By now you have heard that this is an underwhelming draft, and there are no intriguing QB prospects, but that is only half true. Though it lacks in “true” Top-10 talent, the draft is stronger from picks 15-45 than most drafts. Several teams will find their rush ends in picks 20-35, which would normally require a top-15 pick because it is a premium position. Additionally, covid pushed a lot of prospects into opting for this year’s draft rather than last year’s draft. Where there are normally only 150 draftable prospects in a given year, the Dallas Cowboys front office has commented that they see 280. A shrewd front office can rebuild a depleated team with this draft. Positions like WR, OT and DE are flush with talent, and second round picks are gold.
There are pitfalls, though. The 40 yard dash times coming out of Indianapolis were eye-popping, with guys like 340 pound Jordan Davis running a 4.78. However, the Colts installed a new fast turf before the timing, so you should add .05 to all recorded 40 times. This should give pause to GMs looking at prospects with mediocre 40 times, like Treylon Burks, whose 4.55 is more like a pedestrian 4.6 for a WR.
Those Awful Quarterbacks
I’m not going to try to convince you that this is a good QB class. It is not. But, QBs are drafted a half round higher than their tape and combine usually warrants, so the QB class still dictates how the rest of the draft will proceed. Here is the order of where they should go, but likely will not go.
Desmond Ridder – The pre-draft world universally had Pickett as the QB1, due to his significant college production and he may still be the first QB taken, but the pre-draft scouting has identified Ridder as the QB with the most polish and the highest floor. Ridder blends rare athleticism with a pro-style understanding of the game. His combine testing put his speed and agility metrics on par with most WR. His offense at Cincinnati required him to make pre-snap adjustments and full-field reads. “So why isn’t he talked about more?” Ridder is a line-drive thrower, and the nose of the football points down once every 20 or so throws. The result is that once in a while, he uncorks an ugly throw that dives in the ground ten yards before his target. This is the kind of ugly throw that leaves a terrible taste in evaluator mouths, and disproportionately decreases his evaluation. The good news is that football is not Golf. One bad shot does not ruin the round if the rest of the throws are accurate, especially since he duffs it into the ground so badly that it is rarely intercepted. Ridder will step in, make good reads, throw an accurate ball and occasionally break off a “wow” run. Carolina was able to incorporate zone read concepts for Newton to help him transition to a pro-style offense, and Ridder is already more advanced than Newton was. The other knock on Ridder was that he did not have deep-ball arm strength. However, he showed in his pro day that he had significant arm strength that was never showcased in Cincinnati. Perhaps that was a testament to his hesitancy and tendency to overthink, but it is more likely a byproduct of his system and the types of athletes that Cincinnati featured at WR (along with their limitations). In the correct offense, Ridder’s ceiling is as a top 20 NFL starter and is likely a competent day 1 starter.
Kenny Pickett – He is not who you thought he was. Pickett’s offense featured a lot of pre-determined throws and success came mainly via improv. This is not to say Pickett is not capable of making multi level reads, or that he cannot some day develop that skill, he just has not shown it on tape and I think everyone assumes he has because of his production. The good news is that he throws “NFL open”, which is to say that he can hit guys that have separated from their defender by one step, in stride. This is one of the most important traits to see if someone can be an NFL QB. Pickett has some tools to become a viable starter, but there is more development needed than you think, and is likely not a day 1 starter.
Malik Willis – Allright, now we are just aiming upside, because the floor is lowwwwww. Willis has plus athleticism and throws a beautiful deep ball. Now for everything else. He does not use that athleticism well, and routinely runs into sacks unnecessarily. He is late on a lot of throws. That “NFL open” concept we talked about, Willis has not shown it. His scheme is also simplistic. Josh Allen has shown that physical tools can be developed into a pro bowl quality QB, so there is a high ceiling for Willis. However, he is definitely not a day 1 starter.
Matt Corral – His offense at Ole Miss was RPO based, with very few actual reads. Lane Kiffin has shown before that he will open up a multi-level read passing game to a QB capable of handling it, so the fact that he kept Corral on an RPO offense should be concerning to anyone looking to draft him. Single-read offenses are not a good transition tool. However, he is able elude tacklers and, much like Ritter, is able to throw “NFL Open” during improv plays, so he has upside. He is more athletic than Pickett, but Pickett has shown enough production on tape to warrant a higher grade. Corral is definitely not a day 1 starter.