Thursday, May 26, 2022

2022 NFL Draft: Carson Strong, Jack Coan among middle-round quarterback options to consider

The NFL Draft is once again expected to feature multiple quarterbacks in the first round, even if the talent is not necessarily comparable to what had been seen over the last few years. Still, not every team will get one of those early round quarterbacks and may be in the market for a backup or developmental option instead. Here are some of the mid-round quarterback options to know, in alphabetical order, in the 2022 NFL Draft

Jack Coan, Notre Dame

Coan is the only player on this list with significant Power 5 playing experience, and he accomplished it at two schools. A native of New York, Coan’s collegiate career began at Wisconsin. He spent essentially one year starting in Camp Randall before transferring to South Bend. Few would deem him flashy, but he is consistent. Coan throws with anticipation and touch. He is not a quarterback who excels trying to extend plays and is generally uncomfortable when pressured. He has a tendency to drift up into the pocket, which leads to unnecessary sacks. However, teams with a good offensive line who need a backup quarterback capable of playing in a pinch will be drawn to Coan in the middle of the draft. 

Cole Kelley, Southeastern Louisiana

Kelley’s path to the NFL has been quite unorthodox. His career began at Arkansas in 2016 with then head coach Bret Bielema. After a coaching change and losing the starting job to Ty Storey, the quarterback elected to transfer to Southeastern Louisiana, which is less than two hours away from his hometown of Lafayette, Louisiana. Kelley had to transfer down to become an NFL prospect; a route not often traveled. His career culminated with the FCS equivalent of the Heisman Trophy — the Walter Payton Award.

When the season ended, Kelley was invited to the NFL Player’s Association Collegiate Bowl, where he took home MVP honors. At 6-foot-7, 249 pounds, he found himself on an equal playing field with many other Power 5 prospects in Indianapolis last week. Although his college offense called for a lot of swing passes, screens and generally short throws, Kelley was able to show an ability to push the ball downfield a bit more at the combine. He does not have great mobility, but he has shown an ability to throw with touch. When the dust settles, the Louisiana native will likely be taken late Day 3, but could also go undrafted.

Carson Strong, Nevada

Strong is a tall quarterback with a good arm. He suffered an injury that cost him his entire senior season of high school, so the medical evaluations will be important for him. The California native is contained to the pocket with a lack of mobility. Although his pre-snap control of the offense is noteworthy, Strong doesn’t have a particularly good sense of pressure in the pocket. Over the past two years, he has done a fantastic job of not putting the ball in harm’s way. 

In an ideal world, Strong would go to a team with enough talent to allow him some time in the pocket to deliver the football. He would have zero chance of success behind a porous offensive line.

Skylar Thompson, Kansas State

The athleticism and arm talent is all there with Thompson, but he is unrefined in so many ways. He makes poor decisions with the football. He gets happy feet when pressured. He needs to learn to throw with better touch. By the same token, he shows the arm strength to drive the football and has good pocket mobility. Thompson will likely be drafted on Day 3 by a team who wants to explore him further on its practice squad. Teams looking for a quarterback capable of stepping in and being a backup today are not going to be drawn to Thompson, but a team who values developmental traits will be.

Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky

Zappe transferred from Houston Baptist in December of 2020. He followed his head coach, Zach Kittley, and wide receivers Jerreth and Josh Sterns and Ben Ratzlaff to Western Kentucky. During the 2021 season, he threw 62 touchdowns in comparison to just 11 interceptions. 

Zappe’s strengths are pretty comparable to the prospect who began the list. Like Coan, he throws with great touch and anticipation and shows good pocket awareness. Unlike Coan, he is calm under pressure. He shows great control of the offense but bounces a bit too much in the pocket. His tape shows a prospect with average arm strength, but metrics from the Senior Bowl suggested that his velocity was up there with some of the best in the class. At just over 6-foot tall, he does not possess ideal size. He could go Day 2 but is more likely to go early Day 3.

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