By Jeremy Hritz
This is part 2 of a 7 part series taking an in-depth look at the top-5 quarterback prospects in this year’s draft, analyzing everything from their strengths, weaknesses, college and high school statistics, and much, much more. As the Pittsburgh Steelers seemed primed more than ever to draft a quarterback in the first round, the more informed we can be about this class, the better.
Tuesday, 4/12/22: Part II: The Strengths of the 2022 NFL Draft Top 5 QBs
Wednesday, 4/13/22: Part III: College Statistical Analysis of the 2022 NFL Draft Top 5 QBs
Thursday, 4/14/22: Part IV: High School Statistical Analysis of the 2022 NFL Draft Top 5 QBs
Friday, 4/15/22: V: Synthesizing the Data/Observations Into a Categorical Analysis of the 2022 NFL Draft Top 5 QBs
Saturday, 4/16/22: The Steel Study 2022 NFL Draft Top 5 QB Rankings
Sunday, 4/17/22: Hritz Mock Draft 5.0
Malik Willis: Most Upside, Strongest Physical Traits
Unquestionably, there is no quarterback prospect in this year’s draft with more upside and potential to be a game-changing quarterback than Malik Willis. With phenomenal arm strength to make every NFL throw with zip and velocity, especially on throws outside the numbers and into tight spaces. Additionally, he is an explosive, twitchy athlete, who possesses the ability to buy additional time for his receivers to get open, and also pull it down and run it for a massive gain. He is the type of player, who if he develops successfully, will cause major frustration for defenses, as just when you think you have him bottled up, he outmaneuvers pressure and picks up a first down.
Kenny Pickett: Awareness, Touch, and Toughness
I talked yesterday about the badgering that Kenny Pickett receives because of his age (dude is only 23, turns 24 in June), but beyond that, he has several strengths which make him a quarterback capable achieving in the NFL. Pickett can throw from a variety of arm angles, and always seems to put just the right touch on each pass according to the context of the situation, down, and distance. This is indicative of his anticipation and ability to throw his receivers open, or put the ball in a spot where only his receiver will be. Top that with his toughness and grittiness, and there is a lot to like about Pickett, who will always bring a relentless attitude and mindset to each contest.
Desmond Ridder: Technically Sound, Leadership, and Proven Winner
I have been a fan of Desmond Ridder for a while, having selected him in 3 of 4 editions of my mock draft. On tape, from my film study, Ridder is fluid in his drops, fundamentally sound in his play action and rollouts, and just looks smooth in action. His movements are veteran-like, though he does have a bit of wasted motion on his deep passes. A four-year starter, Ridder earned the respect of his teammates not just through his play, but also through his attitude and dedication to the game, willing to put in the time to improve his craft. And then there are the results. With a 44-6 record as a college starter, Ridder helped establish a culture of winning at Cincinnati, and he knows nothing different.
Matt Corrall: Quick Release, Accurate, and Natural
I have probably been the most critical of Matt Corrall throughout the entire NFL Draft process, as I have questioned his ability to withstand the rigors and physicality of professional defenses. However, when you watch his film, his release is the best of this quarterback group, and upon his decision to throw, the ball snaps off his wrist with velocity to his target. And he is also the most accurate passer of the group, and this was true at both the college and the high school level, showing that this is an innate trait of play. Ultimately, despite his challenges, Corral is the most natural thrower/quarterback of the top 5, and the upside truly is there if he can develop with an NFL team.
Sam Howell: Aggressive, Successful Thrower Downfield, Sneaky Mobility, and Toughness
The more film I watch on Sam Howell, the more he is growing on me. Howell is always looking for the big play down field, and while he does take a lot of sacks in doing so, he is oftentimes successful, putting his offense in position for scores. He is confident in his ability to push the ball, making him a fit for an attack-first mentality. Additionally, while not extremely fast, he can lull defenses into not accounting for his mobility, leading to him running the ball and picking up big gains. And not afraid to put his face in the fan (which can be a detriment against NFL-level defenders), he is fearless and willing/able to be as physical as required to lead his team to victory.