2022 NFL Draft: The Race to QB1

Leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft we had two elite prospects in Justin Herbert and Tua Tagovailoa and a third rose during the season to join the elite ranks in Joe Burrow. Leading up to the 2021 Draft we had a very similar dynamic with Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and later Zach Wilson and Trey Lance.

The 2022 Draft looks completely different as there is no elite prospect that feels like a lock to be a top five pick. What this draft does have is several prospects that project as future starters, that could be elite prospects if they clean up one thing or another this season. This summer I’ve graded and ranked 20 prospects, and I’ll use this segment to track their progress on the race to this year’s QB1. Here’s how they stack up

The Contenders

Quarterback prospects in this tier could reasonably and justifiably be taken first and will almost certainly be first-round picks. To be in tier a prospect will need at least one special trait, a strong record of production, and weak points will need to appear fixable with good coaching.

1) Sam Howell, Jr, North Carolina: 8.1/10

Howell has been very very good since taking over as the starting quarterback as a freshman and is close to entering elite territory. Howell grades out as the best deep passer in this class and it’s best clutch passer (zero interceptions in the 4th), he also brings enough mobility to play in today’s NFL. Off the field, I can’t find a single story that doesn’t include his obsessive work ethic and film study habits. That’s a lot to work with.

Here are things I need to see this year in order for Howell to lock up the QB1 spot.

  • Howell needs to play better under pressure
  • I need to see Howell play with fewer play action/ snaps and more shotgun/drop back pass reps
  • I need to see how Howell plays without his top two receivers and top two running backs

2) Spencer Rattler, So (RS), Oklahoma: 7.8/10

If I were placing bets In which prospect has the the best odds to get drafted first overall, I would bet on Rattler. Rattler was wildly inconsistent last season but played much better as the season wore on. The OU Product is one of if not the best passers from outside the pocket I’ve ever scouted. He also has noted QB whisperer Lincoln Riley as his coach and should take a large step forward this season. If that’s the case and we see the Rattler from the end of the season, there is no reason he won’t be a top five pick next season.

3) Carson Strong, Jr, Nevada: 7.57/10

Strong has the size, accuracy, clutch play and arm strength to end up as the QB1 this season, an outcome that wouldn’t shock me in the least. If you watch the tape of Wyoming (2020) then you’ll see exactly how Strong can take over a game when he’s comfortable throwing the deep ball. In 2021 I need to see Strong play like he did against Wyoming. All too often in 2020, he overthrew the deep ball by several yards. I don’t believe this is an accuracy thing, I believe he’s too focused on avoiding mistakes, and in turn left a lot of points on the field.

The Wildcards

Quarterback prospects in this tier are my top candidates to experience a Zach Wilson like rise. To be in this tier a quarterback needs to have at least one special trait. Usually the difference between this tier and the contenders is consistency.

4) Matt Corral, Jr (RS), Ole Miss: 7.36/10

In our 2022 NFL Draft yearbook, Corral runs away with the prestigious title of “most likely to be this year’s Zach Wilson”. Corral has the arm talent, mobility and the flair for the dramatic that launched Wilson into the 2nd overall pick last season. It’s obvious that Corral was often carrying lesser talent to be competitive against great SEC competition. For Corral to make that Zach Wilson leap in 2021 he will need to learn how to play aggressively without the clusters of turnovers that plagued Corral in 2020 ( he had interceptions against LSU, and 6 against Arkansas). If he can avoid the meltdowns from last year, the sky is the limit.

5) D’Eriq King, Sr (RS), Miami: 7.34/10

King’s placement on this list is contingent on how well he heals from a late-season ACL tear. Given the obvious concerns over King’s diminutive size, if he is unable to recover his explosiveness, he could fall completely out of this tier. If he recovers well, King’s explosive running and above average passing accuracy to all levels make him a dangerous player

6) Brock Purdy, Sr, Iowa State: 7.24/10

Purdy is such an interesting case, in the sense that his greatest strength is also his greatest weakness. Purdy is so much fun to watch because he’s so good at evading pressure that there is no such thing as a dead play. On the flip side Purdy struggles to check down or throw the ball away when there’s nothing there, leading to some bad decisions and turnovers. If the Iowa State product can real in his aggressiveness a little bit, his combination of accuracy and escape-ability, Purdy could play for a long time on Sunday’s.

7) Dillon Gabriel, Jr, UCF: 7.07/10

Gabriel is one of the top deep passers in this class, he also one of the most effective runners; so it’s easy to see why there’s a lot of hype around the product UCF passer. Gabriel’s weight (186lbs) and propensity to fumble the ball both scare me a bit when trying to project Gabriel at the next level. The fumbles especially, trouble me, as Gabriel had more than one fumble in every single game I watched of him.

8) Kedon Slovis, Jr, USC: 6.88/10

Watching Kedon Slovis in 2019, it felt like there would be zero chance I would have Slovis out of my top three…let alone eighth! Last season Slovis arm seemed to be much weaker than the previous year and it was average to start with, but that’s not the main concern. The main concern, is that he also showed a lack of anticipation that often resulted in the ball coming out late. You can’t throw the ball late when your arm isn’t especially strong. This could be the result of a late 2019 arm injury which he says didn’t affect him last season. If he can recover his 2019 form and take the step forward we all expected in 2020, there’s no reason Slovis can’t use his accuracy to rise up into the first tier by season’s end.

Long shots

Quarterbacks in this tier are the likely day three picks. They give you enough to warrant a role as a backup or a developmental starter but not enough to warrant early career playing time. Three of these guys (Willis, Penix, and Daniels) are strong candidates to move up a tier but a bad season could result in any of them falling from being draftable.

9) Michael Penix Jr, Jr (RS), Indiana: 6.81/10

Penix, when given time and when his feet are completely set is deadly accurate to all levels of the field. He’s also more than mobile enough to hurt defenses on the ground. Where Penix struggles is when he is pressured. Some larger publications have praised his play under pressure but my eyes just don’t see it. When pressured Penix’s mechanics and accuracy seem to fall apart. I do have a lot of respect for anyone who can withstand being pressured on alarming 40+ percent of these snaps. The late-season ACL injury also presents a huge concern. If healthy and able to improve his accuracy under pressure, he could take huge leaps and bounds up the list. Those are big ifs.

10) Desmond Ridder, Sr, Cincinnati: 6.69/10

It was hard to watch Ridder and not see former UCF Quarterback and 3rd overall pick Blake Bortles. Both are good athletes at the QB position, with plus size and arm strength that won alot of games at small programs. Both also have maddeningly inconsistent accuracy, and despite the win totals seem to play worse in high pressure situations. Ridder could grow into an NFL starter but he will need to avoid the pressure that comes with a high first round pick that ultimately detonated Bortles career.

11) Tanner Morgan, Sr, Minnesota: 6.60/10

Morgan is so unique in this class because his outlook seems set in stone. Morgan is a high intangible rhythm passer that with a floor of a reliable backup/ spot starter very early in his career.

On the flip side his ceiling is probably a reliable backup/ spot starter. He just lacks the physical traits to elevate much further.

12) Malik Willis, Jr, Liberty: 6.55/10

In what could be described as the polar opposite of the prospect we broke down at number 11, Willis is the most dynamic athlete in this class and one of its strongest arms. Willis also has a lot of things to work on in terms of mechanics, accuracy, and decision-making as a first-year starter at a small university. This season I’m hoping to see Willis go through more complex reads as it seemed he was mostly a one read and run quarterback last season, but Willis has all the tools to rise into that top tier.

13) JT Daniels, Jr (RS), Georgia: 6.46/10

One of my key principles here at The Unfiltered Network is honesty and honestly….I have almost no idea which tier to place Daniels on this list. He could have been an incomplete, but I found just enough film. In four starts Daniels looked good enough to be a wildcard in two and looked like a borderline stay in school candidate in the other two. Due to injury and the emergence of Kedon Slovis, Daniels lost his job at USC, then went to Georgia and started four games last season. Daniels has the arm strength and accuracy to be a top pick but he is likely the least-mobile quarterback in the 2022 class. He also didn’t perform a single full-field read in the games I watched, which could be due to Georgia trying to ease him back onto the field, but if wants to rise up the board by next year’s draft, he will need to demonstrate his ability to effectively read the field.

Stay in school candidates

Prospects in this tier have shown enough talent to believe they can develop into top draft picks, but all are so inconsistent that it will likely take two seasons to make the most out of their considerable physical gifts. If they come out this season there is a chance none of them are drafted before the 6th round. Nix in particular would be hard pressed to be drafted at all if he doesn’t fix a lot of little things in his game.

14) Jayden Daniels, Jr, Arizona: 6.36/10

15) Bo Nix, Jr, Auburn: 6.29/10

16) Phil Jurkovec, Jr, Boston College: 6.25/10

Incompletes

Prospects in this tier didn’t have the minimum of four games available for me to break down to assign a grade. That should change in the coming months. Based off what I’ve seen so far, McCall would be a wild card, Shough and Tagovailoa would likely be stay in school candidates and it’s not known yet if Brennan will win the starting role at LSU.

17) Grayson McCall, So (RS), Coastal Carolina

18) Tyler Shough, Jr, Oregon

19) Myles Brennan, Sr, LSU

20) Tualia Tagovailoa, So (RS), Maryland

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