2022 NFL draft: Quarterback prospect power rankings, Week 4
Each week from here on out during the college football season, we'll be stacking 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 we think has even a remote shot to declare early.
Here's how we see the NFL QB prospect hierarchy stacking up after three weeks of college football.
1. Matt Corral, Ole Miss
(Last week: 1st)
Corral threw 13 interceptions a year ago, but that doesn't tell the entire story about his ball security in 2020. Corral had three multiple-pick games, including a 6-INT disaster at Arkansas and a 4-INT meltdown against LSU. But a funny thing has happened since that LSU game: Corral, by my count, now has gone 150 straight passes without a pick.
The huge test comes next weekend against Alabama, but Corral was absolutely electric against the Tide a year ago, completing 21 of 28 passes for 365 yards and two TDs and running 13 more times for 40 yards. If Corral can duplicate that effort at Bryant-Denny Stadium next week, the QB1 chatter likely will catch on elsewhere. We don't mind going it alone until then.
2. Sam Howell, North Carolina
(Last week: 4th)
Howell was lambasted for his opening-game struggles at Virginia Tech. But we're surprised how little praise has been dished out since then, as Howell now has back-to-back strong efforts together and looked more like the preseason top-10 QB we expected.
The key for Howell will be to remain hot through this leaner section of the schedule prior to a big outing at Notre Dame on Halloween eve. He toyed with the Cavaliers' defense on Saturday, throwing TD passes of 59, 37 and 75 yards before the end of the first quarter, finishing with 307 pass yards and five TDs (on only 21 attempts) and 112 rush yards.
3. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
(Last week: 2nd)
Rattler hasn't been terrible through three games against Tulane, Western Carolina and Nebraska, but he certainly hasn't looked like the next in succession of the great QB run they've had in Norman. Perhaps we just pumped the guy up too much, too fast. He's good! But the expectations were a bit warm for our liking. Then again, Rattler was struggling at this point last season, too, before getting white hot. We expect more of then down the stretch while also recognizing his limitations.
4. Malik Willis, Liberty
(Last week: 5th)
It's been a strong start to the season for Willis against weaker competition. That last part is about to change. Can Willis keep it up? Following a 242-yard, 4-TD game (along with 77 rush yards), he's up to 49 of 69 passing (71.0%), 613 yards, seven TDs and no INTs, along with 280 yards rushing and four scores.
Willis gashing Campbell, Troy and Old Dominion is one thing. But his first big test this season comes Friday at Syracuse, followed by an absolutely must-see game at Ole Miss on Nov. 4 that we've had circled since the spring.
If you've not seen the electric Willis yet, here's a taste of his game on Saturday:
He's not quite Lamar Jackson, but Willis plays with that same style. If Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman gets a head coaching job next year, we'd love to see those two paired up somewhere.
5. Carson Strong, Nevada
(Last week: 3rd)
Strong really was not the reason the Wolfpack lost at Kansas State, and he uncorked a few terrific passes in the 38-17 loss. Such as this ...
Don't have the all-22 yet but who cares
~59-60 air yards on a dime from Carson Strong pic.twitter.com/JLr7m05Ll1
— Eric Edholm (@Eric_Edholm) September 20, 2021
Strong also ripped a TD pass into a tight window to tie the game at 17-all late in the third quarter. But he wasn't perfect, either, throwing a poor interception into a crowd and coming up short on a fourth-down scramble.
Still, there's a lot to like about Strong's game, and he'll absolutely have his share of big fans come draft time.
6. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
(Last week: 6th)
Ridder and the Bearcats started slowly at Indiana, falling behind 14-0 and needing the defense to come up big in the eventual 38-24 win. But Ridder also overcame that start with a strong fourth quarter, throwing for a score (and later, a two-point conversion) and running for another TD to ice the comeback win.
He might not be a special prospect, but Ridder has grown steadily over the past few years and is very much in the top-50 discussion for next spring.
7. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
(Last week: 9th)
What a weird day for Pickett, who threw for six TDs against Western Michigan but also suffered an undisclosed injury in the fourth quarter and watched the Panthers' defense blow it late. The injury hurts the most, even if we don't know the severity of it. (Pickett did return to the game, however.) But he has had some lights-out moments as a passer the past few years, even if the health concerns aren't going away.
8. Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA
(Last week: t-10th)
DTR isn't a traditional QB, but the definition of that has changed so much, we're not sure his unusual style is that off-putting to much of anyone these days. Accuracy-wise, he could stand to improve. But there are some Jalen Hurts-like moments in his game, and we still believe he's being a bit too slept on in the big picture as far as the NFL is concern. Thompson-Robinson was unfairly overshadowed in the loss to Fresno State on Saturday, with some of the biggest throws of his season yet.
9. Kedon Slovis, USC
(Last week: 7th)
Well, well. Slovis suffered a neck injury on Saturday, giving way to true freshman phenom Jaxson Dart, and dart had a banner debut in the win over Washington State.
Now the two QBs apparently will battle it out for a starting job. But we're leery that Slovis even gets his job back. Does he transfer? Is this a Davis Mills-type deal where Slovis enters next year's draft and hopes that his smaller body of work is enough to convince a team to take him? Or does he transfer somewhere if he loses the job?
We just don't know. We do know that Slovis does have some fans in the NFL scouting community, however. Interesting situation here.
tie-10. Phil Jurkovec, Boston College and Jake Haener, Fresno State
(Last week: 8th)
It's hard to know where to place Jurkovec given his uncertain injury status that could leave him out for quite a while. Does he return to school? Come out early? Big questions lie ahead. He's talented and different from other QBs in this class, but the injury throws a wrench into his draft projection. Like with Slovis, we're left to guess what the future holds.
You might have been mid-REM sleep at the time, but Haener delivered one of the more heroic efforts of the season in the Bulldogs' shocking win over UCLA (which ended at 2:43 a.m. on the East Coast). Time and time again, Haener peeled himself off the turf — taking multiple big hits — and delivered strikes. He led the game-winning TD drive, traveling 75 yards in 40 seconds, with just 13 seconds remaining, injured hip and all.
What a gutsy performance from @jakehaener10
Haener threw two TDs in the final three minutes after suffering an injury to lead @FresnoStateFB to a 40-37 victory over No. 13/13 UCLA -- the first victory over a top-15 non-conference team for the MW since 2014!#AtThePeak | #GoDogs pic.twitter.com/8qvgNTwZU1
— Mountain West (@MountainWest) September 19, 2021
Haener delivered his signature game with his 455-yard, two-TD effort. He's not big, doesn't have a cannon for an arm and is a good but hardly great athlete. But we're seeing some really intriguing intangibles in his game that give him a shot at the next level.
Just missed the cut
Jack Coan, Notre Dame; Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina; Brennan Armstrong, Virginia; JT Daniels, Georgia; Brock Purdy, Iowa State; Jayden Daniels, Arizona State; D’Eriq King, Miami; Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan; Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky; Dustin Crum, Kent State