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Broncos' Top-6 Quarterback Options in 2022 NFL Draft

At 3-4, one thing is clear: the Broncos still need a franchise quarterback.

Ever since Peyton Manning retired, the Denver Broncos have been in search of a franchise quarterback. The team has primarily looked to veteran stop-gap options, with a few draft selections thrown in there including one first-rounder and a second. 

However, as the Broncos have struggled to find their QB answer, the other three teams in the AFC West have seemingly found theirs. Teams live or die by the quarterback position and winning a Super Bowl without a top-level talent at the position is next-to-impossible.

It's also extremely difficult to find one in the NFL draft. Teams only hit on a quarterback in the top-16 of the draft at a 34.88% success rate. Finding a franchise guy isn't easy.

This next draft cycle, what will make things more difficult for the Broncos is how poorly the quarterback class has looked so far. Two of the top-6 entering the season — Kedon Slovis and Spencer Rattler — have dropped out, with the latter even being benched. 

However, there are still some options that could intrigue the Broncos, if these college prospects declare for the draft. There's a lot of time left between now and the draft and it's impossible to anticipate what factors could bring about change to a prospect's stock. 

Based on current draft stock, here are the top-6 QB options for the Broncos to consider in 2022. 

Carson Strong | Nevada 

Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Carson Strong (12) drops back to pass during the first quarter against the Kansas State Wildcats at Bill Snyder Family Football Stadium.

Strong is the top quarterback in the class for most draft analysts. He has a strong arm that can make all the NFL throws and is a good processor. Another notable aspect with Strong is how trusted he is by his coaches to make calls at the line of scrimmage, which isn't typical for college quarterbacks. 

The big concern with Strong is his mobility, which isn't terrible but is enough for misgiving. Unfortunately, as the NFL moves towards quarterbacks who can throw on the move, Strong doesn't fall into that category. There are also some injury concerns, according to The Athletic's Dane Brugler.

Malik Willis | Liberty 

Liberty Flames quarterback Malik Willis (7) looks to pass the ball during the second quarter against the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers during the Cure Bowl at Camping World Stadium.

There was a lot of hype around Willis entering the season because he is an exciting player. He's probably the best athlete at the position in this draft class and has a good arm for the NFL. In addition, Willis is a dual-threat quarterback who is dangerous when he starts moving around. 

However, he hasn't made the progress many were hoping to see this year when working as a passer. That's even more concerning when looking at the teams he has faced, which should be opponents he should look great against. The season didn't start badly for him, but having back-to-back games with six total interceptions has put a sour note on his draft stock. 

Matt Corral | Mississippi 

Mississippi Rebels quarterback Matt Corral (2) during warmups prior to the game against Arkansas Razorbacks at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Corral is another favorite of many draft analysts because he has all the tools to be an NFL quarterback. His arm is NFL-caliber, and he is more than good enough as an athlete and a runner to thrive at the next level. He also does a good job, for the most part, of protecting the ball, despite two games in 2020 where he threw 11 of his 14 interceptions on the season. 

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However, part of the reason he doesn't have many turnovers is that Ole Miss' offense doesn't ask him to make a lot of NFL-caliber throws. Instead read-option fakes are used to get a receiver wide open and make the throw. That doesn't mean Corral can't make NFL throws, and there are some on tape, but the concerns about the offense he works in are valid when translating to the pros.

Desmond Ridder | Cincinnati 

Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback Desmond Ridder (9) drops to throw a pass against the Temple Owls in the first half at Nippert Stadium.

Ridder is another option that has the athleticism and mobility for the NFL with a good arm for the next level. He does a good job at keeping his eyes downfield looking for a receiver and can alter his throwing motion when passing lanes get crowded. There seems to be a good football IQ with Ridder and plenty of experience under his belt. 

There has to be work done on his ball placement which can be outstanding on one play and terrible on the next. That can be done by improving his body mechanics and syncing his upper and lower body. Ridder also presents similar concerns to Corral involving the scheme Cincinnati runs and how translatable his tools are to the NFL. 

Kenny Pickett | Pittsburgh 

Pittsburgh Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett (8) passes against the Clemson Tigers during the first quarter at Heinz Field.

The big riser in this class so far is Pickett, who was viewed as a later Day-3 pick but is now getting talked about as an early Day 2 option. He has shown decent improvements in a few key areas, primarily decision-making and being more calculated with the risks he takes. There also is more trust in his arm, which was a problem in previous years, which has opened things up for the Pittsburgh offense. 

There will be concerns about the significant strides Pickett made for his final year, just like with Joe Burrow and Zach Wilson the last two years. The most crucial area of concern will be Pickett's play under pressure, which he doesn't face all that often. He comes with plenty of concerns but is playing his way towards being the top quarterback in the class, though that rising stock is boosted by being a poor QB class in general.

Sam Howell | North Carolina 

North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) looks to pass in the second quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium.

Entering the season, Sam Howell was viewed as a top quarterback in this class and has since fallen. Now, he is still one of the top guys with a good enough arm and athleticism for the NFL, mixed with the smarts to be a pro quarterback. There are many aspects to his game to like, but just as many concerning NFL scouts. 

This season, Howell has been highly inconsistent after losing four primary weapons from last year. In addition, he is often overconfident in his arm, which isn't great but not terrible either, and puts the ball in danger. Howell also has issues working under pressure, which comes quite often and will concern multiple NFL teams. 

The Takeaway

The Broncos are not in a good spot to land a quarterback unless one of these guys sees his draft stock sky-rocket over what remains of the college season. If that doesn't happen, at the rate the team is going, the Broncos will need to look at moving down the draft board or reach for a quarterback. 

Right now, there isn't a single quarterback angling for the 2022 NFL draft worthy of a top-20 pick, and that's being generous. Time will tell whether one can rise to those heights. 

Follow Erick on Twitter @ErickTrickel.

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