Detroit Lions 2022 draft watch: Top QB prospects go head-to-head this Saturday

This is the game most Detroit Lions fans have been waiting for.

On the college football watch list this Saturday (November 6th), two of the best NFL draft-eligible quarterbacks will be playing in the same game for this upcoming cycle: Matt Corral of Mississippi and Malik Willis of Liberty.

With quarterbacks required and the Lions headed towards a top 10 picks – currently slated for the # 1 overall picks – you’d better believe the Lions scouts will be keeping an eye on this game.

Here are the featured games on this week’s watchlist:

  • Liberty at Ole Miss (16) at 12:00 PM ET on SECN
  • Michigan State (3) in Purdue at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

  • Indiana at Michigan (7) at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX
  • San Jose State, Nevada at 10:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 2

If you’re interested in going back and checking out the previous Saturday’s watchlists to revisit some of the profiled players, these links are here:

Okay, let’s get to this week’s profiles.

Liberty at Ole Miss (16) at 12:00 PM ET on SECN

When all is said and done, these could be the top two quarterbacks of this draft cycle.

Malik Willis, Quarterback, Liberty (Senior)

6-foot-0.218 pounds

It’s been a season of ups and downs for Willis. On the one hand, he shows rare athleticism for the position and often looks unstoppable, delivering 21 passes and nine lavish touchdowns in the season. On the flip side, he had a tough two-game stretch, throwing six interceptions (his only one of the season), three against Middle Tennessee State, and three again Lousiana-Monroe – which wasn’t a great look.

Willis has a cannon for his arm and he’s not afraid to let it crack. When he enters the NFL, his arm strength will instantly be in the top half of the league. If you’re already exhausted with check-downs, Willis will get your blood pumping. With this arm strength, deep shots come and he is ready to place touch throws on the sideline or press into the seam.

His accuracy needs consistency, and he needs to increase his processing speed between his reads (if he has it), but these were similar blows to Justin Fields last year and some things NFL coaches think are correctable. The big difference is the scheme, as Liberty’s offense often only gives him a read and when it’s not there he is asked to earn yards with his feet.

His size-speed combo runs backwards and he uses his gifts on designed quarterback runs and when the protection breaks – although it’s worth noting that he usually tries to overtake first and then run second. Willis plays with less talented opponents and when the plan calls for it, Willis pulls the ball down and runs because it is so easy for him to gain an advantage. It’s going to be an area that NFL teams want to improve on, just to be more comfortable pocketing it. However, he can also make difficult throws on the run, which gives him another rare element in his game and creative coaches will appreciate this.

While his arm talent is very appealing, it is his dynamic running skills and playmaking ability that make Willis so unique. It can be slippery in the back area and thin in traffic, but it’s incredibly difficult to get a hold of. Even when the defense is contained, his vision is to find the hole in front of him and slide positive meters through it. As a designed runner, he has the patience to build his blocks and the acceleration to get to the light of day at speed.

On the street against an SEC opponent this week, this is Willis’ statement game of the season, for better or for worse.

Matt Corral, Quarterback, Mississippi (Redshirt Junior)

6-foot-1,200 pounds

While Willis will have the opportunity to add to his design inventory, Corral’s opportunity to praise will be minimal. He is expected to cut Liberty’s defense to pieces, and that is exactly what he should do, knowing that there are many scouts aimed at him.

Stylistically, Corral has many similar characteristics to Willis. He has above-average NFL arm, quick feet, and can use them to keep the games going. He’s operating on a one-read offensive and may hesitate to throw before seeing it’s open. He will solve some accuracy problems as well, but he is ready, capable and shows the confidence to take deep shots all over the field.

There are also some differences between the pairs. Corral doesn’t have the elite running option for his game, but he is a capable runner. But what is really noticeable when he puts his feet in his pocket. There is virtually no delay between processing what he sees and setting up the feet. His lower body movement is reminiscent of a shortstop in baseball, with quick resets to keep his body in the right place to make a throw with excellent technique. His footwork can help hide failures in protection as he slips away from the pressure. And because he’s always looking down, he’s always in a position to throw a shot.

This is high level Matt Corral stuff. You can always tell a balanced QB by his feet. He understands the answers to this concept even though his primary reading / option is covered. His feet look like the long hand of an analog clock.

Great stuff.

– Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) September 7, 2021

In addition, Corral has a compact trigger when throwing the ball, which comes in handy with Ole Miss as the scheme requires quick movements and quick throws. But make no mistake, while the system is pushing for quick decisions, Corral is also being asked to toss down and keep the defense honest. Since he has such a strong arm and the confidence to make every throw, you’ll occasionally see a gunslinger mentality in Corral of forcing a throw he thinks he can make (think about the early ones Years of Matthew Stafford).

Corral is a mix of new and old age quarterback games. He’s doing most of his damage out of his pocket but has the athleticism to escape and gain a positive distance. He is very confident in his abilities and believes that he can make any throw on the field – which is mostly true.

Michigan State (3) in Purdue at 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC

I took a detailed look at Michigan State last week before the matchup against Michigan and I don’t want to repeat myself too much so I’m going to shift focus to the Purdue defense, which will have the daunting task of holding back Heisman’s hopeful RB Kenneth Walker III.

George Karlaftis, EDGE, Purdue (Junior)

6-foot-4 1/2, 275 pounds

Karlaftis stormed onto the stage as a newcomer (2019) with 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for the loss. He missed most of 2020 for a variety of reasons but is back in shape this season. As an oversized pass rusher, he primarily wins with power, but has an impressive tool kit that he brings with him when attacking the offensive tackle.

Despite his size and strength, one of the biggest question marks lies in his running defense. He will have a chance to show his worth if he tries to stop Walker and if he can show a solid performance he can block the top 15 draft value.

Indiana at Michigan (7) at 7:30 p.m. ET on FOX

As mentioned, I did an in-depth portrayal of Michigan last week. But I failed to add a Redshirt runner-up because he’s in his freshman year as a starter and extremely raw, but he prevailed against the Spartans and put his on the map as a legitimate design candidate this year.

David Ojabo, EDGE, Michigan (sophomore red shirt)

6-foot-5,250 pounds

A native of Niger (so you know the Lions are interested) Ojabo didn’t start playing soccer until 2017 (!) But showed enough talent that he was on a scholarship in Michigan just two years later. That speaks for his ceiling, but also for how much he still learns about the game.

As a freshman in 2019, he wore a red shirt but was impressed enough to be Michigan’s Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year. Michigan only played six games in 2020 and while Ojabo only played in defense in three of those competitions, he flashed as a linebacker. That season, when Michigan switched to a Baltimore Ravens-style defense, it was perfect for Ojabo’s skill and he earned a starting role.

Michigan just released him:

Aidan Hutchinson gets a lot of the notoriety (rightly) but the #Michigan EDGE / OLB hybrid David Ojabo (6050, 250, rSO) has in the last four games (6.0 sacks, 2 FFs) for the Wolverines defense really made his move.

– Jordan Reid (@Jordan_Reid) November 3, 2021

And in terms of sport, he does things that players of his size cannot do:

That’s first-round athletics with UDFA experience, but NFL teams design EDGE rushers based on athletic merit – and he has that in abundance. Ojabo pretty much reminds me of Jayson Oweh, who finished 31st in the draft cycle last year and was selected by … of course … the Baltimore Ravens.

Ty Fryfogle, Wide Receiver, Indiana (Senior)

6-foot-1 1/2, 205 pounds

Fryfogle had a 2020 monster that played over 200 yard games against Ohio State and Michigan State, but he decided to return to Indiana as a “Super Senior” and take advantage of the extra year of eligibility the NCAA granted due to COVID- 19 offers.

He is a great possession receiver who relies on his physicality over athleticism. While he appears to be destined to be a Day 3 pick, he has experience of both indoor and outdoor play, is a willing run blocker, and plans to be a valuable addition to specialty teams at the next level.

San Jose State, Nevada at 10:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 2

Carson Strong, Quarterback, Nevada (Redshirt Junior)

6-foot-4,212 pounds

The quarterback class is still shaking, but Strong is an intriguing prospect who could hear his name on the first round. I haven’t had the opportunity to study much about Strong – Nevada is not on my weekly watchlist due to its time slot – but Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield is one of the top quarterback evaluators I know, and he’s got a 14 lately -minute video on the quarterback collapsed.

“Nevada quarterback Carson Strong has played his way into the upper-level QB discussion for the 2022 NFL draft thanks to his production and supply from an arm talent perspective,” Schofield wrote.

From what I’ve seen, Strong is a pocket passer who owns a deep NFL ball, fits in tight windows, and can throw it with touch. It’s not very mobile, but it can slide around the bag while looking down. The only thing that could adversely affect its design is its medical examinations, as NFL teams have reportedly reported a knee injury as a potential obstacle.

Also on Nevada’s offensive is another trio of retractable players, including WR Romeo Doubs (Senior, 6-foot-2, 201 pounds), TE Cole Turner (Senior, 6-foot-6, 236 pounds) and RT / G Aaron Frost (Senior, 6-foot-4 1/2, 310 pounds).

#Nevada TE Cole Turner isn’t getting enough attention in a loaded TE draft class.

From last night: 3rd and 18th and Carson Strong throws a “Make a Play” toss at Turner. The former WR shows his skills.

– Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) October 30, 2021

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