UCF quarterback Dillon Gabriel has a legitimate opportunity to prove people wrong if he enters the 2022 NFL draft.
Gabriel, who is entering his third season as the Knights’ starter, used his precision and awareness to rip defenses apart in recent years. So why isn’t the dynamic quarterback generating more hype entering the 2021 season?
Dillon Gabriel is already an underrated 2022 NFL draft prospect
Much can change very quickly in the NFL draft process. Few, if any, publicly believed that Mac Jones or Zach Wilson would be first-round selections when the 2019 season ended or when the 2020 campaign began.
So yes, there will be some level of precedence if Dillon Gabriel, who is currently outside the top 10 quarterbacks in many draft projections, jumps into the first two rounds. Gabriel is an extremely proven and experienced quarterback at the FBS level.
Gabriel isn’t found in NFL draft projections despite completing 59.7% of his passes for 7,223 yards, 61 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions in his first two seasons. UCF lists Gabriel at 6 feet and 186 pounds, but Drew Brees and Russell Wilson should have ended the size argument years ago.
As of June 16, 2020, Walterfootball.com’s Charlie Campbell didn’t list Gabriel among his top-11 quarterbacks for the 2022 NFL draft. Elsewhere, NBC Sports included him as a quarterback who just missed the cut of the top 10 quarterbacks. Sporting News did not include Gabriel in their top-10 list.
All of this can change in a matter of months, of course, but it remains surprising that Gabriel is still under the radar.
Gabriel will have no shortage of chances to improve his stock next year
Gabriel and the UCF Knights have unfinished business to address when the 2021 season begins.
The Knights have been one of the nation’s top mid-major teams in recent years but went 6-4 in 2020. Expectations are high with Gus Malzahn, the former Auburn head coach, taking over in Orlando.
The Knights begin their season by hosting Boise State on Thursday, September 2. Two weeks later, the Knights travel to Kentucky for a matchup with Louisville, a program looking to bounce back from a 4-7 showing in 2020.
If Gabriel continues to improve in his third season and declares for the 2022 NFL draft, it will be difficult not to see him ranked among the top quarterback prospects. He is too talented and too proven not to warrant a spot in that tier.
Who are the 2022 NFL draft’s top quarterback prospects?
For now, Gabriel’s name is nowhere to be found when discussing the 2022 NFL draft quarterback prospects. However, certain quarterbacks are already frequently mentioned among the top draft-eligible players at that position.
North Carolina’s Sam Howell dominated defenses in his first two seasons and is an early contender to be the No. 1 overall pick. Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, a former reality TV star on QB1, impressed last season after replacing Jalen Hurts as the Sooners’ starting quarterback.
Southern California’s Kedon Slovis completed 71.9% of his passes for 3,502 yards, 30 touchdowns, and nine interceptions in 2019. If he can return to that form in 2021, he could also be a potential first-round pick. Liberty’s Malik Willis, a dangerous dual-threat quarterback who began his career at Auburn, is a dark horse candidate who can sneak into the first round.
Don’t be surprised to see Gabriel among those names when those lists are re-visited sometime next spring.