The 2022 NFL Draft class for quarterbacks has changed plenty during the 2021 college football season. Once-prized potential first-rounders Spencer Rattler (Oklahoma) and Kedon Slovis (USC) have struggled to push their stock down, to the point both are returning to school and going through the transfer portal. That opened the door for two QBs to emerge as the new 1-2 for ’22.
Liberty’s Malik Willis and Ole Miss’ Matt Corral have had impressive seasons vs. different levels of competition. Luckily for NFL observers and fans hopeful their teams will land a strong franchise QB next year, both Willis and Corral will get their final college showcases in bowl games.
There’s a long way to go in the pre-draft process with all-star games, the scouting combine and pro days ahead before teams go on the clock next April 28 in Las Vegas. But having an early chance to compare the rising top two QB prospects is fun.
Between the skill sets Willis and Corral have shown so far, who should be the first to go off th board? Here are Sporting News’ updated 2022 QB draft rankings as college football’s top quarterbacks look to distinguish themselves in the final stages of the season.
NFL MOCK DRAFT 2022: Where will Malik Willis, Matt Corral go?
2022 NFL Draft quarterback rankings
1. Matt Corral, Ole Miss (6-0, 220 pounds)
There’s really not much separating Willis and Corral when you look at their playing styles as dual threats. Corral is a little shorter and thinner. He also is a great athletic and is willing to be aggressive with his arm, ideal for the downfield-throwing NFL trend. He has been helped a lot by the strong offensive mind of coach Lane Kiffin. Corral has a chance to displace Willims with a stellar contrasting performance. Both are top-10 picks.
2. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (6-3, 220 pounds)
Pickett (6-3, 220 pounds) has gotten a lot of attention for the Panthers’ fine offensive season in the ACC. He’s the top traditional pocket-passing prospect in the class with his deep ball-accuracy, smarts and maturity. He made the right decision not to rush into the NFL in 2021, because he has continued to grow all-around and show more impact leadership.
3. Malik Willis, Liberty (6-1, 215 pounds)
Willis has drawn natural comparisons to Trey Lance (6-4, 224 pounds), who went No. 3 overall to the 49ers as a fast-rising prospect out of North Dakota State this April. He doesn’t have the same prototypical size, but Willis matches the cannon arm with terrific athleticism. He hangs tough and just has a knack to make plays. He’s also not the typical small-school QB, given his SEC ties, having transferred from Auburn and playing for former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze. He has a big chance in get more into the spotlight against Freeze’s former program.
4. Sam Howell, North Carolina (6-1, 220 pounds)
Howell was everyone’s favorite top quarterback in college football with big-time NFL buzz until he came out struggling with mental and physical mistakes for the Tar Heels. Some of it is tied to having a dwindled supporting cast, but Howell has fought through the adversity both in and out of the pocket to show his assets tied to smarts, accuracy and relentlessness.
5. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (6-4, 215 pounds)
Ridder stands out with his loose arm and natural running ability, too. Although he’s not quiet as dynamic in those areas as Willis and Corral, his big appeal is the mental and physical toughness. He’s also got the intangible of winning leadership and plenty of experience.
6. Carson Strong, Nevada (6-4, 215 pounds)
Strong is the same size as Ridder and has done many simliar things well as the leader of the Wolf Pack. HIs last name is apt for how he can make all the throws with his arm, and he’s still learning to better use his athleticism. He’s kind of a hybrid of what Josh Allen and Justin Herbert do well.
7. Tanner McKee, Stanford (6-6, 228 pounds)
McKee has an outstanding big and strong frame and he has put together some NFL pleasing passing skills with it breaking out for the Cardinals. McKee has the arm to deliver the ball anywhere and recognizes pressure well to be accurate and efficient. He doesn’t have the biggest arm in relation to some of the prospects above, but he tends to put the right touch on his throws.
8. Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky (6-1, 220 pounds)
Zappe has had a prolific first season bumping up to FBS with great accuracy, smarts and toughness in a “Air Raid” style high-volume passing game. He is right there in the record books with Joe Burrow, another transfer QB who went No. 1 overall in the 2020 draft. That’s getting him some initial interest as either a third- or fourth-round pick with upside.
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