While the 2022 quarterback draft class is not being viewed as potentially transcendent as some recent classes, and lacks some of the hype and fanfare as the college football season winds down, numerous evaluators who have watched them closely believe at least three are likely to be selected in the first round.
There has not been anyone putting up an overwhelming cumulative body of work like Trevor Lawrence, the top overall pick a year ago, or coming out of relative anonymity to have a historic Heisman campaign like Joe Burrow did the year before, in becoming the first-overall pick as well. However, the executives I spoke to, who have seen these quarterbacks play live and several on more than one occasion, believe five or six will merit at least consideration in the first round and some could end up in the top 10, given the degree of need for quarterbacks around the league. And none has the kind of otherworldly athleticism that led to Kyler Murray, who was also a first-round pick in the MLB draft, going as the top pick the year before that.
Pitt's Kenny Pickett, Nevada's Carson Strong, and Ole Miss' Matt Corral were viewed by several of the evaluators as the top three, most likely, though the order differed according to the source. Malik Willis of Liberty and Sam Howell of North Carolina are also generating a strong buzz in the scouting community, but all come with some inherent risk. Scouts are not championing any of them the way they did for Burrow and Lawrence, for instance, but there is an expectation that several could end up as quality starting quarterbacks in the NFL.
"I think you'll see three or four end up in the first round," said one NFL executive who has spent much of the fall scouting quarterbacks. "It's a nice class. There isn't one guy who everyone wants, but I like the group overall."
One evaluator said he would probably take Pickett tops out of the group, pointing to his size (6-3 ½) as the determining factor. Pickett's decision making, accuracy and leadership were all qualities pro scouts like. "He's got a good arm," one scout said. "It's not as strong as the kid from Nevada, but it's strong enough."
Strong, in the eyes of several evaluators, would be the most-sought after of the group if not for medical concerns. He has had multiple knee surgeries and a team's medical staff would have to be very comfortable with him for a club to take him as high as pure potential might warrant. (He missed his entire senior season of high school.)
"If he has a good Senior Bowl and the medicals are clean enough, then he will be The Guy," as one evaluator put it. "He's a pro passer."
Corral, at 6 feet and a little over 200 pounds, will draw some concerns about durability. Also, playing in what is primarily a one-read offense portends a learning curve at the next level. "He's very comfortable and relaxed playing the position," one scout said. "He can make plays with his feet and has a great football IQ. But at that size, can he hold up?"
Howell entered the season with arguably the highest expectations of anyone in the group, but hasn't had the season some expected. "Is he going to be able to stand in the pocket and have the vision to make passes under pressure?" one executive said. "That's my biggest question with him."
Willis has had problems with some of his decision making, which could end up holding his draft stock back some. "He is the best athlete in the class," the executive said, "and he has all the intangibles you want. But's he's still really a work in progress and the interceptions are a concern."
Some evaluators believe that Desmond Ridder, in leading Cincinnati to a historic season, will be in this mix as well and be among the top half-dozen quarterback selections in this draft, with first-round consideration not out of the question. "The kid is pretty special running outside the numbers, and he can throw the deep ball," one scout said. "I have some issues with his accuracy, but he is an interesting prospect."