With the Broncos hanging around the .500 mark at the bye and neither Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock doing anything to alleviate long-term concerns about the quarterback position, it’s time to look ahead. Most of the talk about the upcoming class of rookie passers suggest it is a weak crop, arguably one of the worst in the last 20 years. With that said, teams desperate for relevance under center will still line up to draft them, so it’s time to become acquainted.
I want to be clear that this is still very early in the process. If the Broncos are chasing a rookie passer (and all signs suggest they will), I hope to go over every single 2021 game from the first round prospects and probably more if it’s at all possible. I expect my thoughts on each will evolve as I’m exposed to more of their film. With that said, what follow are my initial notes and thoughts of each player following time digging into tape as well as a couple breakdowns from Mark Schofield and J.T. O’Sullivan. Additionally, I made a point to add in a few relevant facts that provide noteworthy information about each prospect. They are listed in no specific order.
Matt Corral - Ole Miss
The 6’2 and 205 lb. passer will turn 23 in January. He has played in 33 games to date, completing 66.9% of his passes for 7,464 yards and 53 touchdowns in his career. 14 of his 20 career interceptions happened during the 2020 campaign, with 11 of those coming in two losses to Arkansas and LSU.
In 2021 Corral completed 66.7% of his passes for 2,774 yards, 17 touchdowns, and two interceptions. He’s also rushed for 523 yards and 10 touchdowns.
- Does a good job keeping eyes downfield, won’t panic under duress.
- Good at resetting his feet to tie his upper and lower body together.
- He’s good in the quick game.
- Ball placement looks good, he can throw to spots on his receiver with some consistency.
- I’d like to see more throwing with anticipation.
- Solid arm strength and solid overall arm talent.
- Instances where he’s oblivious to pressure.
- Athletic enough to run on ‘Bama. Legs could be a weapon in red zone and short yardage.
- Did a nice job protecting himself when he ran. Surprised he didn’t play baseball.
- Coaching staff trusted him to throw from his own endzone against the Tide.
Kenny Pickett - Pittsburgh
The 6’3, 220 lb. signal caller is an older prospect after he took advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted to all 2020 fall athletes by the NCAA, so he will turn 24 before the 2022 NFL season begins. To date, he’s played in 49 career games, completing 62.2% of his passes for 11,501 yards, 79 touchdowns, and 29 interceptions.
In 2021 Pickett’s completed 67.5% of his passes for 3,517 yards, 32 touchdowns, and four interceptions. He’s also rushed for 231 yards and four touchdowns.
- Wins with savvy. Good at working through concepts, will find a way to get rid of ball.
- Does a very good job with his eyes to manipulate defenders and create windows.
- Body thrower who connects his base to his arm.
- Good at throwing on the move with his ability to reset.
- Good ball placement, especially in the short to mid range.
- Efficient with his delivery and won’t waste tons of time dancing in the pocket.
- Solid athlete who can pick up a few yards in a pinch.
- Adequate arm talent overall and velocity lags without proper motion.
- Tiny hands for NFL, which could lead to issues with ball control.
Malik Willis - Liberty
Malik Willis stands 6’1 and weighs 225 lbs. He threw 14 passes during his two years at Auburn before transferring to Liberty after the 2018 season. In the two seasons since he joined the Flames, Willis has played in 20 games, completing 65.2% of his passes for 4,409 yards, 41 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Over that stretch, he’s carried the ball 294 times for 1,699 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Willis has completed 66.4% of his passes this season for 2,159 yards, 21 touchdowns, and nine interceptions while rushing for an additional 755 yards and 10 touchdowns.
- Electric athlete who routinely makes defenders miss with his shiftiness.
- Very good arm talent. He can make rare throws.
- Gunslinger mentality, he is not afraid of difficult throws.
- Very good at breaking contain to buy time.
- Shows promise with anticipatory throws.
- When he resets his feet, he’s good at making plays out of structure.
- Play within the pocket is mostly projection and potential. Clock, feet, and decisions all ?
- Processing is a question. Needs to do a better job delivering the ball on time.
- Mechanics needs an overhaul. Left foot back + disconnected upper/lower.
- Will throw his receivers into trouble.
- Will throw the ball into harm’s way under duress.
- Ball placement could improve with mechanical fixes, but currently looks marginal for NFL.
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