Our 2022 NFL Draft Profiles are here! First up are the quarterbacks. It’s the position that everyone in Steelers Nation is most worried about but is this the year they draft one in hopes of making him the future of the franchise? Let’s dig in.
Kenny Pickett – QB 6′ 3″ 220 lbs, University of Pittsburgh
What’s to Like: Athletic… Good, smart scrambler… Has no issue going through progressions, always knows where his outlets are… Creates plays on the move… Throws well on the run and under duress from chasing defenders… Overall experience is massive… Makes others around him better… Guys clearly enjoy playing with him on the offense… Pocket presence is above average… Played for Mark Whipple who is a veteran NFL and college coach.
What’s Concerning: Arm strength is not great, decent but not a “big” arm… Has to throw guys open more often, ball is too often throw “at the receiver” rather than leading him open and away from the defender… Hand size is a major question mark, wears glove on throwing hand most of the time… which isn’t “bad” but raises questions.
Our Draft Grade: If this were a more traditional quarterback draft I’d have Pickett as a second round selection. Because this QB class is so weak in terms of true, overall QB talent, he will likely go in the first round as teams hope to strike gold. I know what many of you are thinking. Would the Steelers pull the trigger if he were there at 20? The specter of Dan Marino still hangs on the shoulders of the Steelers all these years later and I think they would draft him in part, because of that.
Games Watched: Clemson (2021), Tennessee (2021), North Carolina (2021), Virginia (2021)
Malik Willis, 6’0″ 219 lbs, Liberty University
What’s to Like: Mobile, tough runner who doesn’t go down on first contact… Strongest arm of any of the others in the draft field… Shows ability to find open receivers when he’s in scramble mode… Will be a real threat to safeties as his arm strength will beat them to spots deep… Teammates rally around him… Optimistic, enthusiastic player.
What’s Concerning: Ability to run and take hits is good, but at the NFL level he’s going to have to learn how to minimize the shots he takes… Accuracy is a major concern for me… Rather than ‘climb the pocket’ he tends to move side to side… Mechanics are inconsistent/Needs to flush out some hiccups in this area… Has been mainly tasked with RPO reads and will need time to learn how to survey the field
Our Draft Grade: Like Pickett, Willis will go in the first round simply because teams are desperate for quarterbacks. Personally he’s more of a second rounder for me and he’ll need time to shore up some fundamentals as a passer. I would have said a couple of weeks ago he would be right there for the Steelers in the second round but his combine performance has made it clear he’ll go in the first 32 selections.
Games Watched: vs Syracuse (2021), vs Ole Miss (2021), vs Campbell (2021)
Sam Howell, 6’1″ 218 lbs, University of North Carolina
What’s to Like: Tough, athletic player… Strikes me as a guy that just finds ways to win… Players around him are energized… Might be a better version of Taysom Hill especially in the Red Zone… Quality decision maker… Will deliver a blow as a runner… Not afraid to look deep on the scramble…
What’s Concerning: Not sure he’s had to really read defenses… Lots of RPO and ‘one, two, run’ situations… Former baseball player and it shows in his wind-up which needs to be shortened up… Timing is lacking on many throws and in the NFL that means INTs and INCs… Fundamentals are a work in progress/from ball handling to throwing motion…
Our Draft Grade: NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein compared him to Chase Daniel and I think that’s spot on. I’ve got him pegged as an early third/late second kind of QB in this draft. Personally I’d love to use him in specialty packages and occasionally cut him loose for a series or two. I think he can be a starter in the NFL but things have to get cleaned up with his fundamentals and overall QB play.
Games Watched: vs Notre Dame (2021), vs Syracuse (2021), vs Pitt (2021)
Carson Strong, 6’4″ 216 lbs, University of Nevada
What’s to Like: Nice, compact throwing motion… Throws a very catchable ball… Can really bring the heat on throws… Accurate deep ball passer… It’s obvious guys like playing for him/Strong leadership skills… He can throw from several different arm angles… Didn’t have the best receiving group as many balls were dropped… Throws receivers open which isn’t always there for many top college QBs… Great understanding of his offense.
What’s Concerning: Feet look heavy in the pocket… Mobility is a major concern and really stands out when you look at the athleticism of the other QBs… Struggles with ‘back to front’ transition on throws… I’m not convinced he reads the whole field… Takes too many hits and sacks which I think is a product of not trusting himself to get rid of it… Extremely vulnerable to ‘up the middle’ pressure…
Our Draft Grade: I’ve got Strong as a mid-second to mid-third rounder. His unfortunate medical history which involves numerous knee issues are just too much to overlook. There’s a lot of talent there but the lack of mobility (mostly due to those health issues) likely makes him a career backup and spot starter in the NFL. With Mike Tomlin desiring a ‘mobile QB’ I see no way Strong comes to Pittsburgh.
Games Watched: vs Cal (2021), vs Fresno State (2021), vs Kansas State (2021)
Desmond Ridder, 6’3″ 211 lbs, University of Cincinnati
What’s to Like: Proto-typical size for a QB… Terrific athleticism that was on display at the combine in terms of long speed and explosion… Strong leader who doesn’t let the adversity get to him… I’d classify him as a ‘pocket passer’ but that doesn’t mean he can’t win with his legs…
What’s Concerning: Big wind-up… Accuracy concerns on mid/intermediate throws… Ball often sails high in these situations… Long strider as a runner and doesn’t always get up to speed quickly enough… Pro Day revealed exactly what my concerns were as he was erratic on even scripted throws.
Our Draft Grade: Ridder is a hard worker who showed improvement each year of his Bearcats’ career. I have him as a solid second rounder but again, could go higher as teams search for a big-time QB. He’s got some things to work on like getting through his progressions and scrambling more efficiently in order to not take sacks. In the right system I think he can be a starter in the NFL for seasons to come.
Games Watched: Alabama (National Semi-Final ’21), Tulane (2021), Indiana (2021), Notre Dame (2021)
Matt Corral, 6’2″ 212 lbs, Ole Miss
What’s to Like: Tough kid who is willing to sacrifice himself for an extra yard… Love the way he handles the ball/Can be very deceptive with fakes… Processes things quickly… Really like his quick release… Numbers should have been better as there were a lot of drops… Arm strength is above average and deep ball is 60 yards plus…
What’s Concerning: Not a big guy and his injury issues last season could be a harbinger for his NFL career… Like most Lane Kiffin QBs he excels at the RPO but I’m not sure how well he can truly read coverage… Will need a strong running game to help keep him upright and able to take advantage of play fakes… Seems immature at times…
Our Draft Grade: Corral is a classic second round guy in my book. He will need a very specific system that helps keep him healthy. If he has to sit back and read a defense early in his career then I’m nervous as heck. Fans will love his moxie and overall demeanor on the field as he rallies guys around him with his spirited play.
Games Watched: vs Liberty (2021), vs Alabama (2021), vs LSU (2021), vs Mississippi State (2021)
Other Names to Keep an Eye On…
Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan… Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky… Brock Purdy, Iowa State…