Want to know what offensive players to keep an eye on for draft season? @CFBBritBaller has you covered with his weekly ‘Prospect Watch’ series. With each article he will be keeping you up to speed with the draft eligible offensive skill position players that are either trending up or down on a week-to-week basis in college football.
Using his own bespoke grading system he’ll also tell you what current draft grade he has on each player.
This week, the first in a two-part special, Rob deviates from the usual article to focus purely on the quarterbacks that might be finding themselves in the NFL this time next year. With the ‘elite’ talents in this years’ class currently underwhelming, what does that mean for their immediate future and subsequent draft stock?
Prospect Watch – The Quarterback Landscape – Part One
Spencer Rattler – Oklahoma Sooners
Coming into the 2021 season, Rattler was slated to be a guaranteed top-5 pick. He had impressed in 2019 and 2020 as a part of a productive Sooners offense that is renowned for churning out elite level, ‘1st overall pick’ quarterbacks. It was supposed to be no different for the former star of the Netflix series QB1 Beyond The Lights, with his sights firmly set on declaring for the 2022 draft.
Unfortunately for Rattler, 2021 has not gone at all to plan so far. Despite starting the season unbeaten, something was off in Rattlers game. It was lackluster, below-par, and uninteresting quarterback play. So much so, that in week 3 at home to West Virginia, the Sooners home fans began chanting for backup freshman and 5-star recruit, Caleb Williams, to come in and replace him.
For anyone reading the box scores, you’d struggle to pinpoint where the problem is. However, it’s the expectation of a Sooners quarterback that requires a certain level of play, and Rattler isn’t delivering that. He hasn’t thrown for over 256 yards in any game all season. He’s not utilizing the exciting receivers, and he’s playing a boring brand of dink and dunk football. There’s no excitement in his play, no risks being taken – and that is precisely what Sooners fans expect.
During the ‘Red River Shootout’ this past weekend, Rattlers’ Oklahoma found themselves 28-7 down after just 14 minutes of play. Rattler himself was pulled as half time approached, only managing a meagre 53% completion rate. Added to that was 1 INT, a lost fumble, and a QB rating of just 11.3.
Freshman Williams took over and finished the day with 212 passing yards, 2 TDs with no INTs. He also added 88 yards rushing with a rushing TD. Not only were the stats better, but Williams also drove the Sooners comeback charge and eventually won the game.
So what’s next for Rattler?
The immediate future for the former Heisman favourite is foggy. Will HC Lincoln Riley give him a chance to turn it around by keeping him as the starter? Or has Caleb Williams done enough to take the job?
This will be cleared up in due course, but if Rattler’s given another lifeline, he’ll need to improve dramatically if he’s to salvage his season and propel himself back into first-round consideration. If he’s been demoted, it will be a case of him seriously considering entering the transfer portal and giving it another crack next year for a different team.
One thing is for sure right now – Rattler is almost undraftable.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 4th Round
Sam Howell – North Carolina Tar Heels
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Sam Howell and how his draft stock had risen despite the bad start to the season for the Tar Heels. That was after I watched the entirety of the North Carolina game versus Duke in which Howell played well and displayed a very professional performance.
Not only was he throwing the ball into tight coverage with success and utilizing star receiver Josh Downs, but Howell also was very effective with his legs. This is something we’re seeing this year more than any years’ previous. It adds a very positive weapon to his already established arsenal.
However, that game was followed by this weekends’ abysmal performance against Florida State. Howell was effective with his legs once again. It was his third 100+ rushing yard game of the season so far, but disappointing through the air. He recorded just 203 yards and a 53.1% completion rate.
This was one of 2 sub-par throwing performances this season thus far. The other coming in another loss in week 1 to Virginia Tech. Despite this, I’m remaining optimistic for his performances this season albeit far from the dizzy heights of the 2020 Tar Heels campaign.
As we head to the halfway point of the CFB season, I’m still of the opinion that Howell is a bonafide 1st round pick. However, if the lack of throwing like this weekend becomes a habit, there may be some adjustments needed.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 1st Round
Kedon Slovis – USC Trojans
Another player who was in the top-10 in the preseason Heisman betting was Kedon Slovis. However, like Rattler, Slovis also didn’t have the greatest of starts to his 2021 season.
Also like Rattler, Slovis’ freshman backup, Jaxson Dart, came in as a replacement during a game albeit for different reasons. Slovis sustained a minor injury in week 3, but Dart came into the game and impressed whilst securing the Trojans’ first win of the season.
It seemed as if Slovis’ job as the starter was going to be under question much like Rattlers’ has. But, Dart also left that game late on with a knee injury. Fortunately for Slovis, he managed to default back as the starter from that point forward.
It’s not exactly been happy ever after for the 2021 season though. Following the win in week 3, Slovis proceeded to throw 3 INTs in Week 4. His current QB rating through week 6 is 133.8, that’s only good enough to be 74th best in the FBS.
It’s an ugly season for the Trojans so far and without a head coach, surely won’t get back to any kind of stability for the remainder, either. With ranked opponents like Notre Dame, Arizona State, and BYU still left on the schedule, as well as tough conference games against UCLA and Cal – the rest of the season will be an uphill struggle for Slovis to live up to his preseason hype.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 4th/5th Round
Malik Willis – Liberty Flames
Since transferring from Auburn in 2019, Willis has been nothing short of a revelation for the Flames. Last season he averaged 225 passing yards and 95 rushing yards per game. With that came 20 passing and 14 TDs altogether.
This season he has a very similar pace in the passing game (221 yards per game average) and slightly less production rushing the ball (83 yards per game). Before the Week 6 game against MTSU, Willis hadn’t thrown an interception since November last year. He currently finds himself with a QB rating of 176.2, 7th best in the FBS.
He’s a tough, smart, dynamic playmaking dual-threat quarterback who fits the profile of a sought-after prospect for the NFL. If he carries on playing at a high level, he will remain within the first round discussion without doubt. With the likes of Rattler and Slovis struggling, the door is wide open for a QB like Willis to fly up draft boards.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 2nd Round
Matt Corral – Ole Miss Rebels
After a polarizing 2020/21 season, it was hard to project where Matt Corral was going to end up in my 2022 QB draft rankings. If I’m completely honest, I’m still not 100% sure where he’ll finish in my final projections either.
One thing is for sure though, he’s gone up in my estimations thanks to a terrific start to this campaign. Coming into the season I had him graded as a late day 2/early day 3 prospect. But after excellent displays in the majority of his games so far, he’s most certainly upped his stock into day 1 consideration.
So far this season Corral has a 12:0 TD to INT rate and has a 299 yards passing per game average. Thanks to these impressive stats, he currently has a QB rating of 182.4, 6th best in college football.
Other than the Alabama game in week 4, Corral has had moderate success on the ground as a scrambler too. He’s put up a total of 252 rush yards in the 4 other games with 8 rushing touchdowns to boot.
With Arkansas and Bama in the rear view mirror, the Rebels have a relatively friendly schedule for the remainder of the season. I expect Corral to continue to perform to a high level versus a porous LSU team and a flighty Texas A&M squad. As well as the lesser teams such as Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.
Potential banana skin games against Auburn and Liberty will likely test his mettle. It will hopefully give me a clearer perspective on which round will likely be the right price for an NFL team to pay for him come draft week.
@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 1st/2nd Round
Coming up next week…
Part 2: the chasing pack of quarterbacks vying to be drafted in Vegas next April; Carson Strong – Nevada Wolfpack. Desmond Ridder – Cincinnati Bearcats. Kenny Pickett – Pitt Panthers. Jayden Daniels – Arizona State Sun Devils. Jake Haener – Fresno State Bulldogs.
By Rob Grimwood – @CFBBritBaller
Thanks again to Rob from the team here at NinetyNine Yards for NFL Draft Prospect Watch. We look forward to continuing working together!
Feature Image Credit-GoHeels.com