The 2021 regular season of college football came to a close this last weekend, which means award season is upon us. The winner of this year’s Heisman ceremony is on December 11th, at 8 p.m. eastern standard time. You can watch the ceremony on ESPN.
We at Around the Block decided to do our poll to see who would be named ATB’s Heisman winner. After polling ten site members, the members concluded that Will Anderson of Alabama is the winner.
Anderson, unlike others receiving Heisman votes (Aidan Hutchinson, Kenny Pickett, Bryce Young, and C.J. Stroud) from ATB members, will not be traveling to New York with the other aforementioned finalists.
Anderson finished the 2021 regular season with 29.0 tackles for loss and 15.5 sacks for the Crimson Tide. Anderson is the best edge rusher in college football. He helped to lead Alabama to where they are now, the college football playoffs.
His teammate Bryce Young is the runner-up, and Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan and C.J. Stroud of Ohio State tied; however, Stroud received more first-place votes, thus, giving him the nod. Other receiving votes in the poll, were Kenny Pickett of Pitt, and Kenneth Walker of Michigan State.
Heisman Winner Votes
Will Anderson: First Place (3), Second Place (6), Third Place (1)
Bryce Young: First Place (4), Second Place (2), Third Place (1)
C.J. Stroud: First Place (2), Third Place (1)
Aidan Hutchinson: Second Place (2), Third Place (3)
Kenny Pickett: First Place (1), Third Place (1)
Kenneth Walker: Third Place (3)
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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.
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.
Week 1 is finally upon us, and the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions are facing off. The game kicks off at 1:00 p.m. EST, often a challenging time frame for teams coming over from the West Coast. The 49ers are the heavy favorite heading into Sunday’s match-up; they are a 7.5 point favorite (odds from MyBookie).
Both teams will be trotting out changes to the coaching staff, most notably the Lions. From the front office down to the position coaches, Detroit has gone through a significant overhaul. Dan Campbell and his team will look to make changes to the on-field product and the culture in the building, too. It will be interesting to see what the identity of the Lions will be. However, one can infer based on Campbell’s press conferences that they will be a team who will look to run the ball and take the will out of defenses.
Not only did the Lions make changes to the coaching staff and personnel, but also to who will operate under-center. Detroit elected to move and trade Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round picks and Jared Goff in return. Goff doesn’t possess Stafford’s talent, but he has helped lead a team to the Super Bowl. He isn’t going to put the team on his shoulders like Stafford did time and time again in the 4th quarter, but he can operate an offense and help push the ball downfield, especially behind the Lions’ formidable offensive line.
As for the 49ers didn’t lose/gain as much as Detroit did this offseason, but they did lose strength to their team, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who took a head coach job with the New York Jets. DeMeco Ryans, a part of the 49ers staff, got promoted from coaching linebackers to the defensive coordinator. Saleh ran a “safer” defense than what Ryans plans to run this year. So we may see more blitzing from San Francisco and perhaps some more man coverage on the back end.
With changes schematically being made for both teams, it makes for an exciting match-up. Again, San Francisco is the favorite, but there is a path in which the Lions could come up with an upset.
49ers Keys to Success:
Putting Pressure on Jared Goff
When Jared Goff is able to sit back in the pocket and move through his progressions he is a viable option at quarterback. When Goff has pressure in his face, he is the opposite of a viable option; he is a liability.
“Goff suffered the biggest decline at his position from a 55.8% passing DVOA without pressure to a -126.8% DVOA with pressure in 2020…”
Not only was it an issue last year, but it has been a problem for the past several years and probably played a crucial factor in McVay wanting to find another quarterback. In 2018, Goff posted a 69.1% DVOA vs. no pressure (good for 5th in the league) and a -67.9% against pressure (11th worst). In 2019, he posted a 52.9% DVOA vs. no pressure (14th in the league, a bit of digression) and a -66.8% DVOA vs. pressure (19th worst, the league average was -62.8%).
The 49ers’ front four doesn’t have to be as good as they were in 2019, but they will need to push the pocket and put Goff in uncomfortable situations. If they can force Goff to make bad decisions, it will likely lead to turnovers, and the 49ers can continue their win streak against Goff-led teams.
Eliminate Turnovers in Their Own Territory
The Lions’ offense, aside from their offensive line, isn’t full of world-beaters. They don’t have weapons on the outside and will likely rely on rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, to be one of their main targets. If the 49ers can refrain from committing turnovers in the Lions’ territory and force them to move the ball the length of the field, the Lions are less likely to score (obvious, I know).
Even with one of the better defenses in football, it is still tough to keep the opponent from scoring when they get the ball in with less than 50 yards to go. If the 49ers can keep the mistakes to a minimum and not give up free yards, it sets them up nicely to not only get the win but to cover the spread as well.
Consistency From Jimmy Garoppolo
This option may run hand in hand with the last “key to success,” but it’s more than just a turnover issue with Garoppolo. If you surveyed the conventional fan in the NFL and asked them what type of quarterback Garoppolo is, they would like to tag him with the “accurate, game manager” label. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. Aside from the injuries, Garoppolo’s most significant issue is his game-to-game consistency. One game, he looks like the quarterback that led San Francisco to the Super Bowl, and the next, he seems like the quarterback that forced them to draft Trey Lance third overall.
If the 49ers get the latter, they could be looking at an upset. Garoppolo tends to throw the ball high, which often leads to tipped balls. Tipped balls equal easy interceptions. Of course, interceptions are not the only cause of concern, but having to punt the ball is another possibility they want to avoid. Garoppolo doesn’t have to have the best game of his career for the 49ers to win, but he must avoid having a game as he did against the Miami Dolphins last season.
Seth’s Score Prediction:
49ers: 31 – Lions: 17
Penei Sewell thriving at his best position
With the injury to starting Left Tackle Taylor Decker, the #7 overall pick in Sewell will be asked to play at LT. This is the position in which he thrived in at Oregon and in his first start for the Lions, he will get a real big test by facing Nick Bosa.
If the Lions can get real consistency from the left side of the O-Line with Sewell and Jonah Jackson, we could see a nice game from D’Andre Swift. Sewell tended to struggle at times during the Preseason, but he did an excellent job of adjusting and bouncing back quickly in the following drives.
Setting the Edge on Defense
The Lions have one of the better EDGE tandems in the league with Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara. They are facing a run-heavy Offense in the 49ers this weekend and it’ll be crucial to make sure Mostert and Sermon don’t get easy access on the outside.
If the Lions can get solid EDGE play from those two, they can make this game really interesting with the lack of depth at Wide Receiver. Though the Interior of the DL is young, aside from Michael Brockers, they’ve looked really good during practices and preseason so there shouldn’t be too much of an issue there.
Getting some success from the Play-Action
If the Lions can get that run-game going, which I think they will, then the Lions are going to need Jared Goff to make some really nice throws out of the Play-Action. They have a lack of weapons at Wide Receiver, but attacking the middle of the field will be key with Hockenson.
Goff is a pretty big downgrade from Stafford but he did help lead a team to the Super Bowl back in 2018. Would it be nice to get that from him this year? Sure, but even a 2017 version of Goff is more than good enough.
Ronnie’s Score Prediction:
49ers: 34 – Lions: 20
Lions Keys to Success:
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The NFL is always searching for talent along the offensive line, especially at the tackle position. Aside from quarterback, offensive tackles are one of the most highly selected positions in the draft. For a good reason; they protect the quarterback. So we could be looking at a potential top ten pick in next year’s draft with Evan Neal out of Alabama. However, if Neal were not to play another snap of college football, there is a good chance he would still get drafted in the first round of the 2022 draft. He possesses the height-weight-speed combination that the NFL adores.
With Neal playing in the 2022 season, he can raise his stock and become one of the first players taken in the upcoming draft. This upcoming season is enormous for Neal and his draft stock. With a stellar season, we could be looking at a top-five pick and a future cornerstone for the NFL team that elects to pick him in next year’s draft.
LSU was one of the most talented teams in college football in the 2019-20 season, and perhaps their best player, Derek Stingley, has yet to step foot in the NFL. As a full-time starter for the Tigers, Stingley recorded 15 pass deflections and six interceptions in his freshman season. Stingley was not only the best freshman in the SEC (despite getting snubbed on the SEC freshman of the year award) but was one of the best cornerbacks in college football. Unfortunately, in his sophomore season, he dealt with some injuries and some non-COVID-related illnesses. However, if Stingley can get back on the field at 100-percent, there is no question he will again be one of the best players in the nation. With that being the case, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Stingley gets drafted in the top-5 of the 2022 NFL Draft; the talent is undoubtedly there.