NFL Draft 2022: At least 3 quarterbacks could be taken in first round, expert predicts
The 2022 NFL Draft is going to be one of the most unique events in that the quarterback class isn’t exactly as overhyped as it’s been in years past.
NFL analyst Brian Baldinger told Fox News Digital in a recent interview there are at least three quarterbacks he’s keeping an eye on and predicted those three will be off the board by the end of the first round next week.
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Kenny Pickett during the ACC Football Championship game between the Pitt Panthers and the Wake Forest Demon Deacons on Dec. 4, 2021, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
(John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
“If you talk to almost any general manager right now, they’ll tell you Kenny Pickett is ready to play now. He started 49 games at Pittsburgh in five years,” Baldinger said. “He’s played in every weather condition. He beat the University of Miami his freshman season when Miami was a good team. He can run, he can move, he can make all the throws. I mean 49 starts, that’s real. That’s Russell Wilson, that’s Philip Rivers. That’s hard to come by in today’s game.”
Pickett was a top player at Pittsburgh since 2018. He by far had his best season in 2021. He had 4,319 passing yards and 42 touchdown passes.
Baldinger mentioned Liberty quarterback Malik Willis as another potential first-round pick. Willis showed the ability to throw and run in 2021. He had 2,857 passing yards and 27 touchdown passes to go along with 878 yards on the grounds and 13 scores.
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“So Kenny Pickett, I think he’s ready to play, but it’s hard not to watch Malik Willis and go, oh boy, he’d be so much fun to coach. If you can sit him for a year, say the way Kansas City sat Patrick Mahomes and just learn and not add the pressure of playing right away. His upside is probably better than anyone else’s in this draft and I think that’s what teams see,” he said.
Malik Willis of the Liberty Flames throws the the ball during the LendingTree Bowl at Hancock Whitney Stadium on Dec. 18, 2021 in Mobile, Alabama.
(Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
“They see a guy with oodles of talent and potential and in today’s game, where the running quarterback is really prevalent and defending that and his ability to extend plays, his arm strength and just his natural mechanics to throw the football. He throws the ball really well. He has to read defenses better and he’s gotta make better decisions and can’t always be looking to run right away and that kind of stuff is there. But the talent, it’s going to be hard not to fall in love with.”
While some mock drafts have Willis going as high as No. 2 to the Detroit Lions, Baldinger doesn’t think he would surprise anybody and be taken that high.
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“I don’t think that surprise is coming but I do think somebody could trade up to get Malik Willis. Like, would Atlanta be interested? Would Seattle be interested in Malik Willis? Would Carolina take him at No. 6? Would a team try to trade in front of Carolina to get him? Would the Giants at No. 5? Would Pittsburgh ever pass on him at 20 if he was still available? He’s not gonna get past Pittsburgh at 20,” the NFL Network analyst said.
“I don’t think he could go as high as No. 2 to Detroit. But Detroit’s got two first-rounders, they’ve got the 32nd pick. I could see them taking him there if he was still available. Everybody recognizes the talent, what type of person he is and like I said, when I watch him, if I was coaching, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on him to coach him because I think he’s very coachable and I think he’d be a lot of fun to be around.”
Ole’ Miss quarterback Matt Corral (2) in action during the Allstate Sugar Bowl game between the Baylor Bears and the Ole Miss Rebels on January 1, 2022, at the Ceasars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.
(Kevin Langley/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Ole Miss prospect Matt Corral could be the final selection of the first round among quarterbacks. Corral starred for the Rebels the last two seasons. In 2021, he had 3,349 passing yards, 20 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.
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“Matt Corral is a really intriguing prospect from Ole Miss. He’s been well-coached. He is a great athlete. I think teams are going to be either trading in the first round to get him or at the end of the first round somebody is going to take him. Maybe it’s Detroit at No. 32 with their second first-round pick,” he added.
Carson Strong, of Nevada, was a quarterback who experts thought could go in the first round before he underwent knee surgery. If teams overlook the knee issue, they could be getting a diamond in the rough in Strong.
Quarterback Carson Strong #12 of the Nevada Wolf Pack drops back against linebacker Cody Fletcher #55 of the Kansas State Wildcats, during the second half at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium on Sept. 18, 2021 in Manhattan, Kansas.
(Peter G. Aiken/Getty Images)
“When you’re completing 70% of your passes the way he did, you have the size that he does, it’s hard not to think that. I work with Maurice Jones-Drew and MJ worked with him in 7-on-7 camp way back when he was just a kid,” Baldinger told Fox News Digital. “He’s always been a big, strong kid with a strong arm. Every once in a while you just get a guy that sort of surprises people. Carson Strong could easily be that guy. He’s a fun guy to study.”
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Baldinger, who has a partnership with CoachTube – a platform that provides online sports coaching and training from former college and professional coaches and players – played 11 years in the NFL.