While Matt Corral had a tumultuous draft experience, he's ready to settle down and get to the work of proving himself.
Corral was one of the projected top QBs in the 2022 NFL Draft due to his dual-threat abilities, and many mock drafts had him drafted in the first round. He even attended the draft in person as one of only 21 players invited to Las Vegas. But Corral instead saw a draft slide that ended in the third round after the Carolina Panthers selected him No. 94 overall.
Corral said that the experience led to him having even more drive to show he was worth the pick.
"I mean, I had a chip on my shoulder before. But it just got even bigger," Corral said Friday during Carolina's rookie minicamp. "(Draft night) was for sure, a roller coaster. It was a bunch of mixed emotions. When I got that phone call, I have truly never been happy and sad at the same time. I've never felt that before."
Corral was a star quarterback in his two years as starter at Ole Miss and led the school to a 10-2 record with a Sugar Bowl appearance in 2021. Corral finished the season with 3,349 yards, 20 touchdowns and just five interceptions. But, there have been rumors that part of the reason Corral fell so far was because there were concerns about his maturity and other issues, though both Corral and Panthers head coach Matt Rhule said there is no substance to that.
"Truthfully, I don't know where that came from," Corral said. "It's just one of those things that got out there. That was honestly the first time I heard that. That's nothing I can control. I got picked up. I'm here with an opportunity, and that's all I can ask for."
While the Panthers used their first-round pick to draft a much-needed offensive lineman in tackle Ikem Ekwonu, and originally had zero picks to use on Day 2, Rhule said that seeing Corral still available in the third round made trading up to pick him a "no-brainer".
"When we watched the tape, we loved the way that Matt played," Rhule said. "His release, his moxie. He's gotten injured a little bit because he runs guys over or tries to run guys over. But at the end of the day, it's still a game of who has the ability to throw the ball. And we just love the way he throws the ball. His release, his vision, his timing -- we thought it would translate over to this level."
While Rhule believes Corral can make an impact with Carolina, he said that as of now, Sam Darnold is the Panthers' starter. Darnold had an up-and-down year in 2021 and his hold on the starting job is shaky, but he could still improve and might prove himself to be the best option for Carolina if he has a good offseason.
And adding another piece to the puzzle is that Rhule said he's not opposed to bringing in another veteran quarterback if an opportunity arises. After four straight losing seasons for Carolina -- the last two of which came with Rhule at the helm -- the head coach knows he needs to pick the player who gives the Panthers the best chance to win, whether it be Corral, Darnold, or an as-yet unknown veteran. So, he's keeping his options open.
For now, while Corral said he obviously wants to be the guy Rhule can call upon to start in Week 1, he's taking it one day at a time and just trying to learn the Panthers offense.
"If I know the playbook, I'm going to be ready to play," Corral said. "As far as getting ready to be a starter, of course, my mentality is to be a starter. But right now, I'm trying to get on that 53-man roster."