2022 NFL Draft Profile: San Jose State QB Nick Starkel
The well-traveled Spartans quarterback looks to extend his football career by finding a home in the NFL.
A project QB worth taking on?
Few NFL prospects in this year’s draft class have had an odyssey quite like San Jose State quarterback Nick Starkel. A three-star quarterback in the 2016 recruiting class, Starkel was recruited to Texas A&M by Noel Mazzone and thrust into the spotlight as a redshirt freshman starter in 2017. When an injury and a new coaching regime forced him to make way for Kellen Mond by 2018, though, he responded by transferring to SEC rival Arkansas, where he toiled for a season before settling on San Jose as his last collegiate stop.
He and the Spartans both took a big leap forward during the abbreviated 2020 campaign and won the Mountain West championship, though 2021 wasn’t quite as successful after an early season arm injury took Starkel out of commission for a month. Through it all, he’s established himself as an amiable and refreshingly honest personality and become a minor celebrated meme, but will the National Football League think enough of his tools to give him a fair shake?
Measurables (taken from DraftScout.com)
Height – 6′ and 4 1/8″
Weight – 217 pounds
40-yard time – 5.09 seconds
10-yard split time – 1.79 seconds
Arm length – 32″
Hand size – 10 1/4″
Wingspan – 78 1/8″
Vertical jump – 30″
Broad jump – 9′ 3″ (or 111″)
Shuttle time – 4.85 seconds
3-cone drill time – 7.55 seconds
Bench press – N/A
At his best, Starkel thrived when he could bring all of his experience to bear and operate in an offense that allowed him to read the defense before the snap, prepare accordingly, and get the ball out fast. His “smooth, quick release”, as explained by Football Sapient’s John Vogel, enabled him to flash velocity that was more than good enough to work in the short and immediate passing game and help wide receivers find yards after the catch.
Additionally, Starkel doesn’t lack for confidence and has the willingness to push the ball down the field, even if he isn’t the prototypical gunslinger with an A-plus arm, trusting that his receivers will make a play. The intangibles of having played through more ups and downs than just about any other quarterback in this year’s class reinforce that moxie, as well, so if a coaching staff believes that they can refine the tools into a viable long-term depth piece, he could have a long career as a backup.
Where Carson Strong gets high marks for arm strength, Starkel’s deep ball has a few more question marks. Accuracy is the biggest one and that can sometimes be uneven overall: For as good as he was in 2020, we’re still talking about a draft prospect who completed just 57.8% of his 908 college pass attempts.
Even when he’s in a rhythm, though, Starkel isn’t immune to forcing throws and, as a result, making a costly mistake. He finished his collegiate career with a 3.3% interception rate that, as a point of comparison, more than doubles Strong’s.
Fairly or not, age is another inescapable facet of Starkel’s profile that may be judged harshly. As a post on the NFL subreddit noted, he’s less than a year younger than current Carolina Panther Sam Darnold… who just finished his fourth year in the pros. Given that draft analysts like Vogel and The Touchdown’s Simon Carroll also see him possessing just average athleticism (no one is going to mistake him for Malik Willis, though Starkel himself appears aware of this), teams might end up taking a dim view of his overall ceiling at this point.
Lots of questions surround every quarterback in this year’s class and while that may impact how soon those at the top are taken, that willingness to take a shot only extends so far. Starkel could fit right in somewhere as a camp arm, but wherever he ends up is likely to come as an undrafted free agent and he’ll have plenty to prove in that circumstance.