Colts' 2022 NFL Draft Primer: Quarterbacks
The offseason has come early for the Indianapolis Colts, as they lost 26-11 in the season finale to the Jacksonville Jaguars. This loss is embarrassing and downright awful for the direction of the franchise.
While I could write 20 articles on just how terrible this loss was, I will gladly let my colleagues here at the site handle that responsibility (Jake Arthur is phenomenal for the somber stuff). I prefer to be an "out of sight, out of mind" type of person.
With that being said, the focus now turns to the NFL Draft and how the Colts can plug some holes on this roster. The team currently has six picks in this upcoming class, and will be without their first round selection due to the Carson Wentz trade.
The team could get up to three additional selections in this class, however, due to compensatory picks for the players the Colts' lost in last year's free agency (Denico Autry, Jacoby Brissett, and Anthony Walker Jr). So, we could see this team get up to nine picks in this class, potentially.
All of that to say that it is officially draft season in Indianapolis and the Colts should have a few picks to address their many needs this year. In this draft primer series, I will be going position by position to talk about the class as a whole and which players could make sense in the 2022 class.
For the first article, let's start with the quarterback position..
The Top Guys
This quarterback class is, arguably, the worst one that we have seen since 2013. While there are plenty of interesting names with tools to develop, this class truly lacks a quarterback talent that is worthy of the first overall pick (or maybe even a top 15 pick).
As of right now, here are the players that are likely viewed as the top guys prior to the Senior Bowl and NFL Combine:
Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (6'3" 220 pounds)
The breakout star of this quarterback class, Pickett had a monstrous season as a fifth-year senior. After throwing for just 39 touchdowns in his first four years at Pitt, he exploded for 42 touchdowns and just seven interceptions this past year. He also threw for 4,319 yards and led the Panthers to an ACC Championship.
Pickett is likely the safest prospect in this class when it comes to the quarterbacks. He's an experienced, mobile player that boasts good accuracy to all levels of the field. He also ran a complex, NFL-style offense in college, so the learning curve to the next level shouldn't be too steep for him.
There are some concerns with his hand size and lack of truly special traits, but he should be a solid NFL player at the very worst.
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (6'4" 215 pounds)
Next on the list is one of the winningest quarterbacks in the history of college football. Ridder put together a strong career for the Bearcats, leading them to a 44-5 record in his four seasons. He had a strong final season as well, passing for 3,334 yards and 30 touchdowns to go along with just eight interceptions.
Ridder is getting some real buzz as the top quarterback in this class and he has all the traits necessary to be a good NFL player. He has great size, a strong arm, and good mobility to make something out of nothing (if need be). His eyes and his ability to know where he has to go with the ball at all times have always been a huge plus as well.
He is going to need a good bit of work on his mechanics to improve his accuracy, but I completely get why NFL teams would rush to take Ridder with his tools.
Matt Corral, Ole Miss (6'1" 205 pounds)
The final player in this top group is Rebels' quarterback Matt Corral. He is likely the biggest projection of the group, but his traits are hard to ignore. He had a solid season for Ole Miss as a junior, passing for 3,343 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions.
While he is a bit on the smaller side, Corral might be the most intriguing of the top guys. He has a strong arm, perhaps the strongest in the class, that allows him to rip it to all areas of the field. His underneath accuracy on quick hitters and RPO-type plays is also a big plus. On top of that, he is an excellent rusher as well.
Corral needs a ton of work when it comes to reading a defense and his overall mechanics could use an overhaul to improve his accuracy. While he is a bit of a project, the upside in his game is interesting.
Players That Fit the Colts
The Colts will be without a first round pick in this draft and likely be hanging on to Carson Wentz for at least another year. Those two factors can make it a bit tough for the Colts to pursue a quarterback in the draft.
If they opt to attack this position on day two, there are a few interesting names that could sit behind Wentz (or whoever is at QB) for a year and learn.
Here are the guys that could make some sense on day two or three of the draft for the Colts:
Malik Willis, Liberty (6'1" 215 pounds)
While he is just oozing with NFL talent, Willis needs a ton of work before he steps onto the NFL field. His final season with the Flames was marred by inconsistency and bad habits, but the flashes were there. He finished the season with 2,857 yards passing and 27 touchdowns with 12 interceptions.
The consensus on Willis at the moment is all over the place. He will have outstanding throws where he drops a 50+ yard dart down the sideline for a score. Then on the next play he will miss a wide open crossing route because he didn't properly diagnose the defense pre-snap.
If he aces the Senior Bowl and pre-draft process, he could climb as high as the top quarterback in the class. If not, he could slip to as late as round three. The Colts could be an interesting fit, as he likely wouldn't have to play in year one.
I am optimistic for Willis in the NFL, but he needs to find the right fit. The Colts could very well be that for the young quarterback.
Carson Strong, Nevada (6'4" 215 pounds)
Next up on the list is another talent player that people are all over the place on (this is what happens when you trade your first round pick). Strong had a phenomenal career for the Wolf Pack, as he capped it off with a 4,186 yard passing season as a senior. He also threw for 36 touchdowns to just eight interceptions.
Strong is a super interesting player. If someone were to take the five most impressive throws from quarterbacks in this class, he may have the entire top five. He flashes absolute brilliance with anticipation, and throws receivers open like an NFL quarterback.
The problem with him is the overall lack of traits. He has a good arm that isn't great. He is a stationary quarterback that won't create much outside of the pocket (despite moving really well in the pocket).
I like a lot of what he brings to the table, but the lack of athleticism and arm talent are a bit worrisome in how the NFL is trending. He certainly could fit as a Nick Foles type behind Wentz if the Colts roll him back in 2022.
Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan (6'1" 210 pounds)
A bit of a shocker in recent weeks, Eleby declared for the draft as a redshirt sophomore. Eleby is a talented player with the traits to be as good as any quarterback in this class. He finished this past year with 3,277 yards passing and 23 touchdowns with just six interceptions.
Eleby needs some work, but he makes some big time throws. He went toe to toe with Kenny Pickett early in the season, and he led Western Michigan to a victory over the eventual ACC Champions. He attacks all levels of the field with great placement, velocity, and accuracy.
He needs more experience and exposure before he is ready to play in the NFL. His pocket awareness and overall feel are still a bit raw, so I wouldn't expect him to be a starter out of the gate. If the Colts wanted a talented player to sit for a year (that can likely be had in round three), Eleby is the guy in my mind.
Will The Colts Actually Draft a Quarterback?
My gut reaction to this would be no. The Colts could surprise us and decide to not run it back with Carson Wentz in 2022, but I still think that it would end up being a veteran rather than another rookie coming in.
I could see a scenario where a quarterback that Chris Ballard likes falls and he takes a shot, though. There are just so many variables at the moment and it is truly hard to take a real guess.
If you are like me and fully ready for draft season, take a second to watch some of these players. Make sure to fall in love with one that your team will never end up taking and truly enjoy the heartbreak that comes with Draft Season.
Follow Zach on Twitter @ZachHicks2.