It seems no one knows what to make of this year’s quarterback class with projections ranging from only one going in the first round to as many as five. Player evaluation isn’t an exact science. Even the Todd McShays and Daniel Jeremiahs of the world are guessing to a certain extent. A late bloomer who famously bombed his Combine workout, no one could have predicted Tom Brady’s meteoric rise, ascending to legend status after waiting the better part of two days to hear his name called by the Patriots at pick 199. But if there’s a hidden gem like Brady waiting to take the league by storm, scouts aren’t seeing it.
“If I had to guess, based on the film, based on the interviews, if he’d returned to school, Davis Mills would be, easily, the best guy on the list this year,” an AFC quarterbacks coach expressed to Sports Illustrated‘s Albert Breer. Draft expert Mel Kiper of ESPN made a similar assessment recently, opining that Patriots starter Mac Jones would have been this year’s top quarterback prospect (Jones was the fifth QB selected in 2021).
Matt Corral, a second-team All-SEC selection who totaled 31 touchdowns (20 passing, 11 rushing) as a red-shirt junior last season, is thought to be among the top signal-callers in this year’s class, with Chris Simms of NBC Sports identifying him as his overall QB1. Described by Breer as a “raw Zach Wilson” (another scout compared his throwing mechanics—particularly his quick release—to Niners quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo), Corral’s athletic traits could vault him into the late first round, though his past maturity issues make him unusually difficult to forecast. “He’s kind of a mess,” an NFL offensive coordinator relayed to Breer. “I’m not sure you want him leading your program. His sorts of issues aren’t the kind solved by giving a kid millions of dollars.”
Diligent to a fault, NFL scouts have turned nitpicking into an art form, digging up enough dirt to make a baseball diamond. Character concerns tend to be overblown, though in cases like Johnny Manziel and Ryan Leaf, teams were right to be skeptical. Corral interviewed well at the Combine, insisting he’s “turned a corner” and learned to carry himself like a professional under the tutelage of Lane Kiffin, who coached him his final two seasons at Ole Miss.
Whether that’s lip service or a genuine change in behavior, teams still have their doubts about Corral, citing his reputation for partying and a fight—apparently with Wayne Gretzky’s son—that prompted his transfer to another high school. “If we were interested, I’d do a way deeper dive on that,” an anonymous coordinator told Breer. “You hear he’s a big party guy, and that he had issues, but he’ll tell you he’s gotten himself together.”
All of us make mistakes, especially in college (some would argue that’s precisely what that four-year period is for). Of course, unlike those of us headed for desk jobs and 9-5s, Corral is interviewing to be the face of an NFL franchise.
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