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College QBs to Watch as Jalen Hurts Evaluations Reach Halfway Point

It's not the most highly-regarded group of passers, but there are some who could rise above the rest, with NFL Draft Bible President Zack Patraw giving his take
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Nobody knows really how the Eagles are evaluating Jalen Hurts through the first nine weeks of the season, though many have opinions.

It’s safe to say the team’s fan base is split on whether or not Hurts can be the quarterback through 2022.

As beneficial as it would be for the Eagles to use all three expected first-round draft picks on the defensive side of the ball this spring, it’s probably not going to happen. A quarterback will likely be taken with one of those picks, provided they don’t trade them away for someone like Russell Wilson.

Heavyweight college talent evaluator, Zack Patraw, president of the NFL Draft Bible on SI.com, and I sat to talk about the class as it continues to develop.

It's a wide-open field at the moment, and not as distinguished of a group as in recent years, but it's still early, with games remaining this season and plenty of offseason showcase games and the NFL Scouting Combine still on the horizon.

How high they climb, remains to be seen, but rest assured one, two, or three will rise, perhaps even into the top 10, because they always do.

Check out the attached video for some great insight from Patraw.

Here’s his top four right now:

Kenny Pickett, Pitt.

Matt Corral, Mississippi.

Carson Strong, Nevada.

Malik Willis, Liberty.

Of course, that is subject to change as things develop.

Ole Miss QB Matt Corral

Mississippi's Matt Corral

Pickett is experienced, having played in 49 games for the Panthers. He’s also more of a dropback passer with enough athleticism in the pocket to move around and escape pressure.

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“Pickett’s arm is good, he’s got great solid velocity on his throws and he’s accurate outside the numbers,” said Patraw, who said he liked Pickett a lot last year, too.

Pickett, who is 6-3, 220, has 11,155 passing yards in his career, with 3,171 of them coming this year, with 29 touchdowns and just three interceptions, so far, in 2021.

Corral, who is 6-1, 205, is following up a solid sophomore season, when he completed close to 70 percent of his throws for 3,337 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 14 interceptions in 10 games with 68.6 completion percentage, with 2,526 yards, 16 TDs, and two interceptions in nine games so far as a junior.

He can also run, with 506 yards last year on the ground (4.5 avg) and 528 this year (4.6 avg).

“Two completely different prospects,” said Patraw. “Picket has size, a strong arm, Corral is in the Baker Mayfield mold…strong arm, smaller in stature, solid athleticism. Those two are peaking out of the average to good tier (among the QB group).”

Strong has some injury history while Willis, who is 6-1, 215, and transferred to Liberty from Auburn, where he spent two seasons, is the No. 1 QB on Mel Kiper, Jr.’s latest big board.

Not Patraw’s.

“I like Willis a lot,” he said. “He’s a boom-or-bust type of throwing prospect. He’ll give you a deep shot (and) if he hits it, he hits it. If he throws a pick, he throws pick. He can burn you with a 60-yard touchdown or an incomplete pass or an interception. He’s more of a riskier player.”

Patraw also discussed two players I watched start to finish last Saturday, Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman and North Carolina’s Sam Howell, who began the year as one of the top three-ranked passers, if not No. 1 in some scouts’ eyes, but has fallen off just a bit while adjusting to plenty of new faces with graduating hitting the Tar Heels hard.

UNC knocked Wake from the ranks of the undefeated in a wildly entertaining 58-55 win.

Howell, who is 6-1, 220, threw for 216 with a touchdown and ran for 104 with two scores. He has a career 64.1 completion percentage with 88 TDs and 21 interceptions, including 30 and 7 this season with a 68.1 completion percentage.

Hartman, who is 6-1, 208, could be this year’s version of Zach Wilson, a quick riser last year from BYU who went No. 2 overall to the New York Jets. That's not saying Hartman will go that high, but maybe he slots in late first round or second round.

Hartman threw for 398 yards and five scores with two interceptions against North Carolina while running for 78 yards and two touchdowns. He is completing 62.5 percent of his throws with 27 TDs and five INTs so far in 2021.

Patraw mentions a few other quarterbacks to potentially watch the remainder of this season and into the offseason showcase events.

Hear everything he had to say in the attached video while I wait for a love affair with one of these QBs to develop.

Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.