#1) Spencer Rattler – Oklahoma (R – So)
WHAT I LIKE: Excellent playmaking ability, command of the passing attack is second to none in the draft class, athletic and can be a dangerous dual threat if you let him, accurate at all levels of the field, great awarness of the field
MY CONCERNS: Can have an overreliance on his receivers and toss some up with reckless abandon, once he gets into the habit of breaking the pocket will usually do so when it is not necessary
WHY HE’S THE TOP GUY: Watching the end of the 2020 season, it became apparent that Rattler was and is the most complete QB prospect going into the 2021 season. He excels at the mental game, is highly intelligent, and a dangerous weapon with his arm, legs, and mind.
#2) Sam Howell – North Carolina (Jr)
WHAT I LIKE: Among the best at threading the needle into tight windows, can be patient with his receivers, shifty in and out of the pocket, intelligent player who can pick apart defenses if given the opportunity, underrated playmaking ability, “pass-first” mentality out of the pocket
MY CONCERNS: Not asked to do a full-field scan very often, whether by design or habit will only look at one side of the field through progressions, tends to lock on to a single receiver, hit or miss on sideline throws with a habit of overthrowing
WHY HE’S NOT THE TOP GUY: Howell is the other name people hear when commentators and talking heads of college football discuss the 2022 QB draft class, and it is not too hard to see why when watching Howell play. Despite his upside and intelligence, when comparing him to Rattler, it is plain as day the difference between the two. Howell simply does not play the field the same way Rattler is asked to, and his locking on to receivers hinders him in a direct comparison. The main question is if this lack of full-field play is by design of the UNC playbook, or by the lack of ability or lack of desire from Howell. This will be a good year to see which is the case.
#3) Grayson McCall – Coastal Carolina (R – So)
WHAT I LIKE: Great touch on his passes, good pocket presence to manuever within his protection, Promising eyes to not get locked to one side of the field, Among the best at sideline and fadeaways in the endzone, excellent at throwing on the run
MY CONCERNS: Questions of competition from the Sun Belt, only a single season as a starter, stiff throwing motion, can be reckless with body, telegraphs what kinds of throws he is attempting by raising or lowering his stature on a throw
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: McCall is one of those sleepers who is a great playmaker for the level he is playing at. Despite this, questions still remain for me over what his development will look like as he gears up for a normal fall season as the second year starter. Most questions about him come from the single question: How good is the Sun Belt really?
#4) Brock Purdy – Iowa State (Sr.)
WHAT I LIKE: Dependable leader, playmaker with the ball inside and outside the pocket, good eyes and awareness of the field, effective thrower on the run, capable of full-field play, surprising feet can get him out of the pocket and gaining yards, can keep eyes downfield in the midst of pressure
MY CONCERNS: Disappointing development from Sophomore to Junior year raises questions about ceiling, gunslinger mentality bordering on pure recklessness with the deep ball, Lacks touch and accuracy on deep bombs despite loving to chuck it deep, does not understand the concept of “live to fight another play”
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: When Purdy first lined up behind center in 2018, few truly knew just how high he would lift the Iowa State program with Head Coach Matt Campbell manning the helm. However, Iowa State fans and alumni (myself included) have slowly come to realize that Purdy may have reached his peak as a college athlete. Aside from his lack of a significant improvement between 2019 and 2020, Purdy has cemented himself as a pure gunslinger with daring TDs and headache inducing INTs to prove it.
#5) Bo Nix – Auburn (Jr.)
WHAT I LIKE: One of, of not the best at putting touch on his passes, strong arm that lets him throw far even off balance, high ceiling as a pocket passer, don’t underestimate the jets when he decides to take off, deadly accurate up to 40 yards, patient player who can wait for plays to develop
MY CONCERNS: limits himself to only one side of the field despite being one of the better passers in the nation, has a habit of throwing off-balance when breaking the pocket even when he does not need to, locks onto first read longer than he should sometimes, likes to put a high arc on all of his throws despite having an absolute cannon
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: Bo Nix is a highly intelligent player with potentially the highest ceiling of all the QBs on this list. Despite this, Nix does not play to the same level as his peers at times. He is currently not a full-field passer and instead is hindered by only playing to a side at a time. His statline is also not where his talent would have him.
#6) Kenny Pickett – Pitt (5y)
WHAT I LIKE: Prototypical pocket passer who would excel in a west coast offense, highly intelligent and capable to picking apart a defense, good pocket maneuverability, accurate enough to play the entire field in the passing attack, full-field passer
MY CONCERNS: Holds no significant accolades at the QB position, not heavily used compared to his peers, absolutely destroyed by Clemson in Week 13, ineffective deep passer
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: Pickett may not be a name you see a lot in the media because of his lack of crazy stats or awards, but he does have solid fundamentals and can rise to the occasion if given the opportunity. This does not change the fact he possesses among the worst TD:INT ratios of the main QB starters. Everyone above him is used much more heavily and possess some level of accolades to justify their rank; Pickett does not.
#7) Dillon Gabriel – UCF (Jr.)
WHAT I LIKE: High usage rate and is a central figure in the UCF offense, excellent ball placement on his passes, athletic dual threat who can take off when needed, can put some heat on his passes, promising arm strength and range, proactive playmaker who is always looking to make a play
MY CONCERNS: limited to one side of the field, can be oblivious to the pressure in the pocket, jittery feet can see him break the pocket when no pressure existed that needed such a reaction, can be indecisive on maneuvering leading to some head-scratching plays
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: There is no questioning Gabriel’s playmaking ability on the field, but questions need to be answered as to what he can do as a pocket passer before he legitimately begins to compete in the Top 5.
#8) D’eriq King – Miami U (5y)
WHAT I LIKE: Deadly weapon on the pass and run (especially the run), extremely accurate in and out of the pocket, cannon for an arm, excellent at putting heat on the pass, among the best improvisers in college football
MY CONCERNS: Still not a great pocket passer, can only play to a single side at a time, limited progression on the dropback, tends to miss simple throws such as wheels and flats by rushing the play, can have pacing problems with the rest of his teammates causing him to be set and ready to throw while his receivers are still going through their route
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: King is an amazing scrambler and has an uncanny ability to make plays happen. His basic throwing ability is tremendous as he boasts an accurate arm that can put some range and power behind the ball. King’s issue has always been the mental part of the game. He can struggle with pacing and tempo-matching his teammates, and can be impatient on longer plays. It is unclear if he is capable of playing the entire field from the pocket, and whether or not he recognizes coverages is an unknown as well. Physically, King is among the most dangerous QB weapons in the nation, but mentally it is unknown where his QB instincts are.
#9) Desmond Ridder – Cincinnati (5y)
WHAT I LIKE: Dual threat playmaker, effective on the play action, one of the most experienced players in this draft class, promising anticipation to throw where the route will be open, better than most at using ball placement to get the ball over the defender
MY CONCERNS: Still struggles with putting the ball high even on basic routes, can be hit or miss with his pocket presence and blitz radar, tends to get one-track minded when he breaks the pocket, not as accurate on the run as you would like from a dual threat guy
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: Ridder and Gabriel (UCF) are the main QBs who make up the competitive landscape for the American Conference, but when it comes to why Ridder is not higher on the list, it comes down to inconsistent play in the pocket. While Ridder is a playmaker, his level of efficiency comes and goes. At times he can find the blitz and maneuver around the pressure, and other times he gets caught off guard. He can also get one-track minded when leaving the pocket, deciding if he is going to run or throw and then doing said action whether it was a good choice or not. Ridder can struggle with flexibility when improvising compared to his peers, and the question is how will his last season improve his play.
#10) Malik Cunningham – Louisville (5y)
WHAT I LIKE: among the best running QBs in college football, strong arm to get the ball to his receiver, good improvisor should the play break down, one of the best QBs at selling play action, very active eyes downfield can find a hole in coverage
MY CONCERNS: Oblivious to the pressure, hit or miss when it comes to reading coverage, can only play through one or two reads with consistency
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: Cunningham is a good running QB, and if placed in a scheme that can utilize that skill, Cunningham can be a dangerous threat. The problem is that he is not nearly as effective if he is asked to play outside this archetype. His pocket passing ability and pure passer skills are lacking compared to other dual threat QBs, and his inability to play through the entire field with any level of consistency is holding him back.
#11) Michael Penix Jr. – Indiana (R – Jr)
WHAT I LIKE: quick throwing motion, does not seem fazed when the extra pressure is coming, disciplined eyes to keep his attention down field as he maneuvers, can put some heat on the ball, can be a threat outside the pocket
MY CONCERNS: overestimates the time he has to release the ball at times which results in him attempting a throw through a tackle instead of maneuvering away, half-field/2-read QB who either does not or cannot progression across the entire field, tends to corner himself on play action by only ever looking to the side he is rolling to, underwhelming improvisor and navigating traffic for a dual threat QB
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: Penix has helped to elevate Indiana to a legitimate threat to other programs, but as an individual prospect, Penix lacks some of the more explosive traits and skills that other dual threat QBs possess. He is not as flashy as King (Miami), or as great of an improvisor as Cunningham (Louisville), though he is about equal level in terms of a pocket passer among them. While Penix can be an exciting player to watch, his development as a pocket passer needs to show before he can overtake those in front of him.
#12) Levi Lewis – Louisiana (5y)
WHAT I LIKE: Quick feet can get him around the pocket or out in a flash, underrated accuracy with short to medium range throws, can put some touch on his passes when needed, good throwing on the run, very quick at looking around the field and is caught staring at one thing for too long, athletic dual threat QB who has seen an increase in his responsibility as a pocket passer
MY CONCERNS: Only plays half the field when in the pocket but does not have this problem when he is outside, does not navigate traffic when he is scrambling or improvising, low throw trajectory that can see the pass getting batted down by LBs or DLinemen, underwhelming runner for a dual threat QB
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: Lewis is a weird QB in the fact he does not use all of his weapons at his disposal on the field. While he can be a decent scrambler, he does not navigate traffic downfield to get a man open at all. It is such a specific issue, but as a scrambler, improvisation and navigating your receivers is one of your most important skills, yet Lewis does not do it at all. Add the fact he is not as good of a scrambler as others and Lewis is sitting outside the Top 10 going into the season
#13) Kedon Slovis – USC (Jr.)
WHAT I LIKE: Can maneuver outside the pocket when needed, promising touch on the pass, not afraid to improvise
MY CONCERNS: Poor accuracy especially toward the sideline, no ability to maneuver the pocket, struggles to find the pressure, plays slow, is not a dual threat QB, seems to not have great vision of the defense which causes him to throw INTs directly at the safeties
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: USC’s last game against Oregon for the Pac-12 Championship was not a good look for Slovis. His first 5 throws were absolutely atrocious, and he did not rebound exceptionally well. Time is still on his side as he has this year and potentially next year, but the question is how far will Slovis develop this year?
#14) JT Daniels – Georgia (R – Jr)
WHAT I LIKE: Respectable accuracy on the run, can put some fire on the ball, decent range on an immediate throw with a promising cannon, Promising anticipation to throw his receivers open
MY CONCERNS: Walks through plays and throws to his first read even when it is not open or contested, struggles with placement often having passes reach his recievers overhead, accuracy drops as the pass extends past about 35 yards
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: Daniels will be an interesting QB to watch this season because of the potential the guy has to grow. He has demonstrated on multiple occasions throughout the 2020 season that he was capable or had the potential to be a promising pocket passer, though his issue usually comes with consistency. He has been seen to throw his receivers open, a skill a surprising amount of QBs this year do not posses, but he does not or can not do it with any level of consistency for long periods of time. He has a very useful range and can put some heat on his passes to zip them straight to his receivers, but he will overthrow his targets just as often as he hits them in the chest. Daniels could very well have a breakout year this season, and I look forward to seeing how he develops as a QB.
#15) Malik Willis – Liberty (5y)
WHAT I LIKE: Dual threat QB who is not afraid to use his legs, has the anticipation you would like to see, spirals thrown can be absolute beauties, has tried to use placement and trajectory in his arsenal with mixed results, good improvisor and quick to react when things fall apart around him
MY CONCERNS: Lackluster scrambler compared to his peers, can only play one half of the field in the pocket, does not feel pressure when the pocket is crumbling, does not sell the PA like you would want him to despite being such a full-body threat
WHY HE’S NOT HIGHER: It is apparent when watching Willis play that the man is trying to be a great QB both in the pocket and out of it, even if attempts are not always fruitful. Of the fifteen QBs listed, I would say Willis is probably the only one who at the very least attempts to use any weapon or technique at his disposal. He has tried to zip passes around, or high ball it over defenders. He has attempted to anticipate his receivers and pass them open. Willis is nothing short of a player who at the very least is trying to be the full package. It will be fascinating to see where his development will occur for this season, and whether he can turn these attempts into legitimate weapons in his arsenal.