The regular season is winding down. We can now start to anticipate which QBs will be ready to play on Sundays.
I want to start by shouting from the rooftop that this QB class is significantly deeper than last year's NFL Draft class. I actually had Hendon Hooker #1 in last year's class before he elected to stay in college for another season (I am glad he did). I like Kenny Pickett, but I don't think any of the other QB's from last year would have made my list with this current class.
I do this every year - rank draft eligible QBs at the end of October. The sample size is there for most guys and we have seen what they can do against talent greater than their own. That's what the NFL is - a pool of players much much better than the pool of players they see in college. Toughness of schedule matters a great deal to me. The jump from the ACC to the NFL is much greater than the jump from the SEC to the NFL.
At this point in the year, every QB has been faced with significant tests. The stats are out there to compare and the grit has been seen on camera. I love this time of year and I love writing articles like this. Let's get to it.
I am going to include Kentucky quarterback Will Levis in my honorable mentions strictly out of respect for my good friends Jimmy (Kentucky Road Show) and Garret (Louisville Sports Cards). Don't get me wrong, I like Levis, but he has not produced anything close to what I would consider to be a first round bidding. With only 13 TD passes to 7 interceptions, he sets himself pretty far back on the "wow" factor. He has completed a respectable 68.1% of his passes against a strong schedule, but he has only thrown 191 passes to this point, less than 88 other QBs at his level. The stat that bothers me the most is his 24 sacks. Only 10 other QBs (across all of college football) have been sacked more, and only 1 of those 10 guys has less passing attempts than Levis. In all the years I have been doing this, I can't remember a single QB that had a better sack/attempt ratio in their rookie season in the NFL than they did through their last year in college. To me, the nail in the coffin for Levis was the failed test against Tennessee. He completed less than 60% of his passes, took 4 sacks, and threw 3 interceptions to 0 touchdowns. I like his grit and competitiveness. He has done enough to get drafted, but to consider him in the first round is silly.
I was shocked when Mel Kiper Jr had Will Levis in the top 5 on his NFL Draft Big Board. Before we get spicy about me thinking I know more about the draft than MKJ, know that I do this every year. He is always way off. For example, see my article from last year about Malik Willis, who Kiper had at QB1 of the class and a top 10 pick on his Big Board. A few years ago, we did a draft contest on our Instagram where our followers could submit their NFL Draft predictions. I posted mine, Mel Kiper Jr's, and Daniel Jeremiah's (NFL Network - friend of Brothers In Cards). I believe there was actually a follower that beat all of us, so I am clearly no expert either. But MKJ was near the bottom of the pool of predictions. It's like that every year. I say all of this to help you understand that hype and reality are not the same thing. If you care about who your team will draft, you will get more out of in-depth articles like this than you will from the big dawgs on camera.
I actually have a few other honorable mentions, as it was really hard to narrow this class down to a top 5 list.
I am a huge fan of Will Rogers at Mississippi State. He leads college football in passing attempts (380) and has completed a respectable 67.9%. The Bulldogs have a tough SEC schedule, and Rogers struggled against Alabama and LSU. I like that he protects the ball though, as he has only thrown 4 INTs to 23 TD passes. It's always a mystery on whether or not a Mike Leach QB can actually maintain a career as a NFL QB. I do believe Rogers is the most tested product he has put out there. This year is his 3rd year as a starter. I look for him to return for his 4th.
Grayson McCall has also been a name that has floated around on my lists for the last couple years. He has incredible numbers:
21 Touchdowns to only 1 INT (#2 in TD/INT ratio)
176.1 ESPN Passer Rating (#5)
68.9% Completion Percentage (#17)
2,314 passing yards (#16)
He's 6'3" and 225 - he has the size and athleticism to play in the NFL. With such a deep class, however, toughness of schedule has to be considered. The gap between what he will see this Saturday against Southern Mississippi and what he would see in the NFL is a pretty wide gap. I bet he gets drafted in later rounds.
This year, we have another case of a quarterback transferring out of IU to find success. After transferring to Washington, Michael Penix Jr has put together a strong season thus far. He leads college football in passing yards (2,934). He's been sacked only 5 times while throwing 339 passes. He has thrown 22 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. He ranks 19th in ESPN Passer Rating. Even as I type this up, I wonder how he isn't in my Top 5. This is another scenario where we have to compare the competition. The only ranked team Penix has seen this year is Michigan State, who was not ranked much longer after he beat them. I look to see this playmaker return to college next year and make a stronger case for himself.
5. Bo Nix
After three years at Auburn, Nix finally got his opportunity to be "the guy" at Oregon this year. His debut was rocky, as the Ducks got smacked by Georgia 49-3. He threw two interceptions in that game, but I was extremely impressed by one stat that I know caught the attention of NFL scouts.
Against the reigning National Champions, with a team that was outmatched in at least 90% of the matchups, Bo Nix was never sacked. In fact, he wasn't sacked against #12 BYU or #9 UCLA either. He has only taken ONE sack this entire year! He has thrown the ball 249 times, and every other QB in the nation with 100+ attempts has been sacked more than once. This is truly a mind boggling stat that should be recognized.
Since that debut against the champs, Oregon is 7-0 with two ranked wins. They have scored 40+ in each of those 7 games. Nix has completed an incredible 72.3% of his passes. He has thrown 20 TDs to 5 INTs (2 of which went to Georgia). The Ducks have their work cut out for them in November. I have Nix 5th on my list now, but he has room to move up if he can keep this going.
4. Max Duggan
I got excited about Max Duggan back in September when I saw the Purple 15 jersey. (I wore #15 at Taylor University). He was off to a hot start this year, but I wasn't sure if it would continue. They had a pretty difficult schedule ahead of them and his numbers from last year really weren't all that impressive.
Duggan has kept the pedal down, leading TCU to 8-0 while knocking down four ranked teams in a row. Many of those wins have come from late surges led by Duggan to fight for the W. Max Duggan is currently ranked:
4th in ESPN Passer Rating (182.5)
4th in TD/INT Ratio (22/2)
I watched his game against SMU this year where they blitzed him hard, sacking him 5 times, most of those early. He responded with a 3 TD day while he completed 75.9% of his passes. I hate to see the sacks, but I would also rather him take sacks than make bad throws - especially when he is completing them so efficiently.
Duggan is still under the radar. I like him a lot. We will see if he ever makes it to the hype filled big boards. He's going to need to win the Big 12. They play Texas in two weeks - keep that one on your radar!
3. CJ Stroud
Every year, we talk about the talented Ohio State QB that should be considered among top QBs in the nation. We also talk about how Ohio State QBs rarely work out in the NFL. Is CJ Stroud different? Honestly, it's hard to say. But here is my argument against dismissing OSU arms: If you are one of the best QBs in the country coming out of high school, are you going to choose to be a Buckeye or are you going to choose a school outside of the Top 10 programs? Exactly.
CJ Stroud was good enough to become an Ohio State Buckeye and he can only work with the opportunities given to him. He was a Heisman finalist last year and I imagine he will be a finalist this year as well.
He currently sits at #1 in ESPN Passer Rating with a PHENOMENAL 200.2. He currently sits at #1 for Touchdown Passes (29) while only throwing 4 INTS. He has only been sacked 7 times and has completed 71.3% of his passes. These are all incredible numbers.
The only reason he isn't higher on my list is because we have not really seen any adversity or competition worth getting excited about. The Buckeyes have won every game this year by double-digits. They have faced just two ranked teams in Penn State and Notre Dame. Neither team is really worth the status they held when they played OSU. Their cake walk continues til they finally play Michigan on 11/26.
2. Bryce Young
I will never forget the first time I realized that Bryce Young would be QB1 for Alabama. The Crimson Tide had just won the National Championship and Mac Jones was telling Bryce Young he was up next. Mac Jones is not a big dude. He's bigger than Bryce Young. At 6'0" and under 200 pounds, Young looks like his last name. I did not have high expectations for him. We just watched them go from Jalen Hurts to Tua Tagovailoa to Mac Jones. I assumed this would be the dip.
He absolutely proved me wrong. His Heisman campaign in 2021 was nothing short of impressive. His poise and smoothness is matched by no-one. The only team he didn't beat last year was Texas A&M, which he still threw for 3 TDs and had a 139 ESPN Passer Rating. Alabama also lost to Georgia in the National Championship - that game was probably Young's worst game of the year. However, he had a great game against them a month or so prior, where they took home the SEC Championship trophy.
Here in 2022, he proves to still be that steady hand that every single player, coach, and scout is looking for. We can all agree that Bama is not the giant we are used to seeing, but he keeps them in the driver's seat til the very end. He secured the win against Texas. He had them in field goal range at the end against Tennessee. His numbers, although against a tough schedule, have only been slightly above average. He is 16th in ESPN Passer Rating (162.7), which is best stat. However, I imagine Nick Saban still prefers Young over any other option in college football, especially when the game is on the line.
1. HENDON HOOKER
I will be a fan of Hendon Hooker for the rest of my life. As I mentioned earlier in this article, I do this every year. I remember going through numbers last year and seeing Hooker's name near the top - much like I do now.
He has thrown 21 TDs to only 1 INT, sitting at #1 in TD/INT ratio
He has completed 71.2% of his passes against one of the hardest schedules in college football. He ranks #2 in ESPN Passer Rating (191.6). He can run the ball as well as any QB in the game right now, as he has ran for at least one 10+ yard carry in each of the last 7 games.
I love Hendon Hooker because he proved me right. I put a lot of work into these articles. If you have been following me for a while, you see the articles and the Instagram posts. There has never been a more underrated QB in college football than Hendon Hooker last season. I was vocal about it. Coming into this season, I told anyone that would listen that Hendon Hooker was going to be incredible. So, thank you, Hendon, for proving I know a little something about what I am doing.
Tennessee is now ranked #1 and plays the reigning National Champions this week. I look forward to what Hooker can lead the Vols offense to do in Athens. I believe he will look like a Heisman trophy finalist, just as he has all year. I can't wait to watch! My wife and I will be going down to Knoxville to see him play his final game in Neyland Stadium for my birthday. We look forward to stopping by Underdog Collectibles while we are down there!
On top of being a great quarterback, Hendon Hooker is a great person and shares our vision of promoting truth. Him and his brother, Alston, wrote a book called ABC's of Scripture for Athletes. I absolutely support that mission. I would love to find a way to partner with him to promote this book.