Steelers draft: Which QBs have the highest ceiling and lowest floor in the NFL?

Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis (left) and Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (QB13). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis (left) and Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (QB13). Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers are homing in on a quarterback in the 2022 NFL Draft. Here’s a breakdown of their floor-to-ceiling potential in the NFL.

If you are one of the fans out there hoping the Pittsburgh Steelers avoid selecting a quarterback in a shaky 2022 NFL Draft class, I would like to apologize in advance. Despite our better judgment, taking a QB early almost seems inevitable at this point.

Throughout the pre-draft process, Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert have skipped out on numerous huge NFL Pro Days of players who would have otherwise been in their draft range in order to narrow in on a first-round quarterback.

Since taking a signal-caller early seems bound to happen, you might as well get very acclimated with talent in this year’s draft. Since the 2021 offseason, I have been scouring ahead to study the quarterbacks this year (knowing that it was very likely the Steelers would draft one in 2022).

Collectively, I have put in so many hours studying this QB class that I would almost be embarrassed to add them all up. After tracking these quarterbacks over the past two seasons of their college careers, here is how I view their floor-to-ceiling potential in the NFL:

This graphic is a predictor that I came up with (based on numerous factors) that is a predictor of what each of the top-six quarterbacks could be at the next level in terms of their rock-bottom floor to their absolute upside.

Which QB should the Steelers gamble on?

Like most NFL talent evaluators, I think that Malik Willis has the most upside in this draft class. He has a terrific arm in terms of both strength to flick the ball deep down the field and velocity to zip a pass into a tight window. Willis also has great mobility and an innate ability to make the first defender miss in order to extend the play.

Sadly, he’s not a prospect without risk. Though I think that his mobility will help get him out of a lot of jams, he’s not a safe prospect. Willis transferred from Auburn to a small school after getting beaten out for the starting gig, his play regressed in 2021, he made some very poor decisions with the football (multiple 3-interception games against very poor teams), and he doesn’t often throw the ball over the middle of the field.

Kenny Pickett, meanwhile, has some traits that make him the safest quarterback in the draft, based on my assessment. Though he is an older prospect with historically strong hands, Pickett meets all other size and athletic thresholds and had a terrific year of production in 2021. He also currently has the best accuracy and anticipation of any QB in this draft class, as well as a great feel for the pocket.

Where Pickett is lacking is in his ability really drive the ball deep to the sidelines or put a ton of air under it down the field on go routes. His arm is just average in terms of NFL standards, thus, I think — combined with a few other factors — his upside isn’t as high as some of the other quarterbacks this year.

Sam Howell and Matt Corrall are two quarterbacks with solid upside based on their arm talent, mobility, and college success. However, they each played in very gimmicky RPO offenses in college and we would have liked to have seen more improvement from them in 2021. They are what I would typically call high-risk, high-reward prospects.

Desmond Ridder, in my mind, is similar to Pickett in the way that he can run an offense, and he helped elevate the play of the Cincinnati Bearcats during his college tenure, but he doesn’t play like the athlete he tested as at the NFL Combine, and he’s more of a game managing QB.

Carson Strong is by far the lowest of the top-six quarterbacks this year due to his severe lack of mobility, a bad knee that some teams are worried about, and his inability to make the first defender miss in the pocket. For this, he will be very limited at the next level. I also don’t believe that Strong has a great arm like others think he does. It’s quality for NFL standards, but not elite.

So which quarterback should the Steelers take? Knowing that taking one is probably inevitable this year, we would love to have the player with the best combination of high-floor and high-ceiling. However, I don’t think it would be advantageous to do so at the cost of spending additional draft capital to move up for one this year.

Assuming that Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis are off the board before the 20th overall pick, I think taking a player like Matt Corral makes the most sense if the Steelers are to go this route. Corral could prove to be the best of the group, and he has solid tape at the highest level of competition in college football.

Related Story. 3 next steps for Steelers after signing Mitch Trubisky. light

I still think the answer is to pass on the quarterbacks in the first round this year, but based on Mike Tomlin’s and Kevin Colbert’s visits, that doesn’t seem like an option. If Pittsburgh is to go with a quarterback, I just hope they don’t give up additional draft capital to move up for a player I have in the same tier as the others.