Draft watch: Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler the top QBs to know entering 2021

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With the Detroit Lions almost universally projected to earn another top-10 overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft, it’s never too early to take a look at some of the players who might be under consideration for GM Brad Holmes and the team. And when a team is picking in the top-10 two years in a row, you’d better believe a quarterback is in play.

There are a few early favorites to be the top quarterback in the draft class of 2022. Some are underclassmen who would still have remaining eligibility, so their draft status is completely unknown at this point.

Sam Howell, North Carolina

Howell is someone who has very impressive tools in the box. He’s got above-average arm strength, good mobility, a keen sense of anticipation and preternatural poise in the pocket. He’s shorter than ideal at a listed 6-foot-1, though he’s proven he can take a hit and plays tough. Howell needs to learn to get through his progressions quicker and make better decisions when not under pressure.

Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

The latest in the dynamic, mobile, throw-on-the-run QBs from Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma, Rattler has a huge arm and can flick it out easily and quickly. Just a one-year starter, he clearly needs more experience and work at understanding the speed and skill of the better defenses. His personality will not be a fit for everyone but Rattler is a natural leader for those who buy in.

Malik Willis, Liberty

Willis enters the 2021 college season with similar skills to Lamar Jackson at Lousiville, a dual-threat with a good-not-great arm but exceptional legs and a keen sense of when to use them. The 6-foot Auburn transfer doesn’t get to face top-level defenders often and must get better at throwing to where his receiver will be and not where he is at the release point. He’s a very fan-friendly watch that could develop into something special.

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Straight out of central casting physically, the 6-4 Ridder has size and impressive athleticism. The arm strength and ability to avoid the initial rush are both outstanding. An alpha male in the huddle, Ridder can chew up yards quickly on the run, too. His ball placement and touch need work, as does his ability to protect himself from hits as a runner. High ceiling, low floor.

Carson Strong, Nevada

Lions fans who loved Matthew Stafford’s big arm will gravitate to Strong, who has a rocket launcher of a right shoulder. He can spot the ball into tight windows at all levels of the defense and can do it with varying arm angles and platforms. There are injury flags (knee issues) and inconsistent mechanics that get him into trouble at times that Strong must overcome.

Also in the mix:

  • Kedon Slovis, USC

  • Tanner Morgan, Minnesota

  • Matt Corral, Ole Miss

  • Anthony Brown, Oregon

  • Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh