Matt Corral and the Race for QB1

Matt Corral
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Corral, Carson Strong, Malik Willis, Kenny Pickett and Desmond Ridder are all candidates to be the top quarterback for the 2022 NFL Draft. The 2022 quarterback landscape is shaping out to be a much different race than it was this time last year.

Trevor Lawrence was the clear-cut front runner to be drafted first overall (as he was), but the talent beyond him was incredible. Players such as Justin Fields, Trey Lance, Zach Wilson, and Mac Jones were all viewed as legit threats to go in the first round, and there were honest conversations about them all going in the top 10.

With hindsight as our ally, we now know that this was not the case, yet all five quarterbacks did go in the top-15 picks of last year’s draft, and we saw three of them (Lawrence, Wilson, and Lance) get selected with the top three choices.

As it stands now, Mac Jones has looked like the best of the bunch, but there is still a ton of growth to be made for the other four rookies, and not many of them are in the best situations.

2022 Quarterback Class

As for the 2022 quarterback class, one could make the argument that the best one of the bunch would have been the sixth quarterback taken in the last year’s draft, and he may not have gone in the first round. So not only is the talent not as plentiful as it was last year, but there is also no consensus on who the top prospect is at the position.

Again, you could poll five different people, and there is a legitimate chance that each person would give you a different answer as to who the number one guy would be.

With that in mind, one of the front-runners to be the first quarterback off the board is Ole Miss’s Matt Corral. Matt Corral is a Redshirt Junior for the Rebels and has started the last two seasons for Ole Miss under head coach Lane Kiffin.

In two seasons (20 total games) as the starter for Ole Miss, he has tallied 6.110 passing yards while completing 68.8% of his passes. In addition, he has racked up 46 passing touchdowns and thrown 16 interceptions, 14 of those in his 2020 campaign.

Although many viewed Matt Corral as one of the top players at his positions, there were still some concerns with his game and whether or not he was worthy of being a first-round pick. Decision-making is one of those concerns, as evident by his interceptions numbers (six against Arkansas and five against LSU).

Corral has done a fantastic job spinning that narrative and eliminating the errant throws and poor decisions. However, there are still a few concerns with his game.

Film Review – The Negatives

The first clip comes from Ole Miss’s match-up against Alabama. The tight end on the right side of the formation will run across the field vertically, taking the corner’s attention and safety on the opposite side of the field. Unfortunately, this is where Corral’s attention is. The slot on the same side runs a dig route and comes open when he makes his cut. However, Corral locks onto the tight end for too long; he doesn’t anticipate the open window when both the corner and safety vacate.

Not anticipating windows and locking onto one read is something that appears on Corral’s tape too often. Instead of a 15 yard gain, the play results in an incomplete pass. He tends to focus on one guy for too long, often missing a receiver coming open late. He needs to do a better job of anticipating open windows and getting off his first read.

Film Review – The Positives

Here is another example of Corral just being half a second behind with his decision. He tends to wait to throw the ball until the receiver is open instead of foreseeing the open window. In the NFL, windows rarely come available, and they aren’t open for long when they do. On this play, the ball should be coming out as the receiver is making his break. Not when he is already flat and getting across the field. The ball being late over the middle gives the safety the chance to play as he does in the video.

Now we look at the positives of Corral’s game as a passer. First, he has excellent arm strength and the requisite accuracy downfield to make the above throws consistently. He shows great touch when throwing the ball deep and often gives his receivers the chance to run under the ball and make a play.

Getting air under the football when throwing it down the field is necessary. This gives the receiver the ability to adjust and run under the football while carrying his momentum down the field.

One trait that can mitigate some of Corral’s issues with anticipation is accuracy, especially when throwing over the middle of the field. Matt Corral is very accurate when targeting receivers in between the numbers. He can put the ball on the receiver’s numbers while the receiver can maintain stride. The receiver then can look to make a play after the catch.

In this clip, Corral executes the pass out of the RPO to near perfection. He starts by getting his base pointed into the direction of where he wants to throw the ball. Corral does this quickly enough to where the safety doesn’t have a chance to make his pass read and break on the ball. Then he can deliver a strike just outside the linebacker’s reach. He puts the ball in a place where only his receiver can make a play. Excellent execution and timing on display here from Corral.

Lastly, one area of his game that pops on tape is his ability to make plays with his feet. Both behind the line of scrimmage and beyond it. As a runner, Corral has racked up 523 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. 195 of those yards coming in one game against Tennessee. It’s more than just his rushing ability that makes him an intriguing prospect, though; he can get outside of the pocket and still throw the ball with accuracy, especially when moving to his right.

In this play, after Corral finishes his run-action, he gets pressure quickly off the edge but is able to get around it with his speed. After getting around the rush, he keeps his eyes downfield. Locating the open receiver, and delivering a strike on the move. Again, the ball placement here is stellar; he throws the ball low, helping the receiver avoid the collision. That would happen if he were to put this ball any higher.

Conclusion

There are plenty of tools to work with that make Corral an intriguing prospect. His accuracy is one, but his ability to make things happen out of the structure is massive because this is where the game appears to be heading. It will only make his early life in the NFL easier if he can get out of the pocket and make things happen because the speed of the game increases. He won’t have to sit in the pocket and diagnose everything to tee and have some room for error.

The clips above are from Corral’s first four games of the season. Concluding how he should be valued heading into the draft won’t be made. That said, there are areas in which he needs to approve. He has a real shot to be selected as the first quarterback if he has done so in the latter half of the season.

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