Top 5 QBs In 2022 NFL Draft | Down Year For QBs? Kenny Pickett And Matt Corral Only Likely First-Rounders

(Photo: @DraftDiamonds)

The quarterback position is always a crapshoot when it comes to drafting one into the NFL. That’s no different this year with a class that’s considered the weakest in years. For the last half decade the NFL draft has been about an abundance of quarterbacks who supposedly had franchise talent. In the 2021 draft three of the first five and five of the first 15 picks were quarterbacks.

The list included current NFL starters Trevor Lawrence (Jacksonville), Zach Wilson (N.Y. Jets), Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers), Justin Fields (Chicago Bears) and Mac Jones (New England Patriots).

 

This year’s class doesn’t look as promising as that class looked leading up to the draft. Most of those five aforementioned signal callers have shown some promise as rookies in the NFl, so no busts yet.

 

Hype is just that, and there’s always a hidden gem or two … or three that the scouts misdiagnosed.

The 2022 crop features some talented QBs most don’t know a ton about.

Kenny Pickett — Pittsburgh Panthers

Pickett spent most of his freshman season as a backup. He made his first start in 2017 against the Miami Hurricanes, who at that time were ranked No. 2 in the country by the College Football Playoff Committee.

Pickett led the 4-7 Panthers to a huge upset of the ’Canes, ending their hopes of making the CFP. Pickett became the star in “The Burgh” from that day forward. His junior and senior seasons were nothing to write home about, as he tossed 26 touchdowns and 18 interceptions over those two seasons combined.

Doubts about his pro ability resonated as many talent evaluators didn’t believe he’d be drafted. Pickett capitalized on the opportunity of being granted a fifth year of eligibility because of COVID-19.

He passed for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns and just 7 interceptions this season. Pickett also led the Panthers to their first ACC Championship and finished third in the Heisman voting. His play evoked memories of Dan Marino doing work on campus back in the early 1980s.

Imagine if the Steelers and Mike Tomlin got ahold of Pickett. It could right the wrong of Pittsburgh passing on Marino in 1983.

 Matt Corral — Ole Miss Rebels

Corral arrived in Oxford, Mississippi, as a four-star recruit from Long Beach, California, known for his elite arm strength, accuracy and pocket awareness. During his first season he was a backup and redshirted after appearing in only four games. During his redshirt sophomore season he was given the keys to the program.

He wasn’t overly impressive, passing for just 1,359 yards, six touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 59 percent of his passes and leading the Rebels to a 4-8 record. Once Lane Kiffin arrived in Oxford it was on. Corral has evolved into a talented gunslinger in his two seasons under Kiffin, passing for 6,670 yards while throwing 49 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions.

His completion percentage ballooned to an eye-popping 70 percent as well. Corral can run it as well, rushing for 1,103 yards and 15 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

The Others: Talented But More Of A Project

Malik Willis — Liberty Flames

The Auburn Tigers transfer showed some real promise during the COVID-19-ravaged 2020 season when the Flames went 10-1 and finished 17th in the final AP Poll. In just the program’s third season in FBS.

Willis brings a Lamar Jackson-style of play to the field. In two seasons with the Flames, Willis accounted for 69 total touchdowns (44 passing and 25 rushing). He led all FBS QBs in rushing in 2020 and was third this season.

 

Carson Strong — Nevada Wolfpack

The Wolfpack haven’t had a QB this highly touted since Colin Kaepernick led the program from 2008-10, winning WAC Offensive Player of the Year twice (2008 and 2010). Strong isn’t the athlete that CK7 was, but he does possess elite arm strength and pocket presence that NFL GMs love.

Strong had his breakout performance and season in the COVID-shortened 2020 season. The strong-armed signal caller built off that season and in 2021 he passed for 4,186 yards, 36 touchdowns and just eight interceptions, while completing 70.2 percent of his passes.

Sam Howell — North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels and Howell struggled a bit in 2021 after losing Michael Carter (Jets), Javontae Green (Broncos) and Dyami Brown (WFT) to the 2021 NFL draft. Howell showed some promise, but his draft stock dropped from the top 5 of most mock drafts. That doesn’t mean he can’t be a sleeper. Howell’s ability to spin it and run are undeniable. His passing numbers dropped a bit from 2020, but his rushing numbers shot up as he rushed for 825 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. Howell isn’t projected as an instant starter but he will find himself a place in the league.

 

Howell may ultimately become the most complete QB in the draft. He just needs to regain his confidence.

Projections aren’t an exact science, and while there aren’t many franchise-caliber quarterbacks projected, we know a few will emerge and surprise us as the combine and social media mosh pit start to work.