By Jeremy Hritz
This is part 6 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.
Saturday, 4/16/22: The Steel Study 2022 NFL Draft Top 5 QB Rankings
Sunday, 4/17/22: Hritz Mock Draft 5.0
It’s the quarterback week that never ends, but it is drawing to a close. After looking at the strengths, areas of growth, college and high school stats, and a categorical analysis, I now present to you my very own rankings of this year’s draft class of QBs. There are many different ways in which I can rank these prospects, but my approach is based on which player I believe will have the best NFL career.
I want to point out that I believe each of these QBs has the ability and opportunity to develop into a high-level signal caller, but that doesn’t mean that will happen. Drafting QBs in the NFL is an inexact science, and the league has an awful track record of selecting and refining QBs in the first round. What we must be mindful of is the quality of the organization drafting the QB and the supports, coaching, and development plans that are in place. Typically, quarterbacks drafted in the first round go to poor teams like the Cleveland Browns or the New York Jets, who continually select but then fail to develop the player. With an organization such as the Steelers, I believe it will be different. They have only selected one QB in the first round in the past 20 years, and we all know how that turned out. Chances are extremely high they will draft a QB at #20 in the first round, he will sit for a year (or maybe more based on Mitch Trubisky’s play), and will be allowed to develop and grow into a franchise QB. The QB will not be expected to step in and start right away.
My rankings below reflect the prospects with the highest talent level, most potential, and most diversified skillsets that can stress defenses not only threw the passing game, but also the running game.
With that said, here are my top 5 quarterback rankings for the 2022 NFL Draft:
#1: Malik Willis, Liberty
Projected Draft Spot: Top 10 pick
When it comes to pure talent and sheer athleticism and arm talent, Willis is at the top of the list. He can zip the ball into tight spaces, throw receivers open on the deep ball, in addition to throwing down the field outside the numbers. Couple that with his ability to buy time by maneuvering within the pocket to allow receivers to get open and to pull it down and run, Willis is a versatile threat who must be accounted for on all levels. The Steelers may covet Willis’ skillset, but he will be off the board before the team selects at 20, and it will cost too much to move up and get him.
#2: Desmond Ridder
Projected Draft Spot: Between 15-25
As much as Willis is talented, Ridder is equally, if not more talented, though it doesn’t show up on tape the way it does for Willis. Ridder is smooth and fluid in his movements and looks like a technician at the position. And he can exploit a defense as a runner, and take it yard with his speed, something that he showcased while at Cincinnati. A leader, a winner, 4-years of experience, and dedicated to the game of football, whomever drafts Ridder gets a prospect passionate about the game who could develop, with time, into a high-quality starter.
#3: Sam Howell
Projected Draft Spot: Between 20-32
After more film study and research, Sam Howell has emerged as my desired prospect for the Steelers, even though I see Willis and Ridder having more physical tools. Howell has been steadily consistent and productive in pushing the football down the field aggressively throughout his football career dating back to high school, and it’s not event close. Deep passing requires confidence and an attack mentality, and Howell has that and more. While not as mobile as Willis or Ridder, he can still get it done with his legs, and break off an unanticipated run for a big gain to change the complexion of a football game. But more importantly here, Howell is only 21 years old, the youngest of this group, and will not turn 22 until September, but in terms of total attempts and yards between high school and college, nobody has more experience. And again, he’s only 21. I don’t want to spoil my mock tomorrow, but I can’t help myself: Howell is the guy for the Steelers at #20.
#4: Kenny Pickett
Projected Draft Spot: Between 10-20
Innate feel for the game, can throw from a variety of angles, and throws with touch or velocity when needed dependent on the situation. A ton of experience, and demonstrated improvement over time, and has the most the familiarity with Pro Style NFL concepts, making his transition into a starter in the league more seamless than any of the other 4. Pickett is tough, gritty, and a leader, and he has demonstrated the ability to direct his team and earn their trust. Whichever team selects Pickett will see its fanbase embrace him with open arms through his endearing nature, and he will probably experience the most success early on than any other prospect.
#5: Matt Corrall
Projected Draft Spot: Between 25 – 2 Round
Even though I have Corrall ranked 5th on my list, I still believe he can be a valuable player in the NFL, and I would not be opposed to the Steelers selecting him. The most natural passer of this group, Corrall is accurate, and has always been. For those who argue that you cannot teach/develop accuracy, Corrall is your guy. He also has enough athleticism to buy time and extend plays, in addition to pulling it down to run for a sizable gain. Fiery playmaker who played in a limited offense in college, but that doesn’t mean he cannot thrive in a Pro Style offense.
|Height||Weight||40-Yard Dash||Age||Games Started||College Major|
|Malik Willis||6’0||219||4.5 (est.)||22 (5/25/99)||23||Interdisciplinary Studies|
|Kenny Pickett||6’3||217||4.67||23 (6/6/98)||49||Marketing|
|Sam Howell||6’1||218||4.8 (est.)||21 (9/16/00)||37||Unknown|
|Desmond Ridder||6’3||211||4.49||22 (8/31/99)||48||Sports Administration|
|Matt Corrall||6’2||212||4.75 (est.)||23 (1/31/99)||33||Multidisciplinary Studies|