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NFL Draft quarterbacks 2022: Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler lead early top 10 rankings

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NFL Draft quarterbacks 2022: Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler lead early top 10 rankings

The 2021 NFL Draft proved once again that quarterback remains the most coveted position each year.  

Trevor Lawrence led a strong class of quarterbacks at the top in this year’s draft, and now it’s time to look ahead to 2022. Clemson, Alabama and Ohio State – the three major powers in college football – will have underclassmen at the position. That leaves a group with much to prove, and a lot can change by next April.  

With that in mind, Sporting News looks at the top-10 quarterbacks heading into the 2022:  

(Getty Images)

1. Sam Howell, North Carolina 

Five ACC quarterbacks have been taken in the first round since 2017, a list that includes Deshaun Watson (2017), Mitchell Trubisky (2017), Lamar Jackson (2018), Daniel Jones (2019) and Trevor Lawrence (2021). Howell, who has piled up 7,224 yards, 68 TDs and 14 INTs the last two seasons, figures to join that list. Howell (6-1, 225 pounds) averages 10.3 yards per attempt in that two-year stretch, and he should continue to improve his stock as a junior as part of North Carolina’s continued makeover with Mack Brown.  

2. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma     

The Oklahoma QB pipeline continues to run with Lincoln Riley, and Rattler will build on an impressive finish to 2020. He shook off some early-season turnovers to lead the Sooners to eight straight victories, and FanDuel has Rattler listed as the Heisman Trophy favorite for 2021. Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray used that award to become No. 1 picks in the NFL Draft. Rattler is capable of following suit.  

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Getty Images

3. Kedon Slovis, USC     

Slovis — at 6-2, 200 pounds — is the next first-round USC quarterback. He’s completed 70 percent of his passes in two years as a starter, and that’s come with 47 TDs and 16 interceptions. Slovis threw nine of those picks through three losses against Oregon and BYU the last two seasons, and he can improve his stock by playing better in those big-spot games. He will inevitably be compared to USC’s last three first-round quarterbacks, a lukewarm list that includes Sam Darnold, Mark Sanchez and Matt Leinart.  

4. Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati     

Ridder is 30-5 as a starter and has helped elevate Cincinnati into a College Football Playoff contender. He’s one of the most experienced quarterbacks in this class, and that comes with 57 TDs and 20 interceptions. He also averages 6.0 yards per carry. That skillset will be attractive for a struggling franchise. Ridder’s value will fluctuate, but his size (6-4, 215 pounds) makes him an intriguing prospect.  

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5. Tyler Shough, Texas Tech     

Shough is higher on early way-too-early boards, and some of that could be because of that 6-5, 221-pound frame. Shough transferred from Oregon to Texas Tech after an uneven season in which he had 13 TDs and six interceptions for the Ducks. He will put up numbers with the Red Raiders, but it might be tough to separate from the other talented quarterbacks in the Big 12.  

6. JT Daniels, Georgia  

Daniels transferred from USC, and he took control of the starting job at Georgia late in the 2020 season. He averaged 10.3 yards per attempt, and scouts will like his dimensions (6-3, 210 pounds). Of the quarterbacks on this list, Daniels has the most room to go up based on how well he plays with the pressure of leading the Bulldogs – who will be among the SEC favorites again. Could he have that second-season breakout like Joe Burrow did at LSU in 2019?  

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(Getty Images)

7. Matt Corral, Ole Miss  

Corral is one of the most-entertaining QBs in college football, and he showed that with 3,337 yards, 29 TDs and 13 interceptions in Lane Kiffin’s first season with Ole Miss. He rushed for 506 yards and four TDs as part of a wide-open offense that scored 39.2 points per game. Corral averaged 10.1 yards per passing attempt, and he should continue to refine those play-making skills with Kiffin in 2021.  

8. Jayden Daniels, Arizona State   

The Sun Devils played in four games last season, which made it difficult for Daniels to take that next step as a sophomore. The talent is there. Daniels has 22 TDs and three interceptions, and he was more effective as a runner in his season. That breakout season with Herm Edwards should materialize as a junior, and he is another candidate with high upside to move up this list.  

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Getty Images

9. Brock Purdy, Iowa State 

Purdy was listed as a top-10 quarterback prospect last year, but he opted to stay at Iowa State for his senior season. Purdy has been consistent with his accuracy and production, but his yards per attempt and passer rating has dropped with each season. That could change in a season where the Cyclones should again compete for a Big 12 championship. Purdy still feels like Day 2 pick, and that is the most-likely scenario for 2022.  

10. Malik Willis, Liberty 

Who is next year’s Trey Lance? Keep an eye on Willis, an Auburn transfer who has found a home with Hugh Freeze at Liberty. Willis passed for 20 TDs and six interceptions for the Flames last season, but he added 944 rushing yards and 14 TDs. He flashed that talent in wins against Virginia Tech and Coastal Carolina last season. Auburn’s Bo Nix also could have fit in this spot, but we’ll take Willis for now.  

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Broncos schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

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Broncos schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

The Broncos, despite finishing 5-11 and falling into last place in the AFC West last season, are giving coach Vic Fangio a chance to redeem himself in 2021. Denver hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015 — the season which ended with the team winning Super Bowl 50.

John Elway hired a GM, George Paton. But the Broncos, much to everyone’s surprise, didn’t go all in trying to replace third-year second-rounder Drew Lock at quarterback, settling to bring Teddy Bridgewater in the mix (for now). While the offense is hoping to perform better with the many talented pieces it already has around the QB, the defense continues its rebuild for Fangio.

Here is a complete breakdown of the Broncos’ 2021 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis.

NFL OFFSEASON 2021:
Team-by-team draft grades | Latest power rankings

Denver Broncos schedule 2021

Week Date Opponent Kickoff time  TV
1 Sept. 12 at Giants 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
2 Sept. 19 at Jaguars 1 p.m. ET CBS
3 Sept. 26 vs. Jets 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
4 Oct. 3 vs. Ravens 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
5 Oct. 10 at Steelers 1 p.m. ET Fox
6 Oct. 17 vs. Raiders 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
7 Oct. 21 at Browns 8:20 p.m. ET Fox/NFLN/Amazon
8 Oct. 31 vs. Washington 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
9 Nov. 7 at Cowboys 1 p.m. ET Fox
10 Nov. 14 vs. Eagles 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
11 BYE
12 Nov. 28 vs. Chargers 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
13 Dec. 5 at Chiefs 1 p.m. ET CBS
14 Dec. 12 vs. Lions 4:05 p.m. ET Fox
15 Dec. 19 vs. Bengals 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
16 Dec. 26 at Raiders 4:25 p.m. ET CBS
17 Jan. 2 at Chargers 4:05 p.m. ET CBS
18 Jan. 9 vs. Chiefs 4:25 p.m. ET CBS

The Broncos looked up to everyone in the division last season. The Chiefs are still daunting and the Chargers have some worthy buzz. Las Vegas provides the slight opening for Denver to get out of the cellar.

Outside of the AFC West six games, the Broncos join those rivals in also playing all of the AFC North and NFC East. The Jaguars and Jets are the extra last-place games in the AFC. The depleted Lions are a helpful simliar reprieve as the 17th opponent, from the NFC North.

MORE: Strength of schedule for all 32 teams in 2021

Broncos strength of schedule

The Broncos, on paper, have the sixth easiest schedule in the NFL, tied with the Dolphins. Denver’s opponents combined to go 127-143-2 last season, or a .471 winning percentage. A lot of that comes from Jacksonville, the two New York teams and Detroit.

Despite that, the Broncos still face returning playoff teams in six of their 17 games.

Toughest tests: The Broncos’ road schedule is brutal with trips to Cleveland and Pittsburgh offsetting a date in Jacksonville. They also have to play in Dallas and go to the Giants.

It’s a little different at home, where the Chiefs, Ravens and Washington represent the Broncos’ three toughest games out of nine total.

Biggest breaks: The Broncos get the “earned” breaks of the Jaguars, Jets and Lions, three teams in simliar situations. There also are the Bengals, Eagles and Raiders coming to Denver.

Bottom line: The Broncos are a mixed bag with offensive limitations and defensive overhauling. Fangio needs to win now after being saved despite his team’s dismal performance in 2020. 

If the QB situation changes dramatically, then it would be OK to consider the Broncos doing a complete 180 into contention. But in the current state, there’s little from Lock’s or Bridgewater’s recent play that inspires.

Record prediction: 6-11

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Giants schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

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Giants schedule 2021: Dates & times for all 17 games, strength of schedule, final record prediction

The Giants are hoping for a breakout third season with quarterback Daniel Jones in 2021. New York finished second in the NFC East at 6-10 under new coach Joe Judge last season, an improvement from 4-12 the previous season.

With better health, led by running back Saquon Barkley, and upgrades in personnel all around, the Giants are more confident that they can jump into first place in Year 2 with Judge. Here is a complete breakdown of the Giants’ 2021 schedule, including dates, start times and analysis for all 17 games.

NFL OFFSEASON 2021:
Team-by-team draft grades | Latest power rankings

New York Giants schedule 2021

Here is the New York Giants’ complete schedule for 2021.

 

Week Date Opponent Kickoff time TV
1 Sept. 12 vs. Broncos 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
2 Sept. 16 at Washington (Thursday) 8:20 p.m. ET NFLN
3 Sept. 26 vs. Falcons 1 p.m. ET Fox
4 Oct. 3 at Saints 1 p.m. ET Fox
5 Oct. 10 at Cowboys 4:25 p.m. ET Fox
6 Oct. 17 vs. Rams 1 p.m. ET Fox
7 Oct. 24 vs. Panthers 1 p.m. ET Fox
8 Nov. 1 at Chiefs (Monday) 8:15 p.m. ET ESPN
9 Nov. 7 vs. Raiders 1 p.m. ET CBS
10 Nov. 14 Bye
11 Nov. 22 at Buccaneers (Monday) 8:15 p.m. ET ESPN
12 Nov. 28 vs. Eagles 1 p.m. ET Fox
13 Dec. 5 at Dolphins 1 p.m. ET Fox
14 Dec. 12 at Chargers 4:05 p.m. ET Fox
15 Dec. 19 vs. Cowboys 1 p.m. ET Fox
16 Dec. 26 at Eagles 1 p.m. ET Fox
17 Jan. 2 at Bears 1 p.m. ET CBS
18 Jan. 9 vs. Washington 1 p.m. ET Fox

The Giants have an interesting slate beyond their six division games against the Cowboys, Eagles and Washington. The other complete NFC division is the South, while the interconference rotation brings up the AFC West.

As a second-place team, the Giants also get the NFC wild-card Rams and Bears on top of the Super Bowl 55 champion Buccaneers. From the AFC, the Dolphins are the 17th opponent.

MORE: Strength of schedule for all 32 teams in 2021

Giants strength of schedule

The Giants, thanks to their weak division, are tied for the eighth-easiest schedule in the NFL with the Bills and Colts. New York’s 2021 opponents had a combined 2020 record of 128-142-2, a winning percentage of .474.

The two games against Washington lead the contests against returning playoff teams. The Rams, Bears, Chiefs, Saints and Buccaneers make it seven out of 17 games.

Toughest tests: The Giants get the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Saints on the road. The Bears, Chargers and Dolphins round out the nasty non-division away slate. Of the home games, the Rams are easily the toughest foe.

Biggest breaks: The NFC East should be better, but the division still provides their most favorable games. The Falcons, Panthers, Raiders and Broncos are a welcome quartet of contests to soften the blows at home.

Bottom line: Jones has everything around him to be more successful winning games. The Giants’ defense is in the next stage of its rebuild. Should Jones raise his passing and running, New York will have a real chance at an NFC playoff berth, either as East champs or fringe wild card.

Record prediction: 8-9

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Lakers injury updates: Are LeBron James, Anthony Davis playing vs. Rockets?

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Lakers injury updates: Are LeBron James, Anthony Davis playing vs. Rockets?

The Lakers will be short-handed for their Wednesday night game against the Rockets.

Los Angeles confirmed that both LeBron James (ankle) and Anthony Davis (groin) will be unavailable on the second night of a back-to-back following the Lakers’ dramatic overtime win over the Knicks, 

This will mark James’ sixth straight absence due to injury and his 22nd missed game in the team’s last 24 games.

MORE: Where the Lakers stand in the West’s playoff race

That said, James announced via his Twitter account that he is “getting close” to returning to action. James also said that he would attend Wednesday’s game to see the Lakers raise their 2020 NBA championship banner at Staples Center.

As for Davis, the Lakers said that the big man won’t be in action against the Rockets due to left adductor tightness. Davis toughed out the groin injury against the Knicks on Tuesday and then acknowledged after the contest he was “hurting.”

“I’m hurting,” Davis said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “Not more so my body, just my groin got tight. . . . I’m not sure about [Wednesday]. I mean, I’m going to get treatment and see how I feel. I want to say I’m going to play, but it was really bothering me [Tuesday]. We’ll see how I feel [Wednesday] and then later on in the day.”

Evidently, Davis didn’t feel well enough to go, and it makes sense that he and the Lakers would play it safe. He spoke about not wanting his injury to linger and make him miss “a couple games.” It appears the Lakers decided to give him an extra day to recover from his latest malady.

Even without James and Davis, the Lakers will still have a chance to beat the Rockets. Houston is an NBA-worst 16-53 on the season and has posted a 1-9 record in its last 10 games. But it has already locked up the top spot in the 2021 NBA Draft lottery, so perhaps it will relish a chance to play spoiler and damage the Lakers’ chances of avoiding the NBA’s play-in tournament.

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