Every week, we take questions from our readers for our Friday NFL news mailbag. This week, we’re updating ourselves on the most impressive rookies of the year thus far, checking out the NFC East battle, predicting quarterback retirements, and trying to figure out the Eagles’ draft plans.
To submit questions to the mailbag, be sure to join our Discord server and ask questions in the mailbag channel!
NFL Rookie of the Year Watch
“So far in 2022, who is the most impressive rookie?” – Jacob M
There have been some fun rookie performances to track this year, and if you want a full evaluation of how these rookies are performing week by week, I highly encourage you to check out Dalton Miller’s weekly rookie report card here at Pro Football Network.
As for who has been performing the best this year, I’ll have to select a player who will not play this week because of a bye: Houston Texans running back Dameon Pierce. The Texans alone have gotten quite a bit out of their rookie class, which includes some great individual moments from safety Jalen Pitre and cornerback Derek Stingley, but neither has been consistent like Pierce has been.
Were it not for Tyler Smith’s admittedly understandable underperformance against Aaron Donald, it would have been fun to include the Cowboys tackle, given all the discourse that had surrounded his pick. Along the same lines, Patriots guard Cole Strange has also been performing above the level that we typically see from rookie first-round guards.
The receiver group has been impressive, too. George Pickens has been stringing together highlights for the Steelers, including the catch of the year, and Chris Olave has added a much-needed dynamic to the Saints’ offense.
Drake London is not getting the credit he deserves in this conversation, either, and he’s playing as well as any rookie receiver. So too, with Jahan Dotson, who’s racking up yards in an anemic Washington offense. And it’s hard to say the Jets are disappointed in Garrett Wilson – the early returns are good.
Rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger has been impressive for the New York Giants, too. And everyone who saw what Breece Hall did against the Dolphins is suitably amazed.
But for consistency, skill expression, and overall performance, I have to go with Pierce. He does a great job navigating tight spaces, demonstrates good vision, and is a powerful runner. He also averages more yards after contact than many running backs average in total.
NFC East Update: How Will it Shake Out?
“How do you see the NFC East playing out over the remainder of the season (and into the playoffs), especially with the Eagles/Giants/Cowboys all being quite a bit better than expected coming into the year?” – Jonathan.
Those three teams are collectively 13-2 this season, and one of those losses was to each other! It’s an incredible start, and all three are punching above their weight, as you mention.
I don’t think this will last. There’s always pushback against the idea that a winning team is going to fall off, but this happens nearly every year. Between 2017 and 2021, 33 teams started the year off with a 4-1 record or better. Six of them finished with only five or fewer wins to close out the season. Two of those teams came last year: the Chargers and Ravens.
I think this year, we’ll see the same thing. It’s most likely the Giants, but if the Cowboys were forced to play without Dak Prescott for much longer, they would be a candidate as well.
We should see these teams separate from each other in the coming weeks, and I expect those tiers to break down into Eagles-Cowboys-Giants with the top two making the playoffs and the Giants competing for the seventh Wild Card spot.
The Eagles should, for now, be considered one of the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Indianapolis Colts: Graveyard of Quarterbacks?
“Are we looking at the possibility that both Carson Wentz and Matt Ryan retire at the end of the season?” – David Bullen
I don’t see much likelihood that Wentz retires. While he’s been wearing out welcomes at different teams as a starter, that doesn’t mean he can’t provide value to a franchise as a backup.
His high-volatility style of play may make some coaches wary of that kind of backup role, but in a world where a backup enters the game, the team instantly becomes an underdog – and high-volatility play can be good for underdogs.
MORE: Week 6 QB Power Rankings
He’s 29 years old and supposed to be good on the whiteboard. If that’s the case, he’ll be able to bounce around a few more teams – especially if this year’s draft doesn’t bear out much in the way of quarterback outside of the top two.
As for Matt Ryan, yea, I think he’s done.
But if it did happen, this would mean that the Colts have employed four quarterbacks from the 2019-2022 seasons that have retired within a year of playing for the Colts: Andrew Luck, Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, and Matt Ryan.
Any Possibility the Eagles Draft a QB?
“Is there any reality where the Eagles still draft a quarterback in 2023?” – Clinic Cap (Jack)
After the games Jalen Hurts has had thus far this season, I don’t think we’ll see a quarterback drafted with the intention of starting him anytime soon. It would take something catastrophic and unforeseen at this point.
The closest justification we could make might have to do with how Hurts himself was drafted. The Eagles drafted the Alabama passer while Wentz was on the roster. The Eagles reaffirmed their commitment to Wentz as a starter after Hurts was drafted, insisting that the pick didn’t mean Wentz was on his way out.
MORE: PFN Mock Draft Simulator
That said, it’s not directly comparable. Wentz was coming off of his worst season, and his contract was set to expire that offseason, so Hurts could be a viable off-ramp if the Eagles couldn’t secure a quarterback in the 2021 draft.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see if the Eagles were interested in a mid-round quarterback, however. Ian Book has probably run his course as a potential developmental option.
Instead, a new developmental quarterback that might even be able to compete with Gardner Minshew for the backup job sounds like something the Eagles would do.