Happy holidays bird gang! Today we're starting a new series with the college football season in the books, and the NFL season coming to a close. We'll be examining the top prospects at each position in the draft. The Eagles own 3 first round picks, and 5 total picks in the first two rounds, so there's a great opportunity to add a lot of talent to an aging depleted roster. Today we'll be looking at quarterbacks, and I'll be grading them on 5 aspects: passing, progressions, mechanics, mobility, and leadership. Is Jalen Hurts the answer? His ability to make reads and pass consistently has been called into question, but he was also just named a pro-bowl alternate. The Eagles might look to take a signal caller with one of the first rounders in 2022 regardless. Let's get into it:
1) Kenny Pickett - Pittsburgh
HEIGHT: 6-2 | WEIGHT: 215 | PROSPECT RANK: #10
Wow what a senior season Kenny Pickett had for Pittsburgh, as he saw a meteoric rise in his draft stock, leading the Panthers to an 11-2 record and an appearance in the Peach Bowl versus Michigan State. Mostly an afterthought in the draft to start the season, Pickett threw for 4319 yards, 42 TDs, and 7 INTs, on a 67.2% completion, and a 8.7 YPA. Pickett brings good size, mobility, accuracy, poise, toughness, and leadership to the table. He's a terrific vertical passer that can work off-script, and has great command and confidence running the offense.
Passing Grade: A-
- Demonstrates good accuracy, placing the ball in favorable positions for his receivers to make plays.
- More than enough functional arm strength, but wouldn't be considered a "gunslinger".
- Has a fluid, smooth release, without too many moving parts. Isn't without an occasional misfire, with a few high throws to his ledger, but it generally isn't an area of concern.
Progressions Grade: A
- Pitt tasked Pickett with being a progression-style passer and he certainly answered the call.
- Demonstrates the ability to survey the field, progress through reads, and fire off the ball in a timely manner.
- Not afraid to take what's in front of him instead of forcing a larger play.
Mechanics Grade: B+
- Does a good job getting himself aligned to make throws, which leads to consistent results.
- Understands the nuances of using hip and shoulder leverage to make throws.
- Habitually synched process, can be forced off-balance if process is sped up via pressure.
- A sneaky good athlete that can work off-script and pick up chunks of yardage with his legs.
- Fluid footwork within the pocket, with good movement and the ability to bail out and away from pressure.
- Forced the NCAA to implement a rule change after his "fake slide" for a touchdown.
- Notable command and confidence when running the offense.
- Most accomplished quarterback in Pitt history, which includes Dan Marino and Alex Van Pelt.
- Fiery competitor that isn't afraid to hang in the pocket and take a big hit in return for a big play.
2) Matt Corral - Ole Miss
HEIGHT: 6-1 | WEIGHT: 205 | PROSPECT RANK: #15
Matt Corral faced a 3rd to 5th round grades prior to the start of the college football season, but he really turned those projections on their heels with a lightning fast start out of the gates. As the year went on, his production simmered down, but he still earned himself a quality season and substantially helped his draft outlook. For 2021, Corral threw for 3339 yards, 20 TDs, and 4 INTs, on a 68.4% completion, and a 8.8 YPA. He also picked up 597 yards on the ground and 11 TDs. Corral presents a high upside quarterback with superior traits, that could stand to sit behind a veteran for a season as he adjusts to an NFL offensive scheme.
Passing Grade: B+
- Solid accuracy and ball placement, has the finesse for touch passes along the boundary.
- Average arm strength, can push the ball downfield but won't fit bullet passes into tight windows.
- Quick, snappy release from multiple arm slots, can make accurate passes off-platform and out of structure.
Progressions Grade: C+
- Ran a primarily one-read, heavy RPO offense under Lane Kiffin.
- Will take what the defense gives him, and doesn't try to do too much.
- Vastly improved decision-making from 2020. Is turnover adverse, evidenced by only 4 INTs all season.
Mechanics Grade: A-
- Has good throwing mechanics, particularly in his ability to throw from a solid base and deliver the ball.
- Flexible and can make accurate throws off-platform. Hasn't devolved into poor mechanical habits despite his habit to improvise.
- One of the fastest releases from snap in college.
- Is on the cusp of being a dual-threat QB, picking up 11 TDs with his legs during 2021.
- Does a good job with navigating the pocket and avoiding pressure.
- Has to be accounted for in the read-option due to his ability to pull it from the mesh.
- Has rallied his team through adversity, never stopped giving 100% even during losses.
- More of a leader through action rather than words, is known for being quiet and composed.
- Criticized by coaches for fighting through tackles for extra yards and risking injury. Just wants to win no matter what.
3) Sam Howell - North Carolina
HEIGHT: 6-1 | WEIGHT: 215 | PROSPECT RANK: #21
Sam Howell was one of the big 3 quarterbacks to start the year, and although he came out a little cold throwing a clunker against Virginia Tech, he managed to shore things up and put together a decent season. He did however, fall short of projections with a down year by comparison. In 2021, Howell threw for 2851 yards, 23 TDs, and 9 INTs on a 62.7% completion, and a 8.7 YPA. He also picked up 827 yards on the ground and 11 TDs. Howell is a safe pick as a consistent producer at the college level, but it shows that he was hurt by the loss of multiple offensive weapons in the previous year's draft.
Passing Grade: B-
- Generally accurate with rare misses. Consistently places the ball where he intends it to go.
- Quick and compact release, but has a bad habit of patting the ball before release.
- Not much arm slot flexibility, but that's the double-edged sword of his consistency.
Progressions Grade: B+
- Ran a mostly static binary read offense at North Carolina.
- Will work through progressions and scan the entire field.
- Displayed plenty of anticipatory and second window throws on tape.
Mechanics Grade: B-
- Consistently good throwing mechanics with arm position and release.
- Can get bouncy in the pocket which results in irregularities in his footwork mechanics.
- Eliminate his "burping the baby" of the ball before throwing and his whole process is highly efficient.
- Has above-average mobility within and outside the pocket.
- Showcased tremendous field vision and contact balance as he ripped off large chunks of yardage as a runner.
- His arm slot consistency also lends to good accuracy while on the run.
- Highly accomplished quarterback, as an immediate starter after his arrival at North Carolina.
- Maximized a dynamic supporting cast in 2020, had a solid season with entirely new weapons in 2021.
- Praised by head coach Mack Brown for his mastery and command of the offense.
4) Carson Strong - Nevada
HEIGHT: 6-4 | WEIGHT: 225 | PROSPECT RANK: #30
Carson Strong certainly lives up to his last name as a true pocket passer, with a big cannon for an arm. Another quarterback who was not a highly considered draft prospect before the season began, Strong put together a fantastic season, winning Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year in the process. for 2021, Strong threw for 4186 yards, 36 TDs, and 8 INTs on a 70.0% completion, and a 8.0 YPA. Strong is a developmental starting QB with ideal size and arm talent.
Passing Grade: A
- Above average overall accuracy, with a selling point of a pinpoint deep ball.
- Fluid arm motion and release with a high arm slot. Could be quicker, but not a glaring issue.
- Can throw receivers open and rifle passes into tight windows. Knows when to use touch on intermediate routes.
Progressions Grade: A+
- Has the mental processing to make quick decisions.
- Led an air raid offense at Nevada, understands a full NFL route tree.
- Goes through his progressions quickly and will take the check down when necessary.
Mechanics Grade: B+
- Mechanics are solid, no real consistency issues to note.
- Has experience taking snaps under center, opens the door for expansive play-action routes.
- Footwork is heavy and lacks twitch, but that's just due to his size and disposition as a pocket passer.
- Is the exact opposite of a threat in the running game, but can navigate the pocket well.
- Accounted for -208 rushing yards in 2021.
- Lack of general mobility means running too many zone-read concepts would be problematic.
- Commands an NFL style offense successfully, demonstrates poise in the pocket with downfield vision.
- Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year.
- Recognized vocal leader in the locker room. Spends time with younger QBs ensuring they find success after his departure.
5) Desmond Ridder - Cincinnati
HEIGHT: 6-4 | WEIGHT: 215 | PROSPECT RANK: #40
Desmond Ridder is an accomplished quarterback, as a 4-year starter for Cincinnati. He's a big reason why the Bearcats have been such a prominent program over the past few years, despite not playing in a power 5 conference. Despite having a full resume, Ridder is a bit raw in overall development, but checks all the boxes in terms of ideal size, athleticism, arm talent, and leadership qualities. For 2021, Ridder threw for 3190 yards, 30 TDs, and 8 INTs on a 65.9% completion, and a 9.0 YPA. He also ran for 371 yards on the ground and 6 TDs.
Passing Grade: B-
- Flashes elite arm talent, with exceptional arm strength and the ability to fit balls into tight windows.
- Lacks overall consistency in ball placement, which leads to failed opportunities for his receivers to catch the ball in stride, and invites contested-catch points.
- Has demonstrated progression in his release every season. Still a bit windy, due to his length, but is still relatively quick.
Progressions Grade: C+
- Can work progressions, but asking him to consistently serve as a drop back passer wouldn't serve his skillset.
- Can utilize a mix of manufactured throws, moving the pocket, RPOs, and involvement in the run game. Knows how to use his eyes to manipulate defenders.
- Inconsistent decision making. While he's not a turnover machine, he does take unnecessary risks and relies on his weapons to make plays.
Mechanics Grade: C+
- Has room for improvement with his mechanics, can sometimes devolve into bad habits under pressure.
- When his process is hurried, he struggles to slot his throws and set his feet.
- Can get jittery in the pocket and could do a better job aligning his hips and shoulders with his targets when making throws.
- True dual-threat quarterback with plenty of athleticism. Was heavily involved in run game.
- Despite his mobility, he also possesses ideal NFL size. Can break tackles from corners, and out maneuver defensive linemen and linebackers.
- Moves well in the pocket, doesn't bail too early and has the field vision to see running lanes when they come available.
- Has been a key leader in the Bearcats program that has achieved incredibly success with him at the helm.
- Is known for his maturity among the coaching staff and recently became a father.
- Recognized vocal leader, will be drafted with multiple other Cincinnati players in 2022.
6) Malik Willis - Liberty
HEIGHT: 6-1 | WEIGHT: 210 | PROSPECT RANK: #56
7) Bailey Zappe - Western Kentucky
HEIGHT: 6-1 | WEIGHT: 218 | PROSPECT RANK: #101
8) Jack Coan - Notre Dame
HEIGHT: 6-3 | WEIGHT: 222 | PROSPECT RANK: #153
9) Tanner McKee - Stanford
HEIGHT: 6-6 | WEIGHT: 228 | PROSPECT RANK: #165
10) Will Levis - Kentucky
HEIGHT: 6-3 | WEIGHT: 223 | PROSPECT RANK: #208