2022 NFL Draft: Who is winning the race for QB1 next April?

Malik Willis #7 of the Liberty Flames. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
Malik Willis #7 of the Liberty Flames. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

The 2022 NFL Draft is going to have some intriguing quarterback prospects. Here are the four candidates leading the charge so far. 

We are three games into the 2021 college football season and things are starting to take shape. For fans of NFL teams in need of franchise quarterbacks, they no doubt already have an eye on some of the top prospects who are projected to declare for the 2022 NFL Draft next April.

While this quarterback class doesn’t project to be anywhere close to the historic one we saw in 2020 (five quarterbacks selected in the first 15 picks), there are some very talented passers worth monitoring this year.

In recent mock drafts, there have been as many as six different quarterbacks who have had first-round labels attached to their name at one point or another. However, we know the likelihood of things shaping up that way, in reality, are slim to none.

Last week, it was reported that Boston College breakout candidate, Phil Jurkovec will likely miss the remainder of the year with an injury to his throwing hand. Jurkovec is a big, talented quarterback who had a chance to hear his name called in the first round with a solid season.

Of the rest of the group, I think there are three quarterbacks who are currently fighting to be the top passer (and potentially even the top player) selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Which QB will be picked first in the 2022 NFL Draft?

Prior to the start of the season, Spencer Rattler had my vote as the top player to be selected in the 2022 NFL Draft – pretty easily in fact. He had a remarkable sophomore season in 2020 and he was one of the best quarterbacks I’ve seen in years at extending the play and finding receivers down the field.

However, I don’t feel as confident that Rattler will be the number one quarterback selected as I used to. Through his first three games of 2021, his completion percentage is up compared to last year, but his yards per attempt, and touchdown percentage, and passer rating have all dipped significantly. Rattler is very talented, but there are a few other passers on his heels.

Sam Howell has been a consensus top-two quarterback since the offseason, and it’s not hard to see why. His big-play potential and arm talent are as good as any QB prospect in this draft class.

Unfortunately, Howell hasn’t been perfect either, and he’s made some very head-scratching, costly throws early on this year. The young UNC quarterback has been remarkable at times, but the consistency isn’t there yet.

This brings me to Liberty standout quarterback, Malik Willis. Though Willis is older than Rattler or Howell and at a smaller school, he’s probably been the most impressive of the three. Willis has recorded very respectable yards per attempt (8.9) to go with a high completion percentage (71.0 percent) and a perfect touchdown-to-interception ratio (7-0). Willis also owns the best passer rating of the three and is the only one of this group who has improved his passer rating from last season so far.

In addition to Willis, Ole Miss QB Matt Corral has been a pleasant surprise this year. After his play took a big step forward as a redshirt sophomore last season, he seems to have taken another leap so far this year – throwing 9 touchdowns and 0 interceptions through three games.

Other candidates to go in the first round include Nevada’s Carson Strong and USC’s Kedon Slovis; however, I haven’t been as impressed with them in the early going.

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The 2022 NFL Draft is going to be interesting, and players like Malik Willis, Spencer Rattler, Matt Corral, and Sam Howell could make it a tight race for QB1 next April.