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NFL Draft

Air Raid QBs Set To Dominate 2022 NFL Draft

  • The Draft Network
  • August 19, 2021
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The Air Raid offense first took flight at Iowa Wesleyan in 1989 when Hal Mumme and Mike Leach began running it there in the small town of Mount Pleasant. Since, it’s completely revolutionized the game of football, with significant influence across the high school, college, and NFL levels. Really, if we look through the full career of any given offensive player from high school to the highest level they reached, they probably played in a scheme with Air Raid concepts within it because of just how widespread it is.

Concepts such as "92" (mesh), "6" (four verticals), and y-cross (has multiple different variations, but generally has the receiver out wide on the front side running vertically, the No. 2 to the front side running an outward-breaking route, and the Y on the backside on a deep crossing route) are found in playbooks across the country.

That’s evident when looking at multiple different things, including the quarterbacks who are projected to be taken in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Looking at TDN’s own Jordan Reid’s early 2022 NFL Mock Draft, four quarterbacks projected to be taken in the first round are either specifically in the Air Raid offense or play in an offense that has more than just a little Air Raid in its DNA.

Spencer Rattler

Spencer Rattler of Oklahoma, expected to be the first overall pick, is one of them. He’s listed first overall in Reid’s mock.

Rattler takes snaps in Lincoln Riley’s variation of the Air Raid, which utilizes the passing game to build upon the ground game, play-action and RPOs. The Sooners averaged 38.4 run plays and 32.6 pass plays per game. Part of the reasoning behind the heavier run game there simply has to do with Oklahoma’s immensely talented stable of running backs, which Riley makes use of in the ground game.

Those stats tell the story that what Riley has going on in Norman obviously isn’t the pure Air Raid as we know it to be in places like Mississippi State, but there are several elements of the scheme that are nothing new to Oklahoma in there. 

That’s not surprising considering that Riley played quarterback under Mike Leach at Texas Tech and served as a student assistant, graduate assistant, and receivers coach in his time there. One of Riley’s most recent successes is Kyler Murray, who has continued his career at the NFL level under Arizona Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who runs the Air Raid.

Sam Howell

North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell is listed right behind Rattler at No. 2 overall in Reid’s mock. 

Howell currently plays under offensive coordinator Phil Longo in Chapel Hill. Like Riley, Longo also runs a bit of an adapted form of the Air Raid, using a lot of the key passing concepts from the scheme.

Longo said in an interview with 247Sports five years ago that Leach had the biggest influence on him from a “professional standpoint and a football standpoint” with regards to throwing the ball. He also said, at the time, that if you watch his offense, you might not think you’re watching Washington State or Texas Tech. 

Longo doesn’t go into a game with a sure plan to be pass-heavy -- it’s more of an “if it happens, it happens” type of philosophy, to put it simply. He noted the physical downhill run component of his offense as the primary difference.

“I’m just a very firm believer that the best odds in the house are taking what the defense gives you,” Longo explained in the interview. “There are games where we run the ball 70 times to win it and games where we throw 70 times to win it. I’m perfectly willing to do either but that’s never decided going into the game. That’s going to be decided by what the defense is taking away.”

Matt Corral

Ole Miss’ Matt Corral is listed at No. 13 in Reid’s first-round mock.

Corral spent one year under Longo in Oxford before the coach departed for UNC, though he only saw the field sparingly under him, completing 16-of-22 passes for a completion percentage of just under 73% for 239 passing yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Now, he’s moving forward in the offense under head coach Lane Kiffin and with Jeff Lebby entering his second year as the Rebels’ offensive coordinator. 

Lebby coached with Art Briles, who previously served as Leach’s running backs coach, in his time at Baylor. It’s a connection, though really a distant one, considering that while Briles had Air Raid influence, his offense alone isn’t the pure Air Raid, and the offense that Ole Miss currently has in place isn’t exactly Briles’ scheme. Lebby also runs a more balanced attack, as was shown by the fact that the UCF offense in Lebby’s last season with the Knights was one of just two teams in the country to average more than 300 yards passing and 200 yards rushing per game. It also ranked second nationally in total offense (540.5).

We’ve seen Ole Miss use concepts like four verticals and y-cross in the past from the Air Raid, and it would be unsurprising to see the Rebels do more of the same this year.

Carson Strong

Nevada’s Carson Strong comes in at No. 14 for Reid. 

Strong is coached by offensive coordinator Matt Mumme, the son of Air Raid Godfather Hal Mumme, and head coach Jay Norvell. Strong has found an immense amount of success in the younger Mumme’s Air Raid, going from virtually unknown to some analysts’ top prospect in the entire draft in a matter of a year. Strong completed 70.1% of his passes for 2,858 yards with 27 touchdowns and just four interceptions in 2020.

This year, Strong’s after a record-breaking completion percentage of 85%. Given the time he’s already put in this offseason and a scheme that allows a quarterback to put up big numbers so long as they have what it takes to smartly command an offense, he’s in a favorable position to make a push to do so.

Strong spoke to just how much the Air Raid has helped him develop as a quarterback and what he brings to the table because of playing in it in a recent interview with us.

“I think quarterbacks have a good chance of being successful being in this offense because the Air Raid coaches allow their guys to audible plays and sling the rock around just get really comfortable doing that,” Strong said.

Who’s next?

Current notable quarterbacks in the NFL who have played in the Air Raid (or currently play in it, considering one of them is in Arizona with Kingsbury) include Patrick Mahomes, Baker Mayfield, Jared Goff, and Kyler Murray.

It will be interesting to see which quarterback who has at least partially played in the scheme will be the next to reach a high level of stardom.

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