I have a new #1 QB and nobody is talking about him. Either I'm wrong or the experts are wrong. What does the math say?
When evaluating quarterbacks in terms of their NFL potential, there are three components the average person can look at from their respective couches:
The Physical Capabilities for quarterbacks vary from Justin Fields to Mac Jones. The greatest Quarterback of all-time is probably not ranked in the top 100 Quarterbacks in the last decade if you only evaluated athleticism. That being said, Lamar Jackson rightfully won an MVP and consistently leads his team on the back of his athleticism. Let's just agree that athleticism is a factor, but not a deal-breaker if the other skills are there.
Every QB on my list has had quality performance, or else they wouldn't be on my list and would not be in any discussion revolving around the NFL.
When it comes to Quality Preparation, there is a lot of gray area. I could make the argument that the scout team QB at Alabama has more NFL preparation than 95% of the signal callers across the nation because he plays against that consistently ridiculous Alabama Defense every day. I could make the argument that a four year starter is more prepared than a one year starter (Joe Burrow doesn't exist, right?). There are so many factors that we will never be able to understand. However, I like to think that strength of schedule does carry a lot of weight. What's interesting about this year's QB Draft class is that there are not a lot of guys with strong schedules backing their impressive seasons. Some of the best QB play is coming outside of the Power 5 conferences. Let's get into it.
I have become a huge fan of Mississippi State sophomore Will Rogers. He leads the country in passing attempts, passing completions, and completion percentage (75.1%). Only 3 college quarterbacks in history have done better. He has also launched 35 Touchdowns to only 8 Interceptions, and he has done all of this in the SEC, going 3-2 in against the Bulldogs' 5 ranked opponents.
Carson Strong from Nevada has also put up a quality performance in with a big sample size. He threw the rock 524 times (3rd) and completed 70% (7th). He has also thrown 36 TDs (6th). PFF has him ranked 6th on their QB Board and gave him an impressive 90.3 passing grade on the year. Nevada finished 8-4 with no real notable wins, but Strong definitely did enough to make my honorable mentions.
Being 19-2 as a starter, ranked #1 in EPSN Passer Rating, ranked #1 in Average yards/completion, ranked #4 in completion percentage (73%), and having a 23/3 TD/INT Ratio -you would think this quarterback would definitely be ranked in my Top 5 (he was last month). Grant McCall has another year of eligibility left at Coastal Carolina and I imagine he will take it instead of going into the 2022 Draft. But I have loved what I have seen so far from the 6'3" 210 junior.
5. Desmond Ridder
Physical Ability? Check. Quality Performance...he looks like an incredible runner. He has some issues in the passing game. He is definitely a winner with four years under his belt. Cincinnati is undefeated, but they have only played 1 ranked team (certainly a notable win against Notre Dame). It is crazy to me that they probably will make the College Football Playoffs. However, that may be exactly what Desmond Ridder needs to prove he belongs in first round conversations.
4. Bailey Zappe
After four consecutive losses, Zappe has led Western Kentucky to seven straight wins. He leads the nation in Touchdowns with 52. FIFTY-TWO.
He has completed 70% of his passes on 580 passing attempts (2nd to Will Rogers).
What I love most about Zappe is that he has only taken 12 sacks through 600+ drop backs. He is only 6'1" 220, but what he has done with his arm has surely caught some attention. His style of play is definitely similar to Mac Jones, and nobody is oblivious to how that's going.
3. Matt Corral
First of all, my Top 3 are pretty interchangeable. Although he is the shortest QB in this article, Matt Corral has definitely earned his way to Heisman candidacy. He has passed for 20 TDs to only 4 INTs while running for 11 scores as well. He is 2-2 against ranked teams that light up the Rebels' difficult SEC schedule. I am sure they will draw a notable Bowl Game, and I am already excited to see Corral play again. Honestly, he reminds me of a college Johnny Manziel. In today's NFL, that could be a successful play style with a level head on your shoulders. Honestly, I think Matt Corral is the ONLY QB in this class that should be considered with a first round pick. His skill set puts him ahead of the others in terms of NFL readiness. While I am not sure he has the greatest long term potential out of this bunch, he has definitely put out high quality performances agains high quality competition.
2. Kenny Pickett
I have had Kenny Pickett as my #1 QB since September (when nobody else was talking about him). His hot start never fizzled out, but it did slow down a bit. He ended the regular season #8 in QBR and ESPN Passer Rating, #5 in Passing Yards, #2 in Touchdowns (40), and #5 in completions. He completed 67.7% while leading Pittsburgh to the ACC Championship (this Saturday vs #16 Wake Forest). I have seen all I need to see from the 6'3" 220 four year starter. He is an NFL Quarterback.
I do believe it will take time to acclimate to the NFL from a weak ACC schedule. I would love to see Pickett get drafted late in the 2nd round by a good team where he can learn in a great system from a veteran (much like Kyle Trask's opportunity).
REMEMBER THIS NAME. I am amazed by the lack of conversation around this guy.
69% Completion Percentage (10th)
182.2 ESPN Passer Rating (3rd)
26 Touchdowns (15th) to 3 Interceptions (2nd)
5 Rushing Touchdowns
Not bad right? What if I told you he did it playing for the Tennessee Volunteers who have not had a QB throw for more than 2,200 yards since 2016?
Hendon Hooker has put up 2,567.
What if I told you that 6 of the 11 games Hendon Hooker started this year were against teams that were ranked throughout the year?
-Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss, Florida, Kentucky, and Pittsburgh
Tennessee has played the closest thing to an NFL schedule.
He stands 6'4" weighing in at 220. He has the physical capabilities as a true dual threat quarterback. He has had the quality performance that is truly impressive when you consider the quality of competition he has battled from a struggling Tennessee sideline. He was part of the Virginia Tech football program for three seasons (he was the starter for two of them). Looking at his collegiate career and with specific regards to this season, I would give him a solid A grade on NFL preparation. While this was his 4th year in the NCAA, he does still have a year of eligibility left. He has not made his decision on whether or not he will return to the Volunteers or enter the 2022 NFL Draft. In fact, he chose not to participate in any of the Senior Day festivities when Tennessee honored their seniors (implying he was not considering this year as a senior campaign).
My hope for Hendon Hooker is that NFL scouts and analysts start to realize just how special he was this season. This year is a fairly weak QB class in which Hooker belongs near the top. I would love to see him commit to the draft and get picked up in the 2nd or 3rd round. He has great potential. I look forward to hearing more about him and the details of his make up as a competitor, athlete, quarterback, and leader. Honestly, you can help Hendon Hooker by getting his name out there. Share this article with the football friends around you. Do some research yourself and share that information on your social medias. I have never seen someone who has performed at this level against that competition and simply not get talked about. It makes me wonder who else is out there...
If Hooker decides to stay in Tennessee, I will have him behind Bryce Young on my preseason list. I foresee next year's QB Draft Class to be better than this one, but I would still have him near the top.