A lot has changed in the last month. NFL scouts are probably just as torn on some of these guys as I am.
I build these rankings based on who I think will be able to be the most efficient NFL Draft prospect. For example, drafting Trey Lance at #3 to play in later years is not as efficient as drafting Trevor Lawrence #1 to start Week 1 of his rookie year. Trevor Lawrence is a rare case.
I believe it is foolish to throw any rookie QB to the wolves right away. Some of the best QBs in history were able to learn from a veteran before they started their first game. An entire season is ideal, in my opinion - at least until the playoff picture is clear. Once disqualified from the playoffs, rookies should get their shot (if not needed beforehand).
So with all of that understood, I think this is a deep QB class, but with all of the performances and injuries in the last month - the efficiency of these prospects is difficult to assess.
I went pretty hard against Will Levis in last month's article. I think he really proved me right in November. He led Kentucky to only score 21 points against both Missouri and Vanderbilt (the two worst teams in the SEC East) while losing to Vanderbilt. In November, he took another 13 sacks, bringing his total to 37 on the year. Only 6 players have been sacked more in all of college football. His TD-INT ratio is now 19-10. I agree that his release is quick and that will help in the NFL, but does it matter if you don't use it well?
He only has two...two...rushes of 10 yards or more and only...two...rushing touchdowns. Any article you can find that talks about Levis being a rushing threat in the NFL...am I missing something? You won't find a single one of my high school or college teammates that would say I was a mobile QB, but I had more than two rushing scores every year. His greatest attributes are his size and tangibles. I get it. He's going to look like a monster compared to the other guys at the combine. But I have not been impressed with any performance that he's put on tape. I do think he is worth getting drafted, but I still do not look at him as an efficient first round prospect.
Austin Reed from Western Kentucky has caught my attention. He is in a one-year starter situation like Bailey Zappe was last year. We have seen that Zappe can handle the NFL adjustment. I think he is very special, so I was interested in what the next guy would do at WKU. Reed only has this season to put on tape, but the sample size is significant with 546 attempts. He's thrown 36 TDs (#3 in the country) to only 10 INTs. My favorite part about Austin Reed is that he has only been sacked 11 times with 546 attempts. That's what caught my attention. He's 6'2" 230 with some running ability. He has 8 rushing touchdowns and has at least seven rushes for 12+ yards each this season.
I am not sure if I could make a case that he should be drafted ahead of other guys on other honorable mention lists, but I haven't seen anyone else talking about him, so I figured I would throw him into the mix - he's earned it.
So remember how I started this article talking about efficiency of draft prospects? Ranking the next 6 becomes tricky when you consider the fact that there are multiple teams in the NFL who have a vacancy at QB right now. The Texans, Colts, Commanders, Panthers, and Saints are all in the market to have a different QB1 next season. You could make the case that the Lions, Raiders, and Broncos could work into the mix.
The truth is that the chance is very high that at least one QB taken in this draft will start Week 1 of 2023 whether they are ready or not. As a Colts fan, I hope we draft someone and let them sit and learn behind Matt Ryan, competing with Sam Ehlinger along the way for QB2. If we get to the point where we are disqualified from the playoffs, let's see our new guy work. Unfortunately, Jim Irsay doesn't care what I think.
I will proceed with the consideration of who has earned those Week 1 snaps. I have never played in the NFL, but I have played in college. I have seen guys with A+ skills in certain areas get destroyed because they had C- skills in other areas. When the National Championship is in the rearview mirror, I will make my final rankings and provide the formulas I use every year based on certain stats that I know NFL scouts care about. Some of those stats include sacks, strength of schedule, and efficiency. I have those in mind here as well.
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#6 CJ Stroud
I don't have time for anyone saying CJ Stroud sucks. I am the opposite of an Ohio State fan, but I respect the fact that he leads the country in ESPN Passer Rating at 176.2. He also leads in passing TDs with 37. Those are incredible stateliness. This is the second year in a row that he has been in the Heisman conversation and that is respectable.
When I was working on the article for last month's QB rankings, Stroud was near the top of the list of completion percentage with 71.3% which is impressive by all accounts. He completed 78.8% of his passes against #13 Penn State. I was impressed by that, which is why I had him #3 last month. However, I did say that I was looking forward to his matchup with Michigan. He failed that test, throwing 2 picks and completing less than 65% of his passes. In fact, he has completed less than 65% of his passes in the last 4 games.
We did finally see a little bit of a running game against Northwestern when weather was a huge factor. He scampered for a total of 79 yards (44 coming on one play). However, outside of that game, Stroud has a whopping -5 rushing yards and 0 rushing touchdowns on the season. He has only 1 other carry of 10+ yards.
He is going to have a Bowl Game (or better) opportunity to show he can handle quality matchups. We will see how that goes. However, even if that goes well, I don't see him as a prospect that any NFL teams would be willing to reach for.
#5 Michael Penix Jr
I recently posted about Penix Jr on our Instagram and a lot of my Indiana native friends were quick to remind me of his two torn ACLs at IU. There is no doubt that NFL scouts will consider that. However, I cannot ignore the clinic that this dude has put on this year. He has thrown 500 passes, giving everyone a significant sample size to judge him as a passer. He leads the country in passing yards (4,354). He has a respectable 155.5 ESPN Passer Rating (#22) and 81.8 QBR (#12). He has been more of a conservative runner this year, but we know that skill is there.
Most importantly, he has proven to be a dawg against big programs. Who do you think has a better recruiting class on a yearly basis: Oregon or Washington? Penix Jr led the Huskies to huge win against the Ducks in their own stadium. In November, he led Washington to a 4-0 run, including two ranked wins and another road win against state rival Washington State.
He's going to catch some heat for his awkward throwing motion. The injury history is going to come up. But at the end of the day, this guy is a 6'3" 220 dual-threat QB who is near the top of the list in several passing stats. He deserves to be in the Top 5 conversation. I don't necessarily believe he will be drafted in the first round, but it shouldn't be disqualified as a possibility.
#4 Max Duggan
So how good is TCU really? We are about to find out. They are going to be in the College Football Playoffs unless they get blown out at home by Kansas State (who they already beat earlier this year). The real question needs to be why is TCU so good this year? A big part of that answer is the progress of Max Duggan.
The Horned Frogs were 4-6 in 2021 with Duggan at the Helm. This cost him his job, as TCU looked to freshman QB Chandler Morris to start the year. However, he was injured in the first game of the year, and Duggan began his second-chance campaign. There is something special about a QB who has learned how fragile his job can be.
Duggan currently has his team at 12-0, which includes 5 wins against ranked opponents. When I say that Duggan has led his team to these victories, I mean it. 8 of these twelve wins have come with a margin of victory of 10 or less. In fact, 5 of those wins included TCU trailing in the 2nd half. TCU has required Duggan to be perfect and he has answered. He has an ESPN Passer Rating of 171.3 (4th) and has thrown 29 Touchdowns to only 3 Interceptions. He does not take many sacks, however he did get put down 9 times in two games at the beginning of November. He adjusted and took a combined zero sacks in the next two games.
I almost forgot to mention that he can run the ball too. He has more rushing yards and touchdowns than everyone on this list so far. He has 8 rushes of at least 10 yards. He's a scrapper.
Max Duggan is a guy that has failed and learned and made massive strides. He answers the call when his team needs him. He protects the ball and takes minimal sacks. Would you give him the ball in the NFL? I would if the situation fit.
#3 Bryce Young
Remember last year when Bryce Young was a Heisman Trophy Winner?
Below are his stats from last year and this year:
2021: 68% Completion Percentage, 44 TDs, 4 INTs, 33 sacks
2022: 64.1% Completion Percentage, 27 TDs, 5 INTs, 16 sacks
To many, that looks like a drop-off. That is not what I see.
First of all, nobody is going to make the case that this Alabama team is as good as they were last year. Second, it is HARD to win on the road in the SEC. Alabama has lost two games this year. Both of them were on the road against #6 Tennessee and #10 LSU (two of the hardest stadiums to play at in all of sports). Bryce Young led a game winning drive against Tennessee, but the kicker missed the field goal, giving Hendon Hooker a chance to respond (and he did). The LSU game went into overtime where Young, yet again, led a game winning drive that resulted in a TD +XP. LSU just happened to answer with a TD + 2PC to win. Young also led 2nd half comeback wins against #10 Ole Miss and on the road at Texas.
When I look at this year compared to last year, I see Bryce Young played a much harder schedule with a lesser Alabama team and STILL CUT HIS SACKS IN HALF. That is truly uncommon progress. My guess is that Alabama is going to get a Bowl Game against someone at a neutral field and absolutely destroy them before sending another group of players to the NFL Draft. Bryce Young is a winner from a program that currently watches 3 starting QBs play on Sundays. What he lacks in size, he makes up in pedigree and experience. He is a winner, and I would hesitate very little to hand him the ball in Week 1 at a place like Houston or New Orleans.
#2 BO NIX
At this point, I assume you know who I have notched at #1. That being said, if I had to pick a QB to start Week 1 for my franchise with the intentions of winning behind a strong defense (cough cough Saints), I would choose Bo Nix.
Oregon may have had the hardest schedule in college football outside of the SEC. They played 6 ranked teams - for of which finished the year ranked higher than #16 Oregon (UCLA finished #17). Oregon only scored 3 points vs Georgia's fully healthy juggernaut of a defense, but went on to average 35 points per game against the other 5 ranked teams. The Ducks' defense has been a real dis