By Dylan MacKinnon
On paper, the chances the Eagles take a QB in this year’s draft seem low. But this is Howie Roseman we are talking about. No one thought the Eagles were looking at QB a couple of years ago when they took Jalen Hurts either. Anything could be on the table. So even if it feels unlikely, we need to be prepared for the potential the Eagles will draft a Quarterback. We already looked at Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis. But there is at least one more name Eagles fans should be familiar with, Matt Corral. Mostly because there have recently been rumors that many in the Eagles’ front office view him as the “hands-down” best QB in the draft. And while that could be a smokescreen, it is still worth looking into.
Matt Corral was very productive in college. Not just with his arm, but with his legs too. In 3 years as a starter, he produced a combined 9,265 yards, and 75tds. And that was in the SEC, playing against many of the top defenses in the nation. In his junior year he led the entire FBS in total yards per game (384.9), which was also a new record at Ole Miss. He was the only player in the FBS to post 3000 passing yards and 500 rushing yards in both 2020 and 2021.
Matt Corral since 2020— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) January 23, 2022
🥇 6,691 yards (1st among SEC QBs)
🥇 49 TDs (1st)
🥇 41 Big-Time Throws (1st) pic.twitter.com/nok3UvQhlw
There is no denying Corral’s arm talent. When he is on, he can make any throw on the field. He has the arm strength to not only push the ball down the field, but also fit it into small windows. And his throws are generally accurate as well. Of all the draft eligible QBs, he had the second highest percentage of accurate passes at 65.8%, according to PFF. And he showed improvement in that area throughout his time at Ole Miss. After throwing 14 interceptions in 2020, he bounced back and threw just 5 in 2021. In 332 drop backs with a clean pocket his senior year, he threw just 1 interception and 18 TDs. Corral has above average field vison too.
“Ole Miss fans need to appreciate this while you have it. This is a generational arm talent that you’re going to get spoiled with. Not too many people ever can make the plays that he’s making, and there are a lot on Sundays that start who don’t make them.” Lane Kiffin via The Athletic
He is dangerous on the ground as well. He has above average speed for a QB, and moves really well on the field. This last year he scored 11 TDs on the ground, tied for 6th among QBS. He is not Malik Willis running the ball, but he more than holds his own and it adds a aspect to his game you have to respect.
“The thing that was nerve-wracking was we would defend the pass, making him hold the pass and he would scramble for 18 yards. There are some people who scramble out of panic. He’s not that way. He scrambles when they have given it to him and he can take more than he can throw for.”- Kevin Steele, Auburn Defensive Coordinator, via the Athletic
Matt Corral plays fearless. He is not afraid to let the ball rip on a deep throw. nor is he afraid to zip it into a tight window. As we will get to in a bit this can occasionally hurt him. But it is impressive to witness the confidence and swagger he plays with.
“The biggest compliment I can give any player — especially a quarterback — is he’s not afraid to lose. I can’t tell you how great a quality it is. He’s like, ‘If I’m going to lose, it’s because I’m trying to win the game. I’m not going to be afraid.'”- Steve Clarkson, Corral’s High School QB Coach.
Areas to Improve
So with all that said, why is he not considered a better prospect? Firstly there is a concern his numbers are inflated by the system. Many scouts fear that in a pro style offense his lofty production would be more average. He flashed tremendous arm talent, but it was inconsistent. Under pressure and on the run he had a tendency to make bad decisions. That improved his final year, but it was still an issue. His final year the interceptions dipped, but he had double digit intentional grounding penalties.
He plays with an incredibly aggressive style, too aggressive of a play style. Corral had 23 fumbles at Ole Miss, and 6 his final year, to go with 23 interceptions. He needs to learn to give up on some plays. It is great when you can extend plays and make something happen. But, you need to be smart. We saw the roller coaster ride having a QB who wont give on plays here in Philly with Carson Wentz. Corral needs to be smarter. Not lose that edge, but hone it.
There are also size concerns. He measures in at around 6ft1, and just over 200lbs. Add that to his overly aggressive play style, there are legitimate durability concerns. He battled through injuries his entire career, specifically ankle injuries. It was an ankle injury that took him out of the Bowl game he elected to play in despite many draft eligible players opting out. The leg talent is nice, but we have seen great runners tail off quickly due to injuries before. If he keeps playing with the reckless abandon he has, he will eventually lose that part of his game.
Another concern is a bit more complicated. There is some history of off the field troubles. But that may not be his fault. Back in high school he chose to transfer after getting in a fight with Wayne Gretzky’s son. There is not much out there about the fight. The Gretzky family has never commented on it publicly, and Corral declined to go into specific detail about it. But he did have this to say.
“I ran into problems at a school that is biased towards money. So if you have a lot of it, you run the school. No matter what the situation is. No matter what I say, I am wrong.”- Matt Corral.
He later told CBS Sports “That kid, his dad, went through hoops to f— my life up.” Its an unclear situation. We do not know exactly what happened. But it feels like something that should not be held over his head. For one, he was a teenager. Even if he was in the wrong, there are a lot of teens who got into fights and still grew into good people. But it is also unclear if he was even the one in the wrong. He has at least been willing to discuss it, unlike the other party. And it sounds like the difference of stature between him and Gretzky’s kid was a reoccurring issue and just came to a head at that basketball game where they fought.
And as we are about to get into, when it comes to high character, Corral has receipts. There are many valid reasons to criticize Corral, but I do not buy into anyone saying he has character issues a little bit.
Battle Tested and Beloved By Team Mates
Read into Corral just a little bit, and you will learn how bogus any mentions of character concerns are. The people around him, between team mates, coaches, etc., gush about him. And not just in the normal default way. They go above and beyond to praise Corral. He had a genuine connection to his team, which is why he elected to play in the Bowl Game, even if it presented a risk to his draft status.
“Teams have asked if I regret it. Absolutely not, I wouldn’t be in that position without those guys. I never thought about opting out until teammates came up to me asking if I was going to play or not. It was never a thought in my mind. I was going to play regardless. … I took pride in being their leader.”- Matt Corral at the Combine.
And that leadership evidently showed up all year. Lane Kiffin can’t help but gush about him. Kiffin spoke amount a special moment he had while Corral was speaking to the team.
“He’s been unbelievable and things that you don’t see besides the playing, just how he is. And I had a cool moment this morning, the team meeting, just listening to him talk. And I told our own coaches and players, ‘You can be a freshman and you’re supposed to listen to the leaders; you can be a 50-year-old coach, and you should listen to this guy.'”- Lane Kiffin via ESPN
For Kiffin the relationship with Corral went beyond being a coach. He sees him as a genuine friend. They have a close bond, and Kiffin was noticeably emotional when discussing Corral leaving the program. It is understandable why the two would bond. They each had uneasy roads to Ole Miss, but helped each other improve not only as Football Players and Coaches, but as people.
It was not always an easy path to this moment for Corral. We spoke about the incident with Gretzky’s kid, but it was not the only obstacle Corral faced. He had some rough patches before Lane Kiffin took over at Ole Miss. But that is not the way Corral was going to let his story end up. He took personal responsibility, and got his life on track.
“I don’t know why. I got tired of feeling like that. Just tired of making excuses. I got tired of having vices for my problems, like drinking. It f—ed with me. I don’t even drink anymore.”-Matt Corral via CBS Sports
But Corral has overcome those issues. All indications are that he is in a great place. He has the full respect of his coaches, his team mates, and by all accounts appears to be a fantastic leader. It is unclear what type of player he will be, but teams can be confident they are getting a decent person if they invest in Corral.
What the Draft Experts Say
Dane Brugler- The Athletic
“Under Kiffin’s tutelage (and play calling) the past two seasons, he thrived as a dual threat and was the only FBS player with at least 3,300 passing yards and 500 rushing yards in 2020 — and then again in 2021. Although undersized, Corral plays with natural twitch to process quickly, move his feet and comfortably throw with zip from different platforms. He doesn’t show enough anticipation as a passer, and his post-snap decision-making from the pocket will need to improve. Overall, Corral is still unproven in several integral aspects of playing the position, but he is an instinctive athlete with the live arm and competitive toughness to create plays. With continued development and less hero-ball, he has a chance to be an eventual playmaker in the right scheme.”
“Corral is an undersized QB (6-2, 212) with excellent athleticism and a strong arm. He has quick feet in his setup and creates a lot of force from the ground to generate velocity. He has fast hands in the RPO game and a compact delivery. There are a lot of schemed winners in this system, and he delivers the ball accurately for big plays. He does an excellent job avoiding pressure to create with his legs or simply throw the ball away. His accuracy did suffer when he was forced to move and reset. He protected the ball better in 2021, throwing 10 fewer interceptions than he did in 2020. He is an explosive ball-carrier on scrambles and designed runs. However, he takes too much punishment because of his reckless/aggressive style. Overall, Corral has an intriguing skill set, but the size combined with his play style is a concern.”
There is a lot to like about Matt Corral. He has a live arm is a strong leader, a genuinely interesting and likable dude, and is dangerous on the ground as well. But there are real concerns too. He makes a lot of bad decisions, and is very turnover prone. And while that improved his final year, it was still an issue. He is also small for a QB, and his aggressive play style lends to him taking extra hits he should be avoiding. Matt has a lot of potential, but if he doesn’t find a way to protect himself his ability to run is not going to last very long. He is much more project than he is a sure thing. But he would make for an intriguing project.