As the 2021 football season draws near, SI All-American continues to evaluate the nation's top prospects at every position in the class of 2022. The first wave of the evaluations are the 'Watch List' selections, also known as SI All-American candidates, to be released throughout the month of July.
It precedes the SI99 rankings, our preseason mark of America's top college football prospects regardless of position, to be released in August.
Naturally, the quarterback watch list is up first and it will be released in more detail than the rest. The 25 SI All-American candidates will be broken down in groups of five, with the top five revealed on Friday before other positions begin to roll out.
6. Drew Allar
Vitals: 6-5, 220
School: Medina (Ohio) High School
Committed To: Penn State
2020 Stats: 2,963 passing yards, 26 TD
Allar is an incredibly talented young signal caller, and his upside is as high as any quarterback in the class. The first thing you notice about Allar, even before he throws a pass, is great size for the position. He's every bit of 6-5 and he's listed at 220 pounds. Allar has a big frame that will continue to fill out, which means he should be able to get to an easy 225-235 pounds.
Allar has exceptional arm strength. He can power the ball down the field, he can make all the difficult throws you want from a top quarterback, and even more important is the fact he does all of this with easy effort. Allar doesn't have to muscle up at all to power the ball, and he doesn't have to get his feet set into the ground to make tough downfield throws either. At times he’ll put a bit too much zip on the ball, but other instances he shows impressive downfield touch.
Allar needs to clean up his footwork, and at times his throwing motion gets a bit long, which can cause him to have accuracy issues. Allar has a tendency to let the ball dip when he's in his drop or going through his progression. That is when you see his motion get long, and if he can get the ball up it should help him stay more compact from the pocket, which should help him improve his accuracy.
7. Walker Howard
Vitals: 6-1, 195
School: Lafayette (La.) St. Thomas More
Committed To: LSU
2020 Stats: 3,049 passing yards, 66.0%, 35 TD, 4 INT
If you’re someone who loves power throwers then you are likely a big fan of Howard. Despite being just 6-1 and 195 pounds, Howard has one of the strongest arms in the class. His ability to power the ball down the field, both with deep balls over the top of the defense and driving 25-30 routes on a line, is outstanding.
Howard is a confident quarterback that knows he has a strong arm, and he’s not afraid to use it to attack tight zones, the outside zones and his ability to throw on the run is impressive. Howard needs to put a bit more touch on the ball at times, and at times his ball placement gets spotty when sitting in the pocket. He’s not someone that is going to run for a bunch of yards at the next level, but he’s a quality athlete that can take advantage of open rush lanes and he can move the chains on certain designed runs as well, although with his lack of size I doubt his future colleges will want to subject him to a bunch of run game hits.
Howard can go through bouts of inaccuracy, and there are two technical aspects that tends to be the fuel behind that. At times Howard will wind up too much and really try to power the ball, or to say a different way, at times he tries to throw serious fastballs. When that happens he tends to either over stride or his grip is so tight that it will alter his release point and drive the ball down. When he misses deep its due to him dipping his back shoulder too much, which again alters his release point and causes him to miss wide down the field. Clean those two areas up and he’s going to be even better.
8. Maalik Murphy
Vitals: 6-5, 225
School: Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra
Committed To: Texas
2020 Stats: 1,261 passing yards, 55.2%, 9 TD, 4 INT
In our previous running we talked about a couple of California prospects that were ranked high due more to their tools than their proven production or experience. There isn’t a more projectable quarterback in the country than Murphy. At 6-5 and 225 pounds, Murphy already has elite size, and one look at his body and you know there’s another 10-15 pounds in there waiting to get developed.
Murphy doesn’t have a cannon that you might expect from someone with his size, but there isn’t a throw he can’t make. His touch and downfield passing ability stand out, and his feel for the game despite being so inexperienced says all you need to know about his football IQ. As Murphy gains more experience you’ll see him improve his timing as a passer, and as he fills out and gets stronger you’ll see him get some needed zip on the low trajectory throws between the 20-30 yard range and the deep outside comeback throws.
Murphy isn’t much of a runner, but he has good balance and nimble feet, which allows him to quickly set and throw from the pocket, when he’s stepping up or when he’s outside. At times his footwork will get crossed up and he ends up throwing off his front foot, which saps him of some power, but as he gets stronger this too will become less of an issue.
9. Nick Evers
Vitals: 6-3, 190
School: Flower Mound (Texas) High School
Committed To: Florida
2020 Stats: 2,578 passing yards, 66.9%, 21 TD, 6 INT - 218 rush yards, 5 TD
Evers is a smart, poised, savvy quarterback that is just scratching the surface of what he can be. At 6-3 and 190 pounds with plenty of room to fill out, Evers has the kind of body potential you want for a quarterback in the Dan Mullen offense.
Evers throws a gorgeous deep ball and his touch down the field is top-notch. The Flower Mound signal caller can ramp up the RPMs when he needs to, but what makes him so effective is his intelligence, which leads to him showing elite anticipation and timing, and his feel for when to throw it high, when to heat it up and when to throw the ball into open areas for his wideouts to run under the ball is special. Evers understanding of where to put the ball is as good as any quarterback in the class.
Evers is athletic enough to move the chains and do some of the run game that we saw from Kyle Trask at Florida, but he’s not a dynamic runner. He can throw relatively well on the run, but Evers is going to make his living sitting in the pocket, making great reads and picking defenses apart. If he adds more zip as he fills out he will have a shot to climb up this list even higher after the 2021 season.
10. Tanner Bailey
Vitals: 6-1, 195
School: Gordo (Ala.) High School
Committed To: Oregon
2020 Stats: 2,444 passing yards, 32 TD, 5 INT
Bailey is a fun quarterback to watch, and Oregon fans are going to love watching him play. Bailey can sit in the pocket and do damage as a passer, he can make plays as a runner, but when things get off script is when the Gordo standout is at his best. The young man is a gamer, a winner, and his tools are impressive as well.
Bailey saw a jump in power as a passer during his junior season, and it made him incredibly dangerous. He can get the ball over top of defenses, he can power the ball up the seams and he’s willing to attack the middle of the field. His ability to change speeds and throw off-platform make him a dangerous player against the rush, and if he gets outside he’s dangerous. Bailey also saw a jump during the 2020 season when it came to throwing receivers open and with his decision making.
I wouldn’t say Bailey is a runner, but he can certainly make plays with his legs. Oregon OC Joe Moorhead will be able to use him on designed runs and read concepts if he wishes, and it will keep defenses honest.