The 2022 NFL Draft class has not been one widely regarded as a fruitful quarterback class. Regardless, there are three quarterbacks who’ve received a large amount of attention in recent weeks. As these quarterbacks look to spin the narrative and dictate what this QB class can become, I’ll take a closer look at how they could do just that…it’s QB week on Dylan’s Dimes!
Dylan’s Dimes will be a ten step breakdown of three of the biggest draft eligible players taking the field in some of the biggest matchups each week. I analyze background, on the field performance, off the field traits, opinions around the NCAA, all leading up to the dropping the dime on how they could fit with gang green.
Every year, prospects come onto the scene that reshape the quarterback rankings. Two years ago, it was Joe Burrow, then last year it was Zach Wilson. Now another senior quarterback is rising up draft boards. He’s an experienced quarterback having the best season of his career, leading us off, is Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett.
After transferring from Auburn, this quarterback took his move in stride, training through the 2019 year and coming alive in 2020. Coming into the season he was one of the most highly touted quarterbacks and was projected to sneak up draft boards. He’s a superb athlete and leader, and he comes from the same trainer as Justin Fields. This quarterback is Liberty Flames QB Malik Willis.
Rounding us out is a quarterback who’s found his way into the headlines over the past two years. The quarterback had an average 2019 year with a TD to INT ratio of 12-7, but took a massive step forward last year. Now, the junior quarterback is piecing together one of the strongest campaigns to be an early selection. This player is Nevada QB Carson Strong.
-From: Oakhurst, NJ
-From: Atlanta, GA
-From: Vacaville, CA
Kenny grew up in New Jersey, with an All-American linebacker as his Father and a college soccer player as his Mother. Pickett had a very successful high school career racking up 4,670 yards 43 touchdowns, 873 rushing yards and 11 rushing scores. Pickett was highly touted ranking as the number 11 prospect in New Jersey, and received interest from Pittsburgh early before committing. He graduated early and received a little playing time in his freshman year going 39 for 66, 509 yard, a touchdown and a pick. From 2018 on, Pickett has started and been a consistent game manager. He’s taken significant strides leading to what’s been a massive senior season.
Malik Willis was a four time football letterman at Roswell and Westlake High School, while lettering in baseball as well. He was a top student and top tier player, receiving first team all state honors in his senior year. Willis initially committed to Auburn where he went 11/14 for 69 yards and a score, along with 309 rushing and two scores on the ground. Willis was used more as a rusher and with Bo Nix coming in, Willis was unable to earn more reps beyond that. This led Willis to Liberty, where, after sitting out for a year, had a phenomenal 2020 season.
Carson Strong was a two sport athlete in high school playing football and basketball. He sat out his senior year after injury, but his junior year was enough to earn him a scholarship from the Wolfpack. Strong put up a line of 184/266 for 2,732 yards, 26 touchdowns and 4 INTs. He’s no slouch on the court either, averaging a double double in his junior year with 18.1 points, 12.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game. Strong started as a redshirt freshman, bringing the Wolfpack to a bowl game where he opened the eyes of many, and he’s continued to impress since.
2020 & 2021 Statistics:
2020: 9 games, 203/332 for 2,408 yards, 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, 145 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns.
2021: 7 games, 168/244 for 2,236 yards, 23 touchdowns and 1 interception, 187 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns.
2020: 10 games, 170/265 for 2,250 yards, 20 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, 944 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns.
2021: 8 games, 121/183 for 1,679 yards, 17 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. 647 rushing yards and 9 touchdowns.
2020: 9 games, 249/355 for 2,858 yards, 27 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
2021: 7 games, 216/306 for 2,466 yards, 20 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.
With Pickett, the first thing that stands out is experience, he’s been at Pittsburgh for awhile and continuously showed progression and adaptability. He throws the ball with strong velocity, has good ball placement, and can take a majority of angles on his throws and be successful. Pickett is incredibly tough and has been able to demonstrate mental and physical toughness, overcoming injuries and fighting back into games when needed. His football IQ is high and he’s demonstrated a strong capability to manage the offense.
Willis reminds me of Lamar Jackson in some respects. He’s an electric playmaker capable of making very good throws in the pocket or on the move. He has exceptional arm strength, he makes the smart plays, and adapts well when plays breakdown. He’s a superb athlete who constantly makes plays in the air or on the ground. He’s a legitimate threat to take it to the house whenever the ball is in his hands. Overall, Willis is a refined athlete capable of utilizing his skill set to his advantage constantly.
Forgive the wordplay, but starting off, Strong has a STRONG arm. He throws a great ball that zips in to the receivers hands constantly. He’s a pocket passer type that can stand in the pocket, run through his progressions and confidently make plays. He’s got prototypical quarterback size and his football IQ is at the top of the chats. He’s confident but not over reliant on his arm which is exactly what you want.
Looking at Pickett’s game, he brings a lot of good to the table, but there are inevitably flaws in his game. Pickett fails to recognize and adapt to pressure well. When he gets off platform he can lose his balance, he struggles to handle the pressure and make smart throws, forcing him into costly mistakes due to his aggressiveness. Pickett’s other biggest flaw is he struggles to go through his progressions at points and when he doesn’t see anything develop he fails to make the conservative throw.
Willis works with Quincy Avery, a guy who can refine throwing motions of mobile quarterbacks and prepare them well for the next level. Willis has to take some strides though. He is another quarterback that plays too aggressive and forces the ball into too many tight spots. His decision making is suspect at points which leads to costly turnovers for his team.
Strong has compiled -198 yards rushing to this point. The NFL has transitioned to a point where even Tom Brady runs the ball occasionally. Strong struggles mightily under pressure, he often takes hits or goes to his check downs quickly in order to avoid making mistakes. When his pocket is clean, he’s a consistent passer, but with the way the game is trending, Strong failing to be a dual threat quarterback is worrisome for his stock.
7/10-The Focus of Improvement:
Adapt to Pressure
Grow As A Thrower
Pickett reminds me a lot of Joe Burrow. He’s stepped up, made changes to his game and showed the capability to address his inadequacies and improve. He’s a good playmaker, and although his decision making under pressure is worrisome, he has the capability to be a starter at the next level. Although Matt Corral steals a bulk of the headlines, Pickett can make the case that he’s the most refined prospect in this class and most pro ready. I can see Pickett landing and developing into a fixture at the starting spot for the next 5-10 years. Otherwise, he projects to be top tier backup if he doesn’t pan out. He’s a low risk, high reward.
On the contrary, Willis is high risk, immensely high reward. Landing in the right system will be paramount, but the athleticism and skill set that Willis brings to the table is unmatched. Willis can take over the game with his legs and that style has worked well at the next level for guys like Kyler and Lamar. Willis doesn’t have as good of an arm as them though, and he will need to show growth to remain in the league. Willis can be the best quarterback from this class, or he can be another flash in the pan. Like I said, high risk, but potentially sky high reward.
I’ll say it, I’m not a Carson Strong guy. He’s a prototypical pocket passer, but he struggles to do anything outside of the pocket. He’s not going to fare well as a starter unless he’s in an offense that builds around short passes and methodical play calls. I can see Strong being a more than capable backup, but his potential as a starter is limited due to lack of mobility.
9/10-The Outside Opinion:
“He isn’t just the best quarterback in the ACC this season, he’s been the best QB in the entire country.”- Cam Mellor, Pro Football Network
“(Pickett’s) a lot like Joe Burrow. Experience, calmness, accuracy and can run, makes all the right decisions, having a heck of a year. He’s really good. He’s going to play in the NFL.” – Brent Venables, Clemson Defensive Coordinator
“Willis is a versatile playmaker who can make big things happen with both his arm and his legs. While there are plenty of promising quarterback prospects in the 2022 NFL draft class, none of them bring the same kind of skill set to the table that Willis possesses.”- Luke Easterling, USA Today
“With his arm talent, accuracy, and quick processing ability, Strong possesses many of the key qualities that NFL starters boast. And with the 2022 quarterback class in its current ambiguous state, there’s little stopping Strong from making the leap.”- Ian Cummings, Pro Football Network
This is the only week where I won’t delve into each player’s fit specifically. All three quarterbacks possess something to be desired. Pickett is a confident quarterback capable of doing a lot with his arm. Malik Willis is an exceptional playmaker who will draw the attention of many. Strong is one of the most consistent decision makers I’ve evaluated in recent years. None of them need to be in the conversation to join the green and white though. Regardless of the season the team has had, Zach Wilson is the guy.