By Gio Annatelli, The Game Day
At the NFL Draft each year dreams become a reality when college stars are drafted to play in the NFL. And each year, top focus goes to the quarterback position, as you won’t have much success in the league without a quarterback.
Since 2010, 39 quarterbacks have been taken in the first round. The 2021 and 2018 drafts had 5 quarterbacks taken in the first round, as both years were very QB heavy. However, we won’t be seeing many quarterbacks flying off the board in the first round this year. That’s due to a combination of it not being that strong of a quarterback class, and not as many teams needing a quarterback.
The following teams have needs for the QB position: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, New Orleans Saints, and Seattle Seahawks. While some of these teams can afford to wait until next year to take a signal caller, others have immediate needs for the position.
Below is where I think the top 5 quarterbacks will be taken in the upcoming NFL Draft:
Only Two QBs Get Selected in the First Round?
Kenny Pickett, Carolina Panthers (Round 1, Pick 6)
It’s safe to say the Sam Darnold experiment was a failure for the Carolina Panthers in 2021. In 11 starts, Darnold had a 4-7 record and threw for 2,527 yards, nine touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. Head Coach Matt Rhule has to be on the hot seat with just a 10-23 record through two seasons.
Taking Kenny Pickett in the first round is one way to turn down the heat. The Panthers only have two picks in the first four rounds (Pick No. 6 and Pick No. 137), so the first round might be the only shot for Carolina to land their QB of choice.
Pickett has the experience, size, arm strength, and athleticism of a pro-ready quarterback. He threw for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns, and seven interceptions, leading Pittsburgh to an 11-3 record. However, questions have come up about his small hand size and how that could be an issue with holding onto the ball.
If the Panthers want someone to start right away Pickett is the best option. If they want to give Darnold another shot, that’s fine, too. The Heisman Finalist will be ready to get his number called when needed.
Malik Willis, Atlanta Falcons (Round 1, Pick 8)
After trading Matt Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, the Falcons will look to draft their next franchise quarterback. While Marcus Mariota is good for the time being, he’s not the long-term answer. Atlanta could wait until the second round to take a quarterback, but once they see Carolina take Pickett at number six, they’ll make their move and select Malik Willis.
Like Pickett, Willis has all the tools to be a starter in the NFL. Willis threw for 5,107 yards, 47 touchdowns, and 18 interceptions through two seasons at Liberty. He also was dominant on the ground, rushing the ball for 1,822 yards and 27 touchdowns.
This is a perfect situation for Willis to go to, as the Falcons have several young and exciting players to pair with Willis, while also giving him the chance to grow under Mariota.
Desmond Ridder, Detroit Lions (Round 2, Pick 34)
While Jared Goff is only 27 and still has plenty more football left in his career, he is not the answer for the Detroit Lions. The Lions went 3-13-1 last season, landing them the No. 2 overall pick in the NFL Draft. Detroit also has the No. 32 overall pick, and if they make it to the end of the first round with just two quarterbacks taken, they can wait until Day 2 to pick their guy in Desmond Ridder.
Like the Falcons’ situation with Willis, Ridder can come in as a backup to Goff and learn under him for a season. Goff did lead the Los Angeles Rams to a Super Bowl in his time there, so Ridder can pick up a lot from him.
A four-year starter at Cincinnati, Ridder led the Bearcats to the College Football Playoff, becoming the first non-Power Five school to achieve that. He had a fantastic senior campaign, throwing for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns while also rushing for 355 yards and six touchdowns.
The Lions have some weapons that Ridder can take advantage of as a mobile quarterback. Goff was sacked a career-high 34 times last season, so Ridder can use his legs to get out of those situations.
Sam Howell, Seattle Seahawks (Round 2, Pick 40)
It will take some time for Sam Howell to develop coming to the next level. While Seattle doesn’t have the flexibility to let a quarterback sit and develop, it pays to bring him into a system he can thrive in. While Howell is no Russell Wilson, he does have a similar style of play to him.
Howell’s passing numbers have gone down over his three years at North Carolina, as he threw for 3,056 yards and 24 touchdowns. However, his rushing increased significantly, as he ran the ball 183 times for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The Seahawks will look to add to the quarterback competition of Drew Lock and Geno Smith, and getting a mobile quarterback that can extend plays like Howell would be huge. Howell might not start the season as the No. 1 guy on the depth chart, but he’ll find his way onto the field this season.
Matt Corral, Indianapolis Colts (Round 2, Pick 42)
This will be the first opportunity the Colts have to pick in 2022, after receiving the No. 42 pick from the Washington Commanders in a deal that sent Carson Wentz to the nation’s capital. In turn, the Colts went out and traded for Matt Ryan. Sure, Ryan is a right-now option, but Indianapolis needs to think long-term, and Matt Corral is that long-term option.
Indianapolis was one win away from making the playoffs but lost to the last place Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18. The Colts have all the tools and players to make it to the playoffs, and Ryan is an upgrade from Wentz. Having Corral as Ryan’s successor is something the Colts can afford.
Corral is another quarterback in this draft class that can extend plays with his legs. He’s got good arm strength and accuracy, completing 67.9% of his passes last year for 3,349 yards, 20 touchdowns, and five interceptions. Corral had 152 carries for 614 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground.
Landing with the Colts is the perfect situation for Corral, as he’s still raw and needs a few years to develop. Corral can learn under Ryan, who will for sure have success in Indianapolis.