2022 NFL Draft QB rankings following Spencer Rattler’s transfer decision originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington
Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler entered the 2021 college football season as a Heisman favorite and potential 2022 NFL Draft top pick.
The preseason hype never actualized as Rattler struggled early in the season, before being benched for freshman QB Caleb Williams. On Monday, Rattler announced he was leaving the OU program and entering the NCAA transfer portal -- less than a day after Sooner head coach Lincoln Riley accepted a new head coaching position at USC.
Rattler started all 11 games for the Sooners as a redshirt freshman in 2020, throwing for 3,031 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Many college football experts expected Rattler to follow in the footsteps of Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and Jalen Hurts as Riley's next Heisman finalist.
Rattler's decision to transfer likely removes him from the 2022 NFL Draft QB class.
With the Detroit Lions, Houston Texans and Washington Football Team all currently holding top 10 picks, it seems likely that at least three QBs will be selected in the first round in 2022.
Ole Miss' Matt Corral, Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett and Nevada's Carson Strong generated plenty of buzz from strong 2021 campaigns but none is considered to be a consensus top pick like Trevor Lawrence.
Here's where each college QB prospect stands now as the season comes to a close.
1. Matt Corral, Ole Miss
Matt Corral entered the season as a prospect to watch after a fairly strong sophomore campaign at Ole Miss. He showed massive improvements in 2021, showcasing his athletic ability, aggressiveness with his arm and downfield accuracy that NFL scouts love.
Plenty of credit has to go to Lane Kiffin's offensive system, which fits Corral's playstyle well. He threw for 3,334 yards, 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season. Corral could be a great weapon in the right system.
But much like Zach Wilson on the New York Jets, there might be some growing pains once he gets to the NFL. Still, the upside is there and it wouldn't be a surprise if he's the first QB off the board come next spring.
2. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh
Kenny Pickett was viewed as Day 3 selection when the season began in September. All he has done since is prove preseason evaluators wrong.
Pickett has been incredibly consistent in each game he's played, throwing for 4,066 yards and 40 touchdowns, averaging at least two touchdowns a game.
He's led the Panthers to the ACC Championship Game and could find himself on a Mac Jones-like path if he can find the right team and right situation
3. Sam Howell, North Carolina
Howell, like Rattler, was in the Heisman conversation at the beginning of the season.
The intangibles are all there with Howell. He has good mechanics and intelligence which are needed to have success at the next level.
In his third year as a starter for the Tar Heels, he completed 205 of 327 passes for 2,851 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2021 and has rushed for 815 yards and 11 touchdowns.
What plagues Howell most is his inconsistency, showcased in games against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Pittsburgh this year. His lackluster 2021 season might see him fall into the middle rounds.
4. Carson Strong, Nevada
Carson Strong ranks above all other prospects in two of the most important traits NFL scouts evaluate: size and arm talent. At 6-foot-4, 216 pounds, Strong has some spectacular throws on tape which make you wonder about his NFL potential.
He also has incredible toughness for the position. Strong has thrown for 4,186 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2021.
His trajectory is reminiscent of Jay Cutler's college career at Vanderbilt, and the highlight-reel plays will certainly have him embraced by NFL coaches. Strong remains a fascinating QB to watch heading into next year.
5. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati
Desmond Riddler has done everything you could ask from a QB prospect in his final college season. He's improved each game, put up good performances against decent competition and even impressed the College Football Playoff committee enough to earn the No. 4 spot last Tuesday.
The only question that remains is what his ceiling will be. Riddler projects as a prospect similar to Drew Lock or Jalen Hurts and could go in the second or third round with a strong postseason showing.
Teams haven't been shy in the past of drafting an experienced, athletic quarterback with a high floor and it shouldn't stop them in next year's draft.
6. Malik Willis, Liberty
Malik Willis is the kind of prospect that makes two or three eye-opening plays each week. He's an uber-talented player that can thrive if given time to develop and grow inside of the professional system.
He's only thrown for 2,626 yards and 24 touchdowns, but he has 820 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. While Willis is talented, his decision-making has resulted in a few poor games -- most notably Liberty's 27-14 loss against Ole Miss and fellow draft prospect Corral.
7. Kedon Slovis, USC
Slovis was in the conversation with Howell and Rattler before the season, but since it's been a bumpy ride for Slovis and the Trojans program.
Clay Helton was dismissed as head coach in September and Slovis struggled health with injuries and had trouble reading tougher defenses as the season went on. Despite his ineffectiveness, Slovis has intangibles that can keep him in the Day 2 conversation of next year's draft.
8. Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky
Bailey Zappe wasn't a known name at the beginning of the season but his success with the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers shows why Air Raid systems can help college prospects grow. Zappe thrives in a pass-happy system, showcasing great anticipation on his throws and a quick release.
Zappe has picked apart opponents this season, leading the FBS in passing yards (4,968 yards) and touchdowns (52).
The level of competition Zappe has faced hasn't been strong, but he has maximized his potential and earned a Senior Bowl invite so that NFL evaluators can make a decision on whether or not he deserves to be above a Day 3 selection.
9. Jake Haener, Fresno State
Jake Haener has the arm strength to succeed at the next level. He's done enough during the season at Fresno State to earn a spot at postseason showcases and the NFL combine.
There are questions about his decision-making as at times he tends to trust his arm a bit too much. But when those risky plays lead to "wow" moments there are rarely any complaints.
Haener set career highs in almost every major passing category this season and ranks in the top 10 in passing yards (3,810 yards) and touchdowns (32). He's only begun to stretch the surface of his talent and could need time to develop at the next level.
10. Will Levis, Kentucky
NFL scouts have taken a liking to quarterbacks who go from virtual unknown to virtually undeniable. Joe Burrow and Zach Wilson followed that path the previous two years, and now Kentucky's Will Levis could be next.
The redshirt junior emerged with 2,593 passing yards and 23 touchdowns this year. In his final game of the year against Louisville, he rushed for 113 yards and four touchdowns.
Levis has made Kentucky a fun team to watch and has the traits to be a dual-threat quarterback at the next level