Matt Corral: A Day 3 QB Destined for Day 2

Ole Miss Rebels QB Matt Corral
Ole Miss Rebels QB Matt Corral
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Draft - In a class littered with bizarre quarterback prospects, Ole Miss' Matt Corral stands above the pack. The offense Corral played in tells us little to nothing about how he can process in the pros, while his tools are clearly enticing but not quite those of a legitimate lottery ticket type of prospect. He is an RPO merchant with impressive (albeit inconsistent and incomplete) physical gifts. Perhaps that sort of player is just white noise in a better class, but in this one, Corral has earned the reputation of a blank canvas worth a premium pick.

As always, Football Outsiders' 2022 NFL draft coverage is presented by Underdog Fantasy!

Underdog Fantasy

Ole Miss' scheme is the leading factor in Corral's bizarre profile. A majority of the Rebels' passing offense is rooted in play action and RPOs (run-pass options). That's becoming true of more and more college offenses now, but it has not been an issue with a high-profile prospect quite to the degree that it is with Corral. Even Tua Tagovailoa's case of RPO dependence coming out of Alabama was not as dramatic as this.

A good chunk of the Mississippi offense looks like this. Cheap fake, reset, let it rip. Corral just has to read one play-side defender and replace him with the ball if he comes up to play the run.

To be fair, Lane Kiffin designed many of these RPOs to be fairly aggressive and attack the second and third levels of the defense. Corral has the right skill set for these concepts too. He resets quickly and cleanly out of play fakes, he sports a rapid-fire release, and he throws a tight spiral. Still, these RPOs are pared-down concepts from a quarterback processing standpoint and they make up an unprecedented portion of Corral's catalog.

In turn, legit dropback opportunities came few and far between when watching Corral compared to his peers. The offense's bag of dropback concepts was not very deep, either. Between the play-action/RPO reliance and lack of diversity in dropback concepts, Corral leaves college with a lot to be desired from a processing and decision-making standpoint. Corral's chances to prove himself as an NFL processor were limited and he too often came to confusing decisions when left to his own devices.

It does not make sense for Corral to throw this seam ball. Once the safety rolls down to match the shift before the snap, Alabama clearly shows Corral a one-high shell, and they commit to that post-snap. Corral is not necessarily obligated to throw the 1-on-1 out route to his left—there's nothing wrong with passing over it if he thinks it's covered—but whipping back to throw the post without hesitation is not sensible considering Alabama's coverage. Corral would have been better off throwing the high corner route or giving up on the concept entirely to make a play outside the pocket. Throwing the post the way he did is an easy way to throw interceptions in the NFL.

Corral also gives up on the middle of the field too easily when asked to read a full progression. He is plenty aggressive on RPOs over the middle and has the arm talent to fit all of those throws, so neither of those aspects are the problem. Rather, Corral just does not seem comfortable holding onto the ball for that long in the pocket and delivering with confidence late in the down. He wants to either have the ball out on rhythm right away or take off to make something happen outside the pocket.

Arkansas' defense is in a Cover-1 call with a five-man pressure up front. That means there is no middle rat defender underneath, only a deep centerfielder. It appears on film that Corral sees how high the slot cornerback to the left is playing and watches the middle linebacker sprint down to match the running back out of the backfield. The pocket is plenty clean as Corral reaches the top of his drop, too, thanks to the running back giving the left tackle some chip help. Corral has all the conditions to throw the crosser to the slot receiver over the middle, but instead panics to flip a checkdown to a covered running back for no gain.

Corral stops reading this out halfway through for no real reason. Upon realizing the hitch-seam combination to the left is covered, Corral brings his eyes back to the middle for the crossing route. The boundary linebacker is sitting right in the window, so Corral skips over the crosser, which is all fine and dandy. Corral's next move should be to progress to the dig coming behind the crosser and then to the swing route all the way to the right sideline. The concept is designed for him to seamlessly make that progression with his eyes. Alas, Corral freezes upon realizing the crosser is covered and bails from a clean pocket, picking up a couple of yards on his own.

The counterargument to defend Corral is that the scheme is not necessarily an indictment of his ability to process. Corral may be able to progress and play on time within a pro offense just fine, if his offense were to rep and call those kinds of concepts more often. Ole Miss didn't, and there's no way of knowing for sure how much of the Rebels' simplified offense is Kiffin's general M.O. or Corral's inability to handle anything more. Now, that is not a pool of optimism I have any interest wading into, but it's not a baseless stance to take.

Another complicating factor for Corral's projection is his size and how that meshes with his rushing ability. At the college level, Corral was a very good runner and scrambler. He is a springy athlete with enough speed in the open field to pick up chunk gains. He is not in the elite tier of athletes for the position, but he can certainly handle himself in space.

The problem is Corral only weighed 212 pounds at the NFL combine and he looked a good deal thinner than that on film. Corral may have issues handling NFL hits just from the pocket, never mind whatever he brings upon himself as a runner. And yet, Corral runs with an affinity for contact. Corral is a tough, physical runner. On the one hand, it's hard not to appreciate his energy, but the reality is that a quarterback teetering around 210 pounds will not be able to run like that in the NFL. Not for a full season, anyway. That makes it difficult to imagine how Corral can clear 500 yards rushing in the NFL the way he did through each of his two seasons as a college starter.

With all of those concerns in mind, there is still reason Corral has been touted as a top-50 pick: potential. Particularly in this class, where there is no clear stud quarterback available, the discussion has become more favorable towards home run-swing type of prospects. If none of these prospects are good enough, why not gamble on the ones with the highest ceilings, right? That's the idea. Corral fits that bill thanks to his flashes of arm talent, both in and out of the pocket. Corral has the best collection of "wow" throws in this class besides Malik Willis.

Corral rips this ball 50 yards in the air on a rope. The ball hits the receiver in the breadbasket perfectly in stride. Save for adding some Josh Allen-level RPMs to this, there is nothing more you can ask of the quarterback with this throw. It is not a special throw necessarily, but it is encouraging that Corral can summon that kind of arm strength.

Here is another example of Corral throwing a downfield dart. Corral had to reset his launch point in the pocket due to the incoming pass-rusher, yet he still managed to flick the ball 40 yards in the air, pinning the ball just in bounds and over the leaping defender. Corral's receivers failed him again, unfortunately, but NFL receivers will capitalize on those opportunities better than Ole Miss' receivers tended to. Corral's willingness and ability to uncork those throws will serve him well moving forward.

Better yet, Corral shows glimpses of greatness outside of the pocket as well. Corral's quick-twitched, loose-hipped movement style allows him to move out of the pocket and reset in a hurry. He can get off some impressive throws in a pinch.

Ole Miss blows their protection out of the gate and lets Liberty's slot blitzer run free at the quarterback. That doesn't phase Corral. He quickly spins around out the backdoor of the pocket and resets to throw immediately, getting his eyes set down the field the moment he turns all the way out of the spin. As a result, Corral had no issue drilling a throw past a defender over the middle of the field.

Corral took it a step further with this play and uncorked a 60-yard bomb right after slipping a tackle attempt from the best player in the country, Will Anderson Jr. To have the wits about him to reset himself to throw and find a receiver is impressive by itself, let alone actually getting the throw there. One might nitpick and say the throw does not fully lead the receiver, but when we start talking about 60-yard throws off platform, it is unreasonable to expect perfection. Corral more than did his part by getting this ball in a catchable spot considering the distance and throwing platform. Being willing and able to deliver potential explosive plays down the field at any time is a nice card to have.

Now, the caveat is that Corral also has moments where the ball dies on him. It's a perplexing combination to watch unfold on film. When Corral gets everything into a throw, as he does in the previous four clips, he can really rip it and layer beautiful passes all over the field. Sometimes Corral struggles to maintain the same velocity and tight trajectory when throwing to the sideline, though, and that is just difficult to square with his displays of arm strength elsewhere.

Corral should have no issue at least throwing a catchable pass here. His launch point is completely clean, he gets to see the receiver break, and there is no coverage defender underneath threatening to make a play on the ball. Corral can even leave this ball short considering how much room there is underneath. Instead, Corral lets the ball get away from him and sails the pass over an open receiver.

This hash-to-sideline throw does not exist in the NFL. The college hashes are much wider, meaning this is a farther throw than Corral would realistically make in the NFL. However, it's still somewhat concerning how poorly Corral drives on the ball. The throw hangs high and the receiver is waiting for the ball for a good bit before it arrives in the area. While the hashes in the NFL will get tighter, so will throwing windows as cornerbacks at the NFL level are smarter and faster.

Considering Corral's other flashes of arm strength, perhaps this is something he can iron out. It's not a crushing flaw. Lamar Jackson, for example, had similar issues coming out of Louisville. Those issues persisted early in his NFL career, even during his MVP campaign. Jackson may not be an elite thrower outside the numbers now, but he has clearly worked himself over the bar. The hope for Corral is that he can follow a similar developmental arc in that area. He is talented enough to do so.

Corral's overall projection has too many question marks. For one, he is walking into the league wholly unprepared for an NFL offense. He is not much more than a JUGS machine that can read RPOs at this stage in his career. That might be fine if Corral were exceptionally talented, but his arm talent comes and goes, impressive as the flashes may be, and his rushing success from college does not project favorably to the pro game. Pair that with his slight frame and the idea that Corral might be enough of a physical specimen to warrant taking the gamble on his steep development starts to get muddy.

Corral falls somewhere between a much riskier variation of Zach Wilson as a prospect and the version of Blaine Gabbert we saw under Chip Kelly's tutelage in San Francisco. The flashes of arm talent and playmaking are there, but he is not truly special in either category and the flashes are too infrequent to justify the risk involved with the rest of his profile.

It's hard to get excited about Corral's potential in the first two rounds. Even the third round feels steep unless there is a clear plan to foster his development along. Corral will surely be drafted higher than that, but as is the case with many others in this class, that says more about the class at large than it does about him.

Comments

7 comments, Last at 21 Apr 2022, 1:53am

1 The problem is Corral only…

The problem is Corral only weighed 212 pounds at the NFL combine and he looked a good deal thinner than that on film. Corral may have issues handling NFL hits just from the pocket, never mind whatever he brings upon himself as a runner. And yet, Corral runs with an affinity for contact. Corral is a tough, physical runner. On the one hand, it's hard not to appreciate his energy, but the reality is that a quarterback teetering around 210 pounds will not be able to run like that in the NFL.

He's about the same size as Lamar and Tua, and about the same weight (but taller) than Kyler Murray. Maybe he turns into Baker Mayfield, but honestly, that's a decent value.

Ran across this looking for some Brees breakdowns: https://www.si.com/nfl/talkoffame/nfl/draft-review-drew-brees-ability-more-important-than-size 

Hilarous in retrospect. Weird to realize Brees was one of the last under-center holdouts. I had always perceived him as a shotgun guy.

Watching Corral's misfires, I wonder how many times he's the victim of his WRs getting the wrong depth and running their route sloppily. Because every one of his beautiful passes were dropped despite hitting guys in the hands. He was throwing to an entire team of Ebrons and Agholors, or the 2017 Buffalo Bills.

2 "teetering around 210 pounds"

To be exact, 212 at the combine. 2 less than Zach Wilson (taller). 6 less than Howell (shorter).

IDK FO keeps bringing this up. Only place I see it too.

Also reuniting him with DK in Seattle (duh) or TN (Tannehill 2 years left) would be intriguing. Unless they say he's awful of course.

3 Really going all in on this take.

It's pretty safe to bet against any QB prospect, so you probably won't get burned. But I think you're selling his actual arm talent short. For all the ease the RPO grants in terms of simplified reads and big windows, it's pretty screwy in terms of footwork and not all that easy to deliver a clean ball with zip. The Lamar Jackson comp just seems out of place; he's far ahead as a thrower, imo (though obviously well short as an athlete).

Who knows whether he'll pick up the mental side of it (though that applies to pretty much every outside of maybe Stanford quarterbacks these days). But I think he's really good in terms of arm talent when you account for strength, ball placement, and release time, and that'll become very evident once he gets his feet underneath him running more standard dropbacks.

Biggest question I have with him is: will he be sack prone in the NFL like so many mobile QBs? He's not enough of a big play threat to run an 8+% sack rate like Watson, Wilson, Lamar, etc. But as an on-schedule guy who can get it out quick, nail the easy ones, pick up a few 1sts on the ground, and put the deep PA shots on target, I think he's got a decent shot to succeed.

4 Who knows whether he'll pick…

Who knows whether he'll pick up the mental side of it (though that applies to pretty much every outside of maybe Stanford quarterbacks these days).

I'm not sure the academic rigor of your program really defines that in any meaningful way. Otherwise Clayton Thorson (NW), Josh Rosen (UCLA), and Davis Webb (Cal-Berkeley) would have torn things up. Or even Ryan Fitzpatrick, who is a journeyman in part due to his YOLO nature, which belies his Harvard education.

Football is a different kind of thinking. More like chessboxing than chess.

7 Corral stops reading this…

Corral stops reading this out halfway through for no real reason.

Looks like he feels the pressure coming from his left, and doesn't realize how well his LG is going to recover. (Pause the video to see how things look as the backside dig receiver crosses the opposing 46 yard-line.) And stepping up in the pocket would be tricky, unless he's ready to throw immediately, because the LDE is coming free inside the RG on a late twist.

Still, I agree that a better play by the QB would've been to throw the backside dig, being a split second quicker getting through the progressions and/or a bit more comfortable stepping up & letting it rip.