How many QBs will go in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft? The answer may be none...
I definitely think some of these guys could have success in the NFL. However, I do not think that any quarterback currently starting in college football is built or set up to walk right into the league and lead a successful rookie season. There are also very few starting jobs that going to be available in the NFL. Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa, Davis Mills -they may be on the hot seat right now, but I believe they are all ahead of these young guns. That may not last a long time, but as of right now, I don't see anyone ready to go knock those guys out of their spot. I felt much differently about Trevor Lawrence at this point in the season last year. I assumed Justin Fields and Mac Jones would get there. Zach Wilson was my favorite player to watch, but I did not foresee him starting Week 1 in the NFL. But he did!
There are many quarterbacks who are successful in college that have little to no chance to be successful in the NFL. This can be based on size, arm strength, level of competition, or sometimes, who you know (or don't know). My career as a sports cards investor is built on successful NFL Rookie Quarterbacks. In this article, I am focusing on those guys that are NFL QB candidates, and ranking them accordingly. These honorable mentions, though, may not all fit that NFL standard, but are having a good enough season to be considered.
-Bryce Young is incredible. He is having a year comparable or better than the last three Alabama QBs' first seasons as a starter. However, he is not eligible for the NFL Draft this year, so we will move on from him for now.
-Tanner Mordecai was my 3rd ranked QB in September because of how high he was ranked in Touchdown Passes, Sacks per Attempt, Completions, and Completion Percentages. He is actually ranked HIGHER in each category now. The only reason he does not make my Top 5 is because he just has not played anyone significant yet. I like Mordecai a lot and I can't wait to see what he does November 20th vs Cincinnati.
-Malik Willis is good. A lot of people are excited about Willis as an NFL prospect, and I get it. He is talented as a runner and passer. He is built strong. But I am a numbers guy through and through. While Todd McShay has Malik Willis as his biggest riser on draft boards and even hints at Willis being the #1 QB in the 2022 Draft Class, the numbers don't seem to suggest that. He is comparable to Matt Corral in a lot of ways, statistically (just behind in passing stats, just ahead in running stats). However, Matt Corral is doing what he's doing against SEC teams. Malik Willis is doing this against teams outside of the Power 5 that have accrued 34 total losses already this season.
-Desmond Ridder is a for sure NFL quarterback, but I do not know to what caliber. I look at my list and feel silly that I don't have him in the top 5. He is 6'4" 215 lbs and can move around well. He is a 4 year starter with a record of 38-5 thus far, going 4-1 vs ranked teams over the last two seasons, with the only loss being Georgia (now ranked #1) in the Chic-Fil-A Peach Bowl last year. My hesitation in putting him in my top 5 is that he has never really had an impressive passing season. This year has been his best year so far and last year was good. I am shocked that Cincinnati is ranked #2 when their greatest win this season is over now #11 Notre Dame (they have not played any other ranked opponents). I look for Cincinnati to complete a perfect season, and since they are already at #2, make the College Football Playoffs. I could write a whole other article on why I think that is silly, but I don't see the committee moving Cincinnati out of that top 4 if they keep winning. Desmond Ridder will have a chance to shine on the big stage, which could push him to first round considerations and maybe even QB1 for this 2022 Draft Class.
5. As I was typing this article, Grayson McCall was playing against Troy. While it was one of his worst passing games (not that bad...14/26 for 2 TDs, 1 INT) he showed a decent run game, snagging a rushing TD with 59 yards on the ground. Standing 6'3" 210 lbs, he looks the part of an NFL QB. Coming into tonight's game, he led the nation in Completion Percentage and ESPN Passer Rating. Coastal Carolina has not yet played a rank team, but with McCall at the helm, they knocked down two ranked teams last year en route to their perfect 10-0 regular season before losing to Liberty in overtime of the Mortgage Cure Bowl. Grayson McCall had impressive numbers through that season as well, throwing just three picks. The man takes care of the ball. The rest of the CCU schedule is pretty dull, but I would love to see a strong matchup in a Bowl Game and a Senior Bowl effort.
4. I have no regrets and I will always be grateful for my time at Taylor University but to get there, I did turn down an opportunity to be a walk-on QB at Western Kentucky. Since that day in 2010, the MAC Hilltoppers have put two QBs in the NFL (Brandon Doughty and Mike White). They are obviously doing something right. Bailey Zappe thought so too. He threw for 10,000 yards in just 37 games at Houston Baptist. He transferred to WKU after Christmas last year and had won the job coming into training camp this fall. He has thrown 346 passes so far this season (3rd in FBS) and still has a 71.1% Completion Percentage. To put it in perspective, there is only one other QB in FBS who has thrown more than 200 passes and has a higher completion percentage (Will Rogers). Even more impressive than that, Zappe has only taken 9 sacks through all of those drop-backs. He has played some decent teams along the way -Indiana and #17 Michigan State didn't slow him down at all, as he completed 71% of his passes and threw 6 TDs to 0 INTs against the Big Ten challenges. He only took 3 combined sacks in those two games. Bailey Zappe has a much different route to the NFL Draft and definitely won't be considered in the first round, but he reminds me a lot of Mac Jones.
3. I won't argue with anyone who has Matt Corral at the top of their Heisman list. He is a true dual threat QB with grit and passion. He currently sits #2 in FBS in INT/TD ratio, throwing for 15 TDs to just 1 INT (which came against Alabama). He completed 72% of his passes against the tide, threw a TD, and ran one in as well. He accounted for 4 scores (two passing, two rushing) against then #13 Arkansas while taking 0 sacks. It was sweet revenge since Corral threw 6 picks to the Razorbacks last year. I always love to see that type of development. He currently sits #10 in ESPN Passer Rating, and he has also ran for 9 touchdowns. Corral is leading the Rebels to score 41.8 points per game, putting them in the top 10 in that category as well. If any QB has a platform to earn themselves a first round draft pick status it's Matt Corral. Over the next month, Ole Miss will face #18 Auburn, Liberty, #14 Texas A&M, and there is even a slim chance they could end up in the SEC Championship. They will most likely earn a respectable Bowl matchup. Matt Corral will have some opportunities to make his case for the #1 QB spot in this class.
2. I don't hear anyone talking about Hendon Hooker from Tennessee, and I don't understand why. He's a 6'4" 220 lb true dual threat QB who is going toe to toe with the giants in the SEC. He's played #11 Florida, #13 Ole Miss, and #4 Alabama, throwing for 6 TDs, running for 1, and throwing only 1 interception. Hooker has had a rush of at least 12 yards in each game he has started this year. He ran 9 TDs in last year at Virginia Tech. The transition from Hokie to Volunteer has been extremely beneficial for Hooker, as he has been able to improve greatly as a passer. He is #3 in ESPN Passer rating with 17 TDs to only 2 picks (#4 in TD/INT ratio) and has completed 68.7% of his passes (#19). We are going to learn a lot about Hendon Hooker over the next two weeks as he faces #12 Kentucky then #1 Georgia in back to back games. That will complete a 4 week stretch where they have faced an opponent in the Top 13. What else do you want to see to develop an NFL QB?
I had Kenny Pickett ranked as my #1 QB back in September and caught some flack. Now Mel Kiper Jr has Kenny Pickett as his #1 QB in this class. I love his size, I love his poise, I love his talent. I love that he takes care of the ball. I love that he has started all 4 years at Pittsburgh. He has completed 68.9% of his passes while throwing 23 TDs (#4 in FBS) and just 1 INT (#1 TD/INT Ratio in FBS). He has ran for another 3 TDs. He has 5+ rushes of 10+ yards. He's #6 in ESPN Passer Rating. His biggest downside is that he plays at Pittsburgh, who does not have a ranked team on the schedule. An ACC Championship would be a statement and would lead to a significant bowl game. I look forward to those matchups. I have always been critical of big time QB prospects who don't play a strong schedule being talked about as top draft picks. However, when a season is this clean, I have to ask myself, how different would it look like if Tom Brady was playing for Pittsburgh? When I think about Pickett, I don't think about Tom Brady. Right now, I think about Drew Lock and Zach Wilson, and I think I would have ranked both of those guys above him. They were 4 year starters that know what they are doing, but need some grooming to adjust to the NFL. I love Kenny Pickett, but I don't know if he warrants a first round status, let alone a top 10 pick. He has some time to change that, and I wish him the best! I definitely see the framework of someone who could have a successful career if given the right guidance and opportunity, and that is as good as it gets with this class.