The 2022 NFL Draft is a little over a week away, and I’m ready to rank some potential NFL Draft prospects for the Falcons. Personally, I really don’t love any of the quarterbacks in this class, and I think the Falcons would be best served by rounding out the rest of their roster. There’s no use in reaching on a quarterback with a premium pick in a weak class when positions like cornerback, defensive line, edge, safety, and even wide receiver look to be flush with elite talent. Before we get started, I’ll lay out how I evaluate:
- Traits are fundamental to me. Physical gifts are things that cannot be coached. That being said, you also have to take mental processing and fit into account. This is how I perceive their fit for the Falcons.
- While I think the Falcons should potentially prioritize a guy later in the draft, I’m still ranking the players overall. For example, maybe I would rather use a second-round pick on Desmond Ridder than use the 8th pick on Kenny Pickett, but Ridder is not my QB1.
- These guys are divided into three categories: Interesting Projects, “Yeah, Buts,” and Potential Franchise Quarterbacks. “Yeah, Buts” are guys that I like but, in my opinion, require everything around them to be near perfect to thrive. There are a lot of them in this class.
- Quarterbacks are an absolute crapshoot. If it were easy, every team would have a franchise quarterback. I’m not claiming to be some expert.
8. Skylar Thompson — Kansas State
Thompson is one of the more decorated quarterbacks in Kansas State football history, and he brings plenty of experience and athleticism as a prospect. He will have to work on his overall mechanics; he’s very raw, but he can keep an offense on schedule and make plays with his feet. He’s a work in progress, but there’s something there as a solid backup quarterback.
Relative Athletic Score: 7.7/10
7. Bailey Zappe — Western Kentucky
Guys don’t luck into 62 touchdowns and almost 6,000 yards in a season; Bailey Zappe was a legit difference maker for Western Kentucky. Even after shattering some of Joe Burrow’s records, it doesn’t ensure Zappe is a surefire NFL talent. My main issue with Zappe is that he may already be maxed out. He isn’t an incredible athlete, he doesn’t have a rocket arm, and he’s only 6’1 and 220 pounds. He’ll be 23 years old when the NFL Draft kicks off. However, there is value in a guy who can keep an offense on schedule and deliver accurate throws. Is it enough to succeed in the NFL? History would say no, but I like Zappe’s story and his production in college. He’s worth a shot on day three, especially as a backup.
Relative Athletic Score: 5.9/10
6. Sam Howell — North Carolina
Sometimes Sam Howell flashes that he could be an NFL star, but sometimes he makes some very puzzling throws in an RPO-Heavy offense. I almost put Howell in the project quarterback section because while he has good athleticism and a nice arm, he needs a lot of work before he’s ready to make the jump to the NFL. Howell can get off platform easily and doesn’t possess a lot of the nuance that the position requires when it comes to manipulating defensive backs with his eyes. Regardless, the physical tools are absolutely present, and he could develop into a Baker Mayfield type player that can get a good team to the playoffs.
Relative Athletic Score: Incomplete
5. Carson Strong — Nevada
If Carson Strong had even average mobility outside of the pocket, he’d easily be QB1 in this class and one of the best quarterbacks I have watched in a while. Strong has had multiple knee injuries, and he wasn’t asked to do much outside of the offense at Nevada. While he has a rocket arm, great size, and pinpoint accuracy at times — he simply isn’t enough of a finished product with athletic upside for me to get excited about just yet. Make no mistake, Strong has the best arm in this class — the question remains if he can develop his footwork and understand an NFL offense enough to use it.
Relative Athletic Score: Incomplete
4. Kenny Pickett — Pittsburgh
There has been a lot of chatter about Kenny Pickett going in the top ten, and I understand why. I actually had him in a few mock drafts earlier in the season before his meteoric rise, but that was in later rounds. I like a lot of things about Pickett; he can move around and has really nice arm talent. I’m about to give the stupidest “Yeah, But” on this list, but I have to. Pickett’s hands are…pretty small for a quarterback prospect. I think hand size is overrated, but when they get to that size, it can cause turnover problems. My suspicion is this is why Pickett wears two gloves. He’s also 24 years old, which is a bit on the older side, but that’s not as much of an issue (ask Joe Burrow). Regardless, Pickett has plenty of traits that make up a franchise quarterback, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he makes a nice career for himself.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.5/10
Potential Franchise Quarterbacks
3. Desmond Ridder — Cincinnati
I find myself torn on Desmond Ridder at times. Before he came back to Cincinnati for his senior season, I wanted the Falcons to take a crack at him in the 2021 Draft. He shows good leadership, solid arm strength, and good mobility outside of the pocket. One thing that really impressed me was his play against elite competition. Even in South Bend against Notre Dame and Alabama in the College Football Playoff, Ridder didn’t look like the moment was too big for him. I like his makeup, and I think he’s going to make an NFL Franchise very happy. I don’t know if I would start Ridder from day one, but I wouldn’t do that to any rookie quarterback.
Relative Athletic Score: 9.6/10
2. Matt Corral — Ole Miss
I called my shot at the beginning of the year with Matt Corral at QB1, but I’m going to slide him one spot back. I like the toughness Corral displayed this season, and it was clear he was very popular among his teammates. Even though he got hurt in his last game, it’s evident that it meant something to him to play one more game with Ole Miss. While I don’t have very strong opinions on opt-outs, he wanted to lead his team one more time, and I respect that. Corral will have to adjust to an NFL offense, but he has an absolute hose for an arm and can move well outside of the pocket. He’s a smaller prospect at 6’1”, so sitting behind an established quarterback with at least a decent offensive line would be ideal. He wasn’t asked to do a lot at Ole Miss, so he will have to grow out of being a one-read QB.
Relative Athletic Score: Incomplete (Did Not Participate Due to Injury)
1. Malik Willis — Liberty
Originally, I had Malik Willis fourth and in the “Yeah, But” category. However, when evaluating these guys, his traits are the only ones I truly get excited about. I had very high hopes for Willis going into 2021; in fact, I thought he would be the first overall pick in the draft. The issues with Willis, for me, stem from his processing. He has an incredible arm and escapability outside of the pocket, but he makes some of the worst (and best) throws out of anyone in this class. Willis needs a lot of time to develop; he is not a guy who I would start from day one. I’m also concerned that he actually regressed this season, albeit against tougher competition. His footwork and eyes are very poor, but if a coach can put the pieces together, he will be one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL — much less in this draft class.
Relative Athletic Score: Incomplete
Photo: Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire