How close are Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis at the top?

The 2022 NFL Draft class is shaping up, and the latest news and rumors surrounding the quarterback class may have a closer race at the top than some expect. That’s right, the race to QB1 isn’t a foregone conclusion as both Liberty’s Malik Willis and Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett are in contention. Here are the latest news and rumors surrounding the 2022 NFL Draft and the QB class.

NFL Draft News and Rumors: Malik Willis and Kenny Pickett are neck and neck

The top of the 2022 NFL Draft may look lackluster to some. It may lack a certain allure as the skill-position players are not the headliners. Yet, as the days to the draft count down, the news and rumors are heating up surrounding the most important position in all of team sports: quarterback.

After wowing at the Combine both on and off the field, the rumors of Willis heading to the Detroit Lions at No. 2 reached a fever pitch. Yet, that news has cooled off, and we’re left to sort through the noise to find a reason why. according to Pro Football Network‘s Tony Pauline, who spoke on the subject during PFN’s Draft Insiders (which can be found every Tuesday at 8 PM ET on the PFN YouTube Channel) the reason may be simple.

“Talking to teams, Kenny Pickett and Malik Willis are neck and neck,” Pauline said. “The team that wants to start their rookie earlier are going to go with Pickett. The teams that are looking long range are going Willis. But they are right there. Neck and neck.”

If that is the case — that Willis and Pickett are close — the top half of the draft becomes that much more interesting.

Bridge quarterbacks potentially lead to multiple first-round QBs

The newly coined term “bridge quarterback” in the NFL refers to a veteran signal-caller who can lead an offense while a team develops a young QB. The San Francisco 49ers are set to unleash Trey Lance after he sat behind Jimmy Garoppolo a year ago. Teams like the Atlanta Falcons (Marcus Mariota replacing Matt Ryan), the Pittsburgh Steelers (Mitchell Trubisky replacing Ben Roethlisberger), and the Washington Commanders (Carson Wentz stepping in) are potentially deploying this strategy.

As such, those three teams could be seen as contenders to draft a first-round quarterback of the future. You could take it a bit further and say the Lions’ acquisition of Jared Goff was a bridge, as was Jameis Winston when he took the reins for the New Orleans Saints.

As much as bridge quarterbacks may dictate the 2022 NFL Draft and its first-round selections, the simple fact remains that no QB has separated themselves from the pack. The news that Pickett and Willis are neck and neck further explains how unknown the first 32 picks may be just a few weeks before the event.

Willis and Pickett as NFL prospects

Willis seemingly separated himself at the Combine. He was seen helping a homeless person outside a hotel in downtown Indianapolis. There was that video of him completing a throwing session in the hallways of the hotel. Then, he was impressive in all facets during interviews and on-field workouts. This all came after he wowed those in attendance at the 2022 Senior Bowl.

But then there’s Pickett. Somehow quietly in the corner, Pickett measured his hands at the Combine. That may seem trivial to the uninitiated, but it was massively important that he did so. Yet, it wasn’t as critical as his on-field throws at the Senior Bowl and the Combine. So how’d the general public forget about Pickett?

That’s a mystery to be solved for another day. Both Pickett and Willis have incredible work ethics and are born leaders. They each have had a special journey to the NFL through their collegiate careers. Willis, an Auburn transfer, found greener pastures at a different location. Pickett, a four-year starter, found glory in his final year of eligibility at Pittsburgh.

They both have a terrific athletic profile and more than enough talent in their arms. The neck-and-neck nature of Willis and Pickett each receiving top quarterback grades from some NFL teams is a microcosm of just how close the top of this quarterback class is.

It remains to be seen which of them comes off the board first. And as the saying goes, the rest will be history. We’re all just ready to watch it unfold.

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