After three years of scouting nearly every game of this quarterback class, we have reached the conclusion. I can say for certain that while this class isn’t anywhere near the caliber of the previous two, it’s by no means a bad crop of prospects. I suspect as many as five of these kids, will be drafted in the first round, and eight by the end of day two, just like last year. Without further ado, here are my final QB Rankings:
Tier 1: First Round Talents
1) Sam Howell, Jr, North Carolina: 8.25/10
Howell came into the season as my QB1 and ended the season as my QB1. Howell’s deep ball, clutch play, intangibles, and mobility make him the easiest to project at the next level. Howell feels like the latest in a long line of franchise QBs that we have managed to overthink. You can find my full report on Howell here.
2) Matt Corral, Jr, Ole Miss: 8.03/10
Corral isn’t safe, not at all. His 2020 tape shows a player who makes the aggressive play to a fault and he comes with some off-field baggage. But his 2020 tape also shows the ability to make spectacular plays and his 2021 tape showcase a tangible growth in his decision-making and maturity on and off the field. There’s a real risk here, but Corral’s arm, legs, competitive toughness, and quick release give him the potential to be a superstar at the next level.
Tier 2: Second Round Talents
3) Kenny Pickett, Sr, Pittsburgh: 7.27/10
After four subpar college seasons, Pickett took a giant leap as a “Super Senior”. Pickett is experienced (49 starts, 52 total games played) and manages the offense at a high level. He’s not as accurate as some of the top QBs of last year but excels on anticipatory throws. He’s an adult capable of running an NFL offense as a rookie, but his lack of arm strength and issues in the pocket leave me to believe he’s already near his ceiling as a mid to low-level starter on Sundays. You can find my most recent article on Pickett here.
4) Desmond Ridder, Sr, Cincinnati: 7.25/10
Ridder is a nearly identical evaluation to Pickett and honestly, I spent months flipping them back and forth. Ridder is also older and more experienced than the rest of this group (50 starts), has great intangibles, operates the offense very well, gets the ball out quickly, and lacks the physical limitations that plague Pickett. Where Ridder fails is his ball placement, it’s all over the map. I went into the offseason believing it was unfixable, however, I saw a real improvement over his final six games and even more over the offseason. If he can reach even the league average ball placement, Ridder is a top 15 starter in the NFL. You can find my full scouting report on Ridder here.
5) Malik Willis, Sr, Liberty: 7.04/10
Willis is both the most exciting and frustrating player I’ve watched on tape in the last few seasons. He has an absolute cannon for an arm, is a human highlight reel on the ground, but lacks the vision to see wide-open receivers, streaking down the field. Willis could easily develop into the top player in this class, but he could just as easily struggle to ever develop into even a decent thrower of the football. He’s a risk worth taking in my opinion but not before the others listed before him. You can find my latest article on Willis here.
Tier 3: Carson Strong
6) Carson Strong, Sr, Nevada: 6.95/10
Strong has a cannon for an arm and is the best pure passer in this class. So why is he QB6? Well, unfortunately, he suffered from what could potentially be a degenerative knee injury in high school, and in addition to the risk of re-injury, it has also rendered him nearly immobile. In today’s league, it’s possible for a young QB to succeed without mobility, but it trims the margin of error to almost zero. In addition, Strong has struggled to look comfortable during the offseason process, often looking out of place amongst his peers, and there have been persistent whispers since the Senior Bowl about bad interviews and character concerns. There’s enough there to believe it’s more than a smokescreen. Strong is a 2nd round talent that will likely be available late in round 3. If you can live with the concerns, Strong could end up as a steal.
Tier 4: Long Term Backups and Developmental Prospects
7) Bailey Zappe, Sr, Western Kentucky: 6.80/10
Zappe is one of the most Productive Passers in the history of college football but lacks the physical tools to be projected as a starting QB at the next level. I can see him slotting in as decade long backup and effective spot starter.
8) Brock Purdy, Sr, Iowa State: 6.63/10
Purdy has been all over the map, two seasons ago he looked like he was headed for the first round, but in the two seasons since, it seems that Purdy has not only stagnated, he’s regressed. I see a lot of Jeff Garcia in his game. He’s capable of stepping in and providing a great game, or even a season but I don’t believe he has the physical traits to sustain success at the next level. Like Zappe, he’s a ten-year backup who could start a lot of games at the next level.
8) Cole Kelley, Sr, Southeastern Louisiana: 6.24/10
At 6-7 249lbs, Kelley looks like an offensive tackle or a jumbo tight end playing Quarterback but there are enough physical traits there that you just can’t teach that make him worth stashing on your roster long term in hopes of developing a real star. The 2020 Walter Payton Award Winner (best FCS player) posted a career-best 5,124 Passing Yards and 44 Touchdowns to only 10 interceptions to go along with 491 rush yards and 16 touchdowns. His physical tools and his production make him a candidate to go much earlier in the draft than most experts expect. I suspect he could be drafted early in the 4th round, if not even the late 3rd round. He’s a candidate to transition to tight end, following the path of Tyree Jackson and Logan Thomas before him, in the event he can’t hang on the roster as a Quarterback.
10) Kaleb Eleby, Jr, Western Michigan: 6.08/10
Like Zappe and Purdy, Eleby has great leadership intangibles, and above-average ball placement but is just missing something that makes him hard to project as a starter at the next level. In his case, its experience against quality competition and reps in an NFL-style offense. The tools are average to above average, he moves well and is a bit of a gamer. There is a future for Eleby in the league, I’m just not how teams are going to value an undersized, developmental QB without great tools. He’s definitely draftable though and I expect him to be a mid to late-day-three pick.
11) EJ Perry, Sr, Brown: 5.80/10
Perry has real Taysom Hill vibes, he’s a bigger, highly mobile, highly intelligent kid that could play a multitude of roles on an NFL squad. I’m just not sure he’s a natural enough thrower to ever develop into a starting quality passer in the NFL. For creative minds, he’s sure to be a late-round target, and I would expect him to absolutely hang around a team in some capacity.
Note: De’Eriq King would likely be on this list, but I removed him because I suspect that King will be drafted late in the draft as a slot Wide Receiver.