Who can be the next Brock Purdy? It can’t be that hard to be Purdy, right? This is the last pick in the draft we’re talking about here. But he has yet to lose as the 49ers‘ starter and is on the cusp of the Super Bowl in his rookie season. WINS ARE NOT A QUARTERBACK STAT. I hear you. But those are the facts right now.
Of course, what Purdy has accomplished is exceptionally rare, and there are plenty of perfectly aligned external factors that have helped set this unprecedented run into motion. But if we only look through the lens of Purdy’s obscurity as a prospect and his draft position, let’s pinpoint which quarterback in the 2023 draft could be the second coming of San Francisco’s current starter.
We’ll do so by process of elimination — and a sprinkle of my own evaluation-based opinion.
For this research study, I’m looking for the closest to Purdy from all perspectives: college experience, size, strengths, weaknesses, playing style, and likelihood to be a very late pick.
First elimination: Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, Anthony Richardson
These are the (rightfully) consensus first-round quarterbacks. They’re all essential locks to be selected in Round 1. Unfortunately for them, that takes them out of the “Become Purdy 2.0” running.
Second elimination: Tanner McKee, Hendon Hooker, Aidan O’Connell
I’ll admit, it’s decently early in the pre-draft process, and to me, opinions drastically changing on quarterback prospects after the games have been played is a strange, mostly foolish phenomenon. But at this moment, this trio appears to represent the second tier of quarterback prospects in the 2023 class. Beyond that, McKee and O’Connell are larger, pocket-only quarterbacks, and Purdy is right around 6-foot-1 with surprising mobility on designed rollouts and when pressure mounts. Hooker is a tall, lanky, athletic quarterback who probably would’ve gotten first-round consideration had he not suffered a torn knee ligament near the end of his ultra-productive 2022 season at Tennessee.
Third elimination: Clayton Tune, Malik Cunningham, Max Duggan, Dorian Thompson-Robinson
These prospects are eliminated from contention almost strictly due to some physical component. While Purdy is the quintessential “sneaky athletic” quarterback, he’s far from a dynamic specimen relative to today’s standards at the quarterback position. And he’s on the smaller side.
Meanwhile, Tune is listed at 6-3 and 220 pounds. On film, he’s clearly more filled out than Purdy and has a stronger arm. Cunningham is a sudden and speedy dual-threat quarterback who will run away from some NFL defenders at the next level. That’s not Purdy. Duggan is listed at 6-2 and 210 pounds, close to Purdy’s measurements but clearly showed during TCU’s magical run to the national title game this season that he’s at his best when ripping deep shots down the field or heroically running with the football in his hands and absorbing big hits in the open field.
Thompson-Robinson’s body type and arm talent closely resemble Purdy’s yet we can’t forget — he was once the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback recruit in the nation and demonstrated high-level — though maybe not elite — athleticism and scrambling prowess during his long and illustrious career at UCLA. That’s where he most blatantly differs from Purdy.
The finalists: Jaren Hall, Jake Haener, Stetson Bennett
And then there were three. On the surface, they’re all very Purdyian. Smaller, productive, multiyear starters who hung around for a while in college and will be older prospects like Purdy was — he turned 24 in December — without rocket arms but with a drip of improvisational talent. Critically, they check the final box here — Hall, Haener, and Bennett feel like squarely on the late Day 3 radar and no would would be flabbergasted if they went undrafted.
Well, that is except for Bennett who, in a normal, non-back-to-back national title-winning scenario, would probably have his phone buzzing out of his hand after the draft with calls from teams looking to sign him as an undrafted free agent. But for as silly as the construct is, “buzz” is absolutely real during draft season, and the heightened visibility of Bennett, along with more NFL-caliber play from him in 2022, will likely lead to him ascending boards, far away from Purdy’s distinct position as “Mr. Irrelevant.” And with Bennett, prepare yourself for “this guy’s a winner” analysis from some, which is really not analysis at all. He’s out.
Hall owes plenty of gratitude to Bennett because of how the Georgia quarterback’s rise to living legend status at that program diverted attention away from the age of the BYU quarterback. Before the 2022 season, Hall received some first-round buzz yet detractors routinely pointed to the fact that Hall would turn 25 prior to his first NFL season. Of course, the internet went berserk with tweets and memes about Bennett’s age during his super senior season with the Bulldogs, and he’s already 25.
Of course, Bennett’s age being in the spotlight doesn’t make Hall any younger. And Hall’s age will likely be a key reason he’s picked later in the draft. But the BYU star is finishing as the runner-up here. Why? How he handles pressure. Now, Purdy wasn’t a magician under pressure at Iowa State. However, I do think he dealt with crumbling pockets and free rushers from the outside with more comfort and assertiveness than Hall. Also, Hall has a more live arm than Purdy. Yes, I’m nitpicking. I’m know. But this late in the process of elimination I have to be. Everything else is pretty spot-on between the two. And mostly due to his age, Hall very well could land in Round 7. He’s close, but not quite the perfect Purdy 2.0 candidate.
The winner: Jake Haener
This Fresno State quarterback is a gritty, deceptively athletic pocket passer who does decent work under duress, has an average arm and some ad-libbing flair. That sounds exactly like Purdy doesn’t it? He’s listed at 6-1 and 200 pounds. Purdy was just under 6-1 and 212 pounds at the combine.
Haener was a full-time starter for the Bulldogs over the past two-plus seasons and was integral to the program winning 10 games in 2021 and 2022. Purdy helped elevate the Iowa State program during his time in Ames. Haener throws with quality but not surgical accuracy. In fact, Haener’s 2022 Accuracy Percentage (78.8%) was nearly identical to Purdy’s 2021 rate of 78.7%.
They can squeeze out of precarious situations more frequently than their athleticism would suggest and understand where coverage dictates they should throw the football. When in rhythm underneath, they can be very effective in methodically moving an offense down the field.
Like Purdy did a year ago, there’ll be a small collection of draft analysts who adore Haener, label him one of their draft crushes, and slap a mid-round label on him. And, because no one can come close to predicting the draft, particularly after the first day, he might get picked somewhere in Round 4 or 5. But my educated guess is Haener will ultimately land late in Day 3, just like Purdy.
So, if for some reason you’re fascinated with your team potentially selecting the closest quarterback prospect to Purdy in April’s draft, Haener from Fresno State is your guy.