2022 QB Profiles

January 28, 2022

Kenny Pickett, QB, Pittsburgh, 6-3, 220, 4.80, SR+ … Fifth-year super senior was the very definition of journeyman college QB during his first three years as a starter, but then very much like Joe Burrow a couple of years back, put together a remarkable final year. Indeed, during those first three years, Pickett never completed more than 62% of his passes or had more than 13 TD passes, but had a 67% completion rate in 2021 while throwing for 42 scores against just 7 picks as he made several All-America teams, was a Heisman finalist and led Pitt to an 11-2 record and their first ACC championship. Has decent size at 6-3, 220 with the lower-body strength to absorb hits in the pocket as well as break tackles in space. However, he also has short arms and very small hands for an NFL QB; as a 5th year guy, he’ll also already be 24 by the time he gets to his first NFL game. Has decent arm talent with the arm strength to make all the throws, although he doesn’t necessarily have a cannon and needs to be able to step into deeper throws. Also throws a nice catchable ball with good accuracy, although he doesn’t always put it on the numbers. Also possesses all the leadership intangibles teams look for in a franchise QB including smarts, toughness and work ethic. Good enough athlete to be able to escape trouble in the pocket and extend plays with his legs, although probably not a good enough athlete to design run plays for. However, he does still keep his eyes focused downfield when he is on the move and throws well on the run. Has improved his pocket awareness over the years, but isn’t all that patient back there and has a tendency to take off if his primary target isn’t open; also could improve his pre-snap recognition skills in reading defenses and anticipating blitzes. And while he does have a bit of a gunslinger mentality, generally takes good care of the football. Bottom line: Certainly figures to be one of the first 2-3 QBs off the board this spring, but he is still a tough kid to grade as there is a lot to like in his game, but there also a number of questions in addition to the small hands and age thing. He’s got tools including decent arm strength and athleticism, but neither is necessarily elite. Then there’s the question of whether 2021 was the real deal for Pickett or whether he’s a one-year wonder.

Matt Corral, QB, Mississippi, 6-2, 205, 4.65, JR … Exciting 4th-year junior led the Rebels to a 10-win season and a spot in the Sugar Bowl and by all rights should have at least been a Heisman finalist. For the year, Corral completed 68% of his pass attempts for over 3,300 yards and 20 TDs versus just 4 interceptions while running for another 600 yards and 11 TDs on the ground. Not all that big at barely 6-2, 205, but is as tough and competitive as they come. He’s also very quick and shifty with the ball in his hands, but will have to learn to slide at the next level. In fact, he’s primarily a RPO QB who makes very quick decisions in that read and go offense. Sees the field well and has a quick-twitch release even when he’s on the move and doesn’t lose much velocity when throwing from odd angles. Very accurate passer in short and intermediate areas where he consistently puts the ball on the numbers and allows his receivers to make the catch without having to break stride. Also has enough arm strength to get the ball into tight spaces as well as downfield, but lacks elite velocity and tends to lose accuracy the farther the throw. In fact, he’s somewhat limited as a pocket passer and probably needs to go to a scheme-friendly team. As a shorter player, he doesn’t always see the field all that well from the pocket and just isn’t very experienced going through progressions. He also needs to improve his route anticipation and ability to read defenses. Bottom line: Will need to go to the right team, but a very talented RPO QB who makes quick decisions, is a crafty runner and has enough arm talent to make all the throws.

Malik Willis, QB, Liberty, 6-1, 225, 4.45, SR … Very athletic 5th-year senior. Willis actually began his college career at Auburn, but transferred to Liberty after two years when he failed to win the starting job with the Tigers. He’s a powerful runner who had almost over 900 yards and 13 TDs on the ground this past season and can be a weapon either on designed runs or escaping trouble in the pocket. He’s a solidly built 225-pounder with close to track speed who can break tackles, although he’s not particularly shifty in the open field. Also has what may be the strongest arm in this year’s draft class and can drive the ball into tight spaces. For the most part, though, he is very unpolished as a passer. For starters, he isn’t all that accurate; this year, for example, he completed just 61% of his passes overall, and just 55% against FBS opponents; he also threw 12 interceptions. He doesn’t see the field real well and has limited route anticipation skills and usually just waits for his receivers to come open before releasing the ball. His timing and decision-making in the pocket also tend to be hit-and-miss and he turns the ball over too often. Bottom line: This is an athletic player with some intriguing potential as an impactful RPO style passer, but right now he looks to be a better athlete than passer who needs a lot of work on his pocket skills.

Desmond Ridder, QB, Cincinnati, 6-4, 215, 4.70, SR … Experienced, athletic dual-threat QB led Cincinnati to an undefeated season as the Bearcats became the first ever non-Power 5 conference team to qualify for the national championship playoffs. Fifth-year senior with a 44-5 career won-lost record is the only FBS QB with over 10,000 career passing yards and 2,000 yards on the ground. Has a somewhat lean frame and isn’t going to be able to take many hits at the next level and is more quick than fast, but is a heady runner on both designed runs and while avoiding trouble in the pocket. Also throws reasonably well on the run. Certainly has the arm strength to make all the throws at the next level, but in the past his accuracy has been inconsistent; last year, for example, he completed just 65% of his passes which is good but hardly elite in this day and age. In particular, his ball placement just isn’t all that precise and he has been known to have more than his share of wild streaks, especially early in games. His decision-making in the pocket can also be inconsistent as he’ll hold the ball too long on one play and then take off too early on the next. Also needs to work on his route anticipation. Bottom line: Checks off as many boxes as any QB in this year’s draft, but he’s not necessarily elite in any particular area. There are also issues with his accuracy and decision-making in the pocket which will have to be cleaned up.

Carson Strong, QB, Nevada, 6-4, 215, 5.15, JR … Two-time Mountain West Player of the Year is a 4th-year junior with arguably the best overall arm talent in the 2022 draft. Prototype pocket passer with good size and more than enough arm strength to make all the throws at the next level. Stands tall in the pocket, sees the field well and has a nice compact delivery. Also has textbook mechanics and is a very accurate passer, especially on underneath and intermediate routes. Indeed, completed 70% of his pass attempts in both 2020 and 2021; also threw for 4,200 yards and 36 TDs against 8 picks this past season.  Makes good pre-snap reads, anticipates routes well and does a nice job going thru progressions when he has a clean pocket. Clean pocket, though, is the operative word as Strong just isn’t very mobile and will force throws when the pocket starts to break down around him. He also tends to get sacked a lot – 36 times in 2021 – which can lead to turnovers. He’s also never going to be a factor in the run game. And his mobility is impacted, perhaps significantly, by a knee injury that ended his senior year in high school prematurely and has been an on-again-off-again issue since. Bottom line: Pocket passer with first-round arm talent, but limited by an overall lack of mobility and a lingering knee injury that remains a major red flag.

Sam Howell, QB, North Carolina, 6-1, 220, JR … No one will fault NFL scouts if they plead ‘Will the real Sam Howell please stand up!’ Indeed, at the start of the season, Howell, a 3rd-year junior, was being talked about as a legitimate candidate to be the #1 pick overall at the 2022 draft after a breakout campaign the year before in which he completed 68% of his passes for 3,600 yards and 30 TDs against only 7 picks. However, nobody’s talking that way these days as Howell struggled thru an inconsistent year this past fall when his completion dropped off to under 63% as he threw for just over 3,000 yards and 24 scores with 9 picks. Part of the problem was that Howell was working with a new supporting cast this season, but some very clear flaws in his game were exposed. On the one hand, he seemed to have something of a hitch in his delivery; he also didn’t appear to be making consistently good pre-snap reads, wasn’t seeing the whole field and too often locked onto his primary target and ended up forcing throws into coverage, all of which contributed to a decline in accuracy. At the same time, though, there is still a lot to like in Howell’s game. He can spin the ball and drive it into tight spaces; he’s a tough, competitive player who added a run element to his portfolio this year. Indeed, after running for less than 200 yards in his first two years combined, he ran for over 800 yards and 11 scores this fall as he turned around more than one game with his legs. As good as that sounds, though, Howell just isn’t athletic enough to win games like that at the next level. Bottom line: Arguably the biggest wild card in this year’s QB class, Howell has all the tools to be the first guy at the position selected this coming April; however, after a breakout year in 2020, he just didn’t play that way this past season leaving pro scouts with a quandary.