2022 Senior Bowl: Quarterbacks

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2022 Senior Bowl Quarterbacks

By Walt – @walterfootball
Jan. 26, 2022

The Senior Bowl tends to have a big impact on where players are drafted, given that NFL general managers are getting a close look at these prospects for the first time. This is especially magnified for quarterbacks. Philip Rivers, Justin Herbert, Daniel Jones, Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson, Joe Flacco and E.J. Manuel all enjoyed outstanding Senior Bowl performances in the past and had improved their draft stock as a result.

There are at least two quarterbacks projected to be first-round picks this year, and two others could sneak into the opening frame. Matt Corral wasn’t able to play because of an injury, but Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis and Sam Howell all took the field in Mobile.

I do this every year: I’m going to take a look at how each of the signal-callers performed in the Senior Bowl and what each of their draft range is. This will be followed by a poll at the bottom of the article.

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Kenny Pickett led the only touchdown drive between these teams in the first quarter. Most of the production came on two plays, with Pickett hitting a receiver for a 38-yard gain, then finding running back Abram Smith in the flat for a score on the next play. Despite the seven points on the drive, Pickett was not overly impressive. His 38-yard pass was late and underthrown as a consequence; had Pickett thrown the ball on time, he would’ve heaved a 53-yard touchdown. The ensuing score was a byproduct of a blown coverage; Smith was wide open.

Pickett’s late throw was not surprising, as this was an issue for him at Pittsburgh. Pickett showed another instance in which he had problems processing information, taking a sack because he held on to the ball too long.

Pickett was a perfect 6-of-6 for 89 yards and a touchdown. However, he didn’t play as well as those numbers indicate. He didn’t perform poorly or anything, but those just looking at the box score will think he was pristine in this all-star game, which was not the case.

2022 NFL Draft Projection: Top 10

Malik Willis, Liberty
Malik Willis had the best week of practice of all the quarterbacks by most accounts. He wasn’t perfect, but showed the most upside. That continued to be the case in the Senior Bowl game. Willis displayed his enormous arm by unleashing a couple of fireballs toward his receivers, but both passes were dropped. That would explain why he accumulated just 11 passing yards in one quarter of action.

Another reason for the low passing yards was that Willis scrambled quite a bit. He had two nice runs on the first drive and later picked a big chunk of yards on the final play of the opening quarter.

Willis finished 2-of-4 for 11 yards. One incompletion was dropped, while a second was thrown away because of pressure. He also scrambled four times for a game-leading 54 rushing yards. Willis definitely showed why people believe he has tons of upside.

2022 NFL Draft Projection: Top 10

Sam Howell, North Carolina
Sam Howell had a roller coaster of an afternoon. Things began poorly when his first pass was dropped, and then things got worse when he was strip-sacked as a result of blind-side pressure. Fortunately for Howell, a teammate of his recovered the fumble.

Things improved for Howell after that. He showed off his great arm strength on his second drive. He also displayed some great mobility. On one play, he avoided a sack, scrambled left and found a receiver along the sideline for a first down. The play shouldn’t have counted because the wideout couldn’t get any feet inbounds, but the officials didn’t see it and there is no replay review at the Senior Bowl, so the catch stood. Howell, however, fired a high pass and then fumbled yet again on a strip-sack. Once again, a teammate of his recovered.

It seemed as though Howell’s afternoon would be finished at halftime, but he took the field for a couple of drives in the third quarter. One of those possessions ended with a touchdown scramble on a read-option. This was one of two times on the drive that Howell scrambled well, with the first being a play in which Howell broke out of what seemed like a sure sack to run for a first down.

Howell finished 6-of-9 for 67 yards, with two of his incompletions being drops. He also scrambled five times for 29 rushing yards and a touchdown. Howell could be chosen in the first round because of his high upside.

2022 NFL Draft Projection: Round 1-2

Carson Strong, Nevada
Carson Strong’s afternoon didn’t get off to a good start, though it wasn’t his fault that his opening drive was ruined by two botched snaps. Strong had more of a chance after that, but the results weren’t that pretty.

Strong was responsible for the first and only interception of the first 59 minutes when he lofted a dying duck downfield. The underthrown pass was picked by Alontae Taylor. Strong later heaved some helpless passes into the end zone. The drive ended with a field goal on the 1-yard line, which went wide right somehow.

Strong was advertised as a quarterback with a powerful arm, but we didn’t get to see it during the Senior Bowl game. Strong had an underwhelming performance overall, going 6-of-11 for 67 yards and an interception. One incompletion was thrown away because of pressure.

2022 NFL Draft Projection: Round 2-4

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Desmond Ridder needed a strong showing in the Senior Bowl game after enduring a rough week of practice. We saw that on Saturday, as Ridder was one of the top quarterbacks in this contest.

An early pass of Ridder’s was dropped, but he bounced back on the next drive with a terrific touch pass to Romeo Doubs for a gain of 14. He followed that up with a play-action bootleg touchdown pass to tight end Trey McBride.

Ridder returned to action in the fourth quarter to complete a pass for a 23-yard gain. This led to a second touchdown throw, which was another play-action bootleg.

Ridder went 4-of-6 for 68 yards and two touchdowns. One incompletion was a drop. He had a tremendous showing in the game, but scouts and coaches will remember his lackluster practices.

2022 NFL Draft Projection: Round 2-4

Bailey Zappe, Westrn Kentucky
Bailey Zappe was the final quarterback on the field in the Senior Bowl game, and based on his first pass, the wait was worth it. Zappe showed incredible touch on a 32-yard completion. Unfortunately for Zappe, the rest of his afternoon was a disaster.

Zappe showed poor pocket awareness on numerous occasions. He took three sacks because he held on to the ball too long. I don’t know how he didn’t fumble on his first sack because it was such a fierce blind-side hit.

Zappe had an adventurous ending to this game. On the final drive, Zappe had a free play on an offsides penalty and took a shot downfield. The pass was woefully underthrown. Zappe came back with a Hail Mary attempt on a fourth down, and the prayer was inexplicably answered. However, on the next play, Zappe had a receiver wide open downfield for a touchdown, but a horrifically weak pass was intercepted to end the game.

Zappe logged the most passing yardage in this contest, going 8-of-13 for 103 yards and a pick. Despite the high yardage total, Zappe doesn’t appear to have any sort of NFL upside.

2022 NFL Draft Projection: Round 6-FA

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2022 Senior Bowl: Wednesday's American Team Practice Report
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