The Myth of the Second Round Quarterback

The 2022 NFL Draft is behind us, and it reveals a modern scouting trend at the league’s most important position.

The NFL draft has come and gone, and there were plenty of surprises, notably at the quarterback position. Among them, not a single quarterback was picked in the second round.

After Kenny Pickett was drafted by the Steelers at 20, the next QB didn’t go until 54 picks later, even though there were several who analysts believed were capable of going in round two.

There’s just one small problem: second round quarterbacks don’t exist.

I know it sounds like an odd — or maybe blatantly false — statement, but there is a case to be made. The success rate on round two signal-callers is pretty horrendous, and it all seems to lead to this one conclusion.

In order to come to that conclusion, however, there are a variety of different criteria. First, the types of quarterbacks and draftable skills. Second, the structure, and third, the history of these picks. Those three, when looked at together, bring a pretty shocking revelation that made me conjure up that statement above.

Drafting a Quarterback

Teams who find themselves drafting quarterbacks highly may be in a variety of spots, but there are three that are the most typical:

  1. One of the league’s worst teams, holding a high draft pick.
  2. Middling franchise, looking to make a change.
  3. Top of the league, finding the protégé for an older (on the verge of retirement) leader.

When teams find themselves in any of these positions, they must find the traits they value in a quarterback. Among those are arm talent, rushing ability, composure, ability to read the field, and more. However, there are two categories that those fall into, which, for the sake of the argument are production and potential.

To put it simply, teams judge what a quarterback is right now versus what he could be in a few years.

Scenario one

The top guys usually have a combination of both. Trevor Lawrence, who went number one to the Jaguars last year, combined national championships and Heisman ballot appearances with a 6’6″ frame and a cannon of an arm. Thus, he went to a team that I would place in the first set of criteria. The Jaguars were easily one of the worst teams in the NFL, and thus received a generational talent.

Scenario Two

Those with one of the two traits, however, have a wide range of options. For a team that’s just good enough to be picking outside of the quarterback window, they might be willing to take a chance on a potentially huge swing in their franchises history. Kenny Pickett is a prime example of this. While he doesn’t have the strongest arm or the highest ceiling, his production last season was hard to ignore. The Pittsburgh Steelers, who were 9-7-1 last year, decided that he was worth it at 20.

Kenny Pickett goes 20th overall.

Following that pick, there were other quarterbacks on the board, who, like Pickett, possessed one of the two main traits. Malik Willis, who some suspected may go as high as number two overall, had one of the highest ceilings in the draft, however, if he wasn’t going to go in the first, it seemed he wasn’t getting drafted until later on day 2.

scenario threE

Teams that fall in the third category (such as the Packers in 2020) have a tough decision. While they could take their chances on a high-potential pick like Jordan Love, it makes the most sense to maximize their championship window. Green Bay took that chance in 2020, and passed up elite talent because of it. Now, teams have learned from that mistake, while quarterbacks brunt the blow to their draft position.

Thus, Malik Willis, Matt Corral, Desmond Ridder, and all of the quarterbacks who many expected to go in round one, are now available in the dreaded first half of day two.

The Structure of the Second Round

On the typical draft boards, teams have a wide range of grades on prospects. It’s common to see someone who’s viewed as a top prospect by one team be a day two pick for someone else. Due to this disparity, many “first round talents” fall into the beginning of day two.

These players are quickly scooped up in what makes up roughly 25 percent of the round. This leaves the last 24 picks for guys truly viewed as round two prospects, which doesn’t leave much room for quarterbacks.

If a team would have believed in someone enough to draft them with those first eight picks, it’s unlikely he would have slipped to begin with. Teams rarely risk the opportunity of missing out their guy. This is why it’s common to see teams move up to 32. They guarantee themselves the player they want with an extra year of team control.

Lamar Jackson was drafted 32 overall.

If a team wasn’t willing to take that chance, it’s unlikely they viewed them very highly. That idea is exactly what makes the second round the worst for the quarterback. Would a team take a player who, at the most important position in the sport, they aren’t fully invested in or comfortable with — especially when there is still high-end talent on the board?

The last 24

Once you find your way out of those first eight picks, it becomes time for teams to ask themselves that question. As this draft has shown, the answer has been a resounding “no.” The later picks, which are usually the teams competing for playoff spots, would rather choose someone who can contribute right away. Bubble teams are always looking for their next big acquisition, and their philosophy is that is can come then.

Quarterbacks, as a result, usually fall by the wayside. However, there are some instances where they are picked. The results of which are rather interesting.

Modern History of the Second Round Quarterback

Over the last 20 years, there have been 20 quarterbacks selected in the second round. 20 different times, teams have weighed the ideas of production and potential, and in the last two decades, have determined it’s time to take a quarterback who likely only had one of those traits.

A list of second round quarterback selections of the last 20 years.

Of those, the results are typically a failure of epic proportions. Kellen Clemens, Deshone Kizer, Drew Stanton, Chad Henne, Brian Brohm, John Beck, Jimmy Clausen, and Geno Smith all have more career interceptions than touchdowns, while Christian Hackenberg and Kyle Trask (who’s only in his second season) never played a recorded snap.

The other options aren’t great either. Tavaris Jackson, Brock Osweiler, and Kevin Kolb all showed some flashes, but never lived up to their selection.

Five of the remaining six are polarizing. Jalen Hurts has shown flashes, but fell apart in the playoffs. Drew Lock is still young, but was just traded by the Broncos and has been shaky. Jimmy Garoppolo was able to succeed in the Kyle Shanahan offense, but was just replaced and hasn’t shown an ability to transcend the system. Andy Dalton is a similar story, having rough stints in limited playoff appearances. Lastly, Colin Kaepernick led the 49ers to a Super Bowl appearance, but has been out of the league for the better half of the last decade.

This leaves Derek Carr, who, while having only one playoff appearance and zero playoff wins, has safely cemented a spot as the Raiders quarterback for eight years. He has made three Pro Bowls, and has continued to improve. Thus making him the only second round quarterback selected in the last 20 years who can safely be called a hit.

The Bottom Line on the Second Round Quarterback

The 2022 NFL Draft was a prime example of a philosophy at work. After a quarterback goes in the first round, teams have learned from mistakes of the past. Rather than picking signal callers with clear holes in their game in the following round, they’ve gone for contributors at other positions.

Several teams would love to have the next Derek Carr, but with that comes the chance of Brian Brohm or Deshone Kizer. Just like every other selection, the second round has it’s fair share of bust potential. However, it seems that the combination of quarterback traits, draft tendencies, and a simple history lesson will tell you that it simply isn’t the same.

General managers across the league will continue to take swings on quarterbacks, but when doing so, it’s important to look at the most glaring fact:

Second round quarterbacks don’t exist.

Handing Out the Tennessee Titans 2022 Draft Grade

Top Image: Former Arkansas receiver Treylon Burks in uniform with the football
Photo Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Handing out the Tennessee Titans 2022 NFL draft grade – or any team’s, really – is a futile prospect this soon in the game. Careers have yet to be played, and we don’t even know how these prospects are going to fit into their current systems. As always, then, handing out draft grades this early in the game is a vanity project.

But, there’s a certain charm in grading a team’s gets immediately after a draft. While careers are unknown, it’s easy to form educated guesses about which direction they’ll take. Those guesses won’t always be right, but they will be good enough to form early judgments.

The Titans had one of the more interesting drafts. While commentators thought they’d draft Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green in the first, they did something far more bold — and foolish.

Titans select Treylon Burks with the 18th pick

Did the Titans select a younger, cheaper version of A.J. Brown? Probably not. But, they weren’t going to pay A.J. Brown the money he thought he could get from another team. So, they traded him to Philadelphia, who immediately gave him $100 million over the next four years.

Compare that with the Titans, who were only going to commit $16 million a year for Brown’s services. Christian Kirk may well have caused the biggest player realignment in living memory, and the Brown trade is fallout from that.

Enter Treylon Burks, who was selected with the 18th overall pick. Burks is a big receiver, weighing in at 225 pounds. The speed he shows in the open field is decent, and he was able to get separation against college defensive backs. What really stands out, however, is his hand strength, which allows him to go up and grab whatever ball he wants.

Those skills propelled him to 11th on my own big board. He’ll be a top NFL receiver, but won’t have quite the same speed or explosiveness that Brown has.

As well as the 18th pick, the Titans also got a third round pick at 101st overall, which was then flipped to the Jets.

Grade: D+

There’s no sugarcoating this; the Titans got worse in the first round of the draft. Burks is a wonderful prospect, but arrives in Nashville as an unproven WR2.

Then, the Titans ship out their 26th pick to the Jets

This was actually prudent. After getting their guy in the first round, the Titans were able to move back to 35th overall in the second round. As well as the 35th pick, they got the 69th pick, and the 163rd pick. The Jets got the 26th pick and the 101st pick.

Grade: B

Not spectacular, but good enough for them to get a position of need.

In the second round, the Titans selected Roger McCreary

Jackrabbit Jenkins became a cap casualty, and was cut after just one year with the team. Kristian Fulton was solid last year at corner, while 2021 first rounder Caleb Farley hopes to find the field this year. With only one proven corner, the Titans needed depth.

They got said depth with Roger McCreary. Although McCreary is a 5-foot-11 corner who played mostly in a cover-three scheme at Auburn, he’s got some good tools. His ability to keep strong against bigger opponents will be a plus in the NFL. When he did have the chance to play man-up on someone, he never let receivers get much separation from him.

Grade: C

It’s a perfectly fine selection, and gives you another guy you can spot start if need be. Yet, McCreary is unlikely to be a standout or steal, even if some mocks did have him as a first rounder coming into the draft.

He’s no little brother: Petit-Frere goes 69th overall

The Titans must know they drafted a lemon in 2021.

Coming into 2021, Dillon Radunz was drafted out of corn-fed power North Dakota State, and the Titans hoped he would be a starter. But, 2021 didn’t play out that way for Radunz. The tackle only appeared on offense in six out of 17 contests, and didn’t impress very much when he did get offensive snaps.

With Nicholas Petit-Frere, the Titans hope they’ve solved their right tackle issues.

Petit-Frere is a prototypical tackle at first glance. At 6-foot-5, and weighing 316 pounds, he moves very well. He has great lateral quickness and agility, and can reach block effectively. That skill especially will serve him well with the Titans’ stretch zone run they like to run, which requires a tackle to execute that block consistently.

There are holes in his game, namely how deep he sets up in pass protection. But, he would have been a 2023 first rounder had he stayed, and the Titans can afford to see out his development.

Grade: A-

Tennessee gets a tackle who can start right away for them, but also gets the benefit of a high-upside developmental prospect.

The next episode: Malik Willis is a Titan

In the biggest move for the franchise’s direction in this draft, the Titans traded up to get Malik Willis.

Ryan Tannehill will be 34 at the start of the 2022 season. With his age and a relatively streaky 2021 season playing against him, the Titans needed new blood. Tannehill will still be the starter for this season, but Willis will sit behind him and develop as his heir apparent at quarterback.

Willis was projected as a first round pick before the draft. His precipitous drop into the third round speaks more to reality, but he’s still an impressive quarterback prospect. The zip he puts on the ball is unlike anyone else in this class. Most notable though, is his running ability, which is absurd. He is unbelievable in the open field with the football, and is stout enough to take hits.

So what did NFL teams see, then, to cause his drop? His processing under pressure is not always the greatest. He can make basic passing reads, but Liberty’s simplistic offense under Hugh Freeze hurt his ability to learn more advanced passing concepts.

Grade: A

What’s not to like? The Titans are in a win-win situation with Malik Willis. Either he develops well and they got a bargain, or he isn’t the guy, and the Titans only invested a third round pick in him.

Michigan back Hassan Haskins gets drafted at 131st overall

Derrick Henry going down for the Titans last year showed the weakness of the Titans’ offense. With the team acting as an 11-man battering ram, the hope is that Henry’s size and volume will wear down the defensive front seven. The Halloween injury to Henry made the Titans use dollar store versions of Derrick Henry, though. That only got them so far, and they nearly blew the top overall seed because of a sterile, impotent offense.

Hassan Haskins is not Derrick Henry. But, what he showed at Michigan proves he could be a good backup for him. The former Wolverine is massive, coming in at 6-foot-2 and weighing 228 pounds. While not the quickest guy, he has a little open field ability that should be tested out this off-season.

Grade: C+

It isn’t an impressive pick, or even really at a position of need. But, it’s an insurance pick, and that’s perfectly suitable for a day three guy.

Maryland tight end Chig Okonkwo gets drafted at 141st overall

A staple of the Titans franchise is a good pass-catching, do-it-all tight end. In an offense where two tight ends are needed, the Titans didn’t have many options after Jonnu Smith left.

Chig Okonkwo, though, is an underrated prospect. He’ll be on the field early and often for the Titans, thanks to his good combination of size and athletic ability. This former Terrapin may blossom in a Titans offense that needs downfield options for Tannehill at tight end.

Grade: B

With their third fifth-round pick, the Titans grabbed receiver Kyle Philips out of UCLA

Receiver depth is looking dire for the Titans in 2022, and Kyle Philips will have a chance to compete for the fourth wide receiver slot right away. While Philips isn’t ever going to be a starter or even a WR3, it’s a fine pick.

Grade: C

Nashville native Theo Jackson heads to Titans in the sixth round

The former Tennessee Volunteer played the nickel corner position in college, and was awarded All-SEC honors for his play. At 6-foot-1 and nearly 200 pounds, Jackson could end up with the same role with the Titans. He could also end up as a fine gunner on special teams.

Grade: C+

With their last pick, the Titans selected Ole Miss linebacker Chance Campbell 219th overall

Chance Campbell is worth taking a flyer on, given his production at Ole Miss. But, given his lack of athleticism and pass coverage ability, it will be an uphill battle for him to make the 53-man roster.

Grade: C-

The Titans 2022 draft grade is?

There are four potential starters in this class, and two of them will surely start on opening day. Tennessee’s picks were for good value, and that’s boosted their grade as well.

On the downside, Tennessee didn’t get a great return for A.J. Brown, which hurts the Treylon Burks pick significantly. Burks will always carry that trade on his shoulder for as long as he’s a Titan.

Overall, though, the Titans had a solid draft. They’ll get good production from this group in the future.

Titans overall draft grade: B

Answers to the Biggest Questions in the 2022 NFL Draft

The stage for the NFL Draft back in 2011, with the NFL logo in the foreground.
Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

With the 2022 NFL draft a mere six days away, months of burning questions about this year’s group of players will come to an end. Instead of speculation, the cold reality of the final draft results will take hold soon enough. Teams will convince themselves they’ve drafted the class of players who will be the future of the team. Fans will sell themselves on botched picks and decry good ones.

All in all, the draft is a time of wonder. It is poetic that it occurs in spring, when hope blossoms the easiest. But, that hope is often dashed. When fall arrives, fans and teams get their first cold winds of reality. Sometimes the crop of players picked will last the winter. Sometimes they fail and leave teams hungry for more football come December.

While evaluating people in their early 20s is always hard, there are answers to the biggest questions, if one knows how and where to look.

Who will be the best overall player from this draft?

That honor will go to Jordan Davis, the massive defensive tackle from Georgia. While Davis isn’t number one on anyone’s board, he should be. At 350 pounds, he moves like someone who weighs 100 pounds less. He can shoot the gaps well, and it doesn’t matter whether he plays a 1 or 0 technique either. On passing downs, he’s able to move virtually anyone off the ball, even powering through double teams.

Concerns over him boil down to him being a player that only thrives in special situations, as well as his lack of true three-down ability. Yet, as athletic as he is, he’s not just a traditional 3-4 nose tackle. Even with defenses that run four down linemen as their base, Davis could fit in.

While his lack of three-down play is noted, he’s still worth a top 10 pick just based on what he can do with the two downs he’s given.

Who will be the biggest bust from the 2022 NFL Draft?

It has to be Travon Walker.

Ever since Travon Walker’s combine performance, he’s shot up draft boards like a busted water main through a road. Ranking 3rd in RAS out of every single defensive end since 1987 in combine drill stats will do that, but the hype around him has grown far too much.

Yes, Walker has freakish weight room strength and great speed, but none of that really stands out on film. In Georgia’s scheme, he played much the same role as Devonte Wyatt or 2023 prospect Jalen Carter did. Yet, Wyatt and Carter both were far more active at disrupting plays compared to Walker. His play is even pedestrian at times, as guards and tackles can move him off the ball without trouble.

Driving Walker’s hype is the idea he can adjust totally to another position without suffering for it. Sure, he’ll be far ahead of the game as an edge rusher compared to any other 3-4 defensive end who transitions to that role. But, taking him at second or even first overall implies that he’s ready now. He isn’t, and if his film is anything to go by, he won’t be for a long time.

Will Kayvon Thibodeaux’s “lack of motor” concerns matter at all?

Absolutely not.

Concerns over his efforts are not based in reality. He’s no different than any other edge player in this draft as far as motor. If Aidan Huchinson and George Karlaftis have a motor, so does Kayvon Thibodeaux.

On film, it’s obvious why Thibodeaux was considered the best prospect in the 2022 NFL draft class for so long. His body is long, but he still possesses a massive frame. At the snap, he looks like he’s been shot like a rocket out of his stance. Offensive tackles look helpless against him in a full-on pass rush. Against the run, he stays with the play and is able to effectively control his gap.

Oh yeah, he’s also strong as an ox, too, and can bull-rush if the need arises. He’s got all the tools to not just succeed, but become one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers in the next three seasons.

Is Malik Willis Worth a Top 10 Pick?

No.

Malik Willis had an incredible two year run at Liberty after transferring from Auburn. In his role as Flames starter, Willis threw for over 5,000 yards and ran for over 1,800 yards.

Yet, there are issues when his game tape is broken down. He’s got a live arm, and can put good zip on the ball, but composure against pressure is a knock on him. Additionally, he has trouble seeing the whole field at times, something a quarterback who gets selected top 10 cannot have huge issues with.

Using just his physical tools in evaluating him will lead to an overinflated gauge of his ability. While examples like Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen provide evidence that drafting just based on pure physical traits can work, Malik Willis is in a different situation. Those quarterbacks played in an air raid scheme and a fairly conventional scheme, respectively.

Meanwhile, Willis has played in a scheme that has very simple passing concepts that don’t require the ability to read the field. While it’s possible he makes a good NFL quarterback, he’ll need significant development time to do so.

Which team will win the 2022 NFL draft?

While the New York Jets have two top ten picks, the franchise is terribly mismanaged. The Houston Texans have a better shot, but that franchise’s management is only a tad better.

With many starting caliber prospects in the middle of the first round on back to the third round, a team that can have multiple picks in each of the first two rounds has the highest shot of success.

Thus, the Kansas City Chiefs will draft the best. With the 29th and 30th picks in the first round, as well as the 50th and 62nd picks in the second round, the Chiefs look like they’ll bolster a roster that will need reshuffling.

Players such as receiver Jahan Dotson or offensive guard Kenyon Green will be on the board late in round one. With reinforcements like Nick Cross at safety available deep into round two, Kansas City can add needed depth that will put them back in AFC contention.

Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft: How Matt Ryan Trade Affects Plans

The Atlanta Falcons traded Matt Ryan to the Colts for the No. 82 pick in the 2022 NFL draft. His era is now over in Atlanta, but he will always be remembered as one of the greatest Falcons of all time. To replace him, they will have to look to a combination of the NFL draft and the signing of Marcus Mariota. Mariota looks like a mentor for whoever they end up drafting.

To explore what the draft could look like, we employed the Draft Network’s Mock Draft Machine to develop a realistic Atlanta Falcons mock draft scenario. General Manager Terry Fontenot has stated that he employs a Best Player Available draft strategy, but in reality, he will likely focus on finding a quarterback since he doesn’t have that franchise guy right now.

Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft

Malik Willis, first pick in this Atlanta Falcons Mock Draft
Photo Credit: G. Fiume/Getty Images

Round 1, No. 8 overall: QB Malik Willis, Liberty

Sure, the Falcons signed Marcus Mariota to start for the 2022 season. And that will be fine for until the next quarterback is ready. But they should look into someone who can not just be the guy who fits what head coach Arthur Smith likes, but be the guy who can help Smith expand his playbook.

Some guys will fit that mold in this draft later on, but if you like a guy enough to take him in the first, take him at your first round pick. We’ve done just that for this Atlanta Falcons mock draft.

The guy who truly fits the Falcons as a team, a city, and an organization is Malik Willis. He’s an Atlanta native who played at a pair of high schools in Atlanta before moving to Auburn and later on Liberty in college. He has the off-field credentials that would fit in well in with the Falcons as a leader for the locker room for years. And on-field, he has the rocket arm, exceptional mobility, and football IQ to be a premier quarterback in today’s NFL.

Malik Willis could be the long-term future in Atlanta. Photo by G. Fiume, Getty Images
Pickens would instantly be the No. 1 receiver in Atlanta. Photo by Curtis Compton, UPI

Round 2, No. 43 overall: WR George Pickens, Georgia

The Falcons currently have just 32 catches, 420 yards and three touchdowns of wide receiver production returning to the team in 2022 from their 2021 corps. The only two wide receivers of note on the Falcons current roster are Olamide Zaccheaus and Frank Darby. The signing of KhaDarel Hodge isn’t a needle-mover, either. Because of that, the Falcons should be in search of a man who can be a No. 1 wide receiver not just in on-field ability, but attitude.

George Pickens from Georgia is that guy in true form. He’s a 6-foot-3 receiver with some of the best speed in the draft. He can burn a defense deep and has the ability to go over the middle that will be needed for coach Smith’s schemes. Pickens has had some injury issues, and without those issues, he would probably be going top 10 in this draft. The Falcons should take advantage of this slip and hope he can avoid injury moving forward.

Travis Jones could be a dominant force next to Grady Jarrett. Photo by Kirby Lee, USA Today

Round 2, No. 58 overall: DL Travis Jones, Connecticut

The Falcons do have five defensive linemen on the roster now, but they could use a primary nose tackle-type to fit into the rotation with Anthony Rush, Marlon Davidson, and Ta’quon Graham. The player next to Grady Jarrett needs to be quick, strong, and large. Travis Jones fits that to a tee. He also matches the scheme defensive coordinator Dean Pees runs at the position.

Primarily someone who will eat double teams in Atlanta, Jones should open up Grady Jarrett to more one-on-one matchups with offensive linemen. Those double teams he eats should keep the linebackers behind him cleaner and the pass rushers next to him with more one-on-one matchups, as well. While an edge rusher would be helpful here, the pass rush is a multi-year project. Jones will help it more long-term than a first-year edge rusher.

Darrian Beavers is the ideal Dean Peas MIKE. Photo by Benjamin Solomon, Getty Images

Round 3, No. 74 overall: LB Darrian Beavers, Cincinnati

With the loss of Foye Oluokun, the Falcons will need someone to take over the middle linebacker role left in the void. Darrian Beavers fits in well with the Falcons’ defensive coordinator Dean Pees role at Mike. The Falcons would get a leader for their defense. Beavers understands the adversity of playing on a roster that may not be the most talented. He’ll be able to get the most out of the players around him.

Nik Bonitto (11) could be a star in Pees scheme. Photo by Tom Pennington, Getty Images

Round 3, No. 82 overall: EDGE Nik Bonitto, Oklahoma

The Falcons added to their edge room with the signing of Lorenzo Carter and addition-by-subtraction of letting Dante Fowler go. Carter and Adetekunbo Ogundeji will likely be the starters, but adding a pass rusher like Nik Bonitto to the rotation would only help. It does seem like this is a minor addition to be the direct compensation for Matt Ryan, as this was the pick gained in that trade, but Bonitto has the potential to be a vital piece of a pass rush.

Alec Lindstrom re-unites with his brother in Atlanta. Photo by AP

Round 4, No. 114 overall: OL Alec Lindstrom, Boston College

The Atlanta Falcons need to enhance the talent along the offensive line. What better way to do that than to bring in the little brother of the best offensive lineman they have? Alec Lindstrom can fit in well in the zone blocking scheme as he’s a quicker, more technical lineman. He also can play either guard or center position and allow Atlanta some competition for Matt Hennessy, Drew Dalman, Jalen Mayfield, and the rest of the interior line roster for a starting role in 2022.

Coby Bryant could be an intriguing projection. Photo by Jonathan Bachman, Getty Images

Round 5, No. 151 overall: CB/S Coby Bryant, Cincinnati

Based on the Falcons needs, bringing in someone like Coby Bryant to help the safeties room makes a lot of sense. Now that may sound a bit off because Bryant was a cornerback in college, but he was an extremely strong run defender and reliable tackler. More importantly, he was exceptional in zone coverages and a little weaker in man-to-man. The Falcons bringing in Bryant as a safety to be the free, deep defender makes sense as a projection this late.

Tyquan Thornton and George Pickens can burn defenses. Photo by Jerome Miron, USA Today

Round 6, No. 190 overall: WR Tyquan Thornton, Baylor

Because of the lack of wide receiver depth on the Falcons roster, adding another receiver in the sixth makes sense for that purpose. Tyquan Thornton was the most athletic receiver in the draft and at 6-foot-2, he has the height to help out the new quarterbacks make those throws needed in the red zone. Thornton is a bit rough around the edges as a route runner, but he fits in well with the schemes in Atlanta and can stretch the field.

Jalen Nailor could be a great fit in the slot long term. Photo by Chris Peterson, Getty Images

Round 6, No. 213 overall: WR Jalen Nailor, Michigan State

Our Atlanta Falcons mock draft ends the way it began: on offense. The slot receiver could also use an upgrade and bringing in someone like Jalen Nailor would help that depth there. Nailor has great big-play ability due to his run-after-catch ability to excel in the Falcons offense.

He will remind some of Russell Gage, but more polished as a route runner. The speed is there to torch a defense, and he’s great as a vertical receiver as well. Adding Nailor, Thornton, and Pickens would really give the Falcons larger, faster receivers to work with.

2022 NFL Draft Quarterbacks Temperature Check: Senior Bowl

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The top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft have now completed their journey to Mobile. With the Senior Bowl over, they now turn their eye to the NFL Scouting Combine. Before diving into that, however, let’s see where the class stands. Six of the top seven quarterbacks played in the Senior Bowl. We’ll check in with what their temperature is as a prospect before moving onto the next stage of the NFL Draft process.

Senior Bowl Practice Star Malik Willis
Photo by Jeff Hanson

Malik Willis, Liberty

Of all the 2022 NFL Draft quarterbacks, Malik Willis probably had the most to gain or lose at the Senior Bowl. As was the case during most of his college career, Willis was somewhat inconsistent during his time in Mobile. But his flashes were so explosive that it got some people (perhaps too) excited.

Willis undeniably possesses the best physical gifts in this draft class in terms of his athletic/running ability and arm talent. He also looked the most energetic and engaged with his teammates during practices, especially during the torrential downpour on Wednesday. 

But Willis also has a long developmental road ahead of him with regards to his lower body mechanics, accuracy, and mental processing. He put all these facets of his game on display during the Senior Bowl process. Willis frequently made electric plays with his feet, along with some truly unique throws. But he also missed several easy passes due to his poor footwork.

Nevertheless, Willis probably flashed enough during the week to convince several teams they can fix him and turn him into the next Mahomes or Allen. Because of his elite traits, many are going to be willing to bet on him as the best quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft. 

Temperature Check: Hot, slowly approaching Fever

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

Kenny Pickett arrived in Mobile with arguably his biggest flaw at the forefront of the discourse: his hand size. Pickett did not measure his hands due to his thumbs being double-jointed, leading to a misleading number. Nevertheless, the rumor is that his hands are only 8 ¼” across, the smallest for any quarterback in the modern era. However, Pickett apparently soared above the other 2022 NFL draft quarterbacks in Mobile, as he was the clear winner during the interview process with NFL teams. 

On the field, Pickett performed like most of the other quarterbacks: inconsistent. He had some nice throws on the first day but also struggled to receive snaps (albeit from unfamiliar centers who were new to the position). On the second day, Pickett donned a glove on his throwing hand to deal with the pouring rain. However, he looked even worse this day, as he struggled to drive the ball with velocity through the rain.

But on the third day, he played arguably the best of any quarterback during the whole week. Granted, this practice took place indoors, but Pickett parleyed this performance into another solid one on game day. At the end of the week, Pickett most likely helped himself; but there are still legitimate concerns about his game that could scare teams off. 

Temperature Check: Warm, slowly approaching Hot

Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Sam Howell, North Carolina

Of the quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, Sam Howell probably had the most consistently solid week in Mobile. Howell had some of the same issues as the other quarterbacks (snap exchange problems, drops, etc.). He made numerous good accurate throws to most levels of the field.

But Howell did not test the defense deep as much as quarterbacks like Willis and Strong. On one hand, it was frustrating not to see him take deep shots; on the other, he didn’t miss as badly as the other quarterbacks. 

During the actual game, Howell was plagued by the same issue that gave him so much trouble this past season: poor offensive line play. Even though the offensive lines at the Senior Bowl were much better than Howell’s at UNC, the opposing defensive lines were unstoppable. At this point in the process, he represents somewhat of a middle ground between Pickett and Willis.

The problem is that more teams want to bet on elite traits, even if that player has major issues. Howell doesn’t have any elite traits, but he also doesn’t have any major flaws. For these reasons, I think he could fall in the draft but it might land him in a better situation where he can succeed immediately. 

Temperature Check: Lukewarm but Comfortable

Carson Strong, Nevada

Carson Strong might have had the most to gain among the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl. However, in my opinion, he failed to fully take advantage of this opportunity. Over the course of the past year, Strong became the darling sleeper of many draft analysts. His big arm and accuracy from the pocket were unique, especially for a Group of Five quarterback.

Strong played quite well again this past year, but concerns about his mobility (or lack thereof) and the long-term health of his knee flared. Going to Mobile, Strong had a chance to seize the mantle of QB1 if he could continue to wow with his arm talent and show he could move around the pocket. 

During his time in Mobile, Strong accomplished about one-and-a-half of those goals. He did not wear a knee brace during practice and showed on multiple occasions he could get outside the pocket and even scramble for a few yards. He also displayed the raw power of his arm, launching passes 50 or 60 yards downfield.

Unfortunately, many of these passes completely missed the receiver, as Strong struggled to properly locate passes, especially intermediate and deep. While he didn’t have a bad week by any means, Strong failed to make a significant change to his stock — especially after the first day. If anything, Strong’s chances of being drafted in the first round decreased after this week.

Temperature Check: Warm but lower than anticipated

Photo Credit: AP Photo / Rogelio V. Solis

Matt Corral, Mississippi

Matt Corral did not attend the Senior Bowl, but the performance of the other 2022 NFL Draft quarterbacks affects his stock as well. Some said Matt Corral was the biggest winner in Mobile because the rest of the quarterbacks were so inconsistent/bad.

Corral runs a very similar offense to that of Sam Howell and Malik Willis, and arguably ran it the best this season, leading Ole Miss to a 9-3 season. But I am still wary of Corral; he presents a lot of the same issues that plague Willis and Howell, but lacks the size, arm strength, rushing ability, or toughness. 

Furthermore, Corral could have been eligible to attend the Senior Bowl. Since Jim Nagy took over, the game has been much more open to accepting fourth-year juniors that have graduated. They even took Sam Howell, who graduated from North Carolina in only three years.

Conversely, Corral failed to graduate from Ole Miss in four years (one of which was a redshirt year) as a multidisciplinary studies major. Obviously, there have been great quarterbacks with less than stellar academic records who succeeded in the past. But this falls in line with Corral’s history of immaturity and lack of focus, dating back to his time in high school. Therefore, with all these elements combined, I would say Corral has not moved very much in recent weeks. 

Temperature Check: Tepid

SEE ALSO: 2022 ALL-SENIOR BOWL OFFENSE

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

On one hand, Desmond Ridder did exactly what people expected of him at the Senior Bowl. Unfortunately, on the other, he did exactly what was expected. Ridder is an extremely polished, developed quarterback — especially relative to the other 2022 NFL Draft quarterbacks. However, that is part of the problem.

Despite starting for several seasons, Ridder still struggles to maintain consistent accuracy and ball placement, especially when throwing deep. He also doesn’t have the strongest arm; it’s not bad, but is about NFL average in terms of both velocity and distance. 

In Mobile, Ridder struggled with a lot of these same issues. Granted, the offensive line, receivers, and offense we all new. But he still made more mistakes and bad plays than most of the other quarterbacks there. Most people see Ridder as a step below the previously discussed quarterbacks, due to his lack of elite (or perhaps even very good) traits. He did nothing to dissuade these notions in Mobile. At this point, it’s hard to plot a path for Ridder to re-elevate his stock to that of a first-round pick. 

Temperature Check: Room-Temperature and Dropping

Bailey Zappe led the American team of winners and losers on Day 3 of the Senior Bowl
Photo Credit: Jeff Hanson

Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky

Even though the rest of the 2022 NFL Draft quarterback group in Mobile struggled throughout the week, Bailey Zappe was clearly a tier below the rest. While Zappe is very accurate in short and intermediate areas of the field, he lacks the arm talent to consistently threaten the entire field. He would need an elite team around him, along with a domed stadium, to be a successful NFL starting QB.

While one might point at Drew Brees as a possible model for Zappe, I would gesture towards the scores of undersized, noodle-armed quarterbacks who barely lasted one contract. 

Temperature Check: Cold

Others

Of the quarterbacks at the East-West Shrine Game in Las Vegas, Jack Coan stood out the most to me. Coan flashed at various points in his career, both at Wisconsin and Notre Dame. He probably doesn’t have the consistency or the physical tools to develop into a full-time starter, but he’s extremely smart with an NFL-caliber arm and some athletic ability. He could carve out a niche for himself as a long-time backup in the league. At this point, I’d rather spend an early-Day 3 pick on Coan than Zappe. 

Another lower-tier quarterback that played well at a lower-level all-star game is Chase Garbers. The California quarterback was fantastic in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl; he displayed good zip on accurate throws, along with surprising athletic ability. He is proto-typically built (6’2”, 218 lbs) and looks like the type that could be a solid backup and competent spot starter. If I had to burn a sixth or seventh-round pick on a quarterback to be an NFL backup for the next decade, I would spend it on Garbers.

The Three FCS Musketeers

This quarterback class is notoriously thin, which is driving scouts to the FCS ranks to look for hidden gems. The three names that have come up the most are Alabama A&M’s Aqeel Glass, Brown’s EJ Perry, and Southeastern Louisiana’s Cole Kelley.

Glass is the most prototypical of the three, as he plays like Strong. While he’s extremely accurate, he’s an underwhelming athlete and does not push the ball vertically very much.

Perry is probably the hottest name right now, as he’s coming off several tremendous seasons in the Ivy League after transferring from Boston College. Unfortunately, he’s small and probably doesn’t have an NFL-caliber arm.

My favorite of the bunch is Cole Kelley. Formerly of Arkansas, the 6’6”, 250 lbs behemoth might be the most unique QB in this class. While his arm is not as strong as one would expect of someone with his size and build, Kelley probably has the most NFL tools of any of the FCS quarterbacks. Again, if NFL teams are going to bet on physical tools, Kelley is the smartest man to wager on.