best Throws: On the last play of the first quarter, Jones zipped a comeback to his receiver with multiple defenders in close. A split second before he was hit up the middle, Jones found Kaden Smith in a void down the field. On the next play, he threw with good velocity on a vertical route to Golden Tate, and the pass arrived just before contact did. With under a minute to go in the second, Jones threw with good timing and ball placement on an out route to Smith against zone. As he moved left in the third, Jones squared his shoulders and had perfect ball placement on his touchdown to Tate. In the third, as he was being hit, Jones threw it out in front of a deep-crossing Slayton for 33 yards.
Worst Throws: Early in the second, he underthrew a slot fade to Sterling Shepard. Also in the second, Jones threw behind a slant, which caused it to get tipped. On the final drive of the first half, Jones overthrew Darius Slayton down the left sideline, then sailed an awkward-looking pass while scrambling left. Later in the third, a deep ball was well underthrown. His second-to-last throw of the season was a careless toss into the flat that was almost picked.
Summary: This game easily represented the most aggressive Jones and the Giants passing offense were all season. While some quick dump-offs were featured, Jones repeatedly took deep shots down field with good, but not great results. There was a steady rain throughout, and the Eagles pass rush led to some sacks and hits in the second half.
Season Summary: Jones worked Pat Shurmur’s West Coast offense pretty well for a rookie quarterback, throwing with impressive accuracy and timing on underneath routes, which were featured often. There were flashes of awesome downfield accuracy too, although it wasn’t a true area of strength for Jones. He was careless with the football inside the pocket, and many of his off-balanced tosses led to defenders getting their hands on the ball. New York’s line wasn’t outstanding but did afford him enough time to get rid of the ball in most cases. His internal clock was a second or two late often. Jones had two D games and one A on the season.
Season Grade: C+ (77.2)
Season Summary: Rudolph stood in admirably for the injured Ben Roethlisberger early in 2019, although in his first start, the Steelers offense was super gadgety. After some periods of long offensive stagnance from Rudolph, he typically connected on a deep ball or two. The offense remained gadgety and the second-year pro did throw some bad interceptions and held the ball too long when he wasn’t getting through his reads and working the intermediate level decently well. The outing against the Browns was disastrous, as he made some poor decisions and threw inaccurately, leading to four interceptions, but that game could’ve been better for Pittsburgh had the receivers made more plays on pinpoint long-ball throws. Rudolph found himself in an offense devoid of established talent and he wasn’t able to elevate those around him. While he was far from good, his individual play wasn’t as bad as his statistics, but clearly his offensive coordinator didn’t trust him much with a traditional offense, and his pocket presence was mostly lackluster. Rudolph had three D+ grades and four games from B- to B+.
Season Grade: C (76.7)
Best Throws: After entering the game for an injured Will Grier, Allen fit one into Chris Hogan on a slant against tight coverage. In the red zone, he put one on Greg Olsen, but the pass was knocked away after it hit the tight end in the hands. He threw a gorgeous corner route for 22 yards in the third quarter. Late in the third, a high-arcing ball landed perfectly down the left sideline for 40 yards. After nearly dropping a shotgun snap and slipping as he threw, Allen found Reggie Bonnafon standing alone.
Worst Throws: While scrambling, he threw behind an open receiver over the middle. On fourth-and-2 late, Allen threw high to an open tight end. To essentially end what was a blowout game, Allen threw late across the middle into the end zone and was picked.
Summary: As was the case all season, Allen zeroed in on Christian McCaffrey for most of this contest, but it did end as one of the cleaner performances he had in quite a while.
Season Summary: Allen had ample opportunity to win the Panthers starting quarterback job in 2020, and despite a few instances in which he seemed on track to do it, he fizzled down the stretch. At times, Allen made it obvious as to why he was a big recruit — many of his most impressive throws were lasers on deep crossers or corner routes — and he dropped a few in the bucket down the field. But, his pocket presence was well below average which led to a myriad of hits and sacks, and the second-year quarterback was pretty careless with the football. He one had A grade, four B contests, and six D outings.
Season Grade: C (76.1)
Best Throws: On the first drive, Darnold ripped an intermediate crosser against tight coverage to Jamison Crowder. After finding his tight end wide open on a play in which he scrambled left, Darnold had good timing on a comeback. To convert a third-and-4 in the fourth, Darnold looked left then came back to his right to find his receiver with a half step on an in-breaking route.
Worst Throws: Late in the first, Darnold threw to a deep area that was perfectly covered. The ball hit the defenders back and was intercepted. Before the end of the half, Darnold threw well behind a short drag route near the sideline. Early in the fourth, while fading away from the throw, Darnold threw high on a short crosser that was nearly intercepted.
Summary: In a game that featured mostly second- and third-string players from the Bills and a steady rain, Darnold fared decently well, but much of what he was asked to do was get the ball out of his hands in a hurry on short routes.
Season Summary: Darnold’s second season started with a disastrous outing against Buffalo, then he got mono. When he returned, he instantly injected life into the Jets offense, and he made a handful of impressive throws beyond 10 yards. However, most of his work was done on screens and dump offs and, in general, he did not take good care of the football. Also, his pocket presence was average, although his blocking was about the same. The flashes absolutely were there from Darnold. But so were the “what was that?” decisions and in-accurate tosses. Also, Adam Gase’s offense was ultra-conservative for most of the year. Darnold had two F grades, three contests in the D range, two B outings, and one A.
Season Grade: C (75.9)
Best Throws: Early in the first, he stepped into the pocket and connected with Kenny Golladay up the middle on a pass with plenty of zip. In the second, off play-action, Blough put one on the money to Golladay on a post for 42 yards. A good pass down the field never materialized into a completion before of defensive pass interference.
Worst Throws: Blough missed low and outside on a third-and-short pass attempt near the sideline on the first Lions possession of the game. A moment before he was hit in the pocket, Blough threw a late pass near the boundary that was almost picked. In the fourth, after moving well in the pocket, Blough threw an ill-advised ball over the middle with two Packers converging, and it was intercepted.
Summary: Blough was actually decently sharp against the Packers, besides his big interception in the fourth when he simply tried to do too much.
Season Summary: Blough did an admirable job filling in for Matthew Stafford for the Lions this season, especially considering he was an undrafted free agent rookie. His arm didn’t particularly do him favors on out routes or down the field, but he routinely got the ball out quickly and accurately, worked the intermediate part of the field well, and hit a few long balls. At times, he made rookie mistakes, but Detroit should be pleased with how he played.
Season Grade: C (75.0)
Season Summary: In his first few appearances in the NFL, Haskins looked like the decently raw prospect he was after his lone season as the starter at Ohio State. He slowly but surely got more comfortable letting it rip and getting through his reads before throwing accurate passes at the intermediate and deep portions of the field. He was mostly slow moving away from pressure in the pocket and a large portion of the Redskins offense afforded him easy, open throws underneath, but against some lesser defenses down the stretch, Haskins definitely took some steps forward as a passer. After an F and D in his first two games, Haskins only had one game in the D range in his final seven outings and managed an A- in the contest before his B+ in what ultimately was his last game of his rookie season.
Season Grade: C (74.7)
Best Throws: In the first half, Hodges waited forever in the pocket and threw a perfect ball to Diontae Johnson on a deep corner route. He also dropped one in the bucket down the sideline, but the pass was dropped. He spun away from a free rusher and found his tight end for a decent gain.
Worst Throws: His first throw of the game was a sailed throw on a slant.
Summary: There was a steady rain — that at times looked like a torrential downpour — in this game, which was considered with his grade. As usual, Pittsburgh’s game plan was based on short dump offs and occasional sideline long balls. Hodges didn’t really make mistakes but wasn’t consistently moving the chains either, and he was hurt by the some drops.
Season Summary: Hodges performed how you’d expect a good third-stringer to play, and at times, he placed the football in ideal position down the field. He did get some quality contested catches from his young receivers, and his best games were those in which he simply did not take any chances beyond the deep shots, a philosophy that severely limited Pittsburgh’s offense. The play-calling afforded to him wasn’t exactly helpful, neither was the fact that he missed some key role players. Hodges wasn’t exactly poised in the pocket either yet did flash the ability to wait and scan.
Season Grade: C (73.7)
Season Summary: It was a short-lived audition for Rosen in Miami, and after a good beginning in his first start, things went south quickly. The tiny flashes popped a few times, but in general, he was not able to manage the continually crumbling Dolphins offensive line and did not throw with a great deal of accuracy or velocity. He had one F, one B-, and two grades in the C range.
Season Grade: C- (72.5)
Season Summary: Falk was thrust into the starting lineup after Darnold got mono and Trevor Siemian went down with injury. And he looked like a third-stringer in the Jets offense. There were only a small collection of good, anticipatory throws. Falk was brutal under pressure and made some bad choices on throws down the field. His severely lacking arm was noticeable, as was his inability to improvise. Gase’s offense was predominantly conservative, and New York’s blocking didn’t create an environment for success. All three of his appearances landed in the D range.
Season Grade: D (66.6)
Season Summary: Finley made more impressive throws than Falk yet had a few more instances in which he put the ball in harm’s way, which led to his slightly lower grade. His ball placement wasn’t a problem. His struggles arose from not being able to drive the football down the field and a panicked mentality while under duress. Cincinnati’s line was average-at-best, and Finley didn’t really elevate any of the skill-position talent.
Season Grade: D (66.2)
Best Throws: Grier had a nice scramble for two yards but really didn’t make a quality throw against the Saints before getting hurt.
Worst Throws: His first throw of the game was too high for Greg Olsen on a deep over. He did not recognize a lurking linebacker on his pick-six. In the second, he missed on a long ball by overthrowing his open receiver.
Summary: Grier was overwhelmed by the Saints pass rush but did miss a few open targets in Week 17.
Season Summary: Grier was the least impressive of the third-string quarterbacks who saw action this season. He did not read and react to coverage quickly, had troubles dealing with the pass rush, and was not accurate with the football which led to incompletions and a fair amount of turnovers. The grades in his two games were D and F.
Season Grade: D (63.5)