The 2022 NFL Combine opened their on-field drills on Thursday night, with the tight ends taking the field first, followed by two combined groups of quarterbacks and wide receivers. If you missed our review of the tight end and wide receiver standouts, be sure to check them out.
There weren’t a ton of surprises at the quarterback position. A couple of high upside prospects looked sharp, stable quarterbacks looked stable, and a few late-round prospects looked draftable.
Let’s take a closer look at the quarterbacks who stood out.
Malik Willis, Liberty, 6-foot-0 1⁄2, 219
Everything looked easy for Willis. Everything. He looked completely relaxed the entire time, interacted with several other competitors, and the stage never looked too big for him.
Willis showed off his impressive arm power multiple times, putting arc on the deep ball and dropping it into a bucket with consistency. When Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson requested another shot at a deep route (he was way overthrown the first time), it was Willis who, without hesitation, jumped in to throw to him on the route. He also showed a willingness to adjust on the fly. After putting a bit too much steam on his first short throw, Willis took direction and slowed it down for a more catchable ball from that point on.
Willis put on a clinic with his deep passes:
I wish he ran the 40-yard dash on the fast track in Indianapolis, but let's face it, we know he has speed, so there’s not a lot for him to prove.
Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati, 6-foot-3 1⁄2, 211
Ridder did have something to prove athletically and finished first in his position group in each of the following: 40-yard-dash (4.52), vertical jump (36-inches), and broad jump (10-foot-7).
Beyond the measurables, Ridder also looked really solid in on-field drills. He was smooth all night, got the ball out of his hands quickly, and showed nice touch at all three levels. His footwork can get sloppy when he rushes, but he stayed within himself during drills and displayed the proper balance he needed to come away as one of the “winners” from Day 1.
Kenny Pickett (Pittsburgh, 6-foot-3 1⁄4, 217) finally got his hands measured (8.5-inches, a full half-inch below preferred minimum) but he spun the ball with plenty of touch and accuracy. He looked solid all around, and for a team looking for a quarterback who can challenge to start now, he remains the likely option.
Sam Howell (North Carolina, 6-foot-0 1⁄2, 218) had his leadership and interviewing skills talked up more than once on the broadcast. But despite being in the first quarterback group, where he was clearly the best player, he wasn’t lights out better than the pack, which was a bit disappointing for me. He’s still going to be in the first round conversation based on his intangibles.
Carson Strong (Nevada, 6-foot-3 1⁄2, 226) showed off his strong arm Thursday night, but he struggled with accuracy enough to keep him at QB6 in my rankings.
Bailey Zappe (Western Kentucky, 6-foot-0 1⁄2, 215) found the accuracy he was missing at the Senior Bowl and looked more like the player who put up record numbers in college this season.
Jack Coan (Notre Dame, 6-foot-3 1⁄4, 218) sure seems like he has more NFL supporters than college ones. He will challenge Zappe to be the first clear reserve quarterback taken on Day 3.
EJ Perry (Brown, 6-foot-1 1⁄2, 211) connected on a few very solid throws and probably established himself as a late-round draftable prospect.