One of the great things that the NFL Scouting Combine affords us is the ability to see and compare players at eye level on the same field. The combine concluded this past weekend and it answered some questions about who will be the top three quarterbacks picked in the 2022 NFL Draft. While I believe Kenny Pickett has the highest floor of all the passers and should be the first quarterback taken. However, QB2 and QB3 are up for debate.
Malik Willis is considered the quarterback in this draft with the “sexiest” tools. He has a cannon for an arm and has good escapability both in and out of the pocket. His strong arm affords him the ability to get the ball into tight windows. He can easily get the ball to the 5 route from the far hash.
However, there are some accuracy issues that are cause for concern. His accuracy decreases when he's on the move and he lacks true pinpoint accuracy as a passer. Learning to throw it with more touch and take some off his fastball could benefit him. He's also only 6-foot with 9.5-inch hands. So unless he consistently gets good depth in the pocket, longer defenders could hinder his vision. Also, he will take some time adjusting to an offense with NFL concepts with regards to going through progressions.
So while Willis clearly has the best traits and attributes of the class of quarterbacks, there are questions about his skill set. He will likely need two years to refine these with pro coaching.
Desmond Ridder is another polarizing player. He is generally ranked between the third and sixth quarterback by evaluators. He has good size at 6-foot-3 and has 10-inch hands. He seemingly improved every year at Cincinnati and acquitted himself well in big games, even in losses.
With regards to his skill set, Ridder is a decisive processor who gets the ball out of his hands on schedule. He is a good athlete at the quarterback position who can extend plays with subtle movements in the pocket. He prefers to operate from the pocket but can tuck it and run for critical first downs. Ridder’s arm strength is slightly above average and he needs to get it up early on 9 balls so that receivers don’t break stride. He, too, has some accuracy issues. He can overstride, which causes him to miss high, at times.
Ridder led an offense with many pro concepts. In losses to Alabama and Notre Dame where he played against players who will likely play on Sundays, he didn’t lead them to wins but he wasn’t the reason they lost. The lights weren't too bright for him, which made me more comfortable with his projection.
As previously mentioned, Willis undoubtedly has the best physical attributes of all the quarterbacks. There are times on film where Willis is arrogant with his strong arm, will stare down his primary, and make the throw harder than it had to be. Both Willis and Ridder need to continue to develop consistency in their accuracy in the short, intermediate, and deep parts of the field. Accuracy typically starts from the ground up and both could improve at settling their feet to deliver with more accuracy
When evaluating both passers, I believe Ridder should have a slightly better career if he continues to develop. He processes the “big picture” more than Willis does at this stage. He's a bigger passer who stands tall in the pocket, allowing him to see the entire field better.
Josh Allen proved that accuracy can be improved by improving mechanically. It also helps to play with weapons that can uncover.
Both Ridder and Willis are wired the right way and have the work ethic you’d like to see from the face of your franchise. The quarterback position is one that is reliant on fit, offensive coordinator, protection, and good weapons around them. Having a good tight end and running game also helps. I anticipate both players will be selected on Day 1 and the team they're selected by will play a role in their individual success. However, If I were a betting man, I’d go with the unpopular opinion that Ridder could become the better player.