LAS VEGAS — Tom Brady wasn’t drafted in the first round.
Neither was Russell Wilson nor Derek Carr nor Dak Prescott nor Jimmy Garoppolo. And so if Malik Willis and Matt Corral want to rationalize their first-round snub by NFL teams Thursday night, they can grasp onto those facts.
Both quarterbacks, who came to town dreaming of a first-round call during the NFL draft, will continue hoping to hear their names Friday night when the second and third rounds play out on the NFL and national television stage.
“I can be that QB that nobody expected to be there,” Corral told OutKick. “I’m fine with that. I don’t care about expectations. I don’t care about who thinks what. All I care about is controlling what I can control and making the most of it.”
It’s not a surprise Corral didn’t go in the first round. Getting there would have required a run on quarterbacks that never materialized. University of Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett was the only one selected in the first round.
But Willis not being picked in the first round is different. He fully believed he was getting a first-round call because he has the arm talent, ability to escape the pocket, and build to be an NFL starter.
But, ultimately, teams backed away because Willis is a project. It’s going to take him a year or maybe even two to make the big jump from Liberty University to NFL starter, and no team was willing to invest a first-rounder on that process.
“Whatever God’s plan is, I’ll be fine with it,” Willis said.
Despite the first-round snubs and the narrative that this is a substandard draft class, there will be a run on quarterbacks — likely in the second and third rounds.
With Corral, Willis, Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder, North Carolina’s Sam Howell and perhaps even Nevada’s Carson Strong in the mix, teams that need a quarterback are expected to weigh selecting those players.
So which teams?
Well, forget Carolina for now. The Panthers don’t even have a second- or third-round pick, so the only way they get into the game is by trading away future picks or a player to get into one of those rounds.
But there is a half-dozen teams that are in play for the QBs.
The Tennessee Titans select at No. 35 and they’re committed to Ryan Tannehill for the upcoming season, but his time with the club beyond that looks tenuous. He’s been disappointing in the postseason on a team that’s otherwise built for postseason success.
Tannehill is clearly the weak link on the team now, and moving to a Willis, Corral, or Ridder would give the Titans an option for the future beyond this year.
The New York Giants select at No. 36 Friday night. They’re committed to Daniel Jones as their starter next season, but they declined to exercise the fifth-year option on him. So his future beyond this year is uncertain.
The Seattle Seahawks select at No. 40, and no one is buying that Drew Lock is the future given his past with Denver. The Seahawks found Wilson in the third round a decade ago and might be hoping to repeat the feat this draft.
The Indianapolis Colts select at No. 42, and they love Matt Ryan as their starter for 2022. But Ryan will be 37-years-old next month and his mobility is a concern.
The Atlanta Falcons select at No. 43, and they’ve got Marcus Mariota as their starter for the coming season. Mariota is only 28, but the issue is he has a long history of injuries and inconsistent performances. No one is suggesting he’s locked in as the Falcons’ starter for years to come.
Finally, the Washington Commanders select at No. 47, and they met with every viable early-round quarterback in the draft. But they held a private workout with only one — Strong.
Corral, it should be said, thinks he should be taken Friday because he’s ready to offer teams more than just ability.
“I say this in every interview and I say it first because if I didn’t have the arm talent and didn’t have my ability to escape the pocket and make plays, and I feel that alone separates me, but what’s most important to me and what I think coaches want and wins Super Bowls is being a servant leader,” Corral said.
Corral believes he’s ready to be the face of a franchise.
“I am because I’m mature enough and I’ve had a lot of experience being on the big stage at a young age, and I think I’ve handled it correctly,” he said. “Looking where I am now, I have an opportunity to be the face of a franchise, and that’s what I want to be.”
All he has to do is find the franchise.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero