2022 NFL Draft QB Watch: Nevada’s Carson Strong Could Be Next Joe Burrow or Zach Wilson

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There’s no Trevor Lawrence in this draft class, but there may be a Joe Burrow or Zach Wilson – a quarterback who seemed to come out of nowhere and work his way into one of the top picks. Nevada’s Carson Strong has a chance to be that guy and he’s getting his 2021 campaign off to a good start. Below, we take a look at Strong’s impressive performances, as well as how some of the other draft-eligible quarterbacks have performed over the course of of the weekend.

Note: Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler and North Carolina’s Sam Howell are two of the most prominent quarterbacks in this class, but we didn’t include them in this week’s QB Watch for a very simple reason: we didn’t. did not have access to their games; the Sooners-Western Carolina game was pay-per-view only, and the UNC-Georgia State meeting was a regional broadcast. Take solace, however; After a top-down performance in Week 1 (Rattler was sloppy against Tulane and Howell was racing for a life against Virginia Tech), both quarterbacks were pretty good on Saturday night. Rattler played only 30 minutes and finished 20 of 26 for 243 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions, and Howell had 21 of 29 for 352 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Carson Strong, Nevada

If you’re looking for a quarterback prospect who wasn’t on average fan radar over the summer and is ready for a Joe Burrow or Zach Wilson-like rise on the old boards of media edge over the next few weeks and months, let us introduce you to Carson Strong. We dropped him to 9th in our first mock draft of the season and the only reason he lasted this long was because of a knee injury that started in high school and limited him throughout. long from training camp last month.

Of course, when you look at him, you would have no idea that Strong was anything other than 100% healthy. He was handling the Wolf Pack’s season opener on the road over Cal last week and was downright dominant against Idaho State on Saturday night. In 3.5 shifts, Strong had 34 of 43 for 381 yards, four touchdowns and no turnovers.

He was, in a word, clinical.

Whether it’s a background area fade on the first drive from Nevada:

Or a back shoulder throw on touchdown # 2:

His third touchdown, just before half-time, was as effective a two-minute drill as you’ll see; Strong showed his arm, his precision, his ability to read and to remain patient in the pocket. And then there’s the final TD, which showed his ability to pass the ball over moving defenders:

To recap: Strong is legit. So legitimate, in fact, that the only thing stopping us from making him our QB1 is his knee. If the NFL teams give him good health (and they won’t be able to see him well before the combine), he could end up in the top five and top quarterback in the table.

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

In January, Kenny Pickett was invited to the Senior Bowl but instead chose to return to Pittsburgh for his final season. And based on what we saw on the road against Tennessee, it was a great decision. Pickett finished with 285 yards, two top-notch touchdown passes and no turnovers, and he did so with 67 percent of his throws (24 of 36).

It was a marked improvement over what we saw of Pickett at times in the 2020 campaign where his tenacity was one of his best attributes, but an infuriating lack of consistency made it difficult to perceive his game. There were no such concerns on Saturday afternoon; Pickett threw lasers all over the yard, mostly on short and intermediate routes. And it was his mobility – both in the pocket and when he chose to run – and, more importantly, his accuracy that was so impressive to watch.

Here’s Pickett’s first touchdown pass, during a first quarter practice that saw him go 5 for 5:

And here’s his second touchdown, a well-placed strike on a steep slope that solidified the Panthers’ lead in the fourth quarter:

Pickett isn’t in the Top 50 conversation yet, and we’ll be honest, we had a Day 3 rating on him after the 2020 season. But he had an outstanding performance against the Flights and he will have the chance to continue. to prove himself next month in a three-game streak against Virginia Tech, Clemson and Miami.

Kedon Slovis, USC

Two years ago, Kedon Slovis, then a young man, replaced the injured JT Daniels and never left his post. Slovis played 12 games that season, completing 72% of his throws for 3,502 yards, 30 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Slovis was the USC starter and Daniels was eventually transferred to Georgia. In 2020, Slovis remained the model of coherence; he completed two-thirds of those passes with 17 touchdowns and seven picks in a shortened pandemic timeline.

On Saturday, the 14th-ranked Trojans welcomed Stanford and here’s the truth: Slovis was outscored by sophomore Cardinal Tanner McKee, who was part of a quarterback rotation in Week 1 and didn’t. had appeared in only one game with seven attempts in 2020. It was his first career start and McKee finished a 16 of 23 for 234 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers.

That’s not to say Slovis was bad, because he wasn’t. In fact, he looked a lot like the quarterback we’ve seen over the past two seasons. He finished the night 27 of 42 for 223 yards, with a costly late-game touchdown and six pick. He’s not an elite athlete like Trey Lance or Justin Fields (think Mac Jones instead), but he throws with a lot of anticipation and precision. First there are the back shoulder throws for Drake London’s widening:

And that ball to only put where your guy can catch it between two defenders at the back of the dropped end zone:

That said, the aforementioned interception was on a slope just behind its intended target and the results were catastrophic for USC’s chances of a comeback. All in all Slovis has solid footwork, gets through his readings, often makes the right decisions with the ball coming out on time. The problem is, he doesn’t have the elite arm strength and, more importantly, he doesn’t consistently put the team on their backs and lead them on late-game touchdowns like Jones does. in Alabama, or even a Kyle Trask in Florida.

Make no mistake: Slovis is a solid quarterback who has many of the attributes that NFL teams look for, it’s just that his style of play leaves very little room for error.

Brock Purdy, State of Iowa

We’ve been writing about Brock Purdy at this rate for three seasons now, and while we were really impressed with his second campaign, he has regressed a bit in 2020. We marked some of those struggles to get through a pandemic and were excited to see what he could do in ’21. Iowa State opened the season with a 16-10 victory over northern Iowa and Purdy finished 21 of 26 for 199 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

On Saturday against Iowa, the Cyclones ‘offense spat early but reduced the Hawkeyes’ lead to 14-10 at halftime, thanks in large part to a Purdy seed in the second quarter to Darren Wilson for a 49 -gain of yards. Iowa State entered the end zone a game later. Then things took a turn for the worse. Really ugly.

Purdy had already thrown an interception in the second quarter when he knocked down his receiver slightly – and Iowa’s Matt Hankins made an incredible play on the ball – when it all went sideways in the third quarter.

The first two offensive practices after halftime ended with a punt from the Cyclones. This was followed by three workouts that ended like this: a Breece Hall fumble that came back for six, a Purdy interception that escaped the hands of his receiver performing a short cross, and a Purdy interception that was tilted on. line of scrimmage (have a day, Mr. Hankins).

As the third quarter gave way to the fourth, Purdy, who had started all but three games in the past four seasons, found himself on the bench, replaced by rookie Hunter Dekkers. His last line of stats: 13 of 27 for 138 yards, no touchdowns and the aforementioned three picks.

Purdy barely looks like the quarterback we’ve seen in 2019, and he’ll need to play with more confidence and consistency to turn things around. He has time, but right now there are a lot more questions than answers about his game.

Emory Jones, Florida

Emory Jones only attempted 32 passes last season because it was Trask’s team. But Jones was supposed to be the guy before the 2021 season. Yes, coach Dan Mullen named Jones the starter before the season, and repeated it again after a lukewarm performance against FAU, but his understanding of the No.1 position is tenuous at best due to the extinction effort of first-year Anthony Richardson.

There’s a lot to love about the dual threat nature of Jones’ game, but the lack of consistency from game to game, along with Richardson’s emergence, could ultimately land him on the bench. First off, the good of Saturday’s game against USF: that 35-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter was a dime:

Jones also ran for 81 yards and one against the USF, and the week before he had 74 rushing yards, and Mullen made it clear last week that Jones’s understanding of offense is one of the reasons for which it is at the top of the depth chart:

But Jones also threw two picks against FAU in Week 1 and had two more on Saturday, which, while not inexcusable, bordered on the inexplicable. The first interception, which came in the third quarter, with the game already in hand, came after Jones threw flat even with a defensive back standing between him and his target. The next interception came in the next practice, after Jones was two times late to hit his receiver on a crossing road, and in the process allowed the defensive back on the other side to make a play. .

Richardson, meanwhile, threw three passes, two of which was for touchdowns and the other was a jaw-dropping touchdown:

Richardson also ran four times for 115 yards and one scoring, and he had 160 rushing yards in last week’s victory. He left the game in the fourth quarter with a crooked hamstring and that may be the only reason Jones returned to the pitch. Next stop: Alabama, all of you.


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