Seventh-round QBs in NFL playoffs: Brock Purdy, Skylar Thompson to make history on wild-card weekend

Brock Purdy and Skylar Thompson are set to make NFL history during Super Wild Card Weekend of the 2023 playoffs.

The two will become the first seventh-round quarterbacks to start a postseason game since Chiefs start Matt Cassel did it in 2010.

It has been rare for quarterbacks drafted in the seventh round to start postseason games. There are plenty of success stories of players drafted before then — especially the sixth round, which is where Tom Brady was selected — but the seventh round hasn’t exactly been a breeding ground for quarterback success.

MORE: Ranking the best seventh-round quarterbacks in NFL history

Purdy and Thompson can change that perception with strong performances. But no matter what they do, the rookies will etch their names into the NFL’s record book.

No seventh-round rookie has started a playoff game prior to the 2023 playoffs. When Purdy takes the field against the Seahawks on Saturday, he will become the lowest-drafted quarterback to start a postseason game.

As for Thompson, he will be the second-lowest drafted quarterback to start a postseason game when he gets onto the field against the Bills on Sunday. Thompson was taken 15 picks ahead of Purdy, who was the last player chosen in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Obviously, the opportunities that Thompson and Purdy are receiving are unique. But how rare is it for a seventh-rounder to start an NFL postseason game? Here’s a look back at the ones who’ve done it.

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How many seventh-round QBs have started NFL playoff games?

Only three seventh-round quarterbacks have started NFL playoff games. They have combined to start eight games, with former Rams quarterback Pat Haden making a majority of the starts in the 1970s.

players team launches Years
Pat Haden rams 5 1976-78
Gus Frerotte Lions, Broncos 2 1999-2000
Matt Kassel chiefs 1 2010

Purdy and Thompson will join this exclusive list by starting in the 2023 NFL playoffs. They’ll try to avoid the postseason pitfalls that the seventh-round picks before them experienced.

MORE: Joe Montana thinks Brock Purdy can lead 49ers to a Super Bowl

Seventh-round QB playoff stats

There’s a reason seventh-round quarterbacks haven’t made many starts over the course of the NFL’s history, and it’s difficult to trust lower-rung draft picks to fare well against top-tier opponents.

Seventh-round picks are a combined 2-6 in their eight playoff starts. None have won since Haden led the Rams to a 34-10 victory over the Vikings in the divisional round of the 1979 playoffs.

players WL Comp pct pass yds Pass TD’s INT’s rating
Pat Haden 2-3 44.7 728 4 12 35.3
Gus Frerotte 0-2 45.9 375 1 3 48.5
Matt Kassel 0-1 50 70 0 3 20.4

Those numbers get worse when adding in the seventh-round backups who have played in postseason games. All the seventh-round quarterbacks to throw a playoff pass have a combined completion percentage of 46.3, to go with 1,324 yards, five touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

So, the bar isn’t exactly set high for Thompson and Purdy. That will give each a chance to exceed expectations and put together the best performance by a seventh-round quarterback in NFL history.

Brock Purdy

Brock Purdy stats

Purdy in particular has a chance to put Cassel, Frerotte and Haden to shame. The rookie has won each of his first five starts with the 49ers and has allowed the team to remain competitive even without Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo in the lineup.

Just how good has Purdy been? His 67.1 completion percentage is on par with Patrick Mahomes and only 0.1 lower than Garoppolo’s.

Stat Total
Completion percentage 61.7
passing yards 1,374
Passing TDs 13
interceptions 4
yards per attempt 8.1
Passer rating 107.3
QBR 65.6

If Purdy continues to perform at that level, he will easily have the best playoff start by a seventh-round quarterback — provided that he can lead the 49ers to a win over the Seahawks in the wild-card round.

MORE: Why Brock Purdy is already the most successful Mr. Irrelevant QB of all time

Skylar Thompson stats

Thompson’s rookie season has been more of a struggle. Like Purdy, he opened the season as a third-string option but was forced into action because of injuries, in his case to Tua Tagovailoa and Teddy Bridgewater.

Thompson has started just twice but played a majority of three games after an injury to Bridgewater knocked him out against the Jets. Overall, Thompson is 1-1, but the Dolphins averaged just 14 points per game in his two starts.

Stat Total
Completion percentage 57.1
passing yards 534
Passing TDs 1
interceptions 3
yards per attempt 5.1
Passer rating 62.2
QBR 27.3

Thompson’s stats aren’t sterling like Purdy’s, but he will still have a chance to put together a stat line that rivals those of the previous seventh-round starters. He just needs to complete more than 50 percent of his passes and limit turnovers.

That will be easier said than done against a solid Bills defense, but Thompson still has a chance to avoid the fate of Cassel, Frerotte and Haden in terms of stat lines.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

Did Ryan Fitzpatrick ever play a playoff game?

Fitzpatrick is perhaps the best-known seventh-round quarterback in NFL history. He may be the best overall considering the career he carved out for himself as a top tier backup.

That said, Fitzpatrick’s play was always limited to the regular season. None of his teams ever made it to the playoffs, so he never got to play in a postseason game.

The closest Fitzpatrick came to the postseason was when he led the Jets to a surprising 10-6 record during the 2015 NFL season. They were just squeezed out of a playoff berth in the AFC, however.

Had Fitzpatrick made it to the playoffs, he might have logged the best performance by any seventh-round quarterback in NFL history. Alas, he didn’t, so we will never know how he would have performed on one of the NFL’s biggest stages.

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