From the fast rise of Patrick Mahomes in 2018 to Joe Burrow’s sensational sophomore campaign last year, there’s at least one quarterback every season who ascends into football’s elite, and there are plenty of candidates for a breakout season in 2022.
Each one has a unique story, but all benefit from how their team builds around them. Josh Allen had a lackluster first two seasons as a pro, struggling with his accuracy and decision-making. After Brandon Beane, the Buffalo Bills’ general manager, traded for Stefon Diggs during the 2020 offseason, Allen had his career year. He finally had a go-to receiver, and he made drastic improvements in several statistical categories.
From the 2019 season to Diggs’ first year as a member of the Bills, Allen’s completion percentage soared from 58.8% to 69.2%. His yardage jumped from 3,089 to 4,544. His touchdown total rose by 17 in the same number of games played. The Bills committed to building around him and opened up an aerial attack that allowed him to thrive. Four other teams have tried to do the same this offseason, making their quarterbacks the four most likely candidates to have Allen-esque breakout seasons in 2022.
Like Allen, Tagovailoa struggled during his first two years in the NFL. Thanks to Joe Burrow leading his team to the Super Bowl and Justin Hebert’s quick ascension to stardom, Tagovailoa’s slow start generated negative perceptions. Unlike the other first-round quarterbacks in his draft class, Tagovailoa hasn’t had the weapons he needs to thrive.
He has depended on oft-injured DeVante Parker and Mack Hollins, who hasn’t eclipsed 1,000 career yards after five years in the NFL.
The Miami Dolphins finally began addressing this in the 2021 NFL Draft, selecting Tagovailoa’s former teammate at Alabama, Jaylen Waddle, who has the potential to be a highly-productive receiver.
They doubled down the following year, trading a slew of draft picks to the Kansas City Chiefs—including a first-rounder this year —for Tyreek Hill. His arrival completely changes the complexion of the once-dormant Dolphins’ offense. Hill’s speed allows him to get open easily and unleash the deep passing game.
The Dolphins are also dealing with questions about Tagovailoa’s arm strength while also revamping an offensive line that has failed to give their quarterback enough time to throw. Last year, their offensive line ranked last in the NFL in pass block win rate and allowed a league-leading 235 pressures.
The additions of Terron Armstead and Connor Williams this offseason should allow Tagovailoa to pass the ball more downfield, which will help him maximize Hill’s abilities.
These needed adjustments should help the heavily-slandered Miami quarterback finally have his breakout season in 2022.
Hurts is also in line for a make or break season, and the Philadelphia Eagles made a big draft-day move trying to ensure it. Hurts has been in a near identical situation to Tagovailoa—making his first start with a subpar starting receiving group and beginning his second year (first as a full-time starter) relying on a rookie wideout.
The Eagles acquired A.J. Brown for the 18th and 101st overall picks in the 2022 Draft hoping to bolster their receiving corps. Brown, a big-bodied pass-catcher, has the tools to be one of the best at his position. He creates a formidable trio with promising sophomore DeVonta Smith and dynamic tight end Dallas Goedert, giving Hurts the help he needs.
Despite not having the same hype out of college, Hurts has displayed similar traits to Allen. He can torment defenses with his scrambling ability, but he also struggles with accuracy. His 61.3% completion percentage in 2021 was well below league average, which is why Brown’s arrival could be critical. His huge catch radius will give Hurts more room for error until he can master his ball placement. If he and Brown can get in sync over the offseason, it could be the breakout season Philadelphia’s quarterback is looking for.
Lawrence’s NFL career did not get off to the start he probably expected it to. The Knoxville, Tennessee native was immune to losing, winning all but four games in high school and college. His first year in the NFL was a much different story. His team suffered 14 defeats in a season where he threw five more interceptions than touchdowns and had a completion percentage below 60.
It’s not surprising Lawrence had issues adjusting to a Jacksonville Jaguars team amid a complete rebuild and a disastrous Urban Meyer tenure. Many of his struggles can and should be attributed to the horrible situation he was in. Along with having a mess of a head coach, the Jaguars had a below-average offensive line and one of the worst wide receiver groups in the league—along with the Dolphins and Eagles.
The good news for Lawrence is the Jaguars improved their skill positions. They added Christian Kirk, a speedy pass-catcher who can develop into a reliable weapon. Lawrence will reunite with his college running back, Travis Etienne, who is back from a season-ending foot injury.
The offensive line showed a lot of improvements towards the end of the season, especially from Cam Robinson and Jawaan Taylor at the tackle position. The Jaguars replaced the retired Brandon Linder with Brandon Scherff, a top free-agent guard. Jacksonville is nowhere near ready to compete for the postseason, but they provided their quarterback with all the help he needs to have a breakout season as a sophomore.
There’s a strong argument for Chicago Bears’ quarterback Justin Fields to have a spot on this list, but Wilson edged him because the Jets built around him much better this offseason. The Bears have failed to sign enough players to help Fields’ progress, while the Jets made several acquisitions this offseason to help its sophomore quarterback have a breakout season in 2022.
The Jets had a stellar 2022 Draft, which included the selection of Garrett Wilson, who joins an increasingly potent wide receiver room. Elijah Moore showed a lot of promise as a rookie, and he’s in line for a big boost in production this season. The Jets also re-signed Braxton Berrios, an underrated slot wideout who had a great connection with Wilson last year.
The Jets’ offensive line is also full of young talent like tackle Mekhi Becton and guard Alijah Vera-Tucker. They also signed Laken Tomlinson, one of the best free-agent guards available this offseason.
The Jets also got a boost at tight end—a position at which they haven’t had a player eclipse 500 yards since Chris Herndon in 2018. CJ Uzomah was a reliable target for Burrow, and he will now be the same for Wilson. He is joined by Tyler Conklin, who is coming off his best season as a pro with the Vikings.
Now it’s time for Wilson to make the improvements to take his play to the next level. After throwing at least one interception in his first five starts, Wilson slowly cleaned up his turnover problems.
He finished the year with five consecutive games without an interception. Accuracy remained an issue throughout his rookie year, tossing the ball at a 55.6% completion rate, but his team added several more reliable weapons around him, giving him a great chance to raise his completion this season.
Ryan Heller Contributed to this Report