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Each week during the college football season, we'll stack the quarterbacks with 2022 NFL draft eligibility based on their pro potential — and nothing else.
Some of the players we list below may not enter next year's draft, but we'll list anyone who has a remote shot to declare early.
Here's how we see the NFL QB prospect hierarchy stacking up after the first six weeks of college football.
(Last week: 1st)
Corral has sat in the top spot for a few weeks now. Ole Miss once more was highly aggressive in its gameplan against Arkansas, just as it was against Bama. This time it paid off in a victory. Corral was asked to take more deep shots in this game, and he connected on four big ones in a terrific outing.
One of those came with just over a minute remaining, with Corral hitting Braylon Sanders on a 68-yard TD that provided the winning margin for the Rebels in a 52-51 cornucopia of offense. Corral needed only 21 pass attempts to generate 287 pass yards and 15 rush attempts to log 94 yards and two scores.
Corral has been the most dangerous draft-eligible quarterback in the country more often than not this season. We don't yet know if he's a candidate to go first overall in the 2022 draft but he's certainly in the running for QB1 honors at this point.
(Last week: 3rd)
His level of competition is worth noting, and there are still three weeks before we are treated to Willis vs. Corral in Oxford — appointment TV for draft geeks and college football fans alike. But Willis has put on a near weekly show with his dual-threat ability.
He might possess a stronger arm and better running ability than Corral. Plus, Willis is capable of these types of plays:
I mean ... just enjoy it, it’s just impressive pic.twitter.com/WdD77Yimpo
— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) October 9, 2021
Spare us the "it's only Middle Tennessee State!" jabber. Anyone capable of making that type of play must be taken seriously as a draft prospect.
Besides, if level of competition trumps everything with a prospect, how can we evaluate FCS players such as Cooper Kupp, Darius Leonard, Terron Armstead or James Bradberry coming out? Traits and rare, innate skill must count for something — and we'd argue a big thing.
(Last week: 4th)
Howell is doing some decent things this year, but the outsized hype hasn't matched his play this season. Some of that can be blamed on a bad offensive line and so-so defense, a wholly new batch of skill-position talent and some dropped passes.
But some of it lies on Howell's shoulders, too. His accuracy has waned this season, as has his deep-ball effectiveness in recent games. He's not playing poorly, mind you, but in a typical QB cycle he might be no higher than fourth or fifth in the pecking order.
Where Howell ultimately ends up will be fascinating. We still assume he'll declare this year and end up a first-round pick (perhaps lower than expected), but we can't say that with absolute certainty.
4. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
(Last week: 7th)
This is a precipitous jump for a player who was on bye this past weekend. Call it an overcorrection. Pickett's play this season, even while feasting against lesser opponents, has been off the charts. We still don't know if we'd project him as a starting NFL prospect, but he has some Kirk Cousins to his game.
(Last week: 6th)
Ridder turned in another strong outing against Temple. He has yet to have a sub-par game this season. Ridder has a ton of experience and has shown steady improvement. He has quickened his passing. He has improved his accuracy. The big-play ability has blossomed more. Those are all very good things.
Yet there's something holding us back from believing Ridder will ever be great in the NFL. Solid? Respectable? Absolutely. There's a decent NFL prospect here, and his combination of skills make him more interesting than we could have imagined a year ago.
Right now, we'd feel best taking him in Round 2. That certainly can change between now and April.
(Last week: 5th)
Strong was highly efficient in his (career high) six-TD performance against New Mexico State this weekend, which is exactly what you'd hope for against the 118th-ranked defense in the country.
Still, Strong remains a frustrating study at times. The arm talent is no question good enough. The confidence is what you want. There are some alluring traits that can't be overlooked.
But we also see some poor reactions to pressure and some sluggish pocket maneuverability that will tax him at the next level. He also threw a shaky pick on his second pass attempt, an underthrown deep ball where his receiver had a step on the defender for a possible TD. Strong got off to a slow start before turning in some big numbers.
(Last week: 2nd)
We've been accused of Rattler apologism, and his dislikers now can take their victory lap. He was benched down big against Texas after a fumble and a pick, only to watch his replacement, Caleb Williams, lead a furious comeback against the Sooners' hated rivals.
Rattler now has been benched twice in two seasons. The ploy worked a year ago when a struggling Rattler turned his season around with a hot finish, leading to a lot of preseason QB1 chatter. A lot of that was premature, but we still believe there's a quality NFL prospect here.
What's next for him after watching Williams take over? This move feels significant, even with Rattler coming back in late for a key two-point conversion. Given the way OU fans have expressed their unhappiness with Rattler, it feels like he'll declare for the draft or transfer for one more season elsewhere, hence the scuttling ranking here.
Until we know his plans, this is where Rattler will sit for the time being.
(Last week: 9th)
Daniels and Stanford's Tanner McKee met Friday night in Tempe, and it was a QB showcase showdown. We've been impressed with Daniels' playmaking ability, both as a runner and passer this season, bouncing back from a COVID-plagued 2020 for ASU.
Daniels ripped off a run of 51 yards for the game's opening TD, and he connected on passes of 31 and 32 yards en route to a solid night throwing. He still holds onto the ball a bit too long and took a few ill-timed sacks to stall drives.
But there's an NFL QB prospect here. We just feel it.
(Last week: 8th)
Even in the 28-10 loss with three interceptions, there were some big-time throws to marvel at. He threw for 356 yards in the game and delivered some terrific balls with NFL throws — down the seam and attacking the sidelines while ASU attempted to keep most plays in front of it.
McKee has a great arm, and considering where he's at now following a two-year mission in Brazil and a redshirt year when he barely saw the field in 2020, this ceiling remains high with further development.
(Last week: n/a)
Did you realize there's a QB in college football for a ranked team who has a career 41-4 TD-INT ratio, a career 72.5% completion percentage and who is a threat with his legs? Meet McCall, who has been on the outskirts of our list in recent weeks. We can hold him back no more.
He's not your prototypical pro QB prospect, but then again ... who is these days? McCall hasn't been as big a factor as a runner this season, and he's averaging just over 18 pass attempts per game. He's connecting on nearly 80% of his passes and averaging 13.6 yards per attempt.
Whether McCall comes out this cycle or next remains a mystery. But we're starting to pull back the veil on their impressive QB following a 365-yard, four-TD road performance against Arkansas State.
Just missed the cut
Jake Haener, Fresno State; Phil Jurkovec, Boston College (injured); Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky; Brennan Armstrong, Virginia; Brock Purdy, Iowa State; Jack Coan, Notre Dame; Malik Cunningham, Louisville; Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA; Kedon Slovis, USC; Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland; D’Eriq King, Miami (injured); Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan; Dustin Crum, Kent State; Myles Brennan, LSU (injured)