2022 Senior Bowl: Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis separate from rest of quarterbacks in race for QB1

image of Kenny Pickett at 2022 Senior Bowl

The 2022 Senior Bowl practices are over and after three days of intense sessions (and weather), quarterbacks Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis separated themselves from the rest of the passers on both rosters to kick off what should be a really fun race for QB1 in the 2022 NFL Draft over the next couple of months.

Pickett and Willis were joined in Mobile, Alabama by Carson Strong, Desmond Ridder, Sam Howell, and Bailey Zappe. And while Strong, Ridder, and Howell had some encouraging moments of their own, it became obvious early in the week that only Pickett and Willis are legitimate first-round prospects from the bunch.

Pickett was the most poised and accurate of all six quarterbacks at the all-star game. He routinely made throws like these:

Willis was more about the incredible traits he possesses. His first day of practice was a rough one by any standard. He was wildly inaccurate and struggled to take snaps from under center. He settled down over the final two sessions, however, and looked like the kind of quarterback a team can develop into a quality starter by year two or three of his career.

Both quarterbacks ended the 2022 Senior Bowl being named their roster’s Practice Player of the Week (at quarterback).

Kenny Pickett remains favorite for QB1

Pickett and Willis were obvious choices, especially when compared to a player like Strong, whose fluttering deep balls were a legitimate cause for concern. Zappe did get better as the week went on but his propensity to rocket footballs into the dirt was a problem. And while Howell did nothing particularly poorly at the 2022 Senior Bowl, he didn’t do enough to suggest he’s a legitimate early-round prospect for the 2022 NFL Draft.

The one quarterback prospect who wasn’t at the 2022 Senior Bowl was Ole Miss’ Matt Corral. In a way, not being at the all-star game really helped him. Pickett and Willis were good, but neither slammed the door on QB1 race; it remains wide open for Corral, who with a strong NFL combine and pro day workout has a chance to leapfrog both of them.

Still, my gut feeling tells me that Pickett will be the first quarterback drafted in April. His 2022 Senior Bowl performance was exactly what scouts and general managers probably wanted to see: a guy who’s accurate, efficient, and consistent. He’s a quarterback who can step right in as a rookie and take a team like the Denver Broncos or Pittsburgh Steelers and immediately make them relevant in the AFC playoff picture.

The 2022 NFL Combine kicks off on March 1 in Indianapolis and will run through March 7. It’s the next big opportunity for Pickett, Willis, and the rest of the 2022 NFL Draft quarterback prospects to take their swing at becoming the first quarterback selected in April.

Bryan Perez

Bryan is the founder of Pro Football Draft. His work has been featured on The Draft Network, NBC Sports and USA Today. Former CFL scout.

Follow him on Twitter: @BryanPerezNFL