Examining the top prospects at quarterback for the 2022 NFL Draft
The 2022 NFL Draft is slated to take place from April 28-30 in Las Vegas. While the 2021 college football season has yet to unfold, it's never too early to take a look at which quarterbacks could top the rankings or the wish list for teams next spring. The pool of top prospects at quarterback is headlined by North Carolina's Sam Howell, Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler, and USC's Kedon Slovis. The next tier is led by Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder, Georgia's JT Daniels, Arizona State's Jayden Daniels, and Liberty's Malik Willis.
Who are the top quarterbacks to watch in the 2021 season for NFL draft potential? Here are the top projected options, followed by a handful of names to watch. (Note: Names are listed in alphabetical order)
Projected Top QB Prospects in 2022 NFL Draft
Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Measurables: 6-1, 205 pounds
The combination of Corral and coach Lane Kiffin transformed Ole Miss into one of the nation’s top offenses last season. The Rebels averaged 39.2 points a game behind Corral’s 3,337 yards and 29 touchdowns through the air and 506 yards and four scores on the ground. Corral’s completion percentage (70.9) and yards per attempt (10.2) ranked second in the SEC only to Alabama’s Mac Jones, while his 11 completions of 50-plus yards were the most in the conference. Taking better care of the ball after 14 interceptions in 2020 is a priority for Corral this fall.
Dustin Crum, Kent State
Measurables: 6-3, 207 pounds
If you like high-scoring offenses and a quarterback on the rise, then Kent State is going to be a team to watch in 2021. The abbreviated ’20 season prevented the Golden Flashes from building on a promising ’19 slate, but Crum is poised for a monster year running coach Sean Lewis’ high-powered offense. The Ohio native ranked fourth nationally by averaging 355.3 total yards a game last fall. In a full 13-game slate from 2019, Crum torched opponents for 3,329 total yards and 26 touchdowns. He also tossed two picks over 312 attempts and ranked second among MAC quarterbacks by averaging 8.4 yards per attempt.
Jayden Daniels, Arizona State
Measurables: 6-3, 185 pounds
The abbreviated Pac-12 season in 2020 prevented Daniels from delivering the breakout season most anticipated. However, with a full offseason to work under play-caller Zak Hill, Daniels is poised to take a big step forward. He started 12 games as a true freshman in ’19 and connected on 60.7 percent of his passes for 2,943 yards and 17 touchdowns to two picks. Although it’s a small sample size, the numbers from ’20 were solid (701 yards and five touchdown tosses). Daniels is a rising star and could play his way into a high pick with a strong ’21 season.
JT Daniels, Georgia
Measurables: 6-3, 210 pounds
Daniels might be the nation’s most intriguing quarterback going into the 2021 college football season. As a true freshman at USC in ’18, Daniels threw for 2,672 yards and 14 touchdowns. However, Daniels didn’t get a chance to build on that success in ’19 after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the opener against Fresno State. With Kedon Slovis entrenched as the starter at USC, Daniels transferred to Georgia but did not play in the first six games of ’20. However, the California native made an instant impact on the Bulldogs’ offense over the final four contests. Daniels passed for 1,231 yards and 10 touchdowns in that span and added a healthy 10.3 yards per pass attempt.
Dillon Gabriel, UCF
Measurables: 6-0, 186 pounds
There’s some unknown here as UCF’s offense faces a transition with Gus Malzahn taking over for Josh Heupel. Gabriel has been incredibly productive in 23 career games for the Knights, throwing for 7,223 yards and 61 touchdowns and adding six more scores on the ground.
Sam Howell, North Carolina
Measurables: 6-1, 225 pounds
Howell’s commitment was a key cog in coach Mack Brown’s efforts to turn things around in Chapel Hill, and the third-year quarterback has lived up to the hype (and then some). He started all 13 games as a true freshman in 2019, throwing for 3,641 yards and 38 touchdowns en route to a 7-6 season. The Tar Heels were even better in ’20, finishing 8-4 with a trip to the Orange Bowl. Howell’s continued development was a big reason for the jump, as he nearly equaled his passing yardage (3,586) and touchdowns (30) from his freshman season but improved his accuracy (68 percent from 61) and yards per pass attempt (10.3 to 8.6). Howell is squarely in the mix to be No. 1 overall in ’22.
Phil Jurkovec, Boston College
Measurables: 6-5, 226 pounds
Jurkovec played sparingly as Ian Book’s backup at Notre Dame from 2018-19 and transferred to Boston College for a chance to start. The Pittsburgh native showcased why he was one of the top quarterback recruits in the 2018 signing class in his debut with the Eagles, throwing for 2,558 yards and 17 touchdowns to just five picks. How far will Jurkovec progress in his second year as the starter?
D’Eriq King, Miami
Measurables: 5-11, 195 pounds
King suffered an ACL tear in the bowl loss to Oklahoma State but is on track to return in time for the season opener. After spending the first four years of his career at Houston, King transferred to Miami for the 2020 campaign. The Texas native flashed his dynamic all-around ability by throwing for 2,686 yards and 23 touchdowns and added 538 yards and four scores on the ground. King averaged 8.2 yards per attempt and also tied for third among ACC quarterbacks with a completion percentage of 64.1 in ’20.
Tanner Morgan, Minnesota
Measurables: 6-2, 215 pounds
Getting back on track is the goal for Morgan in 2021. After throwing for 3,253 yards and 30 touchdowns to just seven picks in ’19, Morgan’s numbers dipped to 1,374 yards and seven passing scores over seven games last fall. Finding a new No. 1 target to replace first-round pick Rashod Bateman is a key priority to help Morgan’s numbers return closer to his standout campaign as a sophomore in ’19.
Michael Penix, Jr., Indiana
Measurables: 6-3, 218 pounds
Penix isn’t lacking for talent, but he’s suffered three season-ending injuries at Indiana. Prior to last year’s ACL tear, Penix was on track for his best all-around season. In six games, Penix threw for 1,645 yards and 14 touchdowns to four picks and added two more scores on the ground.
Brock Purdy, Iowa State
Measurables: 6-1, 212 pounds
Purdy enters the 2021 season with 33 career starts and has passed for 8,982 yards and 62 touchdowns in his tenure with the Cyclones. The Arizona native is accurate (66 percent completion rate), averages a solid 8.5 yards per pass attempt, and has thrown just 25 interceptions over 1,060 attempts. Purdy isn’t a statue in the pocket either, rushing for 939 yards and 18 touchdowns since ’18.
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
Measurables: 6-1, 210 pounds
With a big-time arm and lethal accuracy (67.5 percent in 2020), Rattler is in the mix to be the first quarterback off the board in next year's draft. The Arizona native started all 11 games for the Sooners in ’20 and passed for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns to seven picks. And now with a full offseason to work with coach Lincoln Riley, Rattler should be even better in ’21.
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Measurables: 6-4, 215 pounds
Ridder’s development is an intriguing storyline in the battle to be one of the first quarterbacks off the board in 2022. After a strong freshman season in ’18 (3,028 total yards and 25 touchdowns), his numbers regressed as a sophomore. Injuries played a significant role in the performance, as Ridder’s completion rate declined to 55 percent (down from 62) and his overall yardage dipped to 2,814. However, the Kentucky native rebounded with his best all-around season at Cincinnati. In 10 games, Ridder threw for 2,296 yards and 19 touchdowns and completed 66 percent of his throws (the best one-year mark in his career) and added 592 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground.
Tyler Shough, Texas Tech
Measurables: 6-5, 221 pounds
Shough appeared to be the heir apparent to Justin Herbert at Oregon last season, but his play tailed off at the end of 2020, resulting in a transfer to Texas Tech for a chance to start. Shough’s numbers were solid last fall through the air (1,559 yards and 13 touchdowns) and on the ground (271 yards and two scores), but he needs to get back on track in ’21 to improve his draft outlook.
Kedon Slovis, USC
Measurables: 6-3, 215 pounds
Slovis seemed to be hindered by an arm injury last season, but the Arizona native should benefit from a normal offseason to return to full strength in 2021. Despite the injury concerns, Slovis still passed for 1,921 yards and 17 touchdowns in seven games. That production in ’20 came after he passed for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns to nine picks as a true freshman in ’19. When healthy, Slovis is among the nation’s most accurate passers (71.9 percent completion rate in ’19).
Carson Strong, Nevada
Measurables: 6-4, 215 pounds
Strong made a huge leap in production and overall performance last season. As a redshirt freshman in 2019, the California native threw for 2,335 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, as the starter in ’20, Strong increased his passing yards to 2,858, touchdowns to 27, and tossed only four picks over 355 attempts. Also, his yards per attempt increased to 8.1 (up from 6.2) and completion percentage jumped to 70.1 (from 63.4).
Malik Willis, Liberty
Measurables: 6-1, 215 pounds
The former Auburn quarterback shined in his debut for Liberty last season and is in for another huge year in 2021. Willis ranked ninth nationally in total offense (320.4 yards per game), scored 34 total touchdowns and just missed a 1,000-yard season (944) on the ground.
Eligible Sophomores to Watch
Connor Bazelak, Missouri
Measurables: 6-3, 220 pounds
This might be a bit of a reach to suggest Bazelak will be in draft consideration for 2022, but the Ohio native has an intriguing blend of talent and size to go with upside after his first opportunity for extended playing time last fall. Bazelak played in three games in ’19 but suffered an ACL tear in the finale against Arkansas. He returned to full strength for ’20 and claimed the starting job for the final eight games. In 10 overall appearances last year, he threw for 2,366 yards and seven touchdowns while connecting on 67.3 percent of his passes.
Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
Measurables: 6-3, 200 pounds
McCall was one of the breakout players from the 2020 college football season and is eligible to leave Coastal Carolina as a redshirt sophomore this fall. After playing in two games as a true freshman, McCall started 11 games for the Chanticleers and guided the program to an 11-1 record with a finish in the top 25. The North Carolina native was in command of Coastal Carolina’s spread attack, averaging 10 yards per pass attempt and throwing for 2,488 yards and 26 touchdowns over 172 completions. McCall tossed only three picks and added 569 yards and seven scores on the ground.
Graham Mertz, Wisconsin
Measurables: 6-3, 225 pounds
Mertz is the most heralded quarterback prospect to land at Wisconsin and played in two games in his first year on campus (2019). The Kansas native won the starting job in ’20 and opened the season by torching Illinois for 248 yards and five touchdowns on Oct. 23. However, the Badgers were had their next two games postponed due to COVID-19, and injuries to his top receivers limited the passing game the rest of the year. Mertz finished with 1,238 passing yards and nine touchdowns over 193 attempts. The sample size is still limited (203 career pass attempts), but Mertz has the talent to have a breakout sophomore season in Madison.
Others to Watch
Myles Brennan, LSU
Replacing Joe Burrow wasn’t going to be easy, but Brennan suffered a season-ending injury in the third game of the year, which added to the uncertainty at quarterback for LSU. Brennan has to beat Max Johnson for the starting job, but his 2020 start (1,112 yards and 11 touchdowns) was promising.
Charlie Brewer, Utah
Brewer transferred from Baylor to Utah this offseason and impressed in spring practice. He needs to hold off Cameron Rising this fall, but Brewer has been a steady performer (9,700 yards and 63 percent completion rate) and has potential to thrive in Utah’s offense.
Anthony Brown, Oregon
Injuries hindered Brown at Boston College, but he’s positioned to start for the Ducks in 2021.
Sean Clifford, Penn State
After a solid first year as Penn State’s starter in 2019, Clifford regressed last season. He completed 60.6 percent of passes but tossed nine picks and averaged 7.5 yards per attempt (down from 8.3).
Jack Coan, Notre Dame
With Ian Book off to the NFL and Graham Mertz entrenched as Wisconsin’s starter, Coan left Madison for a chance to be the No. 1 quarterback in South Bend. He did not play last season due to injury but connected on 69.6 percent of his throws for 2,727 yards and 18 touchdowns with the Badgers in ’19.
Max Duggan, TCU
Duggan is poised for a breakout 2021 campaign after averaging 232.1 total yards a game last season.
Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan
Eleby doesn’t have a full season of starts under his belt but limited sample sizes in 2018 and ’20 have provided plenty of promise. The Missouri native shredded defenses for 1,715 passing yards and 18 touchdowns to just two picks in six games last fall.
Chase Garbers, California
The COVID-19 pandemic limited Garbers’ chances to learn under new coordinator Bill Musgrove last offseason. Can he get back to his 2019 level of performance this fall?
Layne Hatcher, Arkansas State
Hatcher finished fourth nationally in yards per attempt (10.6) last season and won’t have to share quarterback duties in 2021 after Logan Bonner transferred to Utah State.
Emory Jones, Florida
Due to a limited sample size, Jones is regarded more for his rushing ability. However, Jones will get a chance to display his arm and passing skills as he replaces Kyle Trask in Florida’s high-powered offense.
Adrian Martinez, Nebraska
Martinez had a promising freshman season in 2018 but hasn’t matched that performance in the last two years.
McKenzie Milton, Florida State
Milton has missed the last two seasons after suffering a serious knee injury against USF in 2018. After transferring from UCF to Florida State, Milton’s last year of eligibility provides him a path to showcase his draft talent.
Bo Nix, Auburn
Can new coach Bryan Harsin get the former five-star recruit on track in 2021?
Kenny Pickett, Pitt
Pickett passed on the NFL for a fifth season in the Steel City. He ranks third in school history in total offense and fifth in passing yardage (7,984).
Spencer Sanders, Oklahoma State
Sanders has talent but has to do a better job of taking care of the ball after tossing 19 picks the last two seasons.
Nick Starkel, San Jose State
Starkel opted for an extra senior year instead of entering the NFL draft in 2021. After starting his career at Texas A&M, Starkel transferred to Arkansas for a season and ended up at San Jose State prior to ’20. His play (2,174 yards and 17 touchdowns) was a major factor in the Spartans winning the Mountain West.
Kyle Vantrease, Buffalo
Buffalo’s offense is centered on its ground game, and there’s some uncertainty with coach Lance Leipold leaving for Kansas. Vantrease hasn’t posted huge totals the last two seasons, but he provided a steady presence through the air (62.3 completion rate) last fall.
Bailey Zappe, WKU
Zappe – a transfer from Houston Baptist – posted huge totals at the FCS level. He should be among the top quarterbacks in Conference USA this fall.
More to Watch: Hank Bachmeier, Boise State; Chase Brice, Appalachian State; Jake Haener, Fresno State; Sam Hartman, Wake Forest; Hendon Hooker, Tennessee; Brandon Peters, Illinois; Drew Plitt, Ball State; Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA