Eagles

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 03: Malik Willis #QB16 of Liberty throws during the NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on March 03, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

The NFL Draft is quickly approaching, so it’s time to break down each positional group in order to get a better understanding of the best players on each side of the ball. Before we get started, a note of credit, if you will. Some of the players that will be mentioned in these articles have been extensively covered by Dylan MacKinnon in his player profiles. If you’d like a more extensive breakdown on any one particular player that will be discussed in the coming weeks, I urge you to check out his articles.

Reminder, these are one man’s evaluations of these players. They are open for discourse and discussion should you agree or disagree.

Today, we will begin the journey of finding the top five players at each position with the signal callers. Two caveats will need to be put in place before we begin.

  1. I do not believe the Eagles will be selecting a quarterback in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft this season.
  2. While I have been on record (You can pull the tapes of my weekend shows stating as much) in saying any team that selects a quarterback in the first round of the NFL Draft should start said quarterback immediately, giving way to just a few exceptions. (See Jordan Love in Green Bay, for example). I’ve been even more bold as to pull the numbers of quarterbacks selected in the second round that became their team’s starting quarterback in some capacity. With that being said, I don’t believe any quarterback in this year’s Draft class is Week 1 ready.

With those prerequisites out of the way, let’s begin.

  • Malik Willis, Lberty University

    I have been perhaps Malik Willis’ biggest supporter since the beginning of the 2021 college football season, and he hasn’t given me reason to falter from that unwavering support. Willis, undoubtedly, is the most physically gifted quarterback in this year’s class. He has the a plus-size rocket attached to his right shoulder. Willis can escape the pocket in order to extend plays. And he can flat out run. The sky is Willis’ ceiling in the NFL. Pair all of these together, and Willis will be able to play in multiple offensive schemes and styles in the NFL.

    Willis threw for 27 touchdowns a season ago with the Flames, and added 13 more on the ground. In his two years at Liberty, after transferring from Auburn, Willis led Liberty to an 18-6 combined record, and two consecutive bowl victories over Coastal Carolina and Eastern Michigan.

    Don’t allow the conversation pieces of the name of the school on the front of Willis’ jersey, the conference (or lack thereof) in which the Flames reside, or the “level of competition” fool you. Willis is the best quarterback in this year’s Draft. He will make the big throws at the next level. The question is if he’ll consistently make all the throws at the NFL level. I believe the answer is yes, and I trust Willis will be able to quickly make the leap.

  • 2. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh University

    *I will say nice things about a player from Pittsburgh. I will say nice things about a player from Pittsburgh. I will say nice things about a player from Pittsburgh. I will say nice things about a player from Pittsburgh.*

    Okay, here it goes.

    If you’re looking for the college quarterback who the most “NFL Ready”, the answer is likely Kenny Pickett. Pickett excelled in the Panthers’ pro-style offense this season. He’s been the starting quarterback at Pitt for four consecutive seasons, seeing more game reps than most of his colleagues in this Draft.

    At 6’3″, 217-pounds, Pickett has good size to play quarterback at the next level, and that pro-style offense that we mentioned earlier allowed him opportunities to go through progressions quickly, as he would in the NFL. While his arm isn’t that of Willis, or another quarterback who is just outside my Top Five (Carson Strong), it is certainly above average. He pairs that with good mobility to make plays happen.

    Pickett is a step slower in the pocket, and has a modicum of less power behind his arm, than Willis. He’s slightly more NFL-ready than Willis. The differential is small between the top two here, but Willis’ upside is higher, which is why he ranks higher than Pickett on this list.

  • Matt Corral, Ole Miss

    Matt Corral is the reason why, if you’re ready to make the jump to the NFL, and you’re not playing in a College Football Playoff game, you skip bowl season. Corral suffered a high-ankle sprain in Ole Miss’ bowl game this season, and while the injury isn’t *THAT* severe, taking the chance with your future on the line is not something I recommend.

    When Corral is on the field, however, he can be electric at times. He is a dual-threat quarterback himself, albeit, not quite on the level of Willis. Corral was extremely effective with Ole Miss’ RPO-style offense this season, and should have no issues translating that portion of his game to the NFL. He is a threat to run with the football, but also possesses a big arm while in the pocket. And while I don’t agree with him playing in a “meaningless” bowl game, there is no doubt that Corral is a competitor.

    One of my viewed downsides to Corral is something that could get him into a lot of trouble in the NFL, and something we’ve seen with a former Eagles quarterback not so long ago: his want to garner extra yardage, even in risky situations. As we said, the guy is a fiery-type player, but that can be detrimental as well. When Corral takes off, he sometimes puts his body in harm’s way.

    Corral, much like most of the quarterbacks on this list and in the Draft, would benefit from being selected by a team that has a veteran quarterback, that may be turning the next chapter in their career in the coming years, in place to allow him to grow naturally. Corral could become the best quarterback in this Draft class, but I also fear he could be the one labeled a “bust” when his career is done.

  • Desmond Ridder, University of Cincinatti

    The Bearcats’ quarterback led his team to one of the best seasons in program history, and bolstered his Draft stock each and every step of the way. But it wasn’t just a one year fluke for Ridder, who won 44 games in his four years under center for Cincinatti. Ridder deserves every accolade that he’s earned.

    As it currently stands, Ridder would be the second quarterback I’d envision starting in the NFL, chronologically, with Pickett being the first. he’s perhaps the most consistent pocket passer in this year’s Draft, and has an incredible 64.9 completion percentage to show for it. He makes the routine throws, well, routinely. Watching Ridder’s tape, it’s easy to pinpoint the successes. It’s much harder, comparably, to determine what needs to be improved upon. While I’m not a mechanics expert, by any means, his are pure to my relatively untrained eye.

    The downside to Ridder is the upside to the players ahead of him. Ridder is not slow by any means. He also doesn’t have a poor arm. But he pales in comparison to the three players ahead of him, specifically Willis and Pickett.

    Ridder’s floor is relatively high, and it’s why he’ll be able to start quickly in the NFL. My question is, what’s his ceiling?

     

  • Sam Howell, University of North Carolina

    Sam Howell fell victim to “Losing all of your top offensive weapons in the same Draft Class”. Happens to the best of us. But in this case, it’s true. In 2020, Sam Howell was a sleeper Heisman candidate, and admittedly, someone that I put a few dollars on before the season started.

    But, heading into the 2021 season, Howell lost his top two running backs and top two wide receivers to the NFL. Michal Carter is with the New York Jets. Javonte Williams is now in Denver. Dazz Newsome was selected by the Bears. Dyami Brown is in Washington.

    Even with the loss of his top targets, Howell was expected to continue on what was a very successful 2020 campaign. Statistically, he did not.

    This does not mean that Howell was no longer a good college quarterback. It just slides him down this list; one in which he’d likely have been fourth a season ago, falling behind Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Trey Lance. I likely would have put him ahead of Mac Jones. It happens. We all have misses.

    I now feel that there is a substantial dropoff between the top four quarterbacks, and everyone else. Howell, Strong, and the rest of the Draft class aren’t in the same conversation as the top four. Alas, this is a top five report, so Howell finds himself here.

    Howell has a good arm, and is a good decision maker. He doesn’t turn the ball over frequently. He has decent speed, and is a tough, solid runner. When provided with the right cast around him, Howell will be able to make plays with his arm and legs.

    Unlike Ridder above him, Howell is going to need more time on the sideline before he’d be ready for NFL action. He won’t inherently hurt your offense by forcing bad passes, but he also will need to get the ball out of his hands much quicker in the NFL to compete.