Breaking down 2 QBs from the 2022 NFL Draft who have boom or bust potential in the pros.
With the draft less than a week away, analyses and opinions on the top NFL Draft prospects have been largely solidified.
We’ve all heard about the Aidan Hutchinsons, Kenny Picketts, and Malik Willises of the draft, but what about some Day Two or Three quarterback prospects who might one day be fantasy contributors?
Every year we hear about QBs that play at small schools but put up video game-like numbers. Below is a breakdown of two QBs with a little less exposure than some of the top prospects but have some exciting tools to contribute to a roster in the NFL.
Nevada QB Carson Strong
Career Numbers: 852/1,252 Passing, 9,368 yards, 74 TDs, 19 INTs (31 games)
Air raid offenses tend to yield the best stats a player can produce. Carson Strong is no exception. Strong may have some of the best arm traits in this draft class, but his medical history and the resulting physical limitations temper his expectations and ceiling.
Strong has the best arm talent in this class and pairs it with good size and noted leadership (he cut his surgery rehab short to play his final season). Nevada’s offense gave him ample opportunity to show off his cannon of an arm. He displayed consistent deep accuracy and the ability to change trajectories as needed. He has plenty of zip on medium-depth throws to pinpoint the ball into the smallest of windows. He is more than happy to take check-downs and safety valve options when pressured. Strong shows good touch at all three levels and a nuanced toolkit of varied power. His quick processor is noticeable, and he rarely holds onto the ball too long. His decision-making is a definite strength, with a career TD: INT ratio of 3.9.
The discussion on Strong’s deficiencies starts and ends with his knee. He had surgery in February 2021 on the same knee that caused him to miss his entire senior year of high school. This injury will likely be a continuing problem throughout his career. Because of his knee, Strong presents essentially no threat to run the ball. In fact, he rarely can escape the pocket to elongate the play even when he isn’t sacked. While some would argue that this has led to good maneuverability within the pocket, even that is often overstated. He has -305 yards rushing in his career (sack yards included). His knee also prevents perfect form on his throws, even though the bazooka attached to his shoulder more than compensates for it. This likely limits his hopes for a longer career.
Carson Strong is a case of an incredible talent that may fall in the draft due to health issues. While durability may not be a strength, Strong should be able to take on the mantle of a high-level backup. Should he continue to develop his mental skills, we may hear his name in a similar headline to Mike White’s run with the Jets in 2021. Expect him to be drafted early on Day 3.
Western Kentucky QB Bailey Zappe
Career Numbers: 1,375/2,163 Passing, 15,971 yards, 140 TDs, 50 INTs (51 games)
Bailey Zappe started his collegiate career at Houston Baptist but didn’t receive national recognition until he exploded for 5,967 passing yards after transferring to Western Kentucky for his last college season. Another air raid QB, Zappe, possesses many desirable tools, but evaluators may be unsure how to gauge his ceiling at the next level.
Zappe set FBS records for yards and TDs in his single season at Western Kentucky. He demonstrates quick processing ability and can identify his keys and execute his throws. He shows good touch on his balls and can easily drop in passes. Zappe possesses the commentator-favorite ability to throw on multiple platforms, especially when he is sliding and escaping the pocket. He is confident in his arm, trusts his eyes, and avoids riskier throws. His career numbers show a concerning number of INTs (50), but he had 62 TDs to only 11 INTs in his lone FBS season. His coaches loved Zappe and brought him along when Western Kentucky hired them.
Zappe has more unknowns than faults at this stage. He guides the ball to his spot more than zipping it in on medium to deeper throws. He doesn’t have plus arm talent even though it is sufficient for most offenses. He hasn’t seen more complex pass rushes and simulated pressures that are common in the NFL, so the expectation is that there will be growing pains at first. He often takes avoidable sacks because he is too late to scramble. The biggest question with Zappe is his ability to play in offenses that require more from him above the shoulders. He spent his entire college career in the same offense, so versatility is a question. This offense relied heavily on RPOs and predetermined throws, so some evaluators are unsure of his ability to read the whole field. Anticipation may be a struggle over the course of his development.
Zappe faces the same uphill battle that many air raid QBs face when transitioning to the NFL. However, this could be a blessing in disguise, as teams will be familiar with how to best tailor that skill set to their individual offenses. His video game-like numbers, even after moving up a level of competition, will appeal to many coaching staffs. I expect him to be drafted in Round 5. But, we will probably hear about him in the next couple of years in spot-start situations.
Barnabas Lee may be a data scientist by day, but he’s an All-22 enthusiast and freelance contributor by night. Obsessed with all things NFL Draft, he will be featured on a post-draft show at twitch.tv/hubbsywubbs. He roots for the All-22, Korea, Cowboys, Terps, Nats, Mavs, G2, and Noles, in that order.