Apr 262022
 
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Malik Willis, Liberty Flame (December 18, 2021)

Malik Willis – © USA TODAY Sports

QUARTERBACKS

90+: All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – Should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

1: Malik Willis – Liberty – 6’0/219

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior from Atlanta, GA. Two-year starter at Liberty after two seasons as a backup at Auburn and a full season where had to sit out because of transfer rules. Willis, a late bloomer that was not highly recruited out of high school, is a pure boom or bust prospect. The talent is obvious and known. He can make plays with the ball in his hands like a running back and his frame fully supports that kind of role. His arm strength and torque created from his hips are both at the elite of the elite level. That is about where it ends, however. Willis appears light years behind when it comes to forecasting and reading a defense. The indecisiveness and lack of feel for where defenders are, both in the pass rush and in coverage, is alarming. Willis also has mechanical issues with his drop backs that create inconsistent ball placement. His ability to run will hide some of the issues but he will certainly need at least a season on the sidelines before he can be trusted to lead an offense.

*In a quarterback class that lacks clarity, Willis is the one standout that could flip this group (and entire draft class) upside down. While there is a lot of work to be done, Willis is the potential superstar. While I doubt we see him come off the board at #2 to Detroit, the value of the position in relation to team-success in this league can certainly lead to it happening. Someone is going to take a swing for the fence with this kid. Keep in mind, there isn’t a scout or coach or GM that doesn’t believe in Willis’ intangibles. He is a rock-solid kid that is going to be great for a locker room and will work hard at his craft. His ideal scenario is to get involved in an offense that will be tailored for him specifically, similar to what Baltimore did with Lamar Jackson and sit for an entire year. Is it worth considering NYG as a possible destination? I don’t think so. This ownership (they’re still very involved) will request Jones gets a shot with this new system (his third in four years).

2: Kenny Pickett – Pittsburgh – 6’3/217

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior from Oakhurst, NJ. Four-year starter who broke out in his final season, earning numerous accolades including first team All-American, ACC Player of the Year, and the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm. Pickett’s late decision to skip the 2021 NFL Draft paid off and could end up being the first quarterback taken in 2022. His 42 touchdowns broke a conference record previously held by Deshaun Watson and Picket ended up re-writing the Pitt program’s passing records. When it comes to pro projection, he has several traits that carry over well. He is a plus-athlete with outstanding accuracy on the move to all levels of the route tree. He showed the ability to progress through multiple reads in a pro-style offense. And he plays with tremendous grit. Pickett does not have plus-arm strength, however, and turnovers were a problem. He threw over 30 interceptions and fumbled 38 times in 49 career starts. Pickett also struggled to see the entire field on traditional drop backs. He will get a starting nod at some point but will most likely end as a career backup.

*Gun to my head, I think Pickett goes before Willis and will be the top overall quarterback selected. He feels safer than some of these other guys because he appears to have at least a little bit of everything. If you were ranking all the physical and mental traits, Pickett may not rank number 1 in any of them but I bet he is second or third all of them (minus the hand size). Yes, the hand size matters when he has the high fumble number in his stat line. Is that what prevents him from a higher number? No. I simply don’t see Pickett as the one to step up and carry an offense. He can be a solid starter on a team that is strong around him, but I don’t see the guy the makes everyone else better. And then yes, I hate turnovers.

3: Desmond Ridder – Cincinnati – 6’3/211

Grade: 80

Summary: Fifth year senior entry from Louisville, KY. Four-year starter that earned first team All-AAC honors in both 2020 and 2021 while also taking home the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year Award. Ridder took over the job week one as a freshman and never looked back, re-writing several school and conference records respectively. He won over 40 games and shined in big moments. Ridder carries all of the intangibles and leadership qualities a coach could want at the position. He has a live arm with a quick, snappy, but smooth and repeatable release. The icing on the cake is a top shelf set of movement-based tools. He has elite speed in the open field and firecracker footwork as a passer. The overall upside and ceiling are a bit of an unknown considering he did not play against a lot of stiff competition in college and the accuracy is inconsistent. He also needs to process coverages quicker. Ridder will, and should, get an opportunity as a starter down the road. At the very least, he is someone that a team can feel good about as a backup.

*Ridder was a guy I did not give a ton of attention to until after the season. Nothing ever really jumped out at me when watching him play or as I was scouting players that he was on film with. A deeper dive exposed some solid truths for him, though. His footwork and overall mechanics are the best of the group. He is a dangerous athlete in the open field. And he shows good mental toughness and leadership qualities. This will simply come down to how talented of a passer he actually is. Everything else is there, but the gray area is a big one. There are too many inaccurate throws on tape, and he does not seem to see the whole field. There won’t be success for him in the league unless those two improve mightily. I can easily see him feeling “safe” for NFL decision makers though.

4: Matt Corral – Mississippi – 6’1/212

Grade: 78

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Ventura, CA. Three-year starter that earned 2nd Team All SEC honors in 2021. In a simple, quarterback-friendly offense Corral shows the occasional glimpse of greatness. His lightning-quick release along with a rocket-arm will create the opportunity for a play designer and caller to widen the possibilities with what can be done of offense. Corral also brings a high level of speed and easy vision when carrying the ball on both designed runs and scrambles. He can make every throw at a high level. Mentally, he is a risk taker that plays with a short memory when adversity arrives. Corral overlooks several key components to basic fundamentals too often, however. He air mails far too many deep balls, showing a lack of natural touch and accuracy. He has poor ball handling mechanics, with just under 25 career fumbles in 27 starts. His body type may not be able to handle a slew of NFL contact a scrambling quarterback normally absorbs over the course of the season. He needs to become a more precise passer and will need time to transition to the complexity of the league.

*Corral has had moments, and enough of them, to be rightfully considered the top quarterback prospect in this class. Even with that in mind, he is not a first rounder. There are too many shortcomings that quality starters in this league avoid on a routine basis. My biggest red flags are the ball security and body type. One of his key strengths revolve around his ability to run and create with his legs. His body type presents extra risk AND there are significant fumble issues. In fact, he was fortunate to not have fumbled more with how far away he gets that thing from his body with one hand on the ball. Corral’s release and live arm, however, are very attractive. He has some unique, borderline elite-level throwing traits that are worth trying to develop, but his upside is similar to what Jones brings to NYG, if not a little less.

5: Sam Howell – North Carolina – 6’1/218

Grade: 76

Summary: Junior entry from Indian Trail, NC. Three-year starter that earned All-ACC honors in both 2020 and 2021 in addition to a second team All-American honor in 2020. Howell was a big deal the moment he stepped foot on campus at Chapel Hill and ended up re-writing record books for the program and finishing as one of the most productive passers in ACC history. The short, but stout and powerful signal caller plays an innovative game with both his arms and legs. While he does not have blazing speed or quickness, the savvy ball carrier creates big plays when things break down in the pocket. He will need to clean up his throwing motion and overall mechanics, however, as he will not shake tacklers in the NFL the way he did in college. Howell is a quiet, but effective leader with a knack for the accurate deep ball. He is coming from an incredibly simple offense but there is enough on tape to warrant the idea of him becoming a top tier backup and potential starter in time.

*Everyone had huge expectations for Howell heading into 2021. If you asked me last summer who would be the guy that ends up at the top of the draft, it would have been Howell or Kedon Slovis (transferred to Pitt for 2022). I guess this is why we play the games. Anyway, Howell took a couple steps backward in 2021. I took a deep dive into his game all year and he was a mess. He had very little integrity and feel in the pocket. He jumped into scramble mode way too often. He rushed through mechanics, and it caused several errant throws weekly. He also played in a very simple offense even for college standards. Howell does not look like a pro to me even though he does throw the prettiest deep ball of the group. Everything else is backup caliber.

6: Bailey Zappe – Western Kentucky – 6’0/214

Grade: 76

Summary: Fifth year senior from Victoria, TX. Four-year starter for Houston Baptist (FCS) before grad-transferring to Western Kentucky where he started for one season. 2021 first team All-Conference USA and Conference USA most valuable player. In Western Kentucky’s high-powered attack, Zappe ended the season as the nation’s leader in yards and touchdowns. His 62 touchdowns are a new all-time NCAA record. He threw the ball 686 times. The third-place finisher (Bryce Young from Alabama) threw the ball 547 times. While the production is a tad inflated, Zappe is a credible pro prospect that broke out at the right time. He was a relative-unknown at Houston Baptist (8 wins in 4 years), but there are traits here that deserve a look at the next level. Zappe has incredible accuracy and ball placement along the short and intermediate portions of the route tree. He throws with excellent tempo and timing to pair with a quick release. His lack of size and sheer arm-power will make life difficult early on and he will need time to learn the nuances of playing under center within a complex pro offense. He will be in the league for a long time as a backup but should get a starting nod at some point.

*Zappe can make a push for being the fifth quarterback taken. I don’t think it will happen, but I think it should. Out of all the passers in this class, Zappe’s ball placement is the most consistent. Does he respond well to a dirty pocket? That is an unknown. I see a ton of Chase Daniel here. A guy that will be a welcomed back up in several cities for years and at some point, someone will want to give him a shot. Zappe is a competitive dude that did elevate his play in big moments. He plays with that underdog mentality that I love to see. Could NYG look here day three? I wouldn’t be against it at all.

7: Jack Coan – Notre Dame – 6’3/218

Grade: 75

Summary: Fifth year senior from Sayville, NY. Two-year starter at Wisconsin prior to transferring to Notre Dame in 2021, we he started 13 games. Honorable Mention All-Big 10 in 2019. Coan is a player that gets the most out of himself. He is smooth and calm in the pocket and fully understands how to play with tempo. He progresses through reads in a hurry and keeps his lower body in sync with his throwing motion consistently. The lack of arm strength has a tendency to show up on passes to the sideline and he does not strike fear in to defenses when it comes to the deep ball. Coan, however, excels at getting the ball out in a hurry and shows plus-accuracy with proper touch when needed. His upside is limited but he can be trusted to protect the ball, play within a system, and take what is given. He will be a backup for the first few years of his career but should see a starting gig at some point if/when injuries arise.

*I like Coan a lot, but I do understand the limited ceiling he plays with. His throws to the outside die before they reach the target. He does not have an easy release for the deep ball. His athleticism is average. But remember this: falling in love with tools when it comes to the quarterback while neglecting the mental capacity that is required, the overall mechanics, and toughness under pressure has forced many men to lose their jobs. Coan is on the opposite end of that spectrum. He does a lot of the little things right and plays a lot of mistake-free football. I feel good about having a guy like this as a backup and seeing if there is some physical development that can take place once in the league. I would applaud a day three pick used on Coan.

8: Carson Strong – Nevada – 6’3/226

Grade: 71

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Vacaville, CA. Three-year starter that earned first team All-MWC honors in both 2020 and 2021 while also winning the conference’s Player of the Year Award both seasons. Strong re-wrote the record book at Nevada while also protecting the ball at a record-rate. He went 299 attempts without throwing an interception. The team captain is an emotional player that will stare down the barrel of a gun while in the pocket. He has plus-arm strength and shows the ability to layer the ball to all levels of the route tree. Strong will be entering the league with a beat up knee and a severe lack of mobility. He will struggle to escape pressure and there are too many throws on tape where the lower half is not engaged. He is a long-term project that will have his upside very much dictated by the health of his knee.

*There has been some chatter about Strong going higher than where I have him, that he could be the number 6 guy in the class. I can see why. He has the look of a pure, old school pocket passer that can hit every throw. He throws a nice deep ball. But when I looked further into his game, there were too many things I did not like. He seemed a bit too emotional for the position, very up and down. His knee (think of it as a knee that belongs to a 50-year-old) impedes his ability to really activate his lower half when throwing the ball hard/far. He can’t move. And there were a ton of throws where it was just a simple, thoughtless “chuck it” and hope. That won’t fly in the league. There are too many reasons why I would not touch him anywhere near day 2.

9: Kaleb Eleby – Western Michigan – 6’1/208

Grade: 70

Summary: Fourth year junior entry from Maryland Heights, MO. Three-year starter that earned second team All-MAC honors in 2021, third team in 2020. Eleby is a risk taker that shows no fear when it comes to trying to fit the ball into tight windows. He has a quick release and powerful snap to his throws. He was deeply involved in a RPO attack that did not require him to make many reads. Because of that, he will need extra time to adjust to a pro passing attack. He rarely saw snaps under center and there are inconsistencies with his release point that will cause the occasional errant throws. Eleby also needs to improve his ball handling. He does not have the athletic ability to constantly evade defenders, thus he needs to protect the ball better. Eleby will likely need a redshirt year in the NFL before battling for a backup job.

*I was surprised Eleby came out. 23 starts from a MAC program while having another year of eligibility probably was not the smartest move. He had D’Wayne Eskridge and Skyy Moore, two pro receivers, to throw to in a conference full of defensive backs that will not play in the league. With Moore in this draft class, that could be why he wanted to leave but they have another kid, Jaylen Hall, that will be a pro prospect at this time next year. He could have used another year of seasoning because I do see some pro traits that could have gotten him drafted in the round 3-4 area in 2023. Now? He might get his name called late day three.

10: EJ Perry – Brown – 6’1/211

Grade: 70

Summary: Fifth year senior from Andover, MA. Two-year starter at Brown after transferring from Boston College where he was a backup for two seasons. Two-time first team All-Ivy and 2021 Ivy Offensive Player of the Year and All American. Perry is a gimmicky quarterback that has a way of creating on his own. He shows a great feel in the pocket for where the pressure is coming from and will make quick decisions to avoid it. His ball placement and consistency in that department on the move can extend plays and keep the defense on their heels. The overall arm talent and bad habits show up too often to project him as a starting quarterback at the next level. Perry has a hard time seeing through the traffic on plays that go beyond one simple read. He turned the ball over a lot and does not have the natural, powerful trigger to make all the throws. He will live on the back end of a depth chart.

*Perry looked solid at the East-West Shrine Game. That was my first exposure to him, and I did a deep dive on five of his game tapes afterward (less than ideal for QB). There were a lot of nuances to his game that I did not like. He has an overly-crouched position after he gets the ball and drops back. He is already on the short side, and I felt that, along with slow decisions as a passer, really hurt his odds at seeing and anticipating. He got away with a lot in college that he has not shot at getting away with in the NFL. Solid competitive juice and a real athlete (played basketball for Brown and received a scholarship offer to play baseball for Boston College) can get him a look, but there is a lot of work to be done and I don’t see enough upside in the arm.

BEST OF THE REST

11: Dustin Crum – Kent State – 6’1/210: 69
12: Cole Kelley – Southeastern Louisiana – 6’7/249: 69
13: Chase Garbers – California – 6’2/215: 69
14: Skylar Thompson – Kansas State – 6’2/217: 68
15: Brandon Peters – Illinois – 6’4/228: 68
16: Brock Purdy – Iowa State – 6’1/212: 67
17: Aqeel Glass – Alabama A& M – 6’4/231: 67
18: Zerrick Cooper – Jacksonville State – 6’2/230: 66
19: Anthony Brown – Oregon – 6’1/217: 65
20: Jawon Pass – Prairie View A& M – 6’4/240: 65

NYG APPROACH

Simply put here, I do not see NYG being in the market for a new franchise quarterback. Reason one: The franchise still has an unknown in Daniel Jones and even though he is sliding towards a no-go, he is better or on the same level as all these top guys. Reason number two: Next year’s crop of QBs will likely be much better than what this draft class is producing. And reason number three, there are too many good players rounds 1-3 that NYG would be passing on in order to take one of these guys. I do not see the point in going for anyone unless we are talking about day three and hoping to find the next backup and/or long term project. The number one reason why I want NYG to consider trading back (if the opportunity is there) would be to net extra picks in 2023 (ideally a first) so they can march into next draft with some money in the bank should they need to make an aggressive move up for a quarterback at the top. These guys simply are not worth it although I am intrigued to see what becomes of Willis.

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David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

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