Brock Purdy has a one-in-three shot to do the unthinkable and go from the last pick of the 2022 NFL draft and third-string quarterback to AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. After only six regular season games (and two in the postseason), the San Francisco 49ers passer was named one of the three finalists for the award, alongside New York Jets wide receiver Garrett Wilson and Seattle Seahawks running back Kenneth Walker.
— NFL (@NFL) January 25, 2023
The rise of Purdy is remarkable considering you couldn't even place a bet for him to win the award two months ago. He was buried on the depth chart at the beginning of the season behind Week 1 starter Trey Lance and veteran backup Jimmy Garoppolo and there was a chance Purdy wouldn't even make the team after the 49ers took him with the No. 262 selection — literally the last pick of the draft.
But when Lance and Garoppolo sustained a foot injury (Lance in Week 2 and Garoppolo in Week 13) the little-known seventh-round pick from Iowa State was thrust into the starting lineup. And what did Purdy do with his chance? Not only did he beat the Miami Dolphins in the same game the 49ers lost Garoppolo, but Purdy would win the following five games as the starting quarterback and help San Francisco earn the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
In those games, Purdy completed 68.5 percent of his passes for 1,098 yards, 11 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He also ran in a score. The 49ers averaged 26.2 points per game with Purdy under center. And in the postseason, Purdy is 2-0 with a 62.7 competition percentage, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Should Purdy win?
Purdy's performance is impressive, but is it enough to take home an honor given to the best offensive rookie of 2022? It depends on your interpretation of the award.
The knocks against Purdy are twofold: He plays on a very quarterback-friendly team and he's only started five games. Yes, Purdy's stats are impressive, but he's playing with Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey. Why should Purdy get the leg up on Wilson and Walker when his team is chock-full of stars?
Wilson, meanwhile, led all rookies in receptions and receiving yards with 83 catches for 1,103 yards, respectively, and tied for third in receiving touchdowns. Walker finished first in rushing touchdowns with nine and second in rushing yards with 1,050. Individually, their stats are among the best at their position among rookies.
Purdy's numbers are good, too, but this was a weak quarterback class by comparison. The only other first-year quarterbacks to attempt at least 100 passes were Kenny Pickett, Desmond Ridder and Skylar Thompson. His status as a quarterback shouldn't necessarily automatically vault him to the top of the list.
Purdy has a claim to the award based on his play alone, but his lack of games played is concerning. No winner has played fewer than 12 games in the season they won the award and while New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara only started three games when he won the award in 2017, he played in all 16 games and led all rookies with 14 total touchdowns.
The NFL will announce the winners of Offensive Rookie of the Year and several other awards on Feb. 9.