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2022 NFL Draft: Handicapping the QB1 race

Charlotte, NC, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) looks to pass in the first quarter of the ACC championship game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

There is a good chance the 2022 NFL Draft features even more quarterback debate than in 2021. The order will be far murkier from evaluator to evaluator, but the drastic need for the position across the NFL hasn’t gone anywhere.

As it stands, only four quarterbacks have odds to be the No. 1 overall pick on Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, Ole MissMatt Corral, North Carolina’s Sam Howell and Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. Let’s focus on those four as we break down their relative strengths and weaknesses to determine why each could end up as QB1.

Note: Odds given are to be the number No. 1 overall pick via DraftKings

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+3500 Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (Redshirt Senior)

  • Accuracy on the move is a big plus.
  • NFL-caliber arm strength.
  • Mobile, but he breaks pocket with purpose — like an athletic tight end.
  • Holds the ball till the bitter end. Second-highest time to throw in the country.
  • Throws off his back foot more than you’d like.
  • Was a one-year wonder. Graded well in just one of four years as a starter.

There’s no debating who played the best football in 2021 from the quarterback class. Pickett earned the highest passing grade in the country this past season among those with at least 300 dropbacks. The Heisman finalist didn’t have any lulls or down games on his tape to be wary of at the next level.

That doesn’t mean he’s not without faults, however. His monster breakout after three seasons of fairly mediocre play by prospect standards is one of his biggest question marks. Pickett’s reliance on out-of-structure plays will also draw a criticizing eye from NFL evaluators. One-third of his 42 touchdowns came outside the pocket in 2021 — the most of any player in the country. His 3.19-second average time to throw was the second-highest in the nation — even higher than Justin Fields last season, who drew major criticism for holding onto the ball.

While Pickett may have the best odds, those aren’t any that I’d bet.

+5500 Matt Corral, Ole Miss (Redshirt Junior)

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