Top 15 Quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft: Carson Strong’s strong start

Carson Strong had the strongest debut on the list of top quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL Draft. Where did he land among the top 3?

The first week of college football is behind us, and it’s time to look at how top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft fared. With six straight days of action, some quarterbacks shined on the national stage, while others did not.

We assess all of that in the first in-season edition of the top quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL Draft.

Top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft | 6-15

The list of quarterbacks in the second tier is a varietal cast of characters. From a couple of new entrants to a few who still have yet to fully prove themselves, there will be quite a bit of movement in this tier from now to April.

15. Bo Nix, Auburn

Look, I’ll be the first to tell you I didn’t think I would be writing up Bo Nix in any top quarterbacks’ list for the 2022 NFL Draft. I still can’t believe it. Regardless, his growth from athlete to thrower of the football from 2019-2020 to the first game of the 2021 season is eye-opening.

Nix is a long way from Day 1 or even Day 2 conversation, but it’s not out of the question if he continues on this trajectory. He improved his mechanics and his throwing motion while also providing a tall presence in the pocket. Nix’s athletic profile has never been in question; it’s always been his ability as a passer. After one game, it’s clear he knew that was an issue, and he’s worked on it. Quite a bit, actually.

14. Kaleb Eleby, Western Michigan

Eleby is a magician with the football at times. He slings it with ease and has a lot of velocity on his passes. The ability that separates him from most Group of Five quarterbacks in 2021 is that he always finds time to reset, square up, and deliver an accurate pass more often than not.

Eleby finished the game against Michigan with just 191 yards and a touchdown, but he proved he could move the ball against a talented Power Five secondary. He dots the field with impressive throws and should thrive as he hits MAC play this year.

13. Will Levis, Kentucky

This is the first time that we’re talking about Levis on a list of top quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL Draft for one main reason: He hadn’t played significant snaps since high school in 2018. In his first action as the clear-cut starting quarterback for his team, Levis lit up the field.

It’s important to note that Levis has a long way to go before the draft is in his future. Yet, we’ve seen players come from further away than Levis is in recent drafts. He averaged a whopping 14.1 yards per attempt against UL-Monroe, connecting on 18-of-26 for 367 yards and 4 touchdowns. Levis has arm strength for days and can find all levels of the field. He’ll rocket up draft boards if this level of play continues.

12. Jayden Daniels, Arizona State

You may have missed it because they kicked off late last Friday night, but Jayden Daniels played mistake-free football against Southern Utah. He only attempted 12 passes but completed 10 of them for 132 yards while rushing for another 40 yards on 6 carries. He’s a dynamic dual-threat with effortless delivery.

Daniels will maintain a fringe-level spot on the top quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL Draft until he proves he can elevate the players around him. Like others on the bottom of this list, Daniels’ athleticism has never been in question. It’s a matter of whether or not he can improve on the mechanics of being a QB.

11. Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

A seasoned veteran, Kenny Pickett averaged just over 10 yards per completion, finishing the season-opener against UMass by completing 27-of-37 passes for 272 yards and 2 touchdowns. Pickett is a talented middle-of-the-field thrower and can increase his draft stock by developing a downfield passing game.

He thrives on short-area throws and running a heavy outside-zone rushing attack for Pat Narduzzi and Co. at Pittsburgh. Pickett has more than a few game-changing highlight moments in his career despite being labeled as a game manager to box-score scouts. If he can showcase more of those moments in 2021 while improving accuracy downfield, this will be his floor as a draft prospect.

10. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Desmond Ridder is perhaps the most athletically gifted player on our list of top quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL Draft. It’s imperative to note that as it’s a big part of his game. Ridder has run for over 700 yards in all three seasons as a starter and kicked off the 2021 campaign by averaging 9.8 yards per carry against Miami (OH).

He also put on an aerial display that rivaled some of his best throws from a season ago against the RedHawks. His accuracy on shallow throws has taken a step up over the years, and he’ll continue to rise in the ranks if he increases that accuracy downfield.

9. Phil Jurkovec, Boston College

Phil Jurkovec reached the 300-yard plateau with ease against Colgate, hitting that mark for the fifth time in his career. In just 11 appearances, he’s currently on pace to break Matt Ryan and Doug Flutie’s Boston College record for most 300-yard games. Ryan and Flutie each needed at least 43 games to set the record of 12.

Jurkovec makes every throw and is only growing more and more confident. He thrives on NFL throws of at least 10 yards downfield, routinely hitting his receivers in stride for big plays. A big-armed slinger, Jurkovec has all the tools to see success at both levels.

8. JT Daniels, Georgia

JT Daniels didn’t test the Clemson defense in his season opener, but he didn’t need to. However, it was a cause for concern that he didn’t elevate his or his teammate’s game against a vaunted Tigers’ secondary. But it’s also important to note that defenses are almost always ahead of offenses in the season’s early stages.

Daniels still connected on 22-of-30 passes, but the Clemson defense kept his receivers in check for just 135 yards. It’s not the end of his draft stock or even reason to lower him on the list of top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft, but it’s something to monitor. If Daniels can’t hit all levels of the field, leading Georgia to an SEC Championship could be the end of the road for his playing days.

7. Brock Purdy, Iowa State

Brock Purdy and the Cyclones once again started a season slow on offense, escaping with a victory over Northern Iowa. Nonetheless, Purdy was accurate with the football despite the lack of separation from his receivers that has plagued him during his entire career at ISU.

Purdy finished 21-of-26 for 199 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. He, once again, showcased his ability with the ball in his hands with 58 rushing yards on just 9 carries. You’d like to see Purdy torch a UNI secondary, but the fact remains — he has every tool in his arsenal from a quarterback’s perspective — and is never fazed by pressure. Purdy can become an elite-level quarterback in college and the NFL.

6. Kedon Slovis, USC

Kedon Slovis kicked off the 2021 season with, shockingly, a dominant second-half performance. In total, he hit 24-of-36 passes for 256 yards and 2 touchdowns. The Graham Harrell Air Raid offense will always be friendly to Slovis, but he will more often than not showcase his ability within those friendly confines.

Slovis’ best throws came downfield, connecting with Drake London and Tahj Washington. He showed off impressive arm strength and accuracy with multiple deep shots, even if they were a product of the Air Raid’s friendliness.

Top quarterbacks in the 2022 NFL Draft | 1-5

The upper echelon of quarterbacks ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. The cream of the crop. And yet, this group, like those below them, has yet to fully prove themselves. Don’t look now, but No. 3 below may be the lowest he ranks all season long.

5. Matt Corral, Ole Miss

Few quarterbacks throw with the level of anticipation and zip that Matt Corral throws with. He put it on display with an incredible out-breaking route dotted over a zone coverage defender ahead of a closing DB in a spot where only his receiver could make the play.

Corral trusts his arm, as he should, with the level of talent he has. He’s a dynamic athlete as well but clearly has taken a step up in his knowledge of the offense and arm mechanics. He’s a scary guy for defenses to face in 2021 and beyond.

4. Malik Willis, Liberty

If you didn’t believe Malik Willis was a talented quarterback before the season opener, you better believe it now. The most impressive piece of Willis’ game against Campbell was how hard he throws accurate passes. There are several throwers of the football, but few passers that sling it with the strength he has.

There are ample examples of his velocity on deep shots, just the same as there are examples of him putting touch on short-area throws. Campbell’s defense wasn’t quite what you want to gauge a quarterback off of, but it was a surefire testament to the fact that Willis has every tool.

3. Carson Strong, Nevada

Talk about a player who has every tool and can make every throw. Carson Strong‘s 2021 debut performance was arguably the most impressive of all the top quarterbacks on our 2022 NFL Draft list. You can bet he’ll stay right here at No. 3 with a strong case for No. 2 or even No. 1 with more performances like this past weekend.

Against Cal, Strong hit 22-of-39 passes for 312 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those numbers could have been even better in a vacuum had it not been for multiple drops by his receivers. Still, when you watch Strong’s performance against a talented Cal secondary, you realize just how special his arm talent is. At this rate, get to know more about the man you’ll hear throughout the season and into next April.

2. Sam Howell, North Carolina

If Strong had the — wait for it — strongest debut of the season, Sam Howell had the lowest debut of all the quarterbacks here. He threw 3 interceptions and completed just slightly above 50% of his passes against Virginia Tech. Worse than that, Howell looked incredibly confused and confounded against the Hokies’ secondary.

Howell has a lot of physical tools and nearly every throw in his arsenal. So his place at or near the top of the list is relatively safe. Still, his lack of pocket presence and inability to find receivers in space was concerning. It’s important not to overreact to Week 1 performances. It’s equally as important to isolate what Howell did wrong in Week 1. And that’s what should scare Howell truthers.

1. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

Spencer Rattler takes the throne in our list of top quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL Draft despite tossing 2 interceptions against Tulane. He was outdueled by Green Wave QB Michael Pratt but still got the victory. Rattler, like Howell, looked shaky at times, routinely giving up easy passes for potential big-play moments.

Those hurt him with an interception to true freshman CB Jadon Canady of Tulane on just his second pass of the season. However, Rattler rallied in the second quarter and did just enough to hold off a surging Tulane team at the end. If he wants to maintain the top spot, he’ll have to iron out some serious kinks in his game, like reading through his progressions.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of NFL News/Analysis for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor