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Who is QB1 in this year’s draft class?

Who should the New Orleans Saints be targeting at QB with the 18th pick?

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NCAA Football: Senior Bowl Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Saints have been linked to basically every rookie quarterback in this year’s draft class. We’ve seen mock drafts tie the Saints to Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett. There have been mocks where the Saints have selected Ole Miss QB Matt Corral. There have been mocks sending Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder to New Orleans. Mock drafts have had the Saints sniped from Liberty QB Malik Willis. Our own Dylan Sanders has been one of several to send North Carolina QB Sam Howell to the Saints.

Each of those mock drafts had the Saints selecting at the 18th spot in the first round, meaning the Saints declined to trade up to grab their guy. In many of these mock drafts, multiple, if not all, of the other quarterbacks named above were there for the taking if New Orleans so desired.

So that begs the question: Who is actually the best QB in this year’s draft class?

For Pro Football Focus, that answer is Ole Miss’s Matt Corral:

MATT CORRAL, OLE MISS REBELS (PFF QB1, #16 OVERALL)

Scheme: Easy Buttons

Rushing Production: Rushing Threat

Passing Production: Accuracy Issues

Lane Kiffin’s Ole Miss offense heavily benefited Corral, giving him plenty of free production with a heavy dose of RPOs, screens and play action. This is similar to the offenses of other recent successful college football quarterbacks, including Baker Mayfield, Mac Jones and Trevor Lawrence in a macro sense.

Unfortunately, his accuracy numbers do not align well with this. At every distance bucket, he is within the bottom 20 CPOE marks in the sample. Part of this could be a function of his offense, as 52% of his passes came within five yards of the line of scrimmage, which depresses his sample size in the other buckets. Even so, his accuracy numbers are reason for concern and should probably be the central focus of his film study.

Less concerning are his ground game numbers, as he is grouped with the best rushers we’ve seen come out of college football in recent years. His athletic profile, not included in this study due to a lack of uniform combine numbers, appears to suggest he won’t reach Lamar Jackson or Justin Fields heights. But he still ought to be a viable rushing threat in the NFL.

Interestingly enough, his statistical profile closely resembles Justin Herbert, despite their vast physical differences.

After Corral, PFF ranks the quarterbacks in this draft class as follows: Kenny Pickett, Sam Howell, Desmond Ridder, Malik Willis, and then Nevada QB Carson Strong.

Over at Walter Football, they have Kenny Pickett as the top-ranked quarterback:

At the Senior Bowl, Pickett had a solid, but unspectacular, week of practice. Pickett caught fire in 2021, ripping up opponents on a weekly basis and leading Pittsburgh to impressive wins over Clemson, Tennessee and its first ACC Championship. Pickett is an accurate rhythm passer in the short to intermediate part of the field while also having excellent deep-ball accuracy. On top of his arm talent, Pickett is a willing and tough runner.

Pickett completed 67 percent of his passes in 2021 for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He had five rushing touchdowns as well. While Pickett generally makes good decisions, there are 2-3 passes per game where Pickett makes poor choices and looks the part of a gun slinger. That issue could be worked on as a pro. Sources say Pickett has small hands, which is why he wears gloves.

While Pickett is not a freak athlete with running ability, like a Lamar Jackson or Cam Newton, Pickett has some functional mobility and toughness as a runner, similar to Joe Burrow. Pickett does not have a cannon for an arm, like a Josh Allen or Matthew Stafford, but he has a capable arm that can make all the throws, similar to Derek Carr. What Pickett has that really stands out is excellent accuracy. He also throws a very catchable ball, processes information quickly, makes good decisions, and is an aggressive passer who challenges defenses at all levels. Some team sources say they would have liked to see Pickett show more anticipation, instincts, and natural feel as a passer.

Sources like the intangibles with Pickett as he is a leader, a hard worker, a good teammate and a competitor. Thus, Pickett has the skill set to be a starter in the NFL. Team sources believe he will be the first quarterback drafted in the 2022 NFL Draft.

What’s so crazy, is that Matt Corral - the #1 quarterback according to Pro Football Focus - is the fourth quarterback in Walter Football’s rankings, behind Pickett, Willis, and Howell. Howell, the fourth quarterback according to Walter Focus, is our own Dylan Sanders’s top-ranked quarterback.

Gone are the days of a consensus number one quarterback like Trevor Lawrence, Joe Burrow, and Kyler Murray. Now, “experts” are largely undecided on who the best signal-caller is in this year’s draft class.

If so-called draft experts are having this much disagreement about who has the best chance of being a top franchise quarterback in the NFL, it just goes to show the uncertainty at the position for the 2022 NFL Draft Class. Considering that uncertainty, should the Saints avoid the position all together and simply stick with something safe - a player that they know, like Teddy Bridgewater or Jameis Winston? It’s hard to not see the logic.


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