In the last few drafts, there has been a trend for a QB prospect to seemingly come out of nowhere and become a top 5 pick in the NFL Draft. In 2020, LSU’s Joe Burrow went #1 overall to the Cincinnati Bengals after one of the greatest college football seasons ever by a QB. In 2021, BYU’s Zach Wilson went #2 overall to the New York Jets after showing NFL potential in his deep passing and ball placement. Everyone is in a scramble to try to identify that next guy for the 2022 Draft. Will it be a new Power-5 school starter who makes a splash? Or will a smaller school QB dominate enough to intrigue NFL Teams? Here is an outline of 5 QBs that have the potential to be late risers to the top of draft boards.
1. Carson Strong, Nevada
Last year, Strong had an exceptional season for Nevada, averaging over 315 yards passing and 3 TDs a game. With NFL size and one of the strongest arms in the draft, Strong provides that old-school type of QB as a pocket passer who can scan the field and make a quick pass if needed or aim downfield for the big play. With two potential NFL receiving options in WR Romeo Doubs and TE Cole Turner, Nevada’s offense should be one of the best in the nation. Strong definitely has some buzz, but his lack of mobility is a major question. If teams hold that in high regard, then it is not very likely, Strong is the next surprise Top 5 selection. If they don’t, Strong has the traits of an NFL QB, especially to those GMs still living in the 1990s.
2. Malik Willis, Liberty
Willis is a former 3-star recruit to Auburn who transferred to Liberty 2 years ago and finally got his shot during the 2020 season. Liberty itself only joined the FBS in 2018, so to have a top QB prospect for the NFL already is quite a feat. Willis flashed NFL potential with a big arm and the rushing ability to be a real threat on the ground. Even in games where Willis struggled as a passer, he used his legs to lead the Flames to a victory. The season’s only loss was a low-scoring affair against NC State, where Willis didn’t seem to match up with the talent on the other side. He has good size and got comfortable in the offense late in the year. If Willis can take a step forward, he has the type of potential of guys like Trey Lance and Justin Fields, so being a Top 5 draft pick is within reach.
3. J.T. Daniels, Georgia
After his true freshman year, the former 5-star recruit at Southern Cal looked like a potential Top 5 pick. Going into Year 2, he was viewed as one of the best QBs in college football when disaster struck. After tearing his ACL, Daniels was relegated to the #2 behind new star Kedon Slovis, forcing a transfer to Georgia. Once healthy enough to play last season, Daniels played well against SEC competition. Seeing him play against Clemson and Florida this season could really cement him as a high-end draft prospect. Daniels has the pedigree, arm strength, and a natural feel for the position. His pocket presence can be a bit jittery, leading to some sloppy footwork and ball placement. Add in a lack of mobility, and there are some hurdles to overcome for Daniels.
4. Matt Corral, Mississippi
In the third game of last season against Alabama, Corral planted his flag of becoming a household name. Dropping 365 yards passing and 2 TDs against the best team in the nation is a nice way to prop up a QBs draft stock to insane levels. Unfortunately, Corral followed it up with a disastrous 6 interception game against Arkansas. Add in a 5 interception game later in the season against LSU, and Corral showed the weaknesses of his game. Without those two bad games, Corral’s traits could definitely put him in the first-round conversation. He has a big arm and great accuracy down the field. There are definitely passes that look like Zach Wilson did last year. Add in his rushing ability, and Corral fits into the modern NFL. The major problem is what is happening upstairs in reading defenses and going through progressions successfully. If he improves there, the sky is the limit.
5. Emory Jones, Florida
Last season, Kyle Trask was a part of the record-setting offense for the Gators. Though Trask was only a second-round selection, he had first-round production, and with some better physical traits, he would have been selected in the top 32. Enter Emory Jones. He will finally get the chance to be the starter in his 4th year in Florida, and he has those NFL physical tools Trask lacked. A high-end 4-star recruit, Jones has NFL size and is dangerous on the ground with his feet. Add in a quick release with good zip, and there are the building blocks for a high-end NFL prospect. The problem is that no one really knows exactly where he is in his development and how this season will go against top competition. If Jones pulls off a season similar to Trask, numbers wise, expect him to have first-round consideration.
6. Tyler Shough, Texas Tech
Shough was a high-end 4-star recruit who finally got his chance to start for Oregon in 2020. Shough started every game for them and had an up and down season. Despite this, he showcased NFL traits that Oregon did not seem to allow him to unlock fully. He is massive at 6’5, 221 pounds but runs like he is a 6’2, 200-pound player. His size lends to an arm that excels throwing down the field or getting the ball quickly to his receivers on short and intermediate routes outside the hash marks. He is a risktaker and often throws into coverage with less than stellar accuracy, his downfall at times at Oregon. Shough isn’t guaranteed the job at Texas Tech but is the favorite to hop into a pass-friendly system that should hone his weaknesses and accentuate his strengths, making him a contender to be a high NFL Draft pick.
7. Phil Jurkovec, Boston College
Jurkovec was a 4-star recruit to Notre Dame but never seemed to gel with the coaching staff there. Last season, he transferred to Boston College and had an excellent season, including one of his best games against Clemson. Like a few on this list, he possesses NFL size with a bit of mobility to match the modern NFL. Though Jurkovec doesn’t have the arm tools of many of the other QBs on this list, he plays smart and showed improvement through the season on decision making and especially ball placement. Boston College could be a tough place to shine, but if Jurkovec puts them on the map this season, he could play his way into being a high draft pick.
Follow Shane on Twitter @ShanePHallam.