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2022 NFL Draft: Falcons top targets at QB

The 2022 NFL Draft is nearly here, and we’re wrapping up our coverage with our final positional rankings. Today’s focus is quarterback, a position of long-term need for the Falcons with Matt Ryan traded to the Colts.

LendingTree Bowl - Liberty v Eastern Michigan Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

The 2022 NFL Draft is almost here, and it’s finally time to wrap up all of our draft coverage with my final positional rankings. I’m proud to say I watched more than 100 players this offseason, far more than ever before. On the site, our team has compiled more than 20 full scouting reports on some of the top prospects in the class—with more to come over the next week! While you may not always agree with our rankings or analysis, we hope you’ve at least enjoyed the discussion and additional viewpoints.

For the positional rankings, these will be based on my personal rankings, not necessarily the rankings of our other writers. I watch players through the lens of the Atlanta Falcons: I prioritize and rank based on the perceived fit in Atlanta’s offense and defense. So keep that in mind, as these rankings may not line up with a generic big board.

I’d also like to note that while I watched a lot of players, I didn’t watch anywhere close to the nearly 300 who will be drafted. As a result, I’m only going to rank the players that I’ve seen at least 2-3 games of. There are tons of other prospects who I’ve seen limited tape of and discussed with other scouts, but I don’t feel comfortable ranking them without at least a few full games watched.

I hope you enjoy these rankings, and if you miss any position groups, you can find them all below:

DEFENSE: EDGE | DT | LB | CB | S | OFFENSE: QB

1: Malik Willis, Liberty

RAS: N/A | Projection: 1st Round

It’s hard to overstate how impressed I was with Malik Willis at the Senior Bowl. Based on his tape, I expected him to struggle to adjust to a pro style offense and to have issues with his accuracy. Instead, he adjusted very quickly, and was by far the most impressive QB in Mobile. At 6’0.5, 219, Willis has a solid build for the position and has one of the biggest arms in this class. He can absolutely rip it to any area of the field, which is even more impressive considering how undeveloped his mechanics are. Despite his incredible tools and ability as a runner, Willis was a very inconsistent quarterback in terms of his accuracy and decision-making. This is the prospect with the best chance of becoming a special NFL QB, and I’m willing to bet on the traits as my QB1.

2: Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

RAS: 9.61 | Projection: 1st Round

At 6’3, 211, Ridder has excellent size, a strong arm, and offers legitimate dual-threat ability. Ridder is a four-year starter for Cincinnati and improved every year as a passer, culminating in a fantastic 2021 season that saw him complete 64.9% of his passes for 3334 yards (8.6 YPA), 30 TDs, and 8 INTs. He also demonstrated quality rushing ability, averaging 4.4 YPC over his career and piling up 28 TDs on the ground. Ridder is a team leader and fierce competitor, and led his team to an impressive 13-1 record and CFP appearance this season. Even though Cincy was taken down by Alabama, Ridder deserves credit for getting them that far—something no G5 quarterback had ever done.

3: Kenny Pickett, Pitt

RAS: 9.55 | Projection: 1st Round

Pitt’s Kenny Pickett had an awesome senior season where he completed 67% of his passes for 4319 yards (8.7 YPA), 42 TD, and 7 INT. Pickett has good size at 6’3, 217 and offers impressive mobility, both in the pocket and as a runner. He’s got an above-average arm and improved his accuracy and decision-making as a passer over the course of his college career, culminating in his outstanding 2021 season. In terms of this QB class, Pickett is the most pro-ready and I think he’s got a high floor as a solid to above-average NFL starter. The ceiling is the biggest question: I don’t see Pickett reaching the heights of the NFL’s best.

4: Matt Corral, Ole Miss

RAS: N/A | Projection: 1st-2nd Round

If Matt Corral hadn’t injured himself in his team’s bowl game, I wonder if he’d be talked about more as the potential QB1. As it stands now, he’s certainly one of the most intriguing options in the class. Corral improved his accuracy and decision-making this season, and when combined with his mobility, he looks the part of a mobile, modern NFL QB. The concerns mostly stem from his lack of ideal size at just 6’1, 200, and fairly average arm strength. Corral needs to go to an offense that’s willing to let him use his dual-threat ability, but I think he’s got the upside of an above-average NFL starter.

5: Sam Howell, UNC

RAS: N/A | Projection: 2nd Round

The quarterback that many expected to be the top prospect in this class, Sam Howell wound up taking a bit of a step back in 2021 after an incredible 2020 season. Howell lost a lot of talent around him at North Carolina, including multiple WRs and the dynamic RB duo of Michael Carter and Javonte Williams. Those challenges did allow Howell to develop a new part of his game, as he became a proficient dual-threat option and averaged 4.5 YPC on the ground (along with 11 rushing TDs). Howell is a little undersized at 6’0, 218, but has shown consistently good accuracy and arm strength and has managed to thrive under difficult conditions as a leader.

6: Carson Strong, Nevada

RAS: N/A | Projection: 2nd-3rd Round

Nevada’s Carson Strong has everything you want from a passing game standpoint. He’s got a great arm, makes good decisions, and has a thick, classic QB build. He just doesn’t offer you anything as a scrambler, and is never going to be someone who can extend plays or escape with his legs. Strong had an excellent 2021 season, where he completed 70.2% of his passes for 4186 yards (8.0 YPA), 36 TD, and 8 INT. He makes good decisions with the football and has a prototypical old-school QB build at 6’3, 226. Strong was playing through an injury this year which limited his mobility, but I don’t think he’s anything more than a solid athlete overall.

7: Bailey Zappe, WKU

RAS: 5.97 | Projection: Day 3

Bailey Zappe had one of the best seasons ever in college football, completing 69.3% of his passes for 5,967 yards, 62 TDs, and 11 INTs in just 14 games. Oh, and it was his first year as a starter at WKU. Any way you slice it, that’s incredible. Zappe appears a little undersized for the position at 6’0, 215. While I don’t think he lifted himself into the Day 2 discourse, he more than proved himself worthy of the NFL at the Senior Bowl. Zappe looked like he belonged with this class of quarterbacks, although his lack of ideal size and mobility probably limit his ceiling to that of a high-end backup or spot starter.