NFL Draft Positional Rankings 2022: Quarterbacks

When it comes to success in the National Football League, there isn’t a more critical position than the quarterback. Much has been made about the lack of quality in this year’s class, and it’s certainly not as great as the class last year. However, that doesn’t mean there can’t be long-term starters on the board, and I see there being a handful this year.

In this article, I’ll share my overall positional rankings for the quarterback position with some short write-ups on each player’s strengths and weaknesses. Keep an eye out for my complete player profiles which will provide more in-depth analysis.

NamePos. RankingCollegeClassOverall GradeDraft Range
Kenny Pickett1PittsburghSenior83Top 10
Malik Willis2LibertySenior82Top 10
Sam Howell3North CarolinaSenior792nd Round
Matt Corral4Ole MissJunior782nd Round
Desmond Ridder5CincinnatiSenior762nd Round
Carson Strong6NevadaSenior743rd Round
Bailey Zappe7Western KentuckyGraduate714th Round
Jack Coan8Notre DameGraduate705th Round

#1: Kenny Pickett – Pittsburgh

Pickett wasn’t always destined to be a first-round quarterback, but the former three-star recruit had an incredible senior-year breakout to become a top prospect in this class. While that late breakout may be held against him, we’ve seen plenty of relative one-year wonders succeed in the NFL in recent years. The real questions for Pickett will be concerning his arm strength and smaller hand size – is it enough to make him a long-term starter in the NFL?

Strengths:

  • Massive jump from 2020 to 2021, clearly worked hard to improve his weaknesses and sharpen his strengths
  • Arguably the most accurate passer in the class – adjusted completion percentage of 78.8% was the tenth-best in the country last year
  • Makes reads and works through his progressions at an NFL level, extends plays with his feet
  • Not an elite runner but makes subtle movements in the pocket to keep plays alive
  • Pinpoint accuracy regardless of whether his feet are set in the pocket or if he’s on the move
  • Constantly keeps his eyes downfield and doesn’t take off to run unnecessarily – runs to throw
  • Understands receiver leverage, blitz coverage, defensive alignment at a very high level
  • Natural feel for the game and great intangibles

Weaknesses:

  • Processing speed still lags a bit at times – average time to throw of 3.19 seconds is longer than any quarterback (min. 135 attempts) last season per Next Gen Stats
  • Lacks elite arm strength – some red flags at the Senior Bowl in this regard
  • Small hands – measured at 8.5 inches at the Combine (still think this is overrated)
  • Throws off his back foot too often for a player with good-not-great arm strength
  • Timing and touch on downfield throws could improve, make receivers’ lives easier
  • One-year wonder – not necessarily a negative

Summary: Pickett’s ability to make throws on the move and extend plays is what teams covet at the next level, and he has all of the intangibles to be a great quarterback in the future. His one-year breakout was a direct result of him working hard on improving his limitations, and his improved ability to make reads and work through progressions makes him the most pro-ready quarterback in this draft class.

Draft Range: Top 10

#2: Malik Willis – Liberty

Potentially the most polarizing quarterback in this year’s class, Willis will inspire plenty of discussion among scouts and coaches about whether his skill-set will translate to the professional game. Willis has absurd physical gifts and simultaneously has the best speed and mobility and the most arm talent in this draft class. The question for talent evaluators will be the plan in terms of ironing out just about everything else.

Strengths:

  • Best arm talent in the class, bar none – rocket launcher strapped to his shoulder
  • Underrated downfield accuracy – gives his receivers a chance to pick up YAC
  • Electrifying athlete – moves like a wide receiver in the open field
  • Makes some insane throws on the move, fits the modern play style in the NFL
  • Great contact balance and pocket maneuverability
  • Should look a lot better in NFL as supporting talent jump will be immense

Weaknesses:

  • First-read quarterback with little to no tape of him making full progressions
  • Decides to run way too early before his receivers have a chance to get open
  • Stares down the receiver he wants to throw to – telegraphs plays to make defenders’ lives easy
  • Decision-making is lacking as he guns for the big play when it’s not there
  • Runs to run, not to pass – doesn’t keep his eyes downfield
  • Very little reading of defensive coverage on film, constantly makes mistakes against shell coverage

Summary: Willis would be draftable at running back if he was eligible with the way he moves in the open field and breaks tackles, and his throwing power and velocity are absurd, even when his feet aren’t fully set. He’s the highest-upside quarterback in this class, but the amount of projection that goes into his evaluation could scare teams off from taking a chance early in the first round. It would be ideal for him to sit for a year behind a veteran quarterback while he refines his game.

Draft Range: Top 10

#3: Sam Howell – North Carolina

Much will be made of how Sam Howell took a step back this past season, but I found his leadership and poise despite his team losing a handful of starters to the NFL quite impressive. His numbers didn’t live up to his excellent 2020 campaign, but Howell progressed in several areas and made himself more of a complete prospect. There’s still plenty to work on, but teams can get excited about his upside.

Strengths:

  • Excellent velocity and touch on throws downfield, hits his receivers in stride
  • Great deep-ball accuracy and ball placement, can deliver strikes in tight windows
  • Improved significantly on his running production – ran for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns in his final season
  • Light on his feet in the pocket – good skillset to work with that needs developing
  • Flashed off-platform throws on film, not consistent at this yet though
  • Tough, hard-nosed player with great leadership qualities and confidence

Weaknesses:

  • Played in a UNC spread offense that was heavily reliant on RPOs – will be a learning curve
  • Needs to be more confident in working through progressions and playing within an offense
  • First tendency is to run too often – 13% of his dropbacks last year resulted in scrambles
  • Bad pocket mechanics at times that results in unnecessary sacks or dead plays
  • Turns down open receivers downfield far too often
  • Lacks prototypical height for the position
  • Touch, timing, throwing motion all need some work

Summary: Howell has an electric deep ball with a solid foundation of touch and velocity to be a real factor in the NFL. I also love Howell’s tenacity and balance as a runner, and that improvement is enormous for his projection. However, he has to learn to hang in the pocket and allow his receivers to get open to get past his first read. There’s enough here to get excited about, though, and Howell can win with a good supporting cast in the NFL.

Draft Range: 2nd Round

#4: Matt Corral – Ole Miss

Matt Corral has helped Ole Miss hold its own over the past couple of years in Lane Kiffin’s offense in a loaded SEC. Questions will persist about how his play in that offense will translate to the NFL, but there are plenty of good traits to build on with Corral, which makes him worth considering in the first round of the draft this year.

Strengths:

  • Excellent mobility – over 500 rushing yards each of his last two seasons
  • Has improved in a ton of areas – accuracy, decision-making, situational awareness
  • Above-average arm strength despite smaller stature
  • Quick, compact release and awesome throwing power – delivers accurate balls in tight windows
  • Good anticipatory throws on RPO plays, great timing on those sets
  • Showed the ability to “solve problems” at times when playing in structure
  • Elusive behind the line of scrimmage

Weaknesses:

  • Not built to take NFL hits at 6’1″, 205 lbs – already has a spotty injury history
  • Runs without caution, not a good thing with his smaller stature
  • Locks onto one receiver too early, some bad decisions when forced past first read
  • Only throws lasers on film – not enough touch on throws downfield
  • Downfield accuracy lets him down at times, too many layup interceptions for defenders
  • Rarely asked to run dropback passing concepts at Ole Miss

Summary: Matt Corral has some traits that teams look for at the next level, including his athleticism and improving accuracy and ball placement, but there are some question marks. Corral’s small frame, lack of experience in a dropback offense, and limitations with making reads in the flow of the game are problematic, and I’m a bit lower on him than I am other quarterbacks in this class.

Draft Range: End of the First Round

#5: Desmond Ridder – Cincinnati

Ridder is your guy if you’re looking for a proven winner at the quarterback position. He was a huge part of Cincinnati’s 13-1 season and CFP appearance last year, and his work ethic and leadership are off the charts. With Ridder providing a solid foundation for growth, the question will be whether or not he can improve on his weaknesses enough to have staying power in the NFL long term.

Strengths:

  • Plus athlete – ran a 4.52-second 40-yard-dash, tested well across the board at the combine
  • Mobile quarterback but looks to win from the pocket as much as possible
  • Coaches will love his intangibles – excellent leadership qualities and work ethic
  • Quick processer of the game, makes NFL-level reads and decisions
  • Eye manipulation of defenders is already at a high level
  • Very patient – won’t force throws if they aren’t there
  • Solid arm talent that allows him to make most throws at all three levels
  • Great Football IQ – will make audibles and reads at the LOS from Day 1

Weaknesses:

  • Accuracy is lacking – tough because it’s the hardest thing to improve on
  • Ball placement lets him down even when he makes the correct read/decision
  • Deep ball comes up short too often to be consistent
  • Slow release led to too many batted balls and delayed delivery of passes
  • Takes too many sacks, lack of escapability lets him down sometimes
  • Drastic difference between film against Power Five and non-Power Five opponents

Summary: There’s a ton to like about Ridder as a prospect, and I suspect he’ll perform well in all of the interviews and behind-the-scenes work at the combine. Ridder processes the game at a very high level and works hard to refine the parts of his game that need work. However, his inconsistent accuracy lets him down far too often, and it may be difficult for that to change dramatically, especially as the level of competition increases massively in the NFL.

Draft Range: Early Second Round

#6: Carson Strong – Nevada

In Nevada’s Air-Raid offense, Strong put together an impressive couple of seasons with high-level passing production. However, questions will persist about Strong given his relative lack of mobility compared to his peers and his Osteochondritis disease, which could entirely leave him off some teams’ draft boards. Strong’s arm talent will likely make him a Day 2 pick despite those questions.

Strengths:

  • Excellent arm talent that was used a ton in college – 527 passing attempts last season
  • Great deep-ball accuracy, especially outside the numbers
  • Tons of big-time throws in his film
  • Effortless release from several angles
  • Took good care of the football, made very few mistakes
  • Precise throws into tight windows
  • Makes solid reads of the field and can work through progressions
  • Team captain, highly regarded by teammates and coaches

Weaknesses:

  • Medical concerns stemming from Osteochondritis – will take him off some teams’ boards entirely
  • Lacking in consistent reactions to pre and post-snap pressure
  • Very limited mobility – not going to be a productive runner in the NFL
  • Limited pocket maneuverability, needs to develop better subtle movements behind LOS
  • Took too many sacks, not willing to get rid of the ball quickly

Summary: Strong has all of the traits to be an elite pocket passer in the NFL, but his lack of mobility limits his upside considerably. I’ll be interested to see how he tests medically at the combine, and depending on how that goes, I may end up having Strong higher in the rankings. For now, I have to bake in some downside as far as his medicals go, but he remains a high-upside prospect thanks to his impressive downfield passing.

Draft Range: Day 2 (depends on medicals)

#7: Bailey Zappe – Western Kentucky

A former FCS quarterback, Zappe followed his offensive coordinator Zach Kittley to Western Kentucky for the 2021 season where the duo put up historic passing production as he threw for 5,967 yards and 62 touchdowns. Zappe’s production was eye-popping, but most of the film was not. While the mechanics are sound and he’s capable of leading a productive offense, Zappe lacks elite traits across the board and he likely won’t ever be a starter in the NFL.

Strengths:

  • Epic passing production in record-breaking final season
  • Confident in the pocket, not easily rattled by pressure
  • Works through progressions, hits receivers with anticipation
  • Great touch on downfield throws, helps overcome lack of power
  • Excellent leadership qualities

Weaknesses:

  • Lacks elite physical traits – shorter, stockier quarterback
  • Jump in competition level from Western Kentucky will be significant
  • Inconsistent accuracy and ball placement when on the move
  • Below-average arm strength, most downfield throws are touch passes

Summary: Plenty of NFL teams need a serviceable backup quarterback who can take over in a pinch, and that’s exactly the mold that Bailey Zappe fits. His elite production won’t translate due to the jump in competition level, and he doesn’t have any above-average physical traits, but Zappe’s toughness, short-to-intermediate accuracy, and Football IQ are great qualities for a backup.

Draft Range: Fifth or Sixth Round

#8: Jack Coan – Notre Dame

After losing his starting job at Wisconsin to Graham Mertz, Jack Coan transferred to Notre Dame and put together an impressive 2021 season with a career-high 25 passing touchdowns. Coan is a pro-style quarterback whose upward trajectory and elite performance against Oklahoma State in his team’s bowl game are very noteworthy. Coan profiles as a solid backup who can fit a variety of schemes.

Strengths:

  • Prototypical build for an NFL passer at 6’3″, 218 lbs
  • Great poise and command of the offense from the pocket
  • Able to make full-field reads and progressions
  • Solid mechanics in dropbacks and throwing motion

Weaknesses:

  • Below-average athleticism, not a mobile quarterback
  • Accuracy on deep throws and passes outside the numbers is inconsistent
  • Overconfident in tight windows downfield, needs to learn when to kill the play
  • Loses focus and concentration under pressure

Summary: Jack Coan upgraded the passing attack at both Wisconsin and Notre Dame, and he’s a pro-ready quarterback with ability to read the field and make smart decisions. Coan’s mechanics are sound, but he lacks elite arm talent and his athleticism falls short, so his upside is capped in the NFL.

Draft Range: Fifth or Sixth Round

I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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