By Adam Aniba
It's no secret that Washington's offense has struggled through seven games. Although current starting quarterback, Taylor Heinicke, has provided his share of highlight reel plays, his top receiver, Terry McLaurin, has routinely bailed him out of under/overthrown balls, with spectacular catches. Through 7 games, Heinicke has thrown for 1,658 yards 10 td's & 7 int's. With a run game that has been inconsistent, much more is needed from the passing game. Heinicke's ability to improvise has led to some exciting moments (222 rushing yards), but it's clear he's not the long term answer for Washington.
Ron Rivera has been transparent that Heinicke is the starter for the foreseeable future. With Ryan Fitzpatrick no closer to returning to the field from IR, switching to 3rd string signal caller Kyle Allen before the bye week seems unlikely. Once again, Washington finds itself in the perennial search for a franchise signal caller.
The chatter and debate among fans, in regard to adding Cam Newton, has intensified more and more after every Washington loss. The reality is, Rivera is still building a franchise that showed promise last season. If the season ended today, Rivera's team would be selecting #8 overall.
*Draft Order as of 10/25*
PHI (via MIA)
With 3-4 quarterback-needy teams ahead of Washington, trading up should certainly be in play for Rivera. In reality, the draft order won't be set for months, but with the current direction the franchise is heading, it's not too early to look at a few potential franchise quarterbacks that could be available when the Burgundy and Gold make their first selection of the NFL Draft.
The early narrative from many draft pundits is that this year's quarterback class doesn't measure up to the previous class which featured Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance and Mac Jones. That narrative couldn't be farther from the truth, with some impressive mid-season performances from a few quarterbacks Washington fans need to know about.
Through 8 games, Liberty University's QB Malik Willis has been the most electrifying quarterback in college football, throwing for 1,679 yards 17 td's & 6 ints, but his 647 yards rushing and 9 td's will put him in the discussion as a top 10 prospect.
The Auburn transfer had his coming out party in 2020 with Liberty after sitting out '19 , throwing for 2,260 yards 20 td's & 6 ints and 944 yards rushing for 14 tds with a 6.7 ypr average. Willis will be heavily scrutinized until draft night, with the "dual threat" label in addition to the level of competition he faced. Teams will ponder if they're getting the next Michael Vick or a developmental quarterback that shined against lower level competition.
If Willis is the most entertaining signal caller in college football, Ole Miss QB Matt Corral isn't far behind. With 31 career career games under his belt, Corral has shown poise through 7 games this season, throwing for 1,913 yards leading to 15 td's and only 1 int. Like Willis, Corral is a dangerous runner and is heavily utilized in that role at Ole Miss. In fact, Corral has rushed for 474 yards resulting in 9 td's with a 4.7 ypc average on only 7 games this season (career-1,198 yards rushing 16 td's).
The Ole Miss signal caller still has a lot to prove with some questioning his size and arm strength, in addition to his overall mechanics. Although Corral's film shows a lot of throws off his back foot/fading away, his impromptu style leads to big plays and only has thrown 1 int in his last 207 pass attempts. Corral could be the first overall quarterback selected in the 2022 draft after displaying that his '20 season was no anomaly (3,337 yards passing for 29 td's & 14 ints) and has dramatically cut down on turnovers.
Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett is older than other prospects (23) in this draft, but nonetheless, the 5th year senior has shown tremendous growth in 2021. Pickett's statement game vs Ga Tech (22/36 389 4 td's) displayed his ability to thrive against an aggressive pass rush, but still remain poised and decisive while going through his reads.
Pickett has made the best out of the extra year of eligibility, in order to refine his footwork/technique. His improved ability to throw on the run has been evident (2,236 yards passing for 23 td's & 1 int) and he's having the best year of his career through 7 games. With the type of numbers he's putting up this season, Pickett's draft stock will continue to rise, and he could be a top 20 QB prospect, if he continues to progress through the draft process.
The quarterback discussion is always a tenuous one for Washington fans, especially with little growth at the position under Rivera. Some fans believe the answer could be found in a trade or signing a free agent, but after reaching on Dwayne Haskins in '19, it's time to invest in the position again.
The 3 quarterbacks discussed may be the current headliners, but they're just a handful of prospects that will be spotlighted in our 2nd annual Draft Prospect Card series COMING SOON.
I'll have a lot more on WIllis on the next *B & G Report Happy Hour * (JUST CLICK Banner Below)
*Picture courtes NBC Sports*