NFL

NFL Draft Betting: Who Will Be the First Quarterback Selected?

Malik Willis is one of the favorites to be the first quarterback taken in this year's NFL Draft. Should you put your money on him or take a chance elsewhere?

The Super Bowl is over, and with it, so ends a frantic 2021 season.

Now all thoughts turn to the future -- the 2022 season, and beyond. Yes, friends, the offseason is here.

The first business to take care of will be the NFL Draft. There doesn't appear to be a prospect like a Trevor Lawrence or an Andrew Luck in this draft, meaning we may have to wait a while before we hear a quarterback's name called at this year's event. But the need for a competent signal-caller is ever-present, and do not doubt that one or two will be taken in the first round come April.

FanDuel Sportsbook has odds available as to which quarterback will be selected first in this year's draft. Let's take a closer look at some of the key contenders, shall we? And while we do, let's also get acquainted with a player who is quite a longshot to be the first player taken but could still draw interest from the evaluators in the weeks ahead.

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +175

Kenny Pickett is the current favorite to be the first quarterback taken this spring. Pickett led the Pittsburgh Panthers to an ACC title in 2021, passing for 4,319 yards and 42 touchdowns against a mere 7 interceptions. Over his career at Pitt, Pickett completed 62.4% of his total passes as he amassed 12,303 yards and 81 scores. He is also not a complete zero in the running game, with 801 yards and 20 rushing scores during his college career.

Pickett would appear to be an ideal size for a quarterback at 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds. But question marks surrounding his hand size may put some NFL teams off.

Malik Willis, Liberty

FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +200

Some teams and evaluators may look at Malik Willis as something of a project. This is a fair assessment, as Willis has by no means fully tapped out as a passer. He had just 618 pass attempts in his college career, with 339 of them coming in 2021. Willis completed 207 of them last year (61.1%) for 2,857 yards and 27 touchdowns. But he also tossed 12 interceptions and led all FBS quarterbacks with 51 sacks taken.

Willis will turn heads with his mobility, with some already drawing comparisons between him and Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts. Willis rushed 197 times for 878 yards and 13 touchdowns for Liberty last year and had 2,131 rushing yards in his college career. His upside might lead a team to take a gamble on him over Pickett.

Matt Corral, Ole Miss

FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +500

Matt Corral is a player who many would have had as the possible first overall pick at the beginning of the 2021 college season. He didn't have the worst year for the Ole Miss Rebels. Corral completed 67.7% of his passes, throwing for 3,343 yards while tossing 20 touchdowns to 5 interceptions. He also rushed for 614 yards with 11 rushing touchdowns on his way to a seventh-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting.

But he didn't wow with his play, and some might lean towards crediting the system he plays in as the main driver behind his success.

Corral has a career mark of 9.1 yards per attempt, the eighth-highest in the SEC since 1956, and this coupled with his ability to contribute as a rusher will surely put him in the conversation to be the first quarterback taken. But some teams may hold against him the SEC-leading 14 interceptions he threw in 2020.

Carson Strong, Nevada

FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +5000

Carson Strong has some passing numbers that his competitors can only dream of.

He completed 68.1% of his attempts for Nevada in his career, including 70.2% in 2021. He racked up 4,186 passing yards and 36 touchdowns last season against just 8 interceptions on his way to a second consecutive Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year award. Strong is the owner of a 74-to-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio during his college career, and at 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds, he looks the part of a modern NFL quarterback.

However, the modern NFL quarterback needs to offer something in the ground game. I'm not suggesting they all have to be like Lamar Jackson, but some element of a rushing threat is a massive tick in their favor. Strong does not have this. Indeed, his college career saw him rush 139 times for -305 yards and zero touchdowns (sacks count as negative rushing yards in college).

A statuesque pocket passer with a history of knee injuries can still be productive in the NFL and enjoy a decent career. But a team would have to be absolutely enamored with him to take him before all the other quarterbacks.

Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky

FanDuel Sportsbook Odds: +10000

Which player led college football in passing yards this year? No, it wasn't Bryce Young. And it wasn't any of the players I've already discussed. It was Bailey Zappe of Western Kentucky.

Zappe posted 5,967 passing yards in his first (and only) season with the program. He completed 69.3% of his passes and tossed a hard-to-believe 62 touchdowns while also rushing for 3 more scores.

Zappe might look like a one-year wonder, and to an extent, he is. But he was also productive during his earlier college years with Houston Baptist. He is the school's all-time leader with 10,004 passing yards and 78 touchdowns, giving him a complete college record of 15,971 yards and 140 touchdown passes.

As impressive as these numbers are, the one season of major college production and him being labeled as just another productive Air Raid quarterback might go against him in the draft cycle. If production ruled all, he would have a very real chance to be the first overall pick. But it doesn't, and he won't be.

My Pick -- Malik Willis

NFL teams may think Pickett is the most pro-ready of all the quarterbacks in this draft, and they may be tempted to pull the trigger on him. But for my money, the untapped potential of Willis as a passer paired with his ability as a runner makes him a strong bet to be the first signal-caller taken.

The lack of a superstar prospect at the quarterback spot means that these players have a chance to fall to the middle of the first round, and that puts them in striking range of mostly solid ball clubs that don't need to rush a rookie onto the field and will also hopefully have some pieces around him when he does start.

This is another reason I am into Willis -- a team can tell themselves that Willis is their future without necessarily demanding he is a huge part of their present.

This will help to make him the best thing to come out of Liberty since that annoying jingle on their commercials...wait, being told that's a completely different Liberty. As you were.