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2022 NFL draft: Matt Corral outshines Malik Willis in QB showdown

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Each week during the college football season, we'll stack the quarterbacks with 2022 NFL draft eligibility based on their pro potential — and nothing else.

Some of the players we list below may not enter next year's draft, but we'll list anyone who has a remote shot to declare early.

Here's how we see the NFL QB prospect hierarchy stacking up after the first 10 weeks of college football.

1. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

(Last week: 1st)

Following his two-pick game in the loss to Miami, Pickett got back rolling against a Duke squad that hasn't won since September. Although a few of his throws were in harm's way, Pickett finished the game 28 of 43 passing for 416, three TDs an no interceptions, even while his receivers continue to drop catchable passes on a weekly basis.

We're still seeing some looser play from Pickett in recent games. Slightly errant throws, too many hits and sacks taken and average efficiency against teams that rush effectively with four.

Overall, though, he's had the cleanest body of work of the 2022 QB class, we feel, and even has added a slight dimension to his game with his improved scrambling. It'll never be his forte, but it's yet another area of improvement in his much-needed fifth year of college experience.

2. Matt Corral, Ole Miss

(Last week: 4th)

Corral very much has a chance to be the first QB drafted in 2022, but that speaks to the relatively disappointing talent at the position in this draft class as much as it does his ability. He led a very respectable effort against an overmatched Liberty defense on Saturday in front of a host of NFL scouts, led by the Denver Broncos, who sent a whopping five representatives to the game.

Corral's deep-ball touch, fearlessness, toughness and running ability certainly give the veneer of a top QB prospect. But there also appears to be a healthy amount of development required in his game, as Corral can still be too system-dependent and struggle when structure breaks down and he's forced to make decisions on the fly as a passer.

We're fans, we really are. But if Corral had come out with his current body of work in last year's draft class, he'd have been battling for QB6 honors with the likes of Kyle Trask, Kellen Mond and Davis Mills and perhaps not wedging his way into Round 1.

Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral (2) passes against Liberty in a 27-14 victory. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Mississippi quarterback Matt Corral (2) passes against Liberty in a 27-14 victory. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

3. Sam Howell, North Carolina

(Last week: 5th)

Very quietly, Howell has been playing some very good football of late, at times carrying the team on his back with his arm and even his legs. His running ability has been allowed to shine this season, at times out of necessity, but it's not a development that should be overlooked.

Howell turned in his fifth 100-yard rushing effort of the season, running for 104 yards and two TDs. Remarkably, all eight of his running TDs this season have been from 10 yards out or longer. He's routinely pinballing off defenders for extra yards, and that dimension was a big part of the Tar Heels' impressive takedown of previously unbeaten Wake Forest.

Howell now is the school's all-time passing-yards leader, breaking T.J. Yates' mark in the big victory, and also its record holder for total offense yards. But it's his running ability that has been a truly welcome development this season, making him an even more well-rounded prospect.

4. Carson Strong, Nevada

(Last week: 3rd)

Saturday's win over San Jose State saw Strong complete 36 of 54 passes for 314 yards and a touchdown, but he also tossed two interceptions and the Pack's offense largely struggled until two late drives to pull out the victory — and they did it without star TE Cole Turner, who was knocked out of the game in the third quarter.

Strong completed passes of 43, 19 and 20 yards on their penultimate drive, hitting Romeo Doubs for a TD to give Nevada a 24-17 lead with 5:26 remaining. When he got the ball back with the game tied, Strong led a 47-yard, game-winning drive in the closing seconds.

Overall, his game performance was sub-par following a hot stretch recently where the health of his knee looked as good as it had all season. But Saturday's effort was a small step back, as Strong looked rushed and flustered at times and had trouble stringing together multiple positive plays.

5. Malik Willis, Liberty

(Last week: 2nd)

One of the trickier elements of scouting comes when there's a special talent who is not surrounded by much special talent. That's Willis, and though it has shown up previously this season, the talent gap was obvious in the Flames' 27-14 loss (which wasn't as close as the score would indicate) at Ole Miss.

That said, very little of what Willis did will at all help his cause. We can argue until we're blue in the face how many of his three interceptions and his nine sacks were definitively his fault, or that of his teammates (or other factors). 

For what it's worth, our view is that the first pick was not on Willis, the second one absolutely was and the third was a desperation heave at the end that can be forgiven. We'd also suggest that five, perhaps six of the nine sacks can at least be partially blamed on Willis.

Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis (7) was sacked nine times in a loss at Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis (7) was sacked nine times in a loss at Mississippi. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

It's clear that Willis remains an uber-talented, fascinating yet definitely flawed prospect whose incubation time and fit will be crucial to his development as a prospect. He's hanging onto the ball for way too long. He's locking in on targets and forcing passes. And Willis just doesn't appear to be processing at a fast speed in these situations.

Willis' toughness was also on display in this game, as was his running ability. It's nice when a quarterback as a changeup pitch such as this, and Willis is the best running QB in this class. He also uncorked some beautiful throws in this one. But we also see some major hurdles Willis must overcome before he's close to being a ready-made NFL passer.

6. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

(Last week: 6th)

Ridder has remained firmly in the friend zone for us this season, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. He led another QB efficient effort in the win over Tulsa, both as a runner and passer. Watch the fade pass he made to Alec Pierce early in the third quarter to set up a touchdown, or his 3rd-and-3 scramble for a first down early in the second quarter to see what. we're talking about. 

Yet there were a few mistakes in the game, too. First, there was the high throw on an RPO that glanced on his receiver's hands for an interception. (It happened around the 9:00 mark of the first quarter; give it a watch and let us know what you think as to who was to blame.) 

Then there was Ridder's nearly disastrous late fumble near his own goal line that almost cost the Bearcats any hope of making the CFB Playoffs. Cincinnati held on defensively, and Ridder has done a good job cutting back on the fumbles this season, but there are some areas of his game we remain hesitant about.

7. Phil Jurkovec, Boston College

(Last week: n/a)

Yahoo Sports' Pete Thamel broke the news that Jurkovec would be starting this week, and it was a breath of fresh air for draft fans wanting a shot of life injected into this QB class. Although he started a bit slowly in the game after missing most of the season with an injury to his throwing hand, Jurkovec showed his competitiveness and skill by returning far earlier than expected and helping his team to a good win over Virginia Tech.

Jurkovec completed 7 of 13 passes for 112 yards and an interception, also rushing for 65 yards and a touchdown. The pick very much was an ill-advised throw; chalk that one up to rust from a guy who hasn't thrown any game passes since early September.

Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec returned from a throwing-hand injury to lead a victory over  Virginia Tech. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec returned from a throwing-hand injury to lead a victory over Virginia Tech. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

But on the INT return, VT's Dorian Strong fumbled it ... and it was recovered by Jurkovec. The BC coaches had to be gasping at the idea of their starting QB diving for loose balls, but then again they know his style of play. Plus, they had already called for him to run by design a handful of times and even dialed up a trick play where Jurkovec was asked to run some interference on a defender.

Along with some timely and effective scrambles, Jurkovec threw a few nice deep balls — including one clear drop downfield by star WR Zay Flowers. Overall, it was a very encouraging performance as Jurkovec works his way back into form.

Late in the ballgame, the announcing crew indicated that Jurkovec might be tempted to return to school in 2022 considering how much time he's missed this season. That's certainly understandable. But if he plays well in the final four games (three regular-season games plus a bowl), it wouldn't be shocking to see him look at the 2022 NFL draft as a possibility. He'd be a fun wild-card entrant to the mix amid a semi-underwhelming group.

8. Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky

(Last week: 7th)

The "100 Miles of Hate" game was pretty much a laugher, with WKU coasting thanks to seven Middle Tennessee State turnovers to none for the Hilltoppers. But Zappe wasn't his typically precise self early on, misfiring on several throws en route to a 29-for-50 passing effort with 281 yards.

Yes, Zappe got hot in the second half, threw for four TDs and didn't turn the ball over. But look closely enough and you'll see this wasn't his finest individual effort of the season.

9. Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina

(Last week: 8th)

McCall missed the win over Georgia Southern with an upper-body injury and could miss some more time. He's played well, but this could help seal the deal on his return to school in 2022. We always felt like coming back was the best option for him, even with his strong play the past two years.

10. Brennan Armstrong, Virginia

(Last week: 10th)

Armstrong and the Cavaliers were on bye. It sounds as if he could play Saturday against Notre Dame in what would be a big measuring-stick game for him and the team. Late in the 66-49 loss at BU, Armstrong suffered a rib injury and has been held out of practice. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said he was "planning on [Armstrong] being our quarterback.”

Just missed the cut

Jake Haener, Fresno State; Jayden Daniels, Arizona State; EJ Perry, Brown; Brock Purdy, Iowa State; Kedon Slovis, USC; Sam Hartman, Wake Forest; Hendon Hooker, Tennessee; Tanner McKee, Stanford; Will Levis, Kentucky; Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma; JT Daniels, Georgia; Sam Hartman, Wake Forest; Skylar Thompson, Kansas State; Jack Coan, Notre Dame; Dustin Crum, Kent State; Malik Cunningham, Louisville; Levi Lewis, Louisiana; Chase Brice, Appalachian State; Aqeel Glass, Alabama A&M; Tyler Shough, Texas Tech; Dorian Thompson-Robinson, UCLA; Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland; D’Eriq King, Miami (injured); Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan; Sean Clifford, Penn State; Tanner Morgan, Minnesota; Chase Garbers, California

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