The Broncos have struggled to find a quarterback to lead the franchise ever since the departure of Peyton Manning after winning Super Bowl 50.
While either Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock will take the reins this season, there is plenty of skepticism as to if either of those players are the long-term solution.
If Bridgewater and Lock struggle, proving that the team still has a hole at the quarterback position, the Broncos must look to finally invest the necessary resources it takes to find a franchise quarterback — a first-round pick.
A year out from the draft, it is still very early in the process. The stock of each of these prospects could change drastically depending on next season’s performance but at the moment, the class looks to be lacking in top-tier talent.
While there is plenty of depth, all of the top prospects have at least a major flaw that needs to be improved upon to be in the conversation with some of last years top quarterback prospects.
This class is a case of quantity over quality.
With that said, there are plenty high upside candidates that could take a jump, propelling their 2022 draft stock.
Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
Off film alone, Rattler looks to be the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the class. Displaying many qualities that the NFL seems to covet, Rattler has the potential to be an NFL franchise quarterback.
Specifically, his arm talent stands out from the rest. Not only is he able to make any throw on the field but he excels at throwing from different platforms and arm angles. This mixed with more than sufficient athleticism — allowing him to move inside and outside the pocket — makes him a dangerous off-script quarterback.
That’s important, as in recent years the ability to make something out of nothing has become a necessity for quarterbacks trying to find success early in their NFL career.
He is only a one-year starter, so he is very raw in multiple aspects of his game. In particular, he plays a lot of hero ball. Taking sacks when he shouldn’t, forcing the ball into the tightest of windows, and still working on becoming more accurate with the football, Rattler is still a work in progress.
Going into year two of being the starting quarterback of Lincoln Riley’s offense, the expectations are sky-high. Riley lead offenses have become somewhat of a quarterback factory, pushing out NFL-caliber passers year after year.
However, one would understand if members of Broncos Country find themselves leery of athletic, yet underdeveloped gunslingers that haven’t learned to rein it in.
Sam Howell, North Carolina
Howell, already having two seasons as the starter under his belt, has had a very productive college career, leading to him being a favorite of many.
The trait that most stands out when evaluating Howell is just how accurate he is with the football. Hitting receivers on time and in stride, Howell’s teammates have greatly benefitted from playing with him.
Physically, Howell has no major flaw. He displays both good arm talent to make every throw necessary and athleticism to be an effective scrambler and running threat. Some may be critical of his height at 6’1″ but the NFL has evolved, giving us a multitude of examples of shorter quarterbacks finding success in the NFL game.
He does have major concerns as well though. The offense he comes out of at the University of North Carolina doesn’t always give us the clearest picture to evaluate, running the most RPO’s of any quarterback in D-1 college football.
His decision-making is also a red flag at this point. The playmakers he’s had through his collegiate career have been phenomenal, sometimes bailing him out of a poor decision. This season, he will be without playmakers Dazz Newsome, Dyami Brown, Jevonte Williams, and Michael Carter, who all got drafted this offseason.
How Howell plays without these players will be something to follow leading up to the draft.
Malik Willis, Liberty
Maybe the quarterback with the most potential in this draft class, Willis has the elite tools needed to be a high draft pick despite his deficiencies.
Much like most of the top quarterbacks in this class, Willis is on the shorter side, listed at 6-foot-1. Despite his height though, Willis is built like an ox. At 215 pounds, Willis has the strength to withstand NFL contact both inside and outside of the pocket. This specifically comes in handy with Willis’ ability to run the football.
By far the biggest rushing threat of any quarterback included on this list, Willis will make opposing defenses pay with his legs if not contained. With a mix of speed, balance, and twitch, Willis is often compared to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson. While he probably isn’t at Jackson’s level as a runner, teams could use them in similar ways, adding a unique dimension to any offense.
Rivaling Rattler, Willis also has a rocket attached to his arm. He throws with tremendous velocity and is more than capable of making any throw on the field.
The #1 overall pick in 2022 could be Malik Willis from Liberty. Dude is THAT good. pic.twitter.com/HvfcFjM8Qu
— Brandon Robinson (@BRobNFL) May 10, 2021
Though he has elite arm strength, Willis needs to improve on throwing with touch. At the moment, everything he throws is on a rope, making the receiver’s job more difficult underneath. As a one-year starter, he is not a polished thrower of the football yet.
His biggest concern through his first year at Liberty has been his accuracy. This is a serious concern for Willis as he was a very sporadic passer last season. Willis has a lot to work on with his technique to improve his accuracy.
Carson Strong, Nevada
Strong is the most old-school, prototype quarterback out of the top prospects in this draft class.
Standing at 6’4″, Strong comes out of an air raid offense at Nevada, where he has had great success. He shows a tremendous ability to throw the ball accurately and on time, working through his progressions quickly. On review of his film, it is easy to see just how comfortable he feels in his offense as he is consistently taking control, presnap.
His ball placement is tremendous as he has shown the ability to throw it where only his receiver can catch it on a consistent basis. Overall, he throws receivers open with anticipation and with just how accurate he can be at times.
While he may not have an arm like Rattler or Willis, it is still very good. He has no deficiencies in his arm strength and can make the throws needed to win football games.
Strong is the best pure thrower of the football on this list but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of mobility. He can move around a bit but nothing like what we have become accustomed to looking for in today’s quarterbacks. Being able to succeed when the play breaks down has become such an instrumental part of young quarterbacks finding success that this is a big question in Strong’s evaluation.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Corral is yet another quarterback with an intriguing skill set that has to iron out some deficiencies in this upcoming season.
Corral is in the mold of quarterback that the NFL seems to be looking for nowadays. He’s a confident football player that seems to have a knack for escaping pressure and making things happen off-script.
His pocket awareness is fantastic and he thrives in a backyard football setting. He’s also a threat to pick up yards through the ground, though not at the level of a guy like Willis.
Terrible game but what ya love about Corral pic.twitter.com/6B4EneQh0F
— Joey Richards (@JRDrafts) August 9, 2021
In his best moments, Corrall looks like a really good football player. His ability to stay composed in the face of whatever the defense throws at him jumps off the screen and you have to admire the fashion in which he plays the game. He’s extremely tough and is not afraid of taking a hit.
Although his arm isn’t fantastic, it’s good enough to get the job done. He’s able to make all throws but maybe not at the level of the other quarterbacks on this list.
The big worry is just how inconsistent he is. Plenty of the errors he makes are fixable but when it went bad last season, it went really bad. Corall threw a total of 14 interceptions last year and 11 of them came in a two-game span. This would be unacceptable in the NFL and is something that needs to be cleaned up to improve his draft stock this coming season.
He also doesn’t have the ideal physical skillset, listed at 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds. While he’s sufficient in many areas no physical tool blows your socks off. He has an average NFL arm and while fast enough, isn’t a huge threat on the ground.