Ever since the New York Giants made the decision to hire Brian Daboll as their next head football coach, the organization has been in lockstep about the need to build around quarterback Daniel Jones. During his introductory press conference, Daboll said of the incumbent Giants quarterback “[w]e’re going to find out what he does well, we’re going to try to implement a system that suits him, and then it’s our job to bring pieces in that help him to be the best version of himself and the best quarterback for us.”
Done deal, right?
It would seem that way. However, even if the Giants fully plan on moving forward with Jones, the organization will still do their due diligence on every quarterback prospect in the draft class. One, that will help them gauge potential trade value should a team call about moving into the top ten. Two, if one of these quarterbacks is staring them in the face with their selection at the top of the second round, the value might be too much for incoming general manager Joe Schoen to ignore.
With that in mind, we can start looking at these quarterbacks. We will start with Mississippi passer Matt Corral, who is leaving Lane Kiffin and Oxford behind with his eyes set on the NFL. Corral put up impressive numbers in the SEC over the past two seasons, throwing for 3,337 yards and 29 touchdowns as a redshirt sophomore in 2020 and following that up with another 3,343 yards and 20 touchdowns this past season.
Perhaps most importantly, Corral threw just five interceptions in 2021, after throwing 14 the season before.
So let’s dive into the Mississippi quarterback, looking at what he does well, where he can still improve, and how he could fit in New York.
Corral is an athletic quarterback who relies on fluid footwork both in the pocket, and in the running game. He operated primarily out of the shotgun last season, as Sports Info Solutions charted him with just five dropback plays last season. On this five plays, Corral completed two of four passes for three yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Kiffin’s offense relied heavily on the RPO game. Corral had 107 passing attempts on RPO designs, according to SIS charting data, which ranked him seventh in the nation among qualified passers (defined as quarterbacks with ten or more such attempts). On those plays, Corral completed 81 throws for 874 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception.
One of the best things that Corral offers is his ability to extend plays with his feet, buy time in the pocket and create just enough space to get off throws. On this example against Alabama from this past season, Corral manages to avoid two different points of pressure in the pocket — one off the edge and another through the interior — while keeping his eyes downfield. That enables him to hit the crossing route working from right-to-left for a big gain:
Perhaps Corral’s best trait as a quarterback is his ability to manipulate defenders with shoulder shrugs, pump fakes or by flashing the football. This allows him to move defenders out of position and create opportunities for plays in the downfield passing game. On this play against Mississippi State, Corral opens his feet and hips to a route in the right flat, moving the curl/flat defender a few steps. Corral then resets his feet and throws the deeper out route behind that shallow defender, with a little more room with which to operate:
Corral is also a quarterback who can create on the fly, and solve problems by thinking outside the box even during the course of a single play. We all just witnessed Matthew Stafford deliver a Super Bowl to the Los Angeles Rams in his first season in the NFC West, and that has reminded the football world of how the Rams’ decision to trade for Stafford unfolded. ESPN’s Seth Wickersham wrote perhaps the definitive piece on the trade, and highlighted how McVay viewed Stafford as a QB who had “the ability to fix plays [and] to correct problems in split seconds.”
Corral showed that trait as well.
Take this play against Louisville:
Corral wants to throw the double-move vertical route to the right sideline, and tries to influence the cornerback with a violent pump fake, followed by a second shoulder shrug. But the cornerback does not bite, and when he collides with the wide receiver, Corral needs to go elsewhere with the football.
So he flips his eyes and his feet to the backside of the play and picks up a seam route from the slot receiver. That receiver is really working at half-speed on his route, expecting the football to go to the other side of the field. But Corral targets him anyway, putting the throw low and inside to lead the receiver away from the cornerback, while protecting him from the lurking safety in the middle of the field.
Mechanically, Corral has a lower release point, with the ball coming out closer to his ear rather than an over-the-top throwing motion. Think more Philip Rivers than Aaron Rodgers. But the ball comes out quickly with a crisp release, and he has the ability to drop the arm and make throws from different arm angles or from unsettled platforms.
Another strength is his ability to tie his eyes to his feet. On this play against Mississippi State, Corral simply gets to his checkdown. But he opens to the right side of the field to work a two-man concept before progressing through his reads and getting to perhaps his fourth or fifth option on the play. Watch as his feet stay tied to his mind as he works through is option in the pocket:
This play is essential to Corral’s evaluation. Given how Kiffin’s offense works to give Corral some defined reads and throws, seeing the quarterback work a full-field progression and eventually get to a checkdown is a positive play. Corral opens to the right side of the field to work the orbit-swing/deep out combination we saw earlier. But when that is covered, he then works to the middle of the field with a pair of in-breaking routes before getting to his checkdown. The play goes for a minimal gain, but it illustrates how he can work through reads when necessary, keeping his eyes, mind and feet tied together as he does so.
Areas to Improve
One of the biggest questions on Corral coming into the 2021 season centered on ball security. Corral threw 14 interceptions in 2020, the bulk of which came in just two games. He threw five interceptions in a late-season game against LSU, a game that Mississippi lost by a final score of 53-48. He also threw six — yes six — interceptions in a game against Arkansas earlier in the season, in another losing effort.
So seeing Corral cut the interceptions down to just five this past season is a sign of true growth. But he was not perfect, as he forced a throw late and into coverage against Tennessee while Mississippi was in the lead, resulting in an interception and perhaps setting the stage for that incredible finish.
Corral is an aggressive quarterback, almost to a fault. There are moments when he tries to take shot plays downfield when perhaps a better option was available for him underneath. On this play against Mississippi State, he tries to force a post route into coverage, ignoring the wide-open wheel route along the sideline:
Aggression is good, in fact necessary, for a quarterback. But the aggression needs to be reasonable within the moment an tenor of a play. Without knowing the exact progression for Corral on this play, it looks to this outside observer that he wanted to throw the post route and predetermined that before the snap, and then felt confident enough in his receiver to make it work on the other end.
Had he moved his eyes to the boundary and picked up the wheel route, Mississippi could have had a huge play in the passing game.
But perhaps the biggest issue facing Corral is his adjustment to what NFL offenses are going to ask of him. Kiffin’s offense gave him lots of predetermined reads and throws — to the previous point — and while the job of any good offensive coordinator and/or play designer is to scheme the first read open, that does not always happen. How Corral evolves as a passer — and how he can evolve — is a huge part of his evaluation.
Getting the scheme fit right is another huge part of the evaluation process, particularly this season where there might not be that surefire prospect at the quarterback position. Thankfully for the Giants, Daboll has shown over his career, and certainly during his time in Buffalo with Josh Allen, the ability and willingness to adapt the offense to what the quarterback does best.
In the buildup to Super Bowl LVI Allen was in Los Angeles making the media rounds, and he spoke of his relationship with Daboll and how the coach put him in the best position to succeed: “[Daboll] made me become not a yes man, in terms of concepts. He’s just like, ‘I need you to tell me concepts you love, concepts you hate. ‘Cause if you do not love this concept, we will not run it. We will get rid of it.’”
Interestingly enough, there might be an ideal landing spot for Corral schematically, given his experience in college, and it might just be the Giants. Last season, as the Bills were one of the offenses trying to figure out how to combat the two-high coverage looks defenses were throwing at them, Daboll’s answer came via the RPO game. Allen, per SIS, had 60 passing attempts on RPO designs last season, sixth-most in the NFL.
Daboll’s willingness to cater the offense to what the quarterback wants to run, combined with how he has used the RPO game in the past, makes Corral an intriguing option from a scheme fit perspective.
The Bottom Line
Ultimately the question is this: Are any of the incoming rookie quarterbacks an obvious upgrade over Jones?
I have said before that Jones is one of the quarterback on the bubble, so to speak, with respect to their tenure as their team’s starting quarterback. But Jones, like some other passers, might get the benefit of the doubt given this incoming class. The Giants have a pair of picks inside the top ten, and with needs beyond the quarterback position — perhaps revamping the offensive line or adding to the defense — drafting a quarterback from this class inside the top ten might be a tough sell.
If, however, Corral is on the board at 36, that is a different story. That could be an ideal scenario for the Giants. Draft him on Day 2 and give Jones one year with Daboll to figure things out, while Corral gets a year to develop. If Jones still does not look like the answer, then you have a replacement option with a year of NFL coaching waiting in the wings.
Of course, that scenario might not unfold. There are teams picking later in the first round with an eye on drafting a quarterback, and if mock drafts are to be believed, it seems unlikely that Corral slides out of the first round. Still, there is a long ways to go until the draft itself, and if the Mississippi passer indeed slides into Day 2, that could be a wise investment for New York.
For more on Corral, you can take a look at this deeper dive into his game against Mississippi State that I put together:
You can also watch this extensive breakdown of Corral put together by myself and Matt Waldman: