There are a handful of position groups in this year’s NFL draft that pale in comparison to last year, but arguably none more than quarterback.

A year after the draft opened with three straight quarterbacks taken and five going in the top 15, there’s an outside chance this year’s first round goes 10 or 15 picks deep without a signal-caller hearing his name.

There are multiple factors that led to this unheralded class, including the impact that COVID-19-shortened seasons had on quarterback development. As NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah pointed out, the strength of last year’s quarterback class, combined with the expected strength of next year’s, also played a part.

“I think the pandemic is part of it,” Jeremiah said on a conference call with reporters last month. “I really do. You think about the [playing] time that was lost during that time ... you had spring ball that teams lost out on. You also just had the way the math works, we had six [rookie starters], and then if you look at last year with Davis Mills what he did, we ended up with seven guys starting last year. Last year was a big year. You never want to get too far ahead of yourself, but look, if you watched the bowl games and the playoff games, you can see that there’s quarterbacks coming next year, as well.”

Expectations aside, there’s always a chance an elite quarterback could emerge from this class. Some seemingly lackluster quarterback classes turn out like 2013′s group (EJ Manuel and Geno Smith at the top), and others turn out to be like 2017′s (Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson).

“I was guilty as anybody in 2017 in the Patrick Mahomes draft with Deshaun Watson,” Jeremiah said. “We were talking about the excitement of Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen in the next year and then we had two — the best young quarterbacks we’ve seen in forever right under our nose. It’s not easy to evaluate these guys, and the majority of us feel like this isn’t the best year of quarterbacks. But we’ve been proven wrong before, so we’ll see what happens.”

From Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie to coach Nick Sirianni, the organization has given Jalen Hurts several votes of confidence this offseason and appears prepared to give the 23-year-old at least one more year as the starting quarterback. That hasn’t kept the team from doing its due diligence on this class, though.

Here’s a breakdown of the main prospects this year:

The top guys

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh

Pickett, an Oakhurst, N.J., native, was a four-year starter at Pittsburgh and is in the mix to be the first quarterback taken because of his experience running a pro-style system and his accuracy from the pocket. The 6-foot-3, 217-pounder is one of the few quarterbacks in this class who easily projects as a starter as a rookie. He’s a solid athlete and completed 62.4% of his passes on 1,647 attempts.

Naysayers will point to his hand size; his right hand was measured at 8.5 inches, 1 percentile, according to, and he wears a glove on his throwing hand. There’s also a fair discussion as to what exactly Pickett’s ceiling is in the NFL considering he doesn’t have many elite traits.

Overall, Pickett’s body of work at Pittsburgh and football IQ should be enough to put him in the first round.

» READ MORE: Senior Bowl QB Kenny Pickett’s success invites the question: What if he’d stayed committed to Temple?

Matt Corral, Ole Miss

Corral fits the mold of a modern field general with experience in Lane Kiffin’s run-pass-option-heavy system and a comfortability making quick reads and delivering accurate passes off of them.

At 6-1, 212, he’s a shifty athlete who can make plays with his legs and has a live arm. He was a three-year starter at Ole Miss and completed 67.3% of his passes in an offense that favors screens and other quick hitters.

“He’s intriguing because he’s a little undersized but really, really athletic,” Jeremiah said. “Everything is quick: quick feet, quick release, quick eyes.”

The downsides for Corral are his decision-making outside of structure and the uncertainties surrounding how he’ll fare in an offense that doesn’t rely so heavily on underneath passes. He’s more of a projection than some of the other quarterbacks in the class because of the offense he ran, although some of that could be mitigated by going to a system that compares to his college offense.

While Sirianni’s offense isn’t as college-influenced as others across the league, he does use a good amount of RPOs and at certain points of the season called screens frequently. As a result, Corral would be one of the better fits for what the Eagles are trying to accomplish, which explains why the 23-year-old has said he is scheduled to visit with the team.

It’s important to remember these visits are smokescreens just as often as they are truly meaningful, but it’s still noteworthy the team is bringing Corral in.

The riser

Malik Willis, Liberty

Going off upside and upside alone, Willis should be the first quarterback taken in this class.

The 6-foot, 219-pound Liberty star has the elite traits to become one of the league’s best quarterbacks, he’s just worryingly short on experience and production.

Watching Willis, his arm strength and his running ability both jump off the screen. He was the only quarterback at the Senior Bowl to comfortably zip passes down the field during a torrential downpour, and he has a shiftiness as a runner in the open field to suggest he’ll be a difference-maker in the run game as well. He can also make off-platform throws on the move without losing much velocity.

There’s a lot to clean up with Willis, though. His accuracy can be spotty, his level of competition was iffy, his footwork is sporadic, and he can be hesitant on throws at times. He’d probably benefit from a redshirt year as a rookie to adjust to the league and improve his mechanics. If he goes to the right situation, Willis could be special.

Where do the Eagles factor in? Willis is arguably the only quarterback prospect with a clear advantage in upside over Hurts. They’re both extremely effective runners, but Willis has a much stronger arm while also being less accurate.

It seems like the Eagles are doing their homework, at the very least. Liberty coach Hugh Freeze said he had a long conversation with Eagles assistant special teams coordinator Joe Pannunzio about Willis. Freeze and Pannunzio both coached at various Southeastern Conference schools and likely have a connection as a result.

The wild cards

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati

Evaluations for Ridder are all over the place. Some view him as the QB1 of the class and others dismiss him as a Day 2 prospect.

He’s a big (6-3, 211) and fluid athlete who ran a 4.52-second 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. He has a strong arm and trusts himself to push the ball down the field. Watching Ridder, there are certainly a handful of “wow” plays that convince you he’ll translate well to the NFL, but the overall picture isn’t totally clear.

The concerns stem from his spotty accuracy and his so-so mechanics. Ridder could end up in the first round, or he could be an intriguing Day 2 prospect for a team looking for a developmental quarterback.

Sam Howell, North Carolina

Howell doesn’t have as many disciples as Ridder, but there’s still a contingent of analysts out there who believe he has a chance to be special.

From playing style to measurables, the 6-foot, 218-pound North Carolina star compares pretty closely to Baker Mayfield. Not an ideal year to have that comparison.

He’s got decent arm strength and accuracy, he’s a good athlete, but there are questions about his upside being greater than a low-end starter.

The sleeper

Jack Coan, Notre Dame

Coan is the prototypical pocket passer from yesteryear.

He isn’t going to threaten many teams with his legs and his arm strength is more adequate than exceptional, but he has a quick motion and has the accuracy and timing to be a viable backup in the NFL.

Jeremiah highlighted him as a Day 3 prospect who could appeal to the Eagles, who are always looking to stockpile backup quarterbacks through the draft.

“He was not somebody on a lot of teams’ radar,” Jeremiah said. “But he’s 6-3, 217 pounds. He makes good decisions. He’s really, really comfortable and poised inside the pocket. He was accurate, especially in that game. I want to watch some more from him because he looked like one of those intriguing mid-round type guys.”