What to make of Kenny Pickett? He had a decent rookie season, winning some games and operating the offense, but the overall production was pretty meager.

Most notably, Pickett went 6-1 in his last seven full games. He was at his best late in the year, with fourth-quarter comebacks against the Raiders and Ravens on national TV. And he showed some ability to avoid mistakes. After 17 sacks and 6 turnovers in his first four full games, he had only 8 sacks and 1 interception in his last six games.

The raw stats, however, were modest. He averaged 190 passing yards in his 12 starts, with 7 TDs. If you set aside the two games he left early with injuries, raise him up to 222 yards per game, with 6 TDs in 10 games.

If we’re looking at per-game impact, Pickett ranked 30th among the 32 quarterbacks who started at least half the season. Pretty terrible.

But history shows us that some of these seemingly unusable rookie quarterbacks will grow into relevant players in their second years. There were two of them, in fact, last year. Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence were both hot messes as rookies, and they both ranked in the top 11 in per-game stats in their second seasons.

A few years back, Carson Wentz made a similar leap – he was headed for the MVP award before injuring his knee at Los Angeles.

With this in mind, I put together the following chart. It shows all quarterbacks in the 32-team era who were drafted in the first or second round and put up bottom-5 per-game stats in their rookie season. There are 17 such quarterbacks, and we can then look at how they performed in their second season (again, using per-game stats). In a general sense, it provides a guideline for how realistic it might be to hope for Pickett to move up to relevance.

Of the 17 quarterbacks, four moved up to the top 11 in per-game production, and I’ve got that group tagged with black dots. It includes Pickett’s teammate, Mitchell Trubisky, who wasn’t great with the Bears in 2018 but helped his statistical cause with some timely runs.

None of the other 13 quarterbacks ranked higher than 20th. The two who moved up to 20th both went on to have some success later in their careers – Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill. And Tua Tagovailoa moved up to 22nd in his second season before playing his best ball in his third season.

About half of the quarterbacks, meanwhile (8 of 17) continued to struggle in their second seasons. That group includes Zach Wilson.

Year aaStPassTDPRunTDRPt/GRk
2002Quincy Carter, Dall. (2nd)7209.31.0013.0.0015.8--
2003David Carr, Hou.11180.7.8211.0.1814.526
2003Joey Harrington, Det.16180.
2004Kyle Boller, Balt.16159.9.8111.8.0612.931
2006J.P. Losman, Buff.16190.
2010Mark Sanchez, NYJ16205.
2012Blaine Gabbert, Jac.10166.2.905.6.0012.931
2013Ryan Tannehill, Mia.16244.61.5014.9.0620.120
2014Jimmy Clausen, Chi. (2nd)1181.
2015Derek Carr, Oak. (2nd)16249.
2017• Carson Wentz, Phil.13253.52.5423.0.0025.72
2018• Mitchell Trubisky, Chi.14230.21.7130.1.2123.210
2019Josh Rosen, Mia.3155.0.334.3.009.5--
2021Tua Tagovailoa, Mia.12207.91.3310.7.1717.822
2022• Justin Fields, Chi.15149.51.1376.2.5323.06
2022• Trevor Lawrence, Jac.17241.91.4717.1.2921.811
2022Zach Wilson, NYJ9187.6.6711.3.1113.831
2023Kenny Pickett, Pitt.???????

—Ian Allan