This is the first in a series of position previews for the 2022 NFL draft, which will be held April 28-30. We start with a quarterback class that lacks star power.
THREE NAMES TO KNOW
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh: The former three-star recruit ascended last season – his fifth at Pittsburgh – with an ACC-record 42 touchdown passes that broke two records. He surpassed Dan Marino's Pittsburgh program record with 81 career TDs, and the ACC single-season mark of 41 previously set by Clemson's Deshaun Watson in 2016. Pickett (6-3, 220 pounds) is accurate and mobile, and finished third in Heisman voting. But he was a one-year wonder. Analysts question inconsistency with his timing and his pocket presence. Still, in a weaker QB group, Pickett may be one of the first drafted if an NFL team envisions further ascension.
Malik Willis, Liberty: A raw passer but an athletic marvel, Willis has populated the first round of mock drafts because of his upside. He was a three-star recruit at Auburn before transferring to Liberty to be a starter. After sitting a year due to NCAA transfer rules, Willis led all FBS quarterbacks with 944 rushing yards in 2020 while adding 14 rushing scores. Willis (6-1, 225 pounds) again led Liberty in rushing last season along with 40 total touchdowns (27 passing, 13 rushing). Despite less-developed fundamentals, Willis is a special talent who could be a dangerous running threat while learning to throw at an NFL level.
Matt Corral, Mississippi: A former four-star recruit who eschewed offers from Alabama, Georgia and USC to go to Mississippi, Corral finished his career with 31 touchdowns (11 rushing) to five interceptions last season. Analysts say he's elusive and decisive and throws with touch, but he may be too slender (6-2, 212 pounds) to thrive as an NFL runner and benefited as a passer with coach Lane Kiffin's scheme heavy in run-pass options and play-action. Corral is lauded for playing with intensity and confidence, which combined with his production against SEC defenses could make him an early-round pick.
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati: One of the more experienced prospects, Ridder was a four-year starter for the Bearcats, leading them to a 13-0 record and a College Football Playoff appearance last season before losing to Alabama in the semifinal. Coaches and teammates have praised his leadership, commitment and intelligence, making Ridder a reliable college winner. But analysts say he needs to speed up his internal clock and improve his accuracy to be an NFL starter. Ridder (6-3, 211 pounds) appears to have the mental makeup needed to refine his game.
The QB pecking order remains the same. New general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah extended Kirk Cousins through 2023 to generate salary cap space. The Vikings then re-signed backup quarterback Sean Mannion, who has experience in a Rams offense that new head coach Kevin O'Connell coordinated the past two seasons. Behind those two is second-year quarterback Kellen Mond, a third-round pick who played just three snaps last regular season. Quarterback Nate Stanley is also under contract after missing time due to a back injury last year.
VIKINGS' LEVEL OF NEED
Low: It doesn't appear to be a good year to need a new franchise quarterback, and the Vikings' offseason moves indicate they're not looking for one in this draft. With Mannion and Mond behind Cousins, it may also be unlikely that new leadership drafts a developmental option.