OU football: Sooners don't have a QB to offer 2021 NFL draft but might have the best in 2022

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Joe Buettner, The Norman Transcript, Okla.
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Apr. 28—For the first time since 2017, an Oklahoma quarterback won't be selected in the NFL draft.

It's unlikely that happens again next year.

Several teams will bank on the likes of Clemson's Trevor Lawrence, Alabama's Mac Jones and Ohio State's Justin Fields to become their next franchise quarterback when the first round of the 2021 NFL Draft begins at 7 p.m. Thursday.

OU redshirt sophomore Spencer Rattler is poised to follow in their footsteps in 2022 if the former five-star recruit's second year as the Sooners' starting quarterback lives up to his lofty expectations.

"I don't try to set a roof on what I can do as a player on the field," Rattler said. "... I want to be the most unstoppable quarterback, best quarterback in the country coming up to this year and put on a show and do it with my guys."

Rattler, of course, hasn't finalized any plans to enter next year's draft. He will be eligible for it, though, and that's enough for Rattler to start seeing his name floated as the first quarterback taken in 2022.

NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. projects Rattler as next year's top quarterback prospect, he said on ESPN's "Keyshawn, JWill and Zubin." He expects North Carolina's Sam Howell to be right behind him.

247Sports.com's Chris Hummer went as far to list Rattler as his top overall prospect in the 2022 draft ahead of Howell, Georgia's JT Daniels and Southern Cal's Kedon Slovis in a way-too-early mock draft published last month.

If Rattler were to go No. 1 overall, he'd become OU coach Lincoln Riley's top pick in the draft since 2018, joining former Sooner quarterbacks and Heisman Trophy winners Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. He'd be the fourth OU quarterback taken during that span, which includes OU's 2019 starter, Jalen Hurts, going in the second round of last year's draft.

Rattler will have to continue on his current trajectory if he wants to add to Riley's growing list of Sooners-turned-NFL starting quarterbacks.

He progressively got better from the start of his debut season, which included OU's 0-2 start in Big 12 play, to the end of it when he led the Sooners to a Big 12 championship and Cotton Bowl win over Florida.

He finished with 3,031 yards passing and 28 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He completed 67.5 percent of his 317 passing attempts and rushed for six touchdowns and 160 yards on 81 carries.

Rattler struggled through the early part of OU's 2020 season, throwing a combined five interceptions against Kansas State, Iowa State and Texas. He threw only two in OU's final seven games.

If Rattler's decision-making continues to improve and he takes the physical jumps the program hopes to see from him, OU figures to defend its Big 12 crown and perhaps make it back to the College Football Playoff.

For Rattler, it all stands to be a recipe to hear his name called early in the 2022 NFL Draft.

"Where he's at right now, we've really pushed him hard physically," Riley said. "We think there's another level we can go to with his movements and his body composition. ... It's a constant battle to get better. [His] starting point [this offseason] is way better and if he'll continue to work, I would expect that he will improve in a lot of areas and he has so far. He's going to have to continue to really work."

Joe Buettner

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jbuettner@normantranscript.com