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NFL Draft Prospect Rankings: Quarterback

NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

The 2022 NFL Draft class is shaping up to be another deep and talented group. However, quarterback is one of the few positions that is not inspiring as much excitement as it has in previous years. This group of signal callers is not totally devoid of talent by any means, but it definitely lacks top tier prospects that teams can feel very confident about. Here are the best passers in the class, what they do well, what they can improve on, and their pro-comparison.

Malik Willis, Liberty: 6’, 219 Pounds

What he does well: Malik Willis is an electric playmaker with game breaking mobility and a huge arm. He is an aggressive passer with great instincts. He is not a player to crumble under pressure or shy away from making tough throws. His physical skill set combined with a killer mentality is exactly the type of player NFL teams can develop into a star quarterback.

Where he can improve: For all his talent, Willis’ mechanical inconsistencies and sometimes questionable decision making can lead to a lot of problems. While he has the mobility to move in the pocket, and the poise to take on incoming rushers, the way he actually maneuvers the pocket seriously hinders him. The good thing about Willis’ flaws is they are all the types of things that come with being a young player and can be fixed with the right coaching.

NFL Comparison: Jalen Hurts with a big arm

Matt Corral, Ole Miss, 6’1”, 212 Pounds

What he does well: Matt Corral was incredibly productive as a starter with the Rebels. More than being productive, he also seemed truly loved by his teammates and was an emotional engine for the whole offense. Corral succeeded in the pocket due to being a tough, confident passer who ran the offense efficiently with quick decisions and a quicker release. His mobility also kept defenses honest.

Where he can improve: When asked to function “outside” of the offense, Corral would sometimes play a bit too aggressive for his own abilities. His arm is good, but he trusted it too much and would make frustrating turnovers due to his poor decisions. Corral also needs to reel in the way he runs, as he often looks for much more contact than his frame can handle.

NFL Comparison: Baker Mayfield

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati, 6’3”, 211 Pounds

What he does well: Desmond Ridder was crucial in Cincinnati’s dominance over the last two years. His mastery of the offense meant four years of consistent, methodical play with very few turnovers. His athleticism allowed him to threaten defenses on the ground, but he mostly thrived from the pocket. Ridder is a polished, smart passer who can be depended on to keep an offense humming.

Where he can improve: Beyond athleticism, there is nothing really extraordinary about Ridder. Teams should like him for dependability, but he is not the type of quarterback who can make huge plays from the pocket. Ridder does not have a great arm and his deep passing was only okay. He was a perfect college quarterback because he played safe, efficient football, but it is a question if he can handle more responsibilities at the NFL level.

NFL Comparison: Marcus Mariota

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh, 6’3”, 217 Pounds

What he does well: Kenny Pickett exploded in 2021. After years of being a solid starter for Pitt, Pickett took off and threw for 42 touchdowns, playing his way into the Heisman conversation. Pickett’s production came from Pitt letting him loose and giving him the green light to challenge all parts of the field. Pickett never shied away from tight windows or contested situations, always trusting his talented receivers. Pickett’s aggressive passing style combined with a great hold on the offense to deliver such a great season.

Where he can improve: Pickett’s physical tools are solid, but not in the top tier that is typically needed to be an upper level passer. His late blooming at Pitt necessitates questions about what held him back early in his career and if his advanced age as a prospect contributed to his dominance. On the field, Pickett can improve dealing with pressure in the pocket. Takes too many sacks.

NFL Comparison: Kevin Kolb

Carson Strong, Nevada, 6’3”, 226

What he does well: As a pure passer, Carson Strong might be the most gifted player in the class. He has a big arm with the strength to gun throws or touch to finesse them. He can hit any level of the field with an impressive ability to throw receivers open. Strong has been highly productive over the last few years.

Where he can improve: Strong has had significant injuries that have combined with already limited athletic ability to slow him down inside the pocket. Movement skills are a legitimate concern and the hope should be that he improves as he puts distance between himself and lower body injuries. Strong is able to stand in under pressure, but he can be stubborn and take bad sacks. His stubbornness can extend to passing habits, sometimes wanting certain throws too much and telegraphing to the defense.

NFL Comparison: Nick Foles, the good and the bad.

Sam Howell, North Carolina, 6’, 218 Pounds

What he does well: Sam Howell started three straight years at North Carolina and consistently delivered as a passer despite changes in talent around him. He is a tough passer who plays well in and outside of structure and is not scared of attempting big plays.

Where can improve: As consistent as Howell was, there was also a frustrating lack of growth from year to year. His arm is only okay, meaning challenging tighter windows comes with a higher risk of interception. He has mechanical flaws in his release that can be changed with better coaching.

NFL Comparison: Brandon Allen

Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky, 6’, 215 Pounds

What he does well: Besides having the coolest name in the quarterback class, Bailey Zappe is coming off a season where he shattered FBS passing records. In his first season at WKU, Zappe threw for over 5,900 yards and had 62 touchdowns through the air. Despite throwing the ball almost 700 times, Zappe only threw 11 interceptions. He ran Western Kentucky’s offense perfectly, showing great pre-snap ability, handle on the playbook and great decision making.

Where he can improve: Zappe is not a physically impressive prospect; he lacks a big arm and great mobility. His success at WKU came from tremendous ability above the shoulders and expect NFL teams to love what this guy can do on a chalkboard or in a film room.

NFL Comparison: Gardner Minshew