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NFL Draft

CFB’s Top 25 Draft-Eligible QBs: Week 9

  • The Draft Network
  • October 25, 2021
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In the midst of what may be one of the most shaken-up college football seasons in recent history, Saturday didn’t disappoint. It was a week filled with bounce-backs, near-upsets, and players further solidifying their places as top prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft—such held true for the quarterback position as well.

As we move through this college football season, and release these rankings weekly, a quick note: Players enter the season with a preseason ranking that they have earned over the course of their college career up to this point. Players have good weeks and bad weeks. Some pick themselves up while others enter a downward spiral. Some start near the top, have one bad game, and consistently get worse and fall off the radar for good reason. But do not expect to see a player drop 15 spots in the rankings because of one or two bad performances. Players will be moved down at a proper rate—there will be no jumping the gun and bouncing around here. Quarterbacks are evaluated on criteria that include accuracy, ball placement, level of mental processing, and natural/raw athletic ability.

Here’s a look at who makes the Top 25 rankings at the quarterback position in the 2022 NFL Draft after Week 8:

1. CARSON STRONG, NEVADA

Last Week: No. 1

This past week’s game between Nevada and Fresno State was painful to watch, whether you had a dog in the fight or not. Nevada and Strong staged a comeback as the quarterback led his team down the field in the fourth quarter with roughly 50 seconds left, needing only a two-point conversion after the last-minute touchdown. Strong had his man in wide receiver Romeo Doubs, who had a standout night, but he failed to get a foot down in the end zone and Nevada lost the game 34-32 in the final two seconds.

These are two teams that seem to always battle it out and this was the showdown of explosive offenses we expected it to be—you get the sense that between some officiating mistakes and Nevada’s defense mostly letting Fresno State do whatever it wanted to, this wasn’t on the offense much at all, though there were times that Strong did hold the ball longer than he should have.

That doesn’t take away from the highlights Strong had on the night as he went up against a Bulldogs defense that caused problems, completing 49-of-61 passes for 476 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. The accuracy and ball placement that Strong has been so commended for were all there as Strong hit a school record of 49 completions in 61 attempts.

And that deep ball we talk about every week? Never fails—still got it.

https://twitter.com/NevadaFootball/status/1452083326131458051?s=20

Even if things didn’t end the way Nevada wanted them to, there are few quarterbacks who parallel his abilities and could lead a near-comeback effort in which he did everything in his own right to orchestrate against tremendous odds and with terrible field position.

2. KENNY PICKETT, PITTSBURGH

Last Week: No. 3

Did someone say Joe Burrow? Every week, Pickett starts to look more and more like the former LSU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner. Pickett continues to make case for himself in the Heisman conversation after a standout win over Clemson.

Pickett and this Pitt team are expected to win out after getting the 27-17 victory over Clemson on Saturday. The quarterback completed 25-of-39 passes for 302 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions, moving to a completion percentage of 69.8% with 1,934 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and one interception on the season—that’s 205 passing attempts with just one ball thrown to the other team this year.

The big-time moments and NFL-level throws appear in every game, and it doesn’t look like anything is going to stop Pickett’s meteoric rise within the Panthers’ pro-style offense.

3. MATT CORRAL, OLE MISS

Last Week: No. 2

LS Who? That’s exactly what Corral and the Ole Miss Rebels made the Tigers look like on Saturday. Corral completed 18-of-23 passes for 185 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions, also carrying the ball 12 times for 24 yards and a touchdown. Those weren’t the type of explosive numbers we’re regularly used to seeing from him, but keep in mind the Rebels also had 260 rushing yards on a day in which two other ball carriers not named Corral scored two touchdowns on the ground. And for Corral to presumably have been playing this game a little banged up—several anticipated that he wouldn’t play—he did a fine job taking care of business. So far this season, Corral has completed 67.6% of his passes for 1,913 yards with 15 touchdowns and just one interception—the only SEC quarterback to have zero interceptions from a clean pocket this season, according to Pro Football Focus.

https://twitter.com/OleMissFB/status/1452018340298379272?s=20

4. MALIK WILLIS, LIBERTY

Last Week: No. 4

After two consecutive games in which he recorded three interceptions each against some, well, secondaries he should’ve done a better part of handling, Willis didn’t throw a single pick in Liberty’s 35-26 win over North Texas. The quarterback completed 12-of-18 passes for 217 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. Willis, who we’re used to seeing power through defenses with his legs, was completely shut down in that aspect on Saturday, carrying the ball 13 times for -8 rushing yards. That is by far a season-low for Willis, whose lowest single-game rushing total before this was 49 yards in the loss to Syracuse on Sept. 24.

Willis was forced to leave the game in the second quarter with a foot injury and was transported to a local medical facility, tweeting later on that he was fine. In what we saw of Willis this past weekend, even in less than a full half of football, he continued to show his ability to make something out of seemingly impossible situations.

Willis has stumbled as a passer recently after being strong on that front for the majority of the season and still has time to pick himself back up—it’s hard to teach stuff like this.

https://twitter.com/LibertyFootball/status/1452048959028043779?s=20

5. SAM HOWELL, NORTH CAROLINA

Last Week: No. 5

UNC was on a bye week this week, meaning we didn’t see Howell take the field. Howell has seen action both in the air and on the ground in his last two showings, completing 17-of-26 passes for 154 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, also carrying the ball 17 times for 98 yards with two touchdowns in the 45-42 win over the Miami Hurricanes. That performance comes one week after he completed 17-of-32 passes for 203 yards with two touchdowns and one interception, carrying the ball 11 times for 108 yards.

The victory against Miami was a good way for both Howell and the Tar Heels to bounce back from some recent ups and downs.

https://twitter.com/PFF_College/status/1450582536938270726?s=20

6. GRAYSON MCCALL, COASTAL CAROLINA

Last Week: No. 7

McCall and the Chanticleers didn’t draw up this upset by Appalachian State, falling 30-27 to the Mountaineers on Wednesday. In the loss, McCall completed 15-of-23 passes for 291 yards with zero interceptions—McCall has been good about not putting the ball in harm’s way—he has just one interception this season, which happened in the 28-25 win over Buffalo on Sept. 18. So far this year, McCall has completed some 77.3% of his passes for 1,769 yards with 15 touchdowns and the one interception. 

This was one of McCall’s most outstanding plays of the game against App State—both a throw and catch you’ll want to re-play at least a few times before you fully believe what you’re seeing.

https://twitter.com/scottwatkinsTU/status/1450973510831063041?s=20

This loss wasn’t on McCall, who continues to play at a high level.

https://twitter.com/TPortalCFB/status/1450977243048546305?s=20

7. DESMOND RIDDER, CINCINNATI

Last Week: No. 8

Ridder was below 200 passing yards for the second consecutive week as he completed 18-of-30 passes for 176 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the 27-20 victory over Navy. With that, Ridder has completed 63.6% of his passes for 1,620 yards with 15 touchdowns and three interceptions this year. Ridder has a lot of the traits you look for in a quarterback going on to the next level and still seems to have a place in the Heisman conversation according to several outlets, though he needs a big game soon to really stay in the mix.

8. JAYDEN DANIELS, ARIZONA STATE

Last Week: No. 9

Daniels and the Sun Devis were on a bye week this week, falling 35-21 to the Utah Utes on the road in the previous week, though Daniels himself had a pretty good day. We’ve talked about wanting to see more touchdown passes from Daniels and his team for a little while now, and he’s delivered on a couple of occasions since then. Daniels, who is known across the nation for his abilities as a runner, put points up in both categories last weekend. Daniels completed 20-of-31 passes for 237 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions, also carrying the ball 14 times for 32 yards with one touchdown.

9. Stetson Bennett IV, Georgia

Last Week: No. 11

Georgia has a quarterback battle that seems to be going on in more of a good way than a bad way. Since Bennett stepped in for an injured JT Daniels, he’s done such a fine job that head coach Kirby Smart doesn’t seem especially eager to take him out. He also doesn’t seem to have any opposition to Daniels returning to action in the near future. Smart said Thursday that Daniels was as healthy as he’s been since the fourth game of the season but also noted that he was rusty.

"I'm not sure we know who the better one is based on which game plan we have," Smart told reporters. "There are teams we play that we have to be able to use the quarterback in the run game. Well, that's Stetson. There are teams we play that you have to get the ball out quickly and be really accurate. That's JT. But the first thing with JT is that he's got to be healthy."

Over six appearances this season, Bennett has completed 69.5% of his passes for 11 touchdowns with two interceptions. In his latest performance, a 30-13 win over Kentucky, Bennett completed 14-of-20 passes for 250 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions. 

This will definitely be a situation to monitor moving forward.

10. JT DANIELS, GEORGIA

Last Week: No. 6

It’s going to be interesting to see exactly when Daniels returns to action and in which situations and how often Smart uses him. We haven’t seen Daniels, who has been dealing with a lat strain, since the Vanderbilt game on Sept. 25. He’s completed 76.1% of his passes for 567 yards with five touchdowns and two interceptions this season.

11. Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky

12. Brock Purdy, Iowa State

13. Sean Clifford, Penn State

14. Jake Haener, Fresno Stat

15. Will Levis, Kentucky

16. Devin Leary, NC State

17. Emory Jones, Florida

18. Brennan Armstrong, UVA

19. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

20. Tanner Mordecai, SMU

21. Dustin Crum, Kent State

22. Tanner Morgan, Minnesota

23. Kedon Slovis, USC

24. Hank Bachmeier, Boise State

25. Spencer Petras, Iowa

Honorable mentions/Injured Reserve: Phil Jurkovec (Boston College), Dillon Gabriel (UCF), Tyler Shough (Texas Tech), Jayden De Laura (Washington State), D’Eriq King (Miami), Chase Brice (App State)

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