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The 2023 NFL Draft quarterback class is one of the deepest that exists in recent years with Alabama's Bryce Young and Ohio State's CJ Stroud serving as the headliners. But they're not the only reason why this group has become so heralded.
Even going as far as 1-15 in a lot of the positional rankings that have been released at this point in this offseason, there are several signal-callers who stand to have a meteoric rise and become adequate NFL starters and more that should at least develop into high-end NFL backups with a floor a team can be comfortable with.
Here's a look into five quarterbacks who aren't getting a lot of attention right now but could change that narrative in 2022:
1. Michael Pratt, Tulane.
Pratt put the nation on notice in the 2021 season-opener against the Oklahoma Sooners, vastly outperforming former projected No. 1 overall pick Spencer Rattler. The then-freshman completed 27-of-44 passing attempts (61.4%) for 296 yards with three touchdowns, using his mobility to add another score on the ground.
There may have been no quarterback put at more of a disadvantage by the situation and lack of talent surrounding him in the nation than Pratt was which made it difficult for his individual potential to fully shine through. It's also reasonable to assume Pratt wasn't at full capacity for practically the entire season with the beating he took behind a dismal offensive line that hardly gave him adequate time to throw -- he was sacked 28 times on the season with a high of eight times in a single game and suffering a concussion after taking a fourth-quarter shot from the SMU defense.
The outlook for Tulane is a bit more positive in 2022 after a lowly 2-10 finish last season with new offensive coordinator Jim Svoboda, who has previously worked with head coach Willie Fritz. Pratt is expected to have an upgrade in help around him with the return of running back Tyjae Spears, transfer rusher Ashaad Clayton and a promising wideout in Notre Dame transfer Lawrence Keys, though there's still questions about the protection up front going into this season.
Pratt has shown some upside as a pure passer that may be tapped into more with better protection and a higher quality supporting cast in 2022. But the "it" factor that's caught him so much attention is his gritty type of mobility, poise and level of toughness that can rally a team. Pratt mentioned ahead of the 2021 season that he was seeing the field better and that the game overall was slowing down for him and felt like he had grown on the mental side of things, something that should continue to develop with another year under his belt.
Looking at the film, he's got a bit of Tyler Van Dyke to his game -- a comparison that's certainly a positive one considering the Miami quarterback is largely projected to be a first-rounder in April. Pratt seems to be mentally further along than a lot of other quarterbacks with his same experience level in taking what the defense gives him and delivering an accurate ball at all levels of the field even in the face of pressure (which he was frequently subjected to) and has a good foundation to develop off of as potentially one of the most underrated quarterbacks in college football.
2. Will Rogers, Mississippi State.
Rogers took a huge step in 2021, impressing as he broke school and conference records as just a sophomore, finishing out the season with a 73.9% completion rate with 4,739 passing yards, 36 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Viewing the film especially in the back half of the season, it's clear to see Rogers has quickened his release time, made strides in his decision-making and has improved his ball placement, more consistently putting it in a place that leads the receiver upfield. Rogers has always received praise for the intangibles, but the tangibles seem to finally be coming together for him in a way worth noticing.
And based on Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach's recent comments, it sounds like Rogers could have more responsibility at the line of scrimmage in 2022.
"I think he's more consistent. I think he can kind of aggressively check more of the package on his own," Leach said. "The other thing is – he's been good at this but even better now perhaps – he brings energy to the offensive unit."
Rogers plays in the purest form on the Air Raid offense, which is extremely reliant upon quarterback accuracy, an area Rogers has continuously progressed in and could lead the nation in for 2022. It's obvious the game has slowed down for him, something that naturally comes with experience, and he could very well end up being QB2 in the SEC behind Young this season.
If Rogers is drafted next year, he'll join former WKU quarterback Bailey Zappe as one of the Air Raid quarterbacks to be most recently selected by a pro team.
3. Clayton Tune, Houston.
Tune (6'3/215) showed some flashes in 2021 en route to finishing out the season with a 68.2% completion rate, 3,546 passing yards, 30 touchdowns (all of which were personal bests for him) and 10 interceptions.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pounder isn't receiving the same type of attention as a lot of other quarterbacks are in what's shaped up to be an incredibly deep class, but he has been pinned by a handful of analysts as a quarterback who would take another step in 2022 and become more of a name to know. He had stretches of the season in which he was strong as a passer, though he sometimes got inconsistent. If he can stay more steady and put together a solid 2022, this could very well be a quarterback few expected to be drafted that ends up being selected by a team.
Tune doesn't lack arm strength and while he's not an uber-athletic quarterback by any means, he does possess the ability to sufficiently evade pressure and has enough mobility to get a few yards for his team to move the chains when the situation calls for it. As the stat sheet would reflect, Tune is a very accurate passer and could perhaps even increase his already-high completion rate and lead this offense to a new level of success with wide receiver Tank Dell and running back Alton McCaskill on the field with him. Expect this team to make a serious run for the AAC Championship Game again in 2022.
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4. Aidan O'Connell, Purdue.
O'Connell isn't a household name but stands a chance at becoming one after he completed 71.6% of his passes for 3,712 yards with 28 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 2021. He averaged over 355 yards per game over 12 games last season, with eight games in which he threw for two touchdowns or more, with a single-game high of five scoring passes in the 48-45 overtime win in the Music City Bowl over a Tennessee team that's put the nation on notice.
The fifth-year senior also finished the 2021 season with an 85.7 quarterback rating, the fifth-best QBR in the country last year. Consistency is the most important quality in a quarterback, and O’Connell has shown that as a passer. Between the 2019 and 2021 seasons, O’Connell’s passer rating improved an impressive 18.1 points and could grow even more in the upcoming season.
Looking at O'Connell's game, he is more of a pocket passer with a limited ability to scramble but succeeds in a passing offense where his ability to push the ball downfield and have success throwing into tight windows has consistently been on display. He’s far exceeded the expectations as a former walk-on, now with the potential to be drafted.
Strength of schedule and quality of wins obviously play a role in how much hype a quarterback can garner, so a solid performance and an upset victory over Penn State in the season-opener can very much put O’Connell on the radar. And he's in a good position do just that and to succeed with a lot of the talent around him returning after he played a large role in leading Purdue to a 9-4 record last season. The Boilermakers have shown they can put up a fight and top quality teams, getting the aforementioned victory over Tennessee as well as getting wins over including over top-five opponents like Iowa and Michigan State.
5. Jaren Hall, BYU.
Hall completed 63.9% of his passes for 2,583 yards with 20 touchdowns and five interceptions in 2021, and much like Cam Ward of Washington State, has found himself all over the draft projections with some taking the early leap to pin him as early as the first round of the draft while others don't even have him on their top-15 quarterbacks list.
Hall’s decision-making was impressive last season especially for a sophomore without an incredible amount of experience. This is a mechanically sound quarterback who moves well within the pocket and can deliver a throw off of practically any platform. In addition to his talent as a passer, he's also shown he has the type of speed to break away from some of college football's fastest defenders.
The Cougars also check the box on putting Hall in an advantageous situation heading into 2022, with adequate pass protection as BYU has what head coach Kalani Sitake calls “a lot of offensive line presence.” The Cougars have two draft prospects to watch within that unit, with both interior offensive lineman Clark Barrington and offensive tackle Blake Freeland labeled as prospects to watch ahead of the 2023 NFL Draft.
Though he'll be up against the same "small school stigma" that several other quarterbacks on and off of this list face, expect Hall to break through that and do big things this year.