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As an NFL fan, you might not be ready to shift fully into draft mode.
But we like the idea of introducing some of the bigger-name prospects for the 2022 draft, at least giving readers a big-picture familiarity of how things stand now.
Had we written this one a year ago, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields and Trey Lance almost certainly would have made our top 10. All three went in the top 11 picks this spring.
But a lot also can change for even highly touted prospects over the course of a single season.
Previous entry: LSU CB Derek Stingley, Jr.
The 10 players we’re profiling here — five quarterbacks and five non-QBs — aren’t guaranteed to be first-rounders in 2022. Still, they are prospects who enter the season with the opportunity to lock up that caliber of draft status while also having the potential to tumble.
Let's continue the series with one of the more exciting QB prospects in the country this season, one who could be in the running for the first pick in the 2022 NFL draft.
Oklahoma QB Spencer Rattler
6-foot-1, 205 pounds
Year: Redshirt sophomore
2020 stats: 214 of 317 passing, 3,301 yards, 28 TDs, seven INTs; 81 rushes, 160 yards, six TDs in 11 games.
Rattler displayed some electric ability in his first year of starting in 2020, even if there were some early rough patches. The Sooners started 1-2 last season, with Rattler throwing three picks in a loss to Kansas State. He’d amass 13 combined TDs in OU’s final four games during a 4-0 finish with wins over Baylor, Oklahoma State, Iowa State (in the Big 12 title game) and Florida (in the Cotton Bowl).
Rattler showed enough promise to be one of the favorites to be the first quarterback drafted in 2022, should he declare early. BetMGM lists Rattler with the best odds of being the No. 1 overall pick in 2022 at +250, with North Carolina QB Sam Howell (+350) the only other player with better odds than +900.
The Sooners also have a chance to compete for a national title. Despite some personnel losses, they’ll welcome two major transfers via Tennessee (RB Eric Gray and OT Wanya Morris) and should have one of the most explosive offenses in the country.
This is a system that has produced the likes of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts in recent years, and Rattler will be the first of that group since Mayfield to spend multiple years as a starter under head coach Lincoln Riley’s watch. Mayfield saw a jump in his production between Years 1 and 2 at OU, and the hope is that the same happens with Rattler.
Rattler’s raw arm talent is thrilling. He can sling the ball all over the field and do so on the move. He can manipulate his arm angles and make high-degree-of-difficulty throws that other quarterbacks won’t even attempt.
His strong finish came with improved confidence and rhythm as Rattler sped up his internal clock, connected on some NFL-caliber throws and avoided costly mistakes better. Although he might not possess a Josh Allen-level howitzer, Rattler’s arm strength is more than adequate.
What makes Rattler special is his athleticism. He can escape pressure and throw on the move. He’s also a talented runner who is good for two or three effective scrambles per game, along with the Sooners’ designed run game, which takes advantage of his toughness and slipperiness with the ball in his hands.
That dual-threat ability forces defenses to cover every blade of grass and respect Rattler with a heavy dose of zone.
If Rattler can add a layer of command to his game and continue refining his awesome tools, he could be special. NFL scouts are very much aware of Rattler’s upside, and he should be tested by a competitive schedule, even if it might lack a bona fide great defensive opponent.
Rattler remains a work in progress if his early-season returns are any indication. His progress throughout 2020 was promising, but Rattler’s penchant for taking too many sacks, operating with “happy feet” in the pocket and occasionally panicky style are evidence that there’s work to be done.
He’ll occasionally force passes into traffic and rush his process. Rattler isn’t the riverboat gambler that, say, Ole Miss’ Matt Corral is, but there were some worrisome decisions visible on tape (especially in games such as Kansas and Kansas State) that need cleaning up.
Rattler also isn’t a dynamic athlete with rare running ability, a la Murray or Hurts, able to squirt through the cracks of defenses and pick up first downs but rarely pull away from quicker defenders on the edge.
He has a slight frame and also takes too much contact. We love his battling style, willing to stand tough as the rush closes in, but Rattler’s internal clock and self-preservation instincts require sharpening.
The player to whom Rattler is most often compared, style-wise, might be Patrick Mahomes, and there certainly is some overlap to their games. They play similarly, but Rattler isn’t quite there yet. What now makes Mahomes the preeminent young QB in the NFL is that he has mastered the mental part of the equation, along with his physical rarities, and Rattler is still honing this part of his game at age 20.
Riley agrees. “He can play so much better,” the coach said at Big 12 Media Days this summer.
Another season under Riley’s guidance could help bring that out, and Rattler has as much raw upside as any QB prospect who potentially could be in the 2022 draft class. He’s hailed as a natural-born leader on the field and has a slew of alluring targets in the passing game (Marvin Mims, Theo Wease, Jadon Haselwood, Drake Stoops and Austin Stogner, among them).
If Rattler makes a tangible jump in Year 2 of starting, there’s no reason to think he shouldn’t be a top-five selection (and perhaps No. 1 overall) next spring.
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