The question isn’t who is Mr. Irrelevant but rather what? Mr. Irrelevant is a term given to the player picked last in the NFL draft, number 262 in this case. Brock Purdy having gone to Iowa State University was initially brought in to sit as a third-string QB despite that he started all four years for the Iowa Cyclones under center. By the time he left the program, he had led them to a Fiesta Bowl win over the Oregon Ducks with a final score of 34-17. He had 32 school records when he finished his career for Iowa a year after the Fiesta Bowl win. Purdy was overlooked by many scouts, given he went to Iowa State and not any big SEC or PAC-12 schools, and despite the fact that the San Francisco 49ers had him on their draft board. They were able to pick him up as the final pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. He was subsequently given the title Mr. Irrelevant as is tradition with the last draft pick.
Purdy sat for the majority of the season, finally coming in against the Kansas City Chiefs in a blowout game where the Niners pulled their starters out, to prevent any injuries, since they knew they were not going to win late in the fourth quarter. He again went in during the final moments of their next game when they played the Arizona Cardinals. With the game comfortably in hand at 38-10, the Niners again pulled starters and sent the second strings in. Purdy had a subpar showing, only gaining three yards on three pass attempts.
The real test came the following week. Trey Lance, the presumed QB1 for the Niners at the beginning of the season, was injured during week two and suffered a season-ending ankle injury. Next up after Lance was Jimmy Garapolo, however, during the game against the Miami Dolphins that week, his foot got stuck beneath a Dolphins’ player during a sack and he was ruled out. That left Brock Purdy, the 262nd pick in the draft, to save the Niners in a game they needed to win to stay in the playoff race. Purdy, an unknown player to almost everybody in the league, was thrown into his first real test with the Niners’ starting lineup. The Niners’ season, as far as many were concerned, now relied on a 23-year-old third-string rookie QB, the last pick in the draft: Mr. Irrelevant.
Purdy went on to quickly fit into the Niners’ offense that game looking as if the job should’ve been his a long time ago, racking up 25 completions on 37 attempts, 210 yards, a 67.6% completion percentage, two touchdowns, and one interception in a 33-17 win against a strong Dolphins team that was also playing to stay alive in the playoff hunt. It was assumed that Garapolo would be back the next week and that nothing serious or long-term had occurred during his injury. However, as fate would have it, Garapolo was reported to have a fractured right fibula and ligament meaning his return was in the distant future if at all this season. This meant that Brock Purdy was now the Niners’ starting QB in a season they had every expectation to make a deep playoff run with the amount of talent they had and were adding to with the likes of Christian MCaferry from Carolina.
Purdy went on to finish the regular season with a perfect record of 5-0 as a starter following the Miami game, with the team only scoring under 30 points once with him as a starter and in turn, clinching the number two seed in the NFC playoffs. Many figured that he would hit his “rookie wall,” a theoretical wall that rookies hit and then stop progressing for the rest of the season as the games get bigger and more attention is drawn to them. The idea is that they’ll find themselves in a sort of slump, still playing well, however, with no new leaps or bounds to note. With that being said, Purdy has still yet to hit this wall; he went into his first playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, a division rival in the NFC West and the number seven seed.
Purdy went on to beat them in his first playoff game and start, 41-23, a convincing win to say the least, which solidified the Niners as legitimate Super Bowl contenders even with the relatively untested rookie under center. Purdy threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns on 18 completions having been sacked only one time in the route. The game the week after that was against Dallas Cowboys, one of the top teams in the league this year despite the early injuries at the start of the season with their QB Dak Prescott. Many of those who doubted Purdy for “not playing a real defense” or a “complete team” now saw him get slated against one of the best defenses in the NFL on one side of the ball and the other one of the top-scoring offenses. On top of that, the Cowboys ranked near the top of the league in takeaways this year meaning protecting the ball would be even more important for Purdy. At the start of the game, it looked rough; both teams struggled to move the ball and Purdy took risky deep shots on balls that shouldn’t have been thrown. Then Purdy started game managing, taking quick easy passes over the middle of the field to his tight end, George Kittle. The offense began to move the ball with Deboo Samuel drawing attention and CMC being able to run the ball with the lanes given by one of the top lines in the league. Purdy didn’t put up stellar numbers, but he did enough to move the ball and help his team win by throwing for 214 yards on 19 completions in a competitive 19-12 game.
The next test for Brock Purdy is a game exclusive to only four teams in the league, the NFC Championship game against Jalen Hurts and his Philadelphia Eagles. It is not the first time these two have met; having played before in college, the two QBs played one another, and the Iowa State Cyclones and Oklahoma Sooners combined for 83 points with Purdy narrowly losing by a score of 42-41. In that game, Purdy threw five touchdowns for 282 yards and tacked in a rushing touchdown for a total of six. Hurts had three passing touchdowns, two rushing, one interception, and 273 yards. Purdy has a chance on Sunday, January 29, to avenge that one-point loss and send the apparent Super Bowl favorites for almost the whole season home. Sending first-year rookie Brock Purdy and the 49ers to a game many players only dream about, the Super Bowl.
There is opportunity to play either the Cincinnati Bengals, looking to make up for their loss last year in the big game, or the Kansas City Chiefs, the first team Purdy was thrown in against during their 44-23 loss, a team also looking to get back to the Super Bowl. Purdy is looking to do something only a handful of people get to do in the grand scheme of the NFL, kneel down in victory formation and hoist the Lombardi Trophy at the Super Bowl.
Justin Vincent, Staff Writer
Senior Justin Vincent is a staff writer for the 2022-2023 Colonel Newsmagazine. He enjoys watching football, playing soccer, movies, and dogs.