The state of college football, as it relates to the quarterback position, is in disarray. As college football fans, we have been spoiled the last few seasons. Last year alone, we were able to witness college football mainstays Trevor Lawrence and Justin Fields. We were fortunate to see the emergence of Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, and Trey Lance. The year before, we debated all year: Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa. We can’t forget how Kyler Murray came out of nowhere to be the #1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Suffice to say–we were due to suffer a backslide, and in 2021 we have. We have broken down the quarterback landscape in college football into different tiers.
1) Spencer Rattler- Oklahoma Sooners
2) Matt Corral- Ole Miss Rebels
3) Sam Howell- North Carolina Tar Heels
Spencer Rattler has had an up and down college football career so far. For as many ‘highs’ there are ‘lows’. There is no questioning the talent, but the inconsistencies will cause NFL personnel departments to pull their collective hair out. The NFL will believe they can fix any of the ills that surround Rattler. You can’t teach talent that Rattler possesses. Matt Corral has lept into this tier deservedly so. Corral is similar to Rattler in some regard because you see the wide range of outcomes. How Corral completes the 2021 season will be telling. Corral can rise the most in the draft process. Sam Howell is ‘steady Eddie’ compared to Rattler and Corral. I don’t believe that Howell has as enticing of an upside, but he is rock solid. Howell has all the intangibles that NFL teams covet. Teams will fall in love with Sam Howell as a quarterback and a leader of your franchise.
4) Carson Strong- Nevada Wolfpack
5) Bryce Young- Alabama Crimson Tide
6) D.J. Uiagalelei- Clemson Tigers
Many traditional college football fans may not be as aware of Carson Strong, but I can assure you people around the NFL are familiar with his game. From a pure arm strength standpoint, few players can match what Strong can do. The issue with Strong is he is your prototypical, drop-back quarterback who will not offer you anything outside of the structure. To some NFL front offices, this will be appealing. Others will view this as a turnoff–some believe that the NFL is an ‘out of structure’ league. Bryce Young is a gifted young quarterback and will be coached by the best in college football for at least two seasons. How the NFL responds to Bryce Young will be fascinating. Young for all his talents is slight. The expectation is that Young measures under 6′ tall and under 200 pounds. These measurements could be ‘red flags’ for talent evaluators around the league. D.J. Uiagalelei has had an unceremonious beginning to his 2021 season. Clemson has struggled mightily offensively, and Uiagalelei has looked timid at times. D.J. Uiagalelei remains a young and talented prospect, but you will want to see development and better processing soon.
7) JT Daniels- Georgia Bulldogs
8) Malik Willis- Liberty Flames
9) Desmond Ridder- Cincinnati Bearcats
10) CJ Stroud- Ohio State Buckeyes
Some could be surprised to see JT Daniels in this tier. Daniels certainly has a lot to prove and needs more game experience at the collegiate level. I cannot shake the fact that Daniels was a high school quarterback prodigy and has talent for days. With additional development, Daniels could have a bright future ahead of him. Malik Willis is polarizing. Many pundits are infatuated with his athletic gifts. Many others want to see more development as a passer and want to see the progression. Willis is a fascinating case study, and I look forward to seeing what the NFL thinks about him by seasons’ end. Desmond Ridder is a nice blend of athleticism and arm strength. Ridder hasn’t put it all together yet but remains an intriguing draft prospect. CJ Stroud has looked terrific in the early going for the Buckeyes. CJ Stroud, however, has a Quinn Ewers problem. I’m interested to see how Coach Day handles a potential quarterback controversy as early as 2022. I don’t foresee a situation where both Stroud and Ewers can remain on the Buckeyes. Ewers, a high school superstar recruit who already has endorsements, will be chomping at the bit to hit the field. If the coaching staff insinuates that he may not start, I imagine that Ewers will transfer elsewhere. If the coaching staff informs Stroud that Ewers will be the starter, CJ Stroud will be leaving the program. Fascinating stuff in Columbus–stay tuned.
11) Jake Haener- Fresno State Bearcats
12) Tanner Mordecai- SMU Mustangs
13) Max Johnson- LSU Tigers
14) Grayson McCall- Coastal Carolina Chanticleers
15) Dillon Gabriel- Central Florida Knights
16) Phil Jurkovec- Boston College Eagles
17) Kedon Slovis- USC Trojans
18) Jayden Daniels- Arizona State Sun Devils
19) Malik Cunningham- Louisville Cardinal
20) Michael Penix Jr.- Indiana Hoosiers
21) Spencer Sanders- Oklahoma State Cowboys
22) Kaleb Eleby- Western Michigan
23) Brock Purdy- Iowa State Cyclones
24) Tyler Shough- Texas Tech Red Raiders
25) Brennan Armstrong- Virginia Cavaliers
Tanner Mordecai‘s rapid ascension at SMU is intriguing on several levels. If you recall, Mordecai is the Oklahoma Sooner transfer. Mordecai has looked as good as any quarterback in college football in 2021. What the NFL does with this development will be interesting to see. Max Johnson continues to improve every time I watch him. Johnson is more athletic than he is given credit for and is certainly a name to watch moving forward.
Who has ‘next’..?
1) Quinn Ewers- Ohio State
2) Arch Manning- Ole Miss
3) Caleb Williams- Oklahoma
4) Sam Huard- Washington
5) Drake Maye- North Carolina
We mentioned Quinn Ewers a bit early. Ewers may very well be the best NFL prospect of anyone on this entire list. Arch Manning may not be far behind. Ewers and Manning highlight a group of exciting, very young NFL prospects that you will have to wait a few seasons to see. In the meantime, we have a lackluster crop of NFL Draft prospects that will leave NFL front offices wanting.