Kenny Pickett, Sam Howell, Malik Willis Headline QBs on 2022 Senior Bowl Rosters

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 4, 2022

Pittsburgh quarterback Kenny Pickett celebrates after their win against Wake Forest in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship NCAA college football game Sunday, Dec. 5, 2021, in Charlotte, N.C. (AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman)
AP Photo/Jacob Kupferman

Kenny Pickett opted out of Pittsburgh's bowl game against Michigan State, but he will lace it up at the 2022 Senior Bowl.

ESPN's Jordan Reid reported Pickett, North Carolina's Sam Howell, Liberty's Malik Willis, Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder, Nevada's Carson Strong and Western Kentucky's Bailey Zappe will all compete in the Senior Bowl as quarterbacks.

The first thing that jumps out about this year's top QB prospects—not including Ole Miss' Matt Corral, who isn't playing in the Senior Bowl—is that they all come from programs that are not considered traditional football powerhouses.

While players such as Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Alabama's Mac Jones and Ohio State's Justin Fields went from dominating headlines at major programs and competing for national titles during their collegiate careers right into the NFL spotlight as first-rounders in last year's draft, this year will be different.

Yet, this is a group that is accustomed to exceeding expectations.

All Ridder did was lead the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff as they became the first Group of Five team to reach the sport's biggest stage. Pickett directed the Panthers to the ACC title, and Zappe became the NCAA FBS single-season record holder in passing yards and touchdowns while playing for the Hilltoppers.

There will likely be more concerns that Howell and Willis will have to overcome as far as their 2021 campaigns.

Howell was seen by many as a Heisman Trophy candidate for a North Carolina team that could take home the ACC crown. Instead, the Tar Heels went 6-7 and struggled with consistency while their quarterback threw for career lows in yards (3,056) and touchdowns (24) to go with a career-high nine interceptions.

As for Willis, he didn't face the same level of competition at Liberty and struggled in a high-profile game against Ole Miss with zero touchdown passes and three interceptions.

The quarterbacks will have a chance to bolster their draft stock Feb. 5 when the Senior Bowl takes place in Mobile, Alabama, at 2:30 p.m. ET.

In B/R's latest big board, the players were ranked as follows: Ridder (17), Pickett (43), Corral (82, not playing), Willis (87), Howell (92), Strong (93), Zappe (107).