As the NFL Combine began Tuesday, March 1, we do not have consensus surrounding the first quarterback taken in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Kenny Pickett – Malik Willis battle could continue through draft night Below, we’ll look at QB1 odds for the upcoming draft.
Odds to be the first quarterback drafted
*odds as of Feb. 28
QB1 Odds: Kenny Pickett (+120)
Kenny Pickett was this year’s rocket ship who rose to the top of draft boards at Pitt. He was named a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2021 after throwing for over 4,300 yards, 42 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions. Pickett supported Biletnikoff Award winner Jordan Addison at receiver this season while also completing 67.2% of his passes. He’s been called the most “pro ready” prospect by several outlets.
Perhaps more intriguing than his draft profile is a Feb. 2 interview linking Carolina to Pickett. CBS’ Jason La Canfora reported that Pickett to the Panthers is “likely” and mentioned that owner David Tepper is a big Pitt booster.
The Panthers choose sixth. If Carolina does pull the trigger on Pickett, that doesn’t guarantee he’s the first one off the board.
QB1 Odds: Malik Willis (+150)
The Kenny Pickett – Malik Willis debate is nothing new. There’s two methods in drafting quarterbacks: The traditional “most pro-ready” quarterback (Andrew Luck, Joe Burrow, etc.) or drafting the “traits guy” (Cam Newton, Patrick Mahomes, etc.). Each has had their stars and busts, but the newer NFL tends to lean traits, for better or worse.
Following the Senior Bowl, Malik Willis was a hot name to be the QB1 drafted. He flashed so much that, for a brief period of time, Willis overtook Pickett as the favorite to be the first quarterback drafted. His mobility, arm strength, and reasonable accuracy began drawing comparisons to Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. NFL GMs love a good project that has a high ceiling.
NFL Draft season is filled with smoke and mirrors, so all of the Pickett to Carolina reports could be that. A QB-desperate team could make a jump up– the Detroit Lions are reportedly shopping the number-two pick– which would likely be for the upside of Willis. Postseason ascensions are extremely common and usually lead to guys being taken even earlier than expected. Two recent examples include South Carolina cornerback Jaycee Horn (2021) and LSU running back Clyde Edwards Helare (2020).
QB1 Odds: The Field
Preseason Heisman hopeful Sam Howell (+650) is still hanging around the top of the board. Despite an underwhelming 2021 season, Howell truly did everything at North Carolina. He’s build like Baker Mayfield– a former No. 1 pick– and has plenty of flashes of greatness. However, Howell is a fringe Round 1 selection at this point in the draft process.
If you’re looking for a longshot candidate for the QB1, you could follow the Willis model of a) traits and b) rising draft stock. That quarterback is Desmond Ridder. He’s a +3000 true longshot but offers similar traits to Willis. Ridder isn’t nearly as shifty and doesn’t quite have the same arm strength, but has shown times of extreme accuracy, especially on the move. Ridder’s shown chops against Georgia and Alabama, a resume Willis lacks. Keep in mind, he’s a longshot for a reason, but crazier things have happened in recent drafts.
Matt Corral was a Heisman frontrunner for much of the 2021 season, leading Ole Miss to their first 10-win season since 2015. Previously a Day 2 pick, he’s begun to pop up in the mid-first round. Corral has +1000 longshot odds to be the QB1, fourth-most this year. He’s a more intriguing bet to be a first-round pick (markets not yet open), with newer mock drafts slotting him at 18 to New Orleans or 20 to Pittsburgh.
Teams who may be in the quarterback draft market
The following is based on each team’s current needs as of Feb. 28. These can and likely will change come free agency on Mar. 16, but for now these are the teams who may be in the Kenny Pickett – Malik Willis sweepstakes.
No. 6 Carolina Panthers
The Sam Darnold experiment in Charlotte was a spectacular failure. Despite trading for Darnold– and then immediately signing him to a three-year extension– the Panthers are strongly in the quarterback market. As mentioned, they’ve been closely tied to Kenny Pickett. However, many would argue last year was the year for them to draft a rookie QB, which they didn’t do.
Draft Likelihood: HIGH
No. 8 Atlanta Falcons
Matt Ryan is an aging commodity. Like other successful quarterback transitions, Atlanta could pull the trigger on a quarterback at eight and let him sit under the waning days of Ryan’s career. However, there’s been no rumors nor reports tying the Falcons to a quarterback yet. With one of the weakest crops upcoming in recent memory, the Falcons could go with best player available and skip out on a quarterback until next year, which projects to be a strong class.
Draft Likelihood: MID
No. 9 Denver Broncos
We all know the Aaron Rodgers rumors. As of yet, that hasn’t happened. Should the Broncos progress through the offseason without trading for or signing a quarterback, they’ll be in the market for one in the draft. However, like the Falcons, if the Broncos have a plan in place for the next year or two, they could pass on drafting a QB this season and instead wait for a better crop in 2023.
Draft Likelihood: MID
No. 11 Washington Commanders
Year 2 of pinning Washington to a quarterback– will they do it? Malik Willis is a commonly-picked player to the Commanders at 11 in mock drafts. Ryan Fitzpatrick is retiring and they don’t have a strong backup. Taylor Heinicke has shown the ability to play well and win games, but not consistently. Washington could also wait until Day 2 for Desmond Ridder or a different later-round QB rather than picking one at 11, making them a wild card for the first round.
Draft Likelihood: HIGH
Other teams of note
Though later in the first round, both the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints are in dire need of quarterback. The Steelers have a bit more pressing need for one with Mason Rudolph slotted to start this season. However, neither of these two teams have the draft capital to make a move up the board for a Pickett or Willis. The aforementioned Lions are interested in trading the second pick and the New York Jets are reportedly shopping the 10th pick, but teams with more draft capital (Eagles, Dolphins) are more likely suitors for those.
Of course, keep an eye on the Packers-Rodgers situation, as Green Bay could become a QB-needy team overnight.
First quarterback drafted by year
|2021||Trevor Lawrence||1.01||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|2020||Joe Burrow||1.01||Cincinnati Bengals|
|2019||Kyler Murray||1.01||Arizona Cardinals|
|2018||Baker Mayfield||1.01||Cleveland Browns|
|2017||Mitchell Trubisky||1.02||Chicago Bears|
|2016||Jared Goff||1.01||Los Angeles Rams|
|2015||Jameis Winston||1.01||Tampa Bay Buccaneers|
|2014||Blake Bortles||1.03||Jacksonville Jaguars|
|2013||EJ Manuel||1.16||Buffalo Bills|
|2012||Andrew Luck||1.01||Indianapolis Colts|
|2011||Cam Newton||1.01||Carolina Panthers|
|2010||Sam Bradford||1.01||St. Louis Rams|
|2009||Matthew Stafford||1.01||Detroit Lions|
|2008||Matt Ryan||1.03||Atlanta Falcons|
|2007||Jamarcus Russell||1.01||Oakland Raiders|