Willis, Strong, lead Pryor’s NFL Draft Top 5 Quarterbacks

by Pat Pryor
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It’s hard to get away from quarterback talk in the NFL draft, so sometimes you just have to embrace it. Regardless of any combine or pro-day performances, it’s still a weak class. However, each quarterback has unique upside that some teams will bet on. Here’s how they size up in the class:

1. Malik Willis, Liberty

Willis is the quarterback who is considered the consensus top quarterback pick, and it’s obvious why. He brings the best traits by a wide margin out of the entire class. He’s capable as a downfield runner and has a cannon for an arm. That cannon can lose control at times, as his accuracy is very inconsistent, and can be volatile. He’s a developmental prospect, but if you want to bet on traits (as the Bills did with Josh Allen), Willis is your best bet in this NFL Draft. His best fits are somewhere that he’ll be able to sit for some time, and take over when he’s ready. His dream fit would be the Steelers, a steady organization with a low level starter that they’ll have no problem benching when Willis is ready. He’d also be a nice pick for the Saints, Falcons, and Lions. 

2. Carson Strong, Nevada

One of the major knocks on strong is his knee health, as multiple surgeries are concerning. However, if he gets medically cleared by the team who wants to take him, he’s very deserving of this spot. He has a great arm, with some great velocity. Everyone has seen the same throw of him rifling it down over the middle between multiple defenders. Now he’s not mobile, so he projects as a pure pocket passer. However, he’s got the arm to do it. The question is how will he hold up when given control of an NFL offense, and will his knee hold up? I think if the knee question is answered, he is the most pro-ready quarterback in the NFL Draft, but still has a lot of room to develop. Once he’s given full control of an offense, he should do well. If a team wants to sit him, I’d be a fan of the Titans taking him. Pairing a powerful arm like his and AJ Brown, with Derrick Henry to fall back on, has everything to go right. 

3. Sam Howell, UNC

Howell has had quite a crazy year. He lost most of his weapons to the NFL last April, but was still projected as a top quarterback in the class. While he didn’t have a top year, he was able to continue quality passing and developed his rushing game quite a bit. He has a very good arm, but showed inconsistency during games. His issues are rather coachable, and he’s already shown the ability to develop. While not perfect, he and Strong are the only quarterbacks I’d have faith in starting day one. It’d still be nice for him to sit and learn, but he’s capable of playing early. He’ll be gaining back NFL weapons, and has developed a run game. If he has to start day one, his best fit would be Carolina, where he has plenty of weapons, so he has some room for error. 

4. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati 

Ridder may be the most divisive quarterback, or even player, in the NFL Draft. Some have him as QB1, and some have him way down the board. When really sitting to watch the tape, he has an impressive arm and running ability. However, he struggles heavily with inaccuracy, and doesn’t make great decisions. However, he brought the Bearcats to a G5 team’s first ever playoff game and will go down in history. He could be the first quarterback selected, or fall out of the top five. It’s more likely he drops a little bit to the second round, so hopefully he ends up with a stable team he can develop on. He’d do well on the Colts, with more time to develop, but still an opportunity in the future given Matt Ryan’s age. Frank Reich would also be a great coach for Ridder to have. 

5. Matt Corral, Ole Miss

This was the toughest choice of the class. Bailey Zappe has talent, but Matt Corral has flashes where he looks like he could be the top quarterback in the NFL Draft. He has a very good arm, good rushing ability, and is always looking for a big play. However, he didn’t read the field, and struggles to operate when his first option isn’t there. This inconsistency is what led me to knock him so far after the season, as I was higher on him early in the cycle. His arm talent isn’t to the level of Willis or Strong, but it is still good. If he sits and learns to run an NFL offense, he can do well. Similar to Willis, his best fit would be Pittsburgh, and would do well in Atlanta, Detroit and New Orleans. 

(6. Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky 7. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh)

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