It may only be February, but diving into the next batch of prospects to enter into the NFL Draft is something you can never start to look at too early – especially for a team like the Green Bay Packers which is one of the league’s best in drafting and developing core contributors.
With the ongoing situation surrounding Aaron Rodgers dominating offseason headlines, it is a breath of fresh air to be able to talk about something else football-related when it concerns the Packers. And even though their need for a quarterback is certainly not going to be high on their list at this current point, if Rodgers was to be moved, then needing to find an investable QB2 option behind Jordan Love jumps much farther up the list.
Here are some breakdowns of the main QBs in the draft this year, ranked based on their ability to become solid options in the NFL.
Coming out of a small school certainly can hurt a prospect’s draft stock, but people who believe in that mantra in the past have missed on the likes of Carson Wentz, Trey Lance, the late Steve McNair, Joe Flacco, Kurt Warner, and others. Malik Willis is another small-school option for teams to consider this year in what projects as a weaker QB class.
After starting out at Auburn, Willis became a bonafide dual-threat option after transferring to Liberty and starting there for two seasons. Over 5,000 passing yards and 47 passing TDs later at Liberty, and Willis firmly added himself to the first-round draft board.
Willis also rushed for over 1,800 yards and 27 TDs on the ground, helping establish his agility. While likely one of the first QBs off the board and barring some sort of detonation of the QB room, the Packers will not be in the hunt for Willis or any of the top QB prospects.
The 2021 season was exactly what Kenny Pickett needed to help get him on draft boards, as the former Pitt star produced a ridiculously-efficient 42 TD-7 INT ratio in his final collegiate season.
Seen as one of the tougher options based on his willingness to drop his shoulder and take on contact, Pickett fits the mold of a hybrid style of a QB, as he is best suited from inside the pocket but has above-average athleticism to move out of the pocket and make plays.
Fighting with Willis for that top spot will help keep Pickett in the minds of every QB-needy team in this year’s draft, and he looks to be a serviceable option right out of the gate with a good amount of upside and potential.
Sam Howell marks the third consecutive member on this list that is coming from a school not typically known for producing NFL-ready QB prospects.
After having a mostly mediocre ‘21 season that saw a dip in numbers across the board, Howell’s stock heading into the draft seems to be lower than it would have been had he been able to enter the draft after the 2020 campaign.
Howell is a proven entity that threw single-digit interceptions across all three seasons at UNC, something that certainly will help his draft stock. By throwing for 30 TDs in two seasons and 91 combined passing TDs, Howell has demonstrated his throwing prowess while establishing what teams should expect out of him when in the NFL.
Having had almost a complete turnover of his skill-position players from ‘20 to ‘21, Howell took on a much higher role in the running game, rushing for over 800 yards and 11 TDs on 170 carries.
The final ‘named’ option on this list has gone through his fair share of ups and downs across his collegiate career, but Matt Corral enters into the draft process as one of the more polarizing options based on his potential.
Stringing together consistent performances is what may ultimately define Corral falling in this year’s draft, even with his intangibles.
The ‘21 season saw Corral cut down on his interceptions (5 vs. 14 in ‘20) but throw 9 fewer TDs (20) than his previous season. Passing attempts and completions were within close range of each other, but Corral’s rushing numbers helped make up for his passing downtick.
40 more carries in his final season equated to over 100 more rushing yards and 7 more rushing TDs than the previous year, showing his abilities in both areas.
Corral’s smaller stature (6’, around 200 lbs.) can make him susceptible to injuries, but his skillset certainly makes him one of the more intriguing players to follow come April.
Best of the Rest
The likes of Carson Strong, Desmond Ridder, Brock Purdy, D’Eriq King, and others are all vying for NFL roles, and each option brings something to the table that could translate well at the next level.
Strong helped lead a Nevada Wolfpack offense that was passing focused, best shown through Strong’s 4,175 passing yards and a 36:8 TD-INT ratio. A pocket passer through and through, Strong profiles strongly as a backup at the next level that brings accuracy and efficiency with him.
Ridder has been all over draft boards since his ‘21 season, and while keeping his INTs low, he has not really done anything that truly boosts his stock to be any more than a second-or-third round prospect. Mobility is an added aspect of his game, but Ridder ultimately looks to be a prospect that may get drafted more on potential than results.
Other options, headlined by ISU’s Brock Purdy and Miami’s D’Eriq King, all can have roles in the NFL but are likely destined to be career backups or practice-squad options. Neither of these, nor any other options in this group, project to have monumental roles in the NFL, but certainly could be mid-to-late round selections for teams looking for lottery picks.뿓뿓뿓
Mike Johrendt has been an avid fan of the Packers ever since he can remember. He is now a writer at PackersTalk and you can follow him on Twitter at @MJohrendt23