Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Pickett seems to have become the de facto top quarterback on this year’s board. Again, there’s no real standout, can’t-miss superstar at the position this year like there are most years, but Pickett’s about the closest thing you’ll find. At 6’3 220, Pickett has nice size for the quarterback position, and it shows in his ability to break tackles and make things happen off-schedule. When he’s really humming, Pickett shows flashes of brilliance, helped out by his above-average athleticism and toughness.
On the negative side of things, Pickett’s only physical drawback is his eyebrow-raisingly small hands for his size. If you’re a team that’s comfortable with that, though, you should have no fears about his size or durability in the NFL. The real drawbacks in Pickett’s game are that sometimes he misses big opportunities, either from staring down a route, or his inconsistency, or if he’s just not looking that far downfield. Pickett is absolutely willing to go to his check down which is a strength, but sometimes it can kill him.
Comparison: Plenty of people have said this before me, but it bears repeating. Pickett looks like a souped-up Derek Carr. I’d like him to take a few more risks, but being a quarterback who looks for safe options is never a bad thing.
Malik Willis, Liberty
We’ve officially come to my favorite quarterback of the class, and one of my favorite overall players in this year’s draft cycle. Liberty’s Malik Willis is an electric runner and has a laser cannon attached to his arm, but he’s rough around the edges. Maybe this is the wannabe coach in me, but I think the rawness of Willis is part of what makes him a special player. Willis’s highlights show a fearless magician on the field, pulling escape tricks not seen since the college days of Lamar Jackson. Willis might not be perfect, but he has everything you can’t teach.
On the flip-side, Willis has almost none of the things that you can teach. As a true quarterback and not a backyard football playmaker with a cannon, he has a long way to go. Draft analyst Benjamin Solar recently noted on his podcast that Willis doesn’t have bad processing habits like Josh Allen did in college. He just doesn’t know how to process the field, and that can lead to some “what are you doing?” types of moments once or twice a game. Willis is going to be a project, but the potential is right there, and I expect that teams can see that. Pickett might be the top guy right now, but something tells me that a team is going to fall in love with Willis early and make him the first quarterback off the board.
Comparison: I’ve hinted at it for this entire segment, and now I’m ready to say it with my chest. At his best, Willis is a mix of Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss
It’s not on the level of Malik Willis, but the mobility of Matt Corral is something to behold. Corral’s not the biggest guy around at 6’1 205, but his mobility and fundamentals will, at the very least, keep him afloat at the professional level. In the short and intermediate area of the field, Corral is a killer. He frequently demonstrates at least college-level processing and the ability to read the defense. Corral shines in RPO situations, where his lightning-quick release of the football can leave teams still thinking it’s a run play while the receiver’s already got the football and is making his way to the endzone. Mechanically, Corral is a treat to watch.
Where Corral struggles is in the physical attributes. His leadership style might be a thing of beauty, but I worry about his ability to drive the ball down the field and his accuracy if it actually gets there. But quite frankly, I can live with adequate arm strength if the quarterback can do most other things well, which Corral can. Overall, the things I really don’t like are all the things Corral can’t help.
Comparison: Corral’s size, leadership capability, and RPO-heavy offense all remind me of a healthy Baker Mayfield but with a bit of a weaker arm.