Everything you need to know about next year’s top NFL draft QB prospects

    Bill Connelly is a staff writer for ESPN.com.

A year ago, Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields were surefire top picks, and Trey Lance was a quickly-rising sleeper, but Zach Wilson and Mac Jones were still taking steps to assure that they would start for their respective schools in the fall. Todd McShay’s way-too-early 2021 draft rankings last May identified the first three as guys who would almost assuredly go in the first round. Lawrence and Lance went almost exactly where they were projected, while Fields fell slightly for reasons I’ll never totally understand — but there was little way of knowing what the last two were about to unleash on the college football world in 2020. All five went in the first round of the recent 2021 draft.

That’s how things tend to go, isn’t it? Any given draft is going to end up a mix of guys who were sure things the moment they set foot on campus and guys who worked their way up the ladder. With McShay’s way-too-early 2022 mock draft out this week, let’s take the opportunity to look ahead at the quarterback position.

Instead of a projection, consider this a status check — a look at 2022’s potential top prospects, their strengths and what they need to work on if they want to hear their name called by Roger Goodell on a Thursday late next April.

First-round favorites

These seven players will most likely see their names in first-round projections in the coming months. Five are on McShay’s initial list, and two are common on other lists. We’ll list these in order of their 2020 Total QBR ranking.

Matt Corral, Ole Miss

McShay mock: Not picked

Measurables: 6-1, 205

2020 stats: 71% completion rate, 14.4 yards per completion, 9% TD rate, 4% INT rate, 5% sack rate, 6.4 yards per carry (not including sacks)

2020 advanced stats: 89.9 Total QBR (third), 9.3 ANY/A*, 52% passing success rate, 54% rushing success rate, 83% throw rate**

* ANY/A = adjusted net yards per pass attempt, which incorporates sack yardage and gives a 20-yard reward for touchdowns and a 45-yard penalty for interceptions

** throw rate = the percentage of one’s dropbacks that result in an actual pass, not a sack or scramble

Outlook: You want Sam Howell and the UNC offense, only with more tempo and even more deep shots? Ole Miss is for you! Corral and head coach Lane Kiffin proved a perfect pair last year, and the Rebels jumped from 68th to 14th in offensive SP+ thanks to a good passing game.

To be sure, WR Elijah Moore and TE Kenny Yeboah (combined: 1,717 receiving yards, 15.2 per catch) had something to do with Corral’s success, and they’re in the NFL now. But Kiffin remains creative and aggressive, and Corral will still have deep threat Braylon Sanders along with veterans Jonathan Mingo and Dontario Drummond. Ole Miss is projected to rise to 10th in offensive SP+, and it’s not hard to see why.

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