NFL Prospect Watch – QB Focus. Part 2

NFL Prospect Watch – QB Focus. Part 2
Reading Time: 6 minutes.

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 second 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. 

It’s been an encapsulating season so far considering we’ve seen the likes of Rattler, Slovis, Daniels and Howell all cooling their pre-season hype, or in some circumstances seen their value fall off a cliff. So does that mean the next tier of QB prospects for 2022 have caught those mentioned up? Will there be a new top tier between now and the draft prospect in the spring?

Let’s dive in. 

Prospect Watch – The Quarterback Landscape – Part Two

Carson Strong – Nevada Wolfpack
Carson Strong - Prospect Watch
Carson Strong – Prospect Watch. Image Credit: Nevada Sports Net.

Top 10 in passing yards/touchdowns, and top 20 in completion percentage on the season – Carson Strong is consistently performing to a high quality week after week. This last weekend versus Hawaii saw him throw a season-best 395 yards with 2 TDs. That was off the back of a 6 TD game in week 6 against New Mexico State.

Strong and his Wolfpack have had some nice wins so far this year, especially on the road against Cal and Boise State. However, the real test for this Nevada team is coming up down the stretch. With the likes of Fresno State, San Diego State and Air Force still to come, Strong will have to continue his dominating first half of the season if he wants his draft value to hold. 

As of now, midway through the season, Strong is flirting with being a 1st round selection. I currently have a Day 2 grade on him, but if he manages to see the season out remaining one of the best QBs in college then he could absolutely find himself in that top tier ahead of the combine in March. 

@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 2nd Round

Desmond Ridder – Cincinnati Bearcats
Desmond Ridder - Prospect Watch
Desmond Ridder – Prospect Watch. Image Credit: Bleacher Report

Another QB currently just outside of the projected “elite” group but definitely looking in intently, is Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder. Despite somewhat of a down week in week 7 versus UCF by his very high standards (140 passing yards with 1 TD), it was more a case of him having an “on field bye week” where he could just let the running game take control.

Ridder has been more reserved in the running game this season as he’s seemingly focused more on game management and developing his passing skills. It’s working too considering he’s on pace to set a career record for passing yards in a season. In his last 3 full seasons, Ridder has averaged 188, 166 and 230 yards passing per game. This season, that’s continued to rise to 241. 

More passing yards, more projected TDs and less INTs – that’s going to move you up a shaky draft board real quick. Not only that though, he’s currently leading his G5 team to an unprecedented #2 ranking in the AP top 25 and looking directly into the College Football Playoff conversation. 

It’s hard to place where the likes of Ridder, Pickett, Strong and Willis might be drafted at the moment. Mainly because any one of these or the tier above (Howell and Corral, mainly) could literally all have a legitimate shot of being the 1st overall pick, but similarly could all slip into day 2. The second half of the season will hopefully bring us some clarity on this matter and start to separate this strong bunch of prospects. 

@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 2nd Round 

Kenny Pickett – Pittsburgh Panthers
Kenny Pickett - Prospect Watch
Kenny Pickett – Prospect Watch. Image Credit: PittPanters

Pickett has improved year after year in his 5 year stint at Pitt. This bodes well for scouting purposes because it means he’s coachable. Coming into the season, Pickett was seen as having an outside shout of being drafted. But he was more than likely going to be on the UDFA list.

That was mainly because he didn’t have a “blow the doors off” season under his belt which almost always separates the drafted from the undrafted prospects. However so far this season, Pickett is certainly trending towards being a draftable prospect. 

He’s currently averaging 322 passing yards per game and has thrown for 21 TDs in just 6 games, 4th most in the FBS. He also has the 3rd best passer rating of 181.1, only behind Coastal’s Greyson McCall (234.3) and Ohio State’s C.J Stroud (191.2). 

The next test, and the most crucial for his draft outlook, is to continue his blistering first half to the season. However, with a much tougher schedule on the back stretch, it’ll be interesting to see if he can continue to trend up. If he can maintain the spearheading of the 48 point average per game Pitt offense, Pickett will continue to rise up draft boards. 

It’ll be a huge showcase of his talents if he can stay around his current averages against the tougher tests of Clemson, North Carolina, Miami and Syracuse. 

@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 4th Round 

Jayden Daniels – Arizona State Sun Devils
Jayden Daniels - Prospect Watch
Jayden Daniels – Prospect Watch. Image Credit: Arizona Republic

On the flip side to the previous 3 QBs in this article, Jayden Daniels has trended down so far this season. During the offseason, I was seeing on various different highly respected sites that Daniels was being mocked as a top 10 pick. In fact, a couple of sites had him as the 3rd QB off the board within the top-5 picks. 

Unfortunately though, Daniels is yet to live up to that projected hype after impressing in the previous 2 seasons. A player in the position that he was in needed to rise to it, grab the bull by the horns and prove he is an elite option. That hasn’t happened.

After the first 6 weeks of this season, he had a TD to INT ratio of 4:3. Although he hasn’t thrown an INT since week 3, Daniels has had 4 games this season without registering a passing TD. 

On the plus side, Daniels has continued to be a consistent threat with his legs. So far after 7 games, he averages 57 rushing yards per game with a healthy 5.8 yards per attempt average. His rushing upside is certainly keeping him in the mid-round range for the draft, especially as this is a desirable trait for the new age of QB in the NFL. 

After the Sun Devils’ week 8 bye this week, Daniels has a favourable schedule to finish up the season. If he can improve his passing ability and re-establish the consistency in and around the redzone, he can certainly rise back up draft boards.

@CFBBritBaller’s Draft Grade Projection: 4th Round 

Others in Draft Consideration:

Jake Haener – Fresno State Bulldogs, Grayson McCall – Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, J.T Daniels – Georgia Bulldogs, Bailey Zappe – Western Kentucky Hilltoppers, Sean Clifford – Penn State Nittany Lions, Brennan Armstrong – Virginia Cavaliers, Tanner Mordecai – SMU Mustangs.

Out Of Draft Consideration:

Tanner Morgan – Minnesota Golden Gophers, Emory Jones – Florida Gators, Dustin Crum – Kent State Golden Flashes, Spencer Sanders – Oklahoma State Cowboys, Tyler Shough – Texas Tech Red Raiders, D’Eriq King – Miami Hurricanes, Brock Purdy – Iowa State Cyclones, Chase Garbers – Cal Bears, Phil Jurkovec – Boston College Eagles,  Layne Hatcher – Arkansas State Red Wolves, Will Levis – Kentucky Wildcats, Bo Nix – Auburn Tigers, Dorian Thompson-Robinson – UCLA Bruins, Jack Coan – Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Graham Mertz – Wisconsin Badgers, Malik Cunningham – Louisville Cardinals, Max Duggan – TCU Horned Frogs, Michael Penix Jr – Indiana Hoosiers, Tanner McKee – Stanford Cardinal

By Rob Grimwood – @CFBBritBaller

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