In the run-up to the 2021 NFL draft, many observers commented that teams may feel more pressure to find their quarterback of the future since the incoming rookie class for next year’s draft looks to be thin. Yet, isn’t this the same thought every year? Perhaps a draft class that finally featured Trevor Lawrence who was winning National Championships as a freshman three years ago makes the 2021 quarterback group special.
At this time last year, one would be hard-pressed to find someone confidently predicting that BYU’s Zach Wilson would develop into the second player taken in the draft. As Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian commented about the potential lack of quality quarterback prospects next year: “Somebody always crops up.” A quick glance at the prospects in college shows plenty of names that observers and NFL brain trusts might fall in love with.
It is challenging to accurately assess the returning college quarterbacks next fall after a shortened season with limited practices given COVID protocols. Hopefully, college football will be able to return to a normal practice regimen which will help the development of the quarterbacks looking to impress NFL scouts. Observers are more likely to be surprised than disappointed with another year of development. Below is a list of ten players who may grow into being a first-round draft pick in April of 2022.
Spencer Rattler: NFL scouts have learned to trust quarterbacks groomed by Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley. If Jalen Hurts becomes the starting quarterback in Philadelphia, he will join Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray as NFL starting quarterbacks that went through Riley’s program. Rattler started slowly last year before settled down to throw 15 touchdowns to two interceptions in his final seven games.
J.T. Daniels: The former five-star quarterback was in the shortlist conversations with Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields coming out of high school before injuries marred his growth at USC. With a full season as the starter at Georgia, Daniels will draw plenty of attention.
Sam Howell: The North Carolina quarterback is considered the most polished passer in the class. He demonstrated his potential last year with 443 passing yards against Virginia and 550 passing yards against Wake Forest. Daniel Jones and Matt Ryan are comparables of quarterbacks with big arms who came from the ACC to find success in the NFL.
Kedon Slovis: He is the quarterback who beat out J.T. Daniels for the starting job at USC, and he is the reason Daniels now plays in the SEC. Slovis has a quick release that NFL scouts covet. USC quarterbacks remain attractive to NFL brass.
Tyler Shough: He was the heir apparent to Justin Herbert before a disappointing 2020 compelled him to transfer. He can put up big numbers against Big 12 defenses at Texas Tech, and then his 6’5 frame will take over to entice scouts.
Matt Corral: He completed 71% of his passes in his first year at Ole Miss under head coach Lane Kiffin. He will likely put up video game numbers next season in the Rebels' offense. While just 6’1, his accuracy could make scouts think of Baker Mayfield or even Drew Brees.
Bo Nix: The Auburn quarterback suffered from a sophomore slump last season after a freshman campaign that compelled quarterback coach guru Jordan Palmer to proclaim him the future top pick in the 2022 draft. A resurgent junior season in the SEC would elevate Nix once again.
Desmond Ridder: The Cincinnati quarterback may be the closest comparison to a dual-threat Kyler Murray-type in the class. He completed 66.2% of his passes last season, and he has demonstrated himself as a winner with a 30-5 record with the Bearcats.
Grayson McCall: The Coastal Carolina quarterback is still considered raw as he enters his redshirt junior season, but he came off a breakout campaign where he completed 69% of his passes with 26 touchdown passes and only three interceptions. The Chanticleers do not run a pro-style offense, but all it takes is one NFL offensive coordinator convinced he can lift enough of the Coastal Carolina offense to find success at the next level for McCall.
Mystery Player to Come Out of Nowhere: This list above is not exhaustive of the potential quarterbacks who could make a big jump in development under a full year of coaching and competition. No one was predicting that Mac Jones would be picked by the New England Patriots in the first round at this time last year.
Call it the “recency effect” or call it being a “prisoner of the moment”. It is human nature to overestimate the value of what is most recently experienced. For NFL scouts worried about finding a quarterback in the 2022 NFL draft, there are plenty of intriguing candidates.
Good luck - TDG.