The quarterback market is expected to be very hot this offseason. And for a team in desperate need of a quarterback, like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, that’s a very good thing. Names like Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and others could be on the move soon. However, franchise quarterbacks are hard to find in this league. There’s a real possibility that the Bucs aren’t able to land the quarterback they need.
That leaves Tampa Bay with two choices. They can either trust their season to the 64th selection of last year’s NFL draft in Kyle Trask or they can invest a first round pick in a guy who they believe can be the future of their franchise. At this point it does not seem that Trask is ready to take over as the starter, so that really only leaves one option. The Bucs will need to draft a quarterback if they can’t sign a high level veteran.
The problem is that this quarterback class isn’t highly regarded. Unlike last year, where there was an abundance of talent, there is a question as to how many franchise quarterbacks are in this draft. Analysts can’t even decide who the best of this group is or how high these guys will expect to be drafted.
To The Film
Because of this confusion, I decided to break down the college film from the six quarterbacks who have consistently been talked about as the best of this bunch. Looking at the good, the bad and the ugly to try and see what their skills are and if they will translate. Here’s what I came up with.
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Pickett had an incredible final year of college. He threw for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He was certainly the most productive of any of the quarterbacks on this list and he did it against power five competition. However, his four previous years were not nearly as successful.
The larger body of work was not nearly as impressive for Pickett. His previous career high in touchdown passes was 13 coming into this season and his high mark in passing yards was 3,098. It’s hard to say if something clicked mentally at the age of 24 or if this year was just a flash in the pan.
Comparison: Trent Dilfer
Dilfer was another guy who exploded onto the scene in his final season. He also had similar measurable tools as Pickett shows. That’s to say both have very average, I would say below average, arm strength. In a perfect situation I project Pickett as a good game manager and a guy you can win with if everything else around him is great.
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Ridder has shown growth with each passing year. He helped lead Cincinnati to a major bowl game last year and the playoffs this past season. Ridder might be the small school gem that every team wishes they would have had the guts to draft themselves.
With good running ability (2,180 career rushing yards) and a very impressive senior year as a passer (3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns and 8 interceptions), Ridder might be the next dual threat quarterback that will thrive at the next level. He has the physical tools and the track record that could point to success.
Comparison: Paxton Lynch
The similarities between these two are a little scary. Both small school players had similarly impressive final seasons (Lynch with 3,776 yards, 28 touchdowns and 4 interceptions) and the ability to carry the ball themselves. On the other hand, both showed struggles throwing the ball down field consistently.
Obviously Ridder is a different player than Lynch, but they are certianly of the same mold. Based on how Lynch’s career went after being drafted 26th overall in 2016, I would definitely be weary of Ridder this time around.
Malik Willis, Liberty
Willis is the most physically talented quarterback of this class by a decent margin. He has a great arm and is a dynamic runner. When you talk about players hitting their ceiling, no one is better than what you could potentially be getting with Willis.
With that said, he also looks like the biggest risk in this draft. Coming out of Liberty, Willis has not seen a lot of high level competition. Even when he has played better teams, like Syracuse and Ole Miss, it has not been particularly impressive performances. The phrase “boom or bust” would certainly apply to a player like Willis.
Comparison: Trey Lance
Despite a difference in their size, I get similar concerns with Willis that I did with last year’s 3rd overall pick. Much like Lance last year, Willis struggles with consistent accuracy. I also have my doubts with the way he processes what’s in front of him. Sitting behind an established quarterback for a year seems like a necessity for Willis, just like Lance was able to do in 2021.
Carson Strong, Nevada
Strong had a sensational season in 2021. He threw for 4,186 yards, 36 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Strong loves up to his name in terms of his arm and has shown the ability to navigate the pocket despite modest athletic ability.
There is certainly talent here that can translate to the NFL level. However, like the other small school guys on this list, you have to question the level of competition he’s played against. After four years at Nevada, is Strong ready to jump to the bigger, stronger, faster league?
Comparison: Aaron Murray
In terms of production and physical tools, I see similarities between these two. Granted, Murray did not pan out as a pro there is no question that he was talented coming out of Georgia. Strong is also talented and perhaps even more than Murray was. This feels like a good risk taking Strong on day two.
Sam Howell, North Carolina
Howell came into the year with buzz of potentially being the first overall pick in the draft. However, after several of his playmakers were drafted after the 2020 season Howell’s passing production took a step back and some of the shine has come off the apple. Despite this, I think Howell took steps forward this year and improved his stock.
The most noticeable improvement Howell made in 2021 was as a runner. The athletic ability has always been obvious, but this was the first year it was really utilized. Howell rushed for 828 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also took a step forward as a passer in being more efficient and protecting the ball more.
Comparison: Steve McNair
A thickly built, big armed quarterback who can run is a description that applies to both Howell and McNair. On the other hand, improving consistent accuracy and footwork in the pocket are concerns both had coming out off college. 8m not sure if Howell will ever win an NFL MVP like McNair did, but these two are definitely cut from the same cloth.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss
After completing nearly 71% and 68% of his passes in the last two years, Corral has established himself as one of the top prospects in this draft. He brings mediocre arm strength, but a surprising ability to tuck the ball and run. This combination of tools and production have left many believing that Corral is the best of this bunch.
Corral is a guy who does his damage from the pocket. He isn’t the type of guy to make highlight reel throes on the run, despite his sneaky athletic ability. And unlike guys like Willis or Ridder, Corral did his damage against top level SEC competition.
Comparison: Robert Griffin III
Both quarterbacks completed a very high percentage of their passes and looked impressive vs high level opponents. I’d call these two similar athletes, although Griffin looks a little better across the board. We saw the good and the bad over Griffin’s career. I believe Corral will fall towards the middle of that spectrum.
For more on this and everything Buccaneers check back here hourly at BucsReport.com.