Over the course of 21 football games, Mr. Irrelevant has become Mr. Irreplaceable.
Of course, the player whose standing has changed so dramatically recently is San Francisco quarterback Brock Purdy, the last player taken in the 2022 NFL draft, earning him the “Mr. Irrelevant” tag that the final player selected earns each year. But his record as a starting quarterback now stands at 17-4, and if there were legal California sportsbooks could take wagers, 49ers bettors would be profiting.
Purdy was recently named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad after leading the 49ers to the top seed in the conference in 2023 and he’s considered so essential to San Francisco’s Super Bowl hopes that head coach Kyle Shanahan is holding him out of the regular season finale against the L.A. Rams. The outcome of the game has no material effect on San Francisco and a Purdy injury could dash any hopes the 49ers have of winning the NFL title.
San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl odds
Fans can track the San Francisco 49ers Super Bowl odds here at BetCalifornia.com. DraftKings Sportsbook lists the Niners as the +220 favorite to lift the Lombardi Trophy in February.
The Purdy story is well-known among NFL fans by now, but his emergence as an MVP candidate from the depths of the draft is not entirely without some precedence. A handful of quarterbacks throughout NFL history have shrugged off the early unflattering appraisals of their talents to lead a team to a championship and, in some cases, wind up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Here’s a list of 10 such quarterbacks leading up to the most remarkable overlooked QB talents in NFL history. Stay with BetCalifornia.com as we cover ongoing efforts to make legal, regulated California sports betting apps a reality.
10 Bypassed QBs Who Went On To Stardom
10. Mark Brunell, Round 5, 1993 Draft, Green Bay. Brunell was with the Packers briefly before they dealt him, and the Jacksonville Jaguars were the beneficiaries. Brunell was named to three Pro Bowl squads with Jacksonville and took the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game in 1996.
9. Matt Hasselbeck, Round 6, 1998, Green Bay. Like Brunell, Hasselback was stuck behind Hall of Famer Brett Favre and in his case, Hasselbeck wound up in Seattle. With the Seahawks, Hasselbeck was named to three Pro Bowls and led Seattle to Super Bowl XL, where they lost to Pittsburgh.
8. Mark Rypien, Round 6, 1986, Washington. Round 6, 1986, Washington. Rypien didn’t play at all for two seasons after he was drafted. But in 1991, he enjoyed a career year, leading the team to a 14-2 record and a Super Bowl victory over Buffalo. He was named the Super Bowl MVP.
7. Brad Johnson, Round 9, 1992, Minnesota. Despite his low draft status, Johnson was quietly a winning quarterback through much of his 15-year career. But he reached the NFL heights during the 2002 season by winning a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Johnson finished with an all-time record of 72-53 as a starter playing with four teams.
6. Joe Theismann, Round 4, 1971, Miami. After Theismann was drafted, contract negotiations with the Dolphins fizzled and he spent three seasons in the Canadian Football League with Toronto. In 1974, he joined Washington in the NFL after the Dolphins traded his rights. Theismann was a punt returner for a season and was a backup to Billy Kilmer until 1978. Once Theismann became the starter, he led Washington to back-to-back Super Bowls, winning one.
5. Kurt Warner, Undrafted, signed by St. Louis Rams in 1998. Undrafted, Warner played in the Arena Football League with the Iowa Barnstormers. In 1999, Warner led the Rams to a Super Bowl and was named the league MVP and the Super Bowl MVP. He won the distinction of league MVP again in 2001. In 2008, he took the Arizona Cardinals to the Super Bowl, where they lost to Pittsburgh. As a playoff QB, Warner was 9-4 with 31 TD passes and 14 interceptions. He is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
4. Roger Staubach, Round 10, 1964, Dallas. Staubach was a 10th-round pick, but it should come with an asterisk. A Heisman Trophy winner at Navy, Staubach lingered in the NFL draft mainly because most teams were wary of his military commitment. Staubach did honor that commitment, including a tour of duty in Vietnam, and the Cowboys were rewarded for their patience with one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. The Hall of Famer took Dallas to four Super Bowls and delivered two titles for America’s Team.
3. Johnny Unitas, Round 9, 1955, Pittsburgh. The Steelers failed to realize the gem they had drafted and released Unitas. Of course, the Hall of Fame QB wound up with the Baltimore Colts, where he won three NFL championships and epitomized the gunslinger quarterback as a three-time MVP Award winner.
2. Bart Starr, Round 17, 1956, Green Bay. These days, it is hard to imagine an NFL draft that dragged on for so many rounds (though there were far fewer teams back then). Playing for a poor team, Starr was 3-15-1 as a starter in his first three seasons with Green Bay. Once head coach Vince Lombardi’s methods and work ethic took hold, Starr – the prototypical field general – led Green Bay’s march to five NFL titles, including triumphs in the first two Super Bowls. Naturally, Starr is in the Hall of Fame.
1. Tom Brady, Round 6, 2000, New England. The most celebrated quarterback of all-time and a certain Hall of Famer, Brady was left undrafted through 198 draft picks. By now, his success is legendary. Brady has been the league MVP three times, has been to the Super Bowl an astounding 10 times, and has won the championship seven times.