1) Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Key Measurables: 6032, 217 lbs, 8.5-inch hands
Notable 2021 Stats: 42:7 TD:INTs, 67.2% completion
Best Trait: Anticipation
Player Comp: Matt Ryan
Redshirt senior who has started 49 of 52 career games, including all 13 in 2021 for an 11-2 record and a 32-20 career record. Three-star HS recruit from an athletic family – father was a DII All-American LB, mother and sister played collegiate soccer. As a true freshman, became first true freshman QB to start for Pitt since 2007 in the season finale, a win over #2 Miami where he was named ACC Rookie of the Week. Started every healthy game for the next four years.
Broke out in 2021, named the 2021 ACC POY and Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. Under HC Pat Narduzzi (seventh season) and OC/QBs Coach Mark Whipple (third season), player led pro-style tempo offense (27% under center) that started the Biletnikoff-winning WR and finished 4th for scoring, 11th for completion %, 7th for pass offense, 5th for pass TDs, and 8th for total offense.
Starting QB you can win with who flashes potential to win because of in a timing-based scheme pending development of pass progression. Precise QB with incredible anticipation and clean mechanics. Highly competitive and at his best through the air in scramble. Doesn’t consistently work through progression and lacks top-end arm strength.
2) Malik Willis, Liberty
Key Measurables: 6004, 215 lbs
Notable 2021 Stats: 12.0 ADOT, 61.1% Completion, 1302 Rushing Yards
Best Trait: Mobility/Change of Direction
Player Comp: Raw Robert Griffin III
Redshirt Senior who has started 23 of 35 career games, including all 13 in 2021 for a 17-4 career record as a starter and 27-6 total record. Three-star athlete in HS who signed with Auburn and played sparingly behind Jarrett Stidham for two seasons before transferring to Liberty and sitting out the 2019 season due to transfer rules.
Opened the 2020 season as the starter and led the program to their first AP ranking as he was awarded the Dudley Award in both 2020 and 2021. Uncle, James Anderson, was an 11-year NFL vet as a LB. Under HC Hugh Freeze (third season), co-OC Maurice Harris (third season), and co-OC/QBs coach Kent Austin (third season), Willis led the country’s 25th scoring offense that sported the 27th-most yards per play.
Starting QB you can win because of pending development in a misdirection-based offense that emphasizes YAC. Highly-mobile passer who is accurate on underneath to intermediate throws, even on the run or off-platform. Needs significant mechanical refinement to increase consistency. Will miss reads, especially over the middle, and plays hero ball in clutch situations.
3) Sam Howell, North Carolina
Key Measurables: 6015, 212 lbs, 21.5 years old
Notable 2021 Stats: 12.4 ADOT, 62.5% Completion, 828 Rushing Yards
Best Trait: Toughness/Quick Feet
Player Comp: Tyrod Taylor
Junior who has started all of his 37 career games, including 12 of 12 in 2021 with a 5-7 record and 20-17 career record. Four-star HS recruit and 2018 NC Gatorade POY who started all of his seven years in HS and college. The first true freshman to start a season-opening game for North Carolina. Named Freshman All-American, All-ACC Third Team, and ACC Rookie of the Year in 2019, All-ACC Second Team in 2020, and All-ACC Honorable Mention in 2021.
Graduated in 2.5 years. Under HC Mack Brown (third year) and OC/QBs Coach Phil Longo (third year), player led an RPO-heavy Air Raid offense that was 2021’s 19th-best scoring offense and 10th-total offense (including the 7th-most yards per play) despite losing most of prior season’s offensive talent in the draft.
Low-end starting QB you can win with pending a season of mechanical development and transition to a pro-style system. Highly-competitive, thick QB who has plus scrambling ability and has superb underneath accuracy and velocity. Height is an issue as is repeated contact as a runner. Needs to show the ability to be accurate deep.
4) Dustin Crum, Kent State
Key Measurables: 6010, 210 lbs
Notable 2021 Stats: 20:6 TD:INTs, 63.9% Completion, 930 Rushing Yards
Best Trait: Decision Making
Player Comp: Tony Romo
Redshirt Senior who has started 32 of 50 career games with a 20-30 career record, including starting all 14 games in 2021 at 7-7. Two-star recruit who also played basketball and baseball in HS. Took his only scholarship offer to major in Aerospace Engineering, starting two games as injury replacement and leading the team in rushing four times. Saw only backup action as a sophomore in 2018 and lost the starting job to Woody Barrett in the 2019 preseason, but took over midway through the first game and never gave up the starting job again.
Named First Team All-MAC in the abridged 2020 season, then repeated in 2021 and added the Vern Smith Leadership Award as the top player in the MAC. First Kent St QB since 1974 to lead three consecutive winning seasons. Under HC Coach Sean Lewis (fourth season) and OC Andrew Sowder (fourth season), Crum leads a spread attack almost exclusively from shotgun, with numerous RPOs, Screens, and Mesh concepts in addition to Fly and Hitch routes.
Low-level starter you can win with if given adequate Pass Pro and multiple options who shows potential to reach mid-tier status given mechanical refinement to improve accuracy. Gunslinger who reads the defense well and makes smart decisions, showing sufficient accuracy, anticipation, and arm strength to move the chains and set up preferred deep shots. A bit undersized and mechanically loose, doesn’t figure to have the same success as a runner in the NFL.
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5) Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Key Measurables: 6033, 211 lbs, 10-inch hands
Notable 2021 Stats: 13 wins, 63.6% Completion, 30:9 TD:INTs
Best Trait: Decision Making
Player Comp: Inaccurate Ryan Tannehill
Redshirt Senior who has started 48 of 49 career games, including 14 of 14 in 2021 and a career record of 44-5. Three-star HS recruit who redshirted his freshman year before taking over the starting job on the third series of the 2018 opener. Named 2018 AAC Rookie of the Year before later earning the 2020 and 2021 AAC OPOY and First-Team All-AAC. In 2021, led the first Group of 5 team in the CFP. Graduated in 2020 (3.5 years) and has a daughter with his girlfriend. Only the 3rd NCAA QB to win 44 games.
In 2021, led NCAA’s 11th-ranked scoring offense sporting the 11th-most yards per play. Among FBS teams, ranked 44th for EPA/passing play and Under HC Luke Fickell (fifth year), OC Mike Denbrock (fifth year), and QBs Coach Gino Guidugli (fifth year), player operates a motion-heavy offense predicated on spacing the field horizontally and getting the ball out quickly, but also incorporates RPO, designed QB run, and shot play action concepts. Player makes half-field reads and sets the protection pre-snap.
Backup QB you can win with given half-field reads, adequate pass protection, and WRs who can adjust well to make difficult catches. Tall QB who plays winning football and avoids mistakes with outstanding decision making and above the line arm strength when mechanically sound. Plus athlete on the ground. Inaccurate passer who is susceptible to consistent pressure and doesn’t frequently engage full body in motion.
6) Carson Strong, Nevada
Key Measurables: 6033, 226 lbs
Notable 2021 Stats: 67.2% Completion, 36:8 TD:INTs, -208 Rushing Yards
Best Trait: Arm Strength
Player Comp: Drew Lock
Redshirt junior who has started 31 of 32 career games, including 12 of 12 in 2021 and a 21-11 career record. Missed senior year of HS due to injury but was still a three-star recruit. Redshirted his freshman season and took over as starter to start the 2019 season.
Earned 2020 and 2021 MWC OPOY. Under HC Ken Wilson (fifth year) and OC/QBs Coach Matt Mumme (fifth year), player led nation’s 17th-ranked scoring offense and 6th-best pass offense (with 8th-highest completion percentage, sixth-most pass TDs per game, and 37th-highest EPA/pass play). The offense uses a pass- and shotgun-heavy West Coast scheme that spreads the field and primarily attacks outside the numbers with Outs, Gos, and WR Screens.
Starter you can win with independent of scheme given pass-protecting IOL and WRs that can threaten deep. Tall, thick boom-or-bust QB with phenomenal arm strength to create windows on the outside or thread the needle up the seam. Team leader with feel to move in the pocket. Significantly hindered by knee injury and needs medical eval, with little mobility and no run threat regardless. Struggles when pressured and needs a lot of work on keeping consistent mechanics and speeding up motion.
7) Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Key Measurables: 6015, 212 lbs
Notable 2021 Stats: 66.6% Completion, 748 Rushing Yards, 8.5 ADOT
Best Trait: Compact Release
Player Comp: Trevone Boykin
Redshirt Junior who has started 27 of 37 career games with a 20-17 record, including all 13 in 2021 at 10-3. Four-star HS recruit who redshirted in 2018. Started first four games in 2019 but was injured and did not reclaim the starting role from John Rhys Plumlee upon return. Won the job back in the offseason and started every game in 2020 and 2021, named 2020 Third-Team All-SEC and 2021 Second Team All-SEC while winning the 2021 Conerly Trophy. Under HC Lane Kiffin (second season) and OC/QBs Coach Jeff Lebby (second season), Coral was starting QB in an extremely RPO- and Screen-heavy offense.
Mid-tier backup QB you can win with given WRs who can separate with large catch radii. Intelligent passer with relatively clean mechanics and good touch. Too inaccurate and fumble-prone for consistent success, failing to elevate his supporting cast.
8) D’Eriq King, Miami
Key Measurables: 5086, 196 lbs, 24.6 years old
Notable 2021 Stats: 3 games, 65.3% Completion, 3:4 TD:INTs
Best Trait: Toughness
Player Comp: Shorter B.J. Daniels
Sixth-year player who has started 40 of 49 career games, including the first three of 2021 before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. 31-18 career record. Three-star HS recruit as a dual-threat QB who originally committed to TCU before flipping to Houston. Entered his freshman season as a temporary WR due to injuries, starting 4 games of his 10 played with a 29/228/1 line before transitioning back to QB and sitting out the end of the season.
Again moved to WR at the beginning of 2017, starting three games and compiling 29/264/2 before taking over as the starting QB and starting the final four games there. Broke out in 2018, setting the conference TD record at 50 in 11 games and being named All-AAC Second Team before tearing his meniscus. Under a new HC in 2019, chose to redshirt after 4 games and eventually transferred. Broke the FBS record for consecutive games with a rushing TD (16).
At Miami, named team captain in 2020 as well as All-ACC Honorable Mention and semifinalist for a litany of QB awards. Returned in 2021, starting the first three games before a season-ending shoulder injury. Under HC Manny Diaz (third season) and OC/QBs Coach Rhett Lashlee (second season), King ran a pass-heavy offense that spread the field horizontally and attacked primarily with Mesh, Hitch, and Crossing Routes while working in some RPOs and Screens.
Backup QB you can win with due to toughness, intelligence, and mobility. Tiny passer who makes smart decisions and excels out of rhythm. Plus mobility. Huge injury risk that will prevent reliance as a starter. Needs to better engage his lower body mechanically, likely to improve accuracy.
9) Jack Coan, Notre Dame
Key Measurables: 6032, 218 lbs
Notable 2021 Stats: 11 wins, 65.7% Completion, 25:7 TD:INT
Best Trait: Mechanics
Player Comp: C.J. Beathard
Redshirt Senior who has started 41 of 48 career games, including all 13 in 2021 for an 11-2 record and 30-18 career. Three-star HS recruit who committed to Wisconsin and was a backup as a true freshman. In 2018, earned four starts as injury replacement. Took over as every game starter in 2019 and named All-Big Ten Honorable Mention.
Missed 2020 season with injury and transferred to Notre Dame, starting every game of 2021, named All-Independent Second Team. Under HC Brian Kelly (12th season) and OC/QBs Coach Tommy Rees (2nd season), Coan leads a pro-style offense that incorporates many different concepts and finished #20 for both scoring and pass offense.
Middling backup you can win with given protection and playmaking WRs. Clean passer who can mislead LBs and safeties from the pocket, snapping to an open man and using touch to lead him to space. An “if everything goes right” kind of player, suffering for accuracy and decisions under pressure while lacking the ability to create. Only a decent arm. Could surprise with the right staff and support.
10) Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
Key Measurables: 6004, 215 lbs
Notable 2021 Stats: 69.3% Completion, 5967 passing yards, 62:11 TD:INTs
Best Trait: Deep Passing
Player Comp: Case Keenum/Logan Woodside
Redshirt senior who has started 50 of 51 career games, including 14 of 14 in 2021 and a 17-34 career record (9-5 in FBS). Accepted only scholarship offer in HS to FCS Houston Baptist, starting 9 games as a true freshman. Started four years for school, being named 2018 All-Southland Conference Honorable Mention before breaking out in 2019 to rank second nationally for passing per game and first for pass TDs.
Continued breakout with 458.3 pass yds per game in abridged 2020 season, including 567 yards and 4 TDs v Texas Tech. Transferred to Western Kentucky with OC/QBs Coach Zach Kittley for 2021, named All-CUSA First Team and CUSA MVP as he set FBS single-season records for passing yards and pass TDs by throwing for at least 275 yards and 3 TDs in every game. Led a shotgun-only pass-heavy offense predicated on using empty sets and WR screens to set up deep shots and inside runs against light boxes.
Backup QB you can win with in a vertically-spread offense with explosive playmakers. Distributor of a passer who shows the accuracy and touch to hit his shots, especially deep. Hindered by his height and lacks athleticism or excess anticipation to be a creator at the next level. Needs to gain comfort in the pocket and against pressure.
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