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The '22 draft: Quarterbacks

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JACKSONVILLE – When it comes to quarterbacks and the NFL Draft, it's not 2021 anymore.

Not even close.

A year removed from one of the most-anticipated quarterback draft classes in recent memory, the 2022 NFL Draft features few prospects at the position considered "can't-miss" – with many analysts wondering if the class will produce an elite player at the position.

"It's an interesting quarterback class," NFL and Jaguars Media analyst Bucky Brooks said.

Whereas the '21 class featured three quarterbacks – Trevor Lawrence (Jaguars), Zach Wilson (New York Jets) and Trey Lance (San Francisco 49ers) – among the top three selections, the '22 draft's top quarterbacks are considered more likely to be selected in the middle of the first round or later.

"It's different than some of the years we've had recently where from a quarterback standpoint I don't know we have the star power," NFL Media analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. "I don't know that we'll have a Top 10 pick there."

The top three quarterbacks in the '22 class are generally considered to be Matt Corral of Mississippi, Malik Willis of Liberty and Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh. Pickett is considered by some the most ready to play immediately, with Willis considered the most talented and eventually the most dynamic of the three.

"This guy can really power the football," Jeremiah said of Willis. "He can make off-platform throws. He can create. You can use the design quarterback run game with him and he's outstanding with that. He's just so strong and physical. I think he would be the one with the most upside.

"While there's obviously plenty of risk, there's also the potential of a big payoff."

Said Brooks, "He has the skills that in the last couple of years you've seen pop. That's why there's a buzz around him."

Brooks said while there may not be a perceived "franchise" quarterback at the top of this year's draft, the position remains intriguing and important.

"I don't know that you have the bona fide stars in the class, but you have guys who can be productive starters," Brooks said. "Then you have some other guys who have tools and talent but the consistency lacks."

Brooks, too, said this year may differ from some years when teams have drafted quarterbacks sooner than draft grades merit. Whereas teams did this in the past because of positional importance, Brooks said general managers and coaches could take a different approach this month.

"I don't know if it's going to happen this year," Brooks said. "People not only are comparing the quarterback talent to what's in the class, they're comparing it to what's around the NFL. The standard is high. Do the quarterbacks in the draft stand up to them?

"Because the bar is so high now, there's some leveling off in pushing quarterbacks up [in the draft]. If you're not getting a guy who can compete with those guys, what are we doing?"

QUOTABLE

Jeremiah: "When you look at some of the gap in this year between some of the top position players and the quarterbacks, it's going to be a little bit more difficult. There is going to be a sizable gap between the quarterback decision they (teams considering quarterbacks) in Round 1 have to make there versus their highest available player. I'd be very surprised if the position player wasn't carrying a much higher grade. That's the tricky part about this draft."

HANDICAPPING THE JAGUARS

This figures to be a position of low interest for the Jaguars in this draft, certainly on Days 1 and 2. The Jaguars used the No. 1 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft on Lawrence, and they also acquired backup C.J. Beathard as an unrestricted free agent in the '21 offseason. Third-year veteran Jake Luton is the third quarterback. The Jaguars could address a third quarterback late in the draft or sign a quarterback as a rookie free agent depending on availability, but the position doesn't figure to be a draft weekend priority. - John Oehser

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PROJECTED FIRST-ROUND QUARTERBACKS

Matt Corral, Mississippi; Malik Willis, Liberty; Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh.

CHANCE JAGUARS TAKE A QUARTERBACK IN ROUND 1

Essentially zero.

QBs ON THE JAGUARS ROSTER

On the roster: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Jake Luton.

BROOKS BREAKS DOWN THE CLASS

The 2022 quarterback class lacks the star power of recent classes, but there are some intriguing prospects with the potential to develop into quality starters. Pickett, Willis and Corral have garnered most of the attention as the headliners of the class, but Desmond Ridder of Cincinnati has started to join the conversation as a late riser up the charts. Although each of those field generals displays the arm talent and athleticism to function as playmakers, Willis and Ridder have teased evaluators with their spectacular movement skills and improvisational abilities. Willis in particular has impressed scouts searching for a dynamic dual-threat quarterback with the talent and tools to pop as a superstar at the next level.

BROOKS' SLEEPER

Keep an eye on Nevada's Carson Strong as a prospect with the potential to emerge as a surprise starter down the road. The 6-feet-3, 226-pounder is a classic drop-back passer with A-plus arm strength and release quickness. Strong's performance at the end of his career was marred by injuries, but if healthy, the strong-armed passer could dazzle in a pro-style offense built on a vertical passing game. With over 9,300 pass yards and a 74-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio, the Wolfpack standout has the production to back up his performance as an intriguing quarterback prospect.

BROOKS' BEST

It is hard to poke holes in Pickett's game after watching him tear up ACC competition with a polished game that makes him the most pro-ready quarterback in the class. The Panthers' star carved up defenses with a series of pinpoint throws while operating inside and outside of the pocket. Pickett's experience and expertise make him an attractive candidate as a first-round talent with the Day 1 starting potential.

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