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NFL Draft

CFB’s Top 25 NFL Draft-Eligible QBs: Week 1

  • The Draft Network
  • August 31, 2021
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The quarterback class ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft may prove to be one of the deepest and most talented in recent history, but the one after it still has a lot of intrigue surrounding it—with players who could have declared last year sticking around for an additional year.

There are a lot of wildcards within this one, and as with any rankings in the preseason, some players toward the top may be all but out of the mix come late December, while some who we’re low on or have not talked about at all in the projections may have somehow found their way into the top 10.

Here’s a look at who makes the Top 25 at the quarterback position in the 2022 NFL Draft (for now) and who falls just short:

1. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

There are quarterbacks who get the job done at a high level and are expected to have their abilities translate to the NFL, and then there are those with rare natural gifts who are a step above the rest of the best at their position. Rattler is one of the latter players, and the Patrick Mahomes comparisons that he’s drawn so far are valid. Rattler is a quarterback with a fast release and superior arm strength who can efficiently move the ball downfield and has the ability to throw for the big play while on the run.

Rattler maneuvers the pocket well and makes mostly good decisions under pressure. He’s able to evade pressure and make plays with his legs when necessary, but he’s equally apt to stand tall in the pocket and take a hit in situations where that’s called for as well.

There are very few knocks to Rattler’s game, though there were some times last season that he gave some things away by staring down receivers, one of the things he can work on in this year of additional development at the college level.

2. Sam Howell, North Carolina

Howell is coming off a solid past couple of seasons, most recently completing 68.1% of his passes for 3,586 yards with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He also had 92 carries for 146 yards with one touchdown on the ground and one touchdown reception.

Howell throws a good deep ball and is proficient at all levels of the field, also bringing a reliable amount of athleticism to the table. He’s no Lamar Jackson (quarterbacks within the Air Raid system don’t tend to be anyway), but he’s a hard runner who can make plays from time to time on the ground and forces defenses to keep watch of the entirety of the field.

Howell hasn’t had the best protection at UNC all the time but has shown he’s willing to stand in the face of pressure nicely. So long as he can continue with consistency, Howell has long been considered a quarterback who could go early in the first round, and that shouldn’t change moving forward.

3. Carson Strong, Nevada

If Strong fulfills one of his primary goals for the 2021 season, he’ll shatter a record and make history. Strong told us earlier this offseason that he’s shooting for an 85% completion percentage after he completed 70.1% of his passes for 2,858 yards with 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions.

The Air Raid demands a lot of the quarterback mentally, in terms of intelligence and ability to command an offense—perhaps more than any other scheme that exists in football. Strong has been more than just proficient in it, and that will pay dividends for him in the NFL.

Looking at the film, some things you’ll quickly pick up on are his accuracy at all levels of the field, his quick release, arm strength, and ball placement down the sideline.

4. Matt Corral, Ole Miss

Corral is largely considered to be the best quarterback in the Southeastern Conference, though some consider the race for the No. 1 spot a tight one between him and Georgia quarterback JT Daniels. Much of the reason for putting Corral ahead has to do with the fact he simply has a larger sample size and that it’s hard to gauge things like long-term consistency over a small sample.

Corral completed 70.9% of his passes last year for 3,337 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions with two particularly bad games that weren’t necessarily indicative of the norm.

Corral will be without some of his best passing targets this season, but he’s already proven his success is not a direct result of his supporting cast considering he put up nearly 400 yards of offense without Elijah Moore, Kenny Yeboah, Braylon Sanders, and Jerrion Ealy against a top-20 defense in the Outback Bowl.

5. Malik Willis, Liberty

The Auburn quarterback turned Liberty transfer wasn’t on a lot of radars until recently, but if you take a look at what he brings to the table, it’s not surprising that he’s starting to get more attention.

Willis was a 3-star athlete coming out of high school who left recruiters with a big decision to make: Would he be a better wide receiver or quarterback? All of this to say that he does need to make some tweaks as a passer (and he’s in a good environment to get the development he needs) and that his ability to make plays as a runner—a powerful one at that—makes him a strong candidate to be successful in today’s NFL.

With the amount of arm strength (some consider him the strongest thrower in the class) he brings to the table as well as his athletic gifts and size, Willis has the chance to go from virtually an unknown to a household name.

6. Kedon Slovis, USC

Slovis is a bit of a mixed bag who has shown a lot of flashes of greatness throughout his career but has also raised a few questions. The Trojans signal-caller is classified as a pocket passer who can move around a bit, but he’s one we’d classify more as a guy who can gain a few yards when he needs to as opposed to one who can be counted on for mobility in situations where that may come into play.

Slovis impressed us in 2019 with a 71.9% completion percentage, throwing for 3,502 yards with 30 touchdowns and just nine interceptions, but appeared to take a step back last year when he completed 67% of his passes for 1,921 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

It should be noted that Slovis did suffer an elbow injury during the Holiday Bowl that could have been the primary culprit in his apparent regression. How well he bounces back and if he can once again become the quarterback we saw in 2019 will determine where he stands in the final rankings.

7. JT Daniels, Georgia

If Daniels is as good this year as he was in that four-game stretch last season, he’s in the top-five by the end of the season. Against some of the best defenses in the country last year, Daniels tossed for 1,231 yards and 10 touchdowns.

That’s enough to get some national hype, no doubt, but cautious optimism is generally the best way to proceed in cases like these. Everything in me would like to throw Daniels even higher up in these rankings, but it’s hard to do that over such a limited amount of games.

Daniels, to this point, has shown to be what we look for in an ideal passer who doesn’t do much for you from a mobility aspect. He throws with touch, accuracy, has more than adequate arm strength, and throws a catchable ball.

8. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina

McCall may be only a redshirt sophomore this year, but a breakout 2020 season has several analysts looking at him as a prospect who could be coming off the board next year. 

Last season, McCall led the Chanticleers to an 11-1 overall record and a top-25 ranking, completing just under 69% of his passes for 2,488 yards with 26 touchdowns and three interceptions over 172 completions. He also had 569 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns.

The main knock on anyone putting McCall high in the rankings will be the level of competition he’s played. But it’s important to see both sides of the coin when it comes to quality of opponent and quality of supporting cast.

9. Dillon Gabriel, UCF

Gabriel was among the most interesting prospects to watch last year and is a prospect who could be a quick riser. Gabriel initially attracted some attention as a true freshman, completing just under 60% of his passing attempts for 3,653 yards with 290 touchdowns and just seven interceptions.

He’s continued to take care of the football since, which showed in his 32:4 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2020 when he also completed 60% of his passing attempts for 3,570 yards. Gabriel has thrown just 11 interceptions in 811 career passes attempted, setting a host of program records over the course of his career.

McCall, once a 2-star recruit, has already defied the odds and exceeded expectations. 

10. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Ridder is a quarterback who can be quite the threat in the ground game and showed that he could be a threat as a passer last season as well. If he can continue to build upon the latter, this is a signal-caller who can bring a lot of versatility to the next level.

Ridder will need to maintain his accuracy and continue to build on that particular aspect of his game after he completed 66.2% of his passes for 2,296 yards with 19 touchdowns and six interceptions in comparison to the 55.1% completion percentage with 2,164 yards, 18 touchdowns, and nine interceptions the previous year.

Whether or not he does that will determine how high he ends up on the board or if he falls toward the bottom of it by season’s end.

11. Phil Jurkovec, Boston College

12. D’Eriq King, Miami

13. Tyler Shough, Texas Tech

14. Brock Purdy, Iowa

15. Michael Penix Jr., Indiana

16. Jayden Daniels, Arizona State

17. Emory Jones, Florida

18. Dustin Crum, Kent State

19. Graham Mertz, Wisconsin

20. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

21. Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State

22. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA

23. Anthony Russo, Michigan State

24. Jack Coan, Notre Dame

25. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota

Honorable mentions: Levi Lewis (UL), Charlie Brewer (Utah), Layne Hatcher (Arkansas State)

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