A Way-Too-Early Look at the Potential 2022 NFL Draft QB Class

Alex KayContributor IMay 4, 2021

A Way-Too-Early Look at the Potential 2022 NFL Draft QB Class

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    Matt Stamey/Associated Press

    The 2021 NFL draft was headlined by quarterbacks, with five being selected in the first round alone and a record eight coming off the board by the end of Day 2. With so much talent entering the league this year, it seems like there could be a lull at the position in the 2022 draft.

    Unlike this year's class, there is no surefire No. 1 overall prospect yet. While everyone knew that Clemson's Trevor Lawrence was almost guaranteed to be the first player taken before the Tigers signal-caller even took a snap during the 2020 campaign, there are plenty of QBs who will be trying to distinguish themselves as the top pick during the upcoming season.

    Here is a look at some of the best quarterback prospects who will be draft-eligible in 2022.

Sam Howell, North Carolina

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    Gerry Broome/Associated Press

    Sam Howell is gearing up for his third season as UNC's starting quarterback after taking over the job as a true freshman in 2019. The junior has been fantastic through his first 25 games at Chapel Hill, completing 64.4 percent of his passes while amassing an impressive 7,227 yards and 68 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.

    Expectations will be high in 2021, but Howell should be able to meet them thanks to his cannon arm and sharp mind. The Tar Heels star has flashed some mobility as well, moving deftly enough to avoid the rush and generate yardage when plays break down.

    While Howell doesn't have prototypical size for the position at 6'1", 225 pounds, he hasn't let that deter him from piling up huge numbers for North Carolina. It's a good bet he'll be able to translate that success to the pros as a potential early draft pick in 2022.    

Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

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    Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press

    After redshirting his true freshman season in 2019, Spencer Rattler burst onto the scene last year as Oklahoma's starting QB.

    The 5-star prospect lived up to the hype surrounding his signing in Norman, racking up over 3,000 yards while completing 67.5 percent of his passes. Rattler was responsible for 34 total touchdowns across 11 games, with 28 coming through the air.

    If he can build on his impressive debut as a starter, it's possible he'll end up as the latest Oklahoma quarterback taken No. 1 overall. Head coach Lincoln Riley has done a fantastic job of getting his signal-callers ready for the pros since he took the reins in 2017, helping both Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray become the top picks in their respective drafts.     

Kedon Slovis, USC

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    Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

    Kedon Slovis was one of the most exciting true freshmen in 2019, emerging as USC's top quarterback despite losing an intense battle in camp.

    After incumbent starter JT Daniels went down with a torn ACL in Week 1, head coach Clay Helton entrusted the offense to Slovis, who rewarded the decision by completing an incredible 71.9 percent of his passing attempts for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns to nine interceptions.

    Unfortunately, Slovis injured his elbow in the Holiday Bowl. The recovery took longer than expected, and the quarterback revealed that the injury took a toll on his confidence during a shortened sophomore campaign. Over six games, his completion rate (67.0) and yards per attempt (7.3) dipped, while his touchdown-to-interception ratio (17-7) increased.

    At 6'3", 215 pounds, Slovis has the look of a franchise quarterback. If he can regain the poise he displayed as a freshman, he'll end up being drafted as a signal-caller in 2022.

JT Daniels, Georgia

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    Brynn Anderson/Associated Press

    JT Daniels began his collegiate career at USC in 2018, becoming just the second true freshman to start a season-opener for the school. Despite a mediocre year in which the Trojans went 5-6 with him under center, Daniels once again was named the starter in 2019.

    He wouldn't last long as USC's top quarterback, however, as he suffered a torn ACL in his first game that season. After Kedon Slovis emerged for the Trojans, Daniels elected to transfer to Georgia, where he took over as the No. 1 quarterback late in 2020.

    Although he started just four games last season, he exploded for 1,231 yards and 10 touchdowns while completing 67.2 percent of his throws, becoming the team’s leading passer despite participating in less than half its games.

    If he can continue developing on his current trajectory, the 6'3", 210-pound QB could end up being one of the top picks next year.    

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

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    Jay LaPrete/Associated Press

    Desmond Ridder recently revealed he would return to Cincinnati for his senior season, a decision that could end up being beneficial to both the school and the player.

    Ridder was eligible to enter the 2021 draft, where he was projected to be taken somewhere between the fourth and sixth rounds based on feedback he received from the NFL. After Ridder led the 9-1 Bearcats to an AAC title last year, his team—which is returning 16 starters—is projected to be among the best in football next season.

    The dual-threat quarterback has been the linchpin for Cincinnati's success ever since he became the starter as a redshirt freshman in 2018. He's led the Bearcats to a fantastic 30-5 record, making him the winningest active QB. He's tallied 6,905 yards and 57 touchdowns through the air and added 1,825 yards and 22 touchdowns with his legs.

    There are areas in which Ridder needs to improve, notably as a passer, but with the direction the league is heading—with mobile signal-callers like Kyler Murray and Lamar Jackson dominating—there is a great chance he ends up being a playmaker at the next level.    

Jayden Daniels, Arizona State

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    Rick Scuteri/Associated Press

    Jayden Daniels dazzled during his true freshman season in 2019, picking apart Pac-12 defenses for nearly 3,000 passing yards along with 17 touchdowns against just two interceptions. He didn't get much of a chance to improve on those figures last year because of a shortened campaign, but the Sun Devils star will be a can't-miss player in 2021.

    Daniels will be on Heisman Trophy watch lists thanks to his dual-threat talents, giving Arizona State a real contender for the award for the first time since Jake Plummer was taking snaps in Tempe in the mid-1990s. Despite playing just four games last year, Daniels showed his skills as a runner by tallying 223 yards and four touchdowns on just 33 totes.

    If he can combine last season's rushing display with the passing clinic he put on during his freshman year, he'll have a legitimate shot at the Heisman.

    The Sun Devils' receiving corps is still bit of a question mark, but their quarterback has the talent to make up for any deficiencies. Daniels can significantly improve his draft stock with a great all-around campaign in 2021.     

Tyler Shough, Texas Tech

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    Young Kwak/Associated Press

    Tyler Shough spent his first season in Eugene watching Justin Herbert become one of the nation's top quarterbacks, but the former Oregon backup finally got his chance to shine in 2020.

    Although the Ducks played just seven games last season, Shough participated in all of them, completing 106 of 167 passes for 1,559 yards and 13 touchdowns to six interceptions. The massive 6'5", 221-pound signal-caller also showed off his mobility, picking up 271 yards and two scores on 66 rushing attempts.

    Shough wound up sharing snaps with Anthony Brown later in the campaign, however, a situation that likely played a big part in his decision to transfer to Texas Tech this offseason.

    He'll now compete for the starting gig and has a real opportunity to not only earn the job but also shine for the Red Raiders in what may be his only season in Lubbock before turning pro.

Malik Willis, Liberty

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    Shaban Athuman/Associated Press

    Trey Lance showed that small-school quarterbacks can get drafted early, getting selected No. 3 overall on Thursday after starring at North Dakota State. Malik Willis has a chance to follow in Lance's footsteps by becoming a first-round pick out of Liberty.

    The Flames made the leap from competing in the FCS to the FBS as an independent in 2018, giving Willis another chance to show what he can do against tougher competition.

    The Auburn transfer became a full-time starter in 2020 after sitting out the previous campaign because of NCAA transfer rules, going off for 2,250 passing yards with 20 touchdowns to six interceptions and adding another 944 yards and 14 scores on the ground.

    Willis would be one of the best overall athletes in the 2022 draft class at any position. While he's not an ideal size for a pro-style quarterback at 6'1", 215 pounds, he is clearly comfortable running an offense and shouldn't have much trouble making the leap to the NFL.

    If Willis is drafted by a franchise that is willing to unlock all of his talents through its scheme, he has Rookie of the Year potential written all over him.   

Carson Strong, Nevada

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    John Locher/Associated Press

    Teams looking for a more traditional pocket passer in next year's draft should heavily consider Carson Strong. The Nevada quarterback was brilliant across a nine-game schedule in 2020, completing 70.1 percent of his passes for 2,858 yards, 27 touchdowns and four interceptions.

    At 6'4", 215 pounds, Strong has the size to be a prototypical franchise quarterback in the NFL. He has one of the best arms in the country, and his mechanics need little improvement to be ready for the next level. He isn't very mobile—he had minus-95 rushing yards last year with a long of 14 yards on 33 attempts—but a pro offense with a strong offensive line won't need its QB to run often if it possesses a player with an arm like Strong's.

    Strong may not be one of the first quarterbacks off the board if the draft were held today, but he has first-round potential. Putting together a quality redshirt junior season in 2021 will boost his stock significantly, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him become a top-five pick next year.    

Matt Corral, Ole Miss

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    Rogelio V. Solis/Associated Press

    Matt Corral is one of the most intriguing quarterbacks in college right now. He's shown flashes of true greatness during his tenure with Mississippi, but he's also had plenty of lowlights.

    The biggest red flag is Corral's tendency to continually commit mistakes when he messes up. That much was evident during his performances against Arkansas and LSU last year, when he threw a combined 11 interceptions in those two games alone.   

    Despite those ugly outings, Corral still finished the 10-game season having completed 70.9 percent of his passing attempts for 3,337 yards and 29 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. He improved as a runner during his redshirt sophomore campaign as well, putting up 506 yards and four touchdowns on 112 carries.

    NFL teams will be watching to see if Corral can improve his poise this year and avoid stringing together costly missteps. If he can get his interceptions under control, he has a shot at becoming a Day 1 pick in 2022.