As Tom Brady has taught us, quarterback is a position where measurable physical traits matter the least. Arm strength is nice, but ask Jamarcus Russell how much it helped him. Rushing ability is a plus but in most cases needs to be secondary to the arm. The most important thing is decision making and quick processing, which is pretty difficult to quantify on paper.
The best we can do is find what stats are good at reflecting those traits and put some stock into those. I am fairly convinced that a combination of completion percentage and yards per attempt gets very close to identifying quality arms, and so those two numbers will be important as you scan these rankings.
Completion Percentage over Expected
Josh Hermsmeyer gives a pretty impressive argument as to why a QBs CPOE should be heavily weighted in prospect evaluation. You’ll read in the article that ideally we’d like to measure completion percentage and depth of target together for an adjusted completion percentage. Then, we’d compare a QB’s adjusted rate against the adjusted rate for QBs in his conference. The difference would be their CPOE, however I don’t have access to advanced college stats like depth of target. Instead, I will use a surrogate CPOE by simply taking the QBs comp% minus conference average comp%.
I found in my research that college QBs who went on to have a top 5 fantasy season in the NFL, posted a median CPOE better than +9%.
Yards per Attempt (Y/A)
Since I wasn’t able to combine comp% and Y/A into one fancy metric, I will evaluate it separately. Obviously the logic here is that as a passer throws deeper, it is more difficult to complete the pass. If a prospect is completing a high percentage of difficult throws, he should be taken very seriously. I found the median college Y/A for a QB with an eventual top 5 fantasy finish was 8.2 vs. 7.6 for QBs without a top 5 finish.
TD/INT and Rush Yards
I didn’t find any clear threshold for TD/INT ratio that filtered for fantasy success, but I think it stands to reason more TDs and less INTs is a good thing. This number gives you some context as you look through the names, but scoring in college is so much different than NFL. Gaudy TD numbers are the norm and I would be more impressed with a small number of turnovers than 40 TDs.
Rush yards tell us nothing about a QB as a passer, but in today’s game we need some extra juice on the ground for fantasy purposes. Really great running QBs like Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton and Kyler Murray all had average yards per carry over 5.5. Even a sneaky good rusher like Andrew Luck had an average rush of over 5 yards in college. I think some “running QBs” get away with things at the college level that won’t translate to any real production in the NFL. It’s important to identify dynamic rushing ability rather than someone who just takes advantage of loose amateur defenses.
On to the Rankings!
|QB1||School||First Year Eligible||CPOE||Y/A||TD/INT||Rush yards (yards/rush)|
|Trevor Lawrence||Clemson||2021||7.8||9.0||36/8||563 (5.5)|
The rare recruit-to-pros QB1 finish looked in jeopardy in 2019, when Lawrence was rusty out of the gate and Justin Fields burst onto the scene. After throwing 5 picks in the first 3 games, things really smoothed out and TLaw was once again the best underclassman signal caller in America. There are few flaws in his game, and he has all the tools of a QB you want to build an NFL team around. While he’s no Lamar Jackson, he gets it done on the ground and I can see him chipping in 200-400 yards at the pro level similar to an Andrew Luck or Aaron Rogers.
|QB2||School||First Year Eligible||CPOE||Y/A||TD/INT||Rush yards (yards/rush)|
|Justin Fields||Ohio State||2021||9.6||9.2||41/3||484 (3.5)|
After sitting behind game manager Jake Fromm as a freshman at Georgia, the shine dimmed on Fields’ prospect status. He had to transfer to get playing time, and was slipping in devy drafts as a result. Fast forward and now he’s back in line with his recruiting ranking, behind only Lawrence by a razor’s edge. His debut as a starter was nothing short of outstanding. The numbers speak for themselves, but I did expect more rushing production out of Fields. However, when you watch him he’s always keeping his eyes downfield and trying to make a big play with his arm, which is a good thing. You can tell he’s a tremendous athlete, so when needed he will certainly make a difference as a rusher as well. Don’t be shocked if the top 2 QBs are swapped by next winter.
|QB3||School||First Year Eligible||CPOE||Y/A||TD/INT||Rush yards (yards/rush)|
It pleases me to no end that Howell spurned the Seminoles to play in Chapel Hill. He was a top 10 QB in the 2019 class but once the lights came on, he outshined everyone. With a lightning quick release that fires off footballs with ease, it takes about 5 seconds to watch him and know this is a player. At his best he has a quick release and can make virtually any throw, even while scrambling. The knock on him is some risky decision making, which he’ll need to clean up some to bring a future 1.01 pick into focus. But Howell showed us all we need to see in year 1 to certify him as a stud in the making.
|QB4||School||First Year Eligible||CPOE||Y/A||TD/INT||Rush yards (yards/rush)|
|Kedon Slovis||Southern Cal||2022||10||8.9||30/9||n/a|
Somehow Slovis has not risen in the devy rankings as I think he should have following his outstanding debut. He was only a 3 star on signing day but once on the field, played like one of the absolute best QBs in the country. A +10% CPOE is outrageous for a true freshman, and some of his efficiency numbers are actually better than Sam Howell’s. Watching Slovis, the pure arm talent is not as shocking as Howell but he is impressive nonetheless. One thing that really jumps out to me is pocket management. He never appears to be rattled and always knows what is happening on every inch of the field. I am convinced if he had been a bigger recruit he’d be neck and neck with Howell on every list. When someone has a better QB rating than Trevor Lawrence as a freshman, adjust your rankings.
|QB5||School||First Year Eligible||CPOE||Y/A||TD/INT||Rush yards (yards/rush)|
I think there is a pretty big tier break here in terms of absolute upside. Morgan and Purdy are in a 2 man group of interesting arms that just don’t jump off the page like those ahead of them. Morgan has led an electric passing attack in Minneapolis for the past 2 seasons, enjoying the luxury of 2 very strong wide receivers at his disposal. His Y/A is eye popping and a good enough CPOE as a sophomore gets him in the conversation. I’d like to see some more improvement as a junior with Tyler Johnson gone, although he still can lean on Rashod Bateman. The ball just doesn’t quite explode out of his hand, which isn’t the end of the world, but he’s a tick below the rest.
|QB6||School||First Year Eligible||CPOE||Y/A||TD/INT||Rush yards (yards/rush)|
|Brock Purdy||Iowa State||2021||3||8.4||27/9||249 (2.7)|
I am lower on Purdy than the consensus it seems, as I think QB6 would be a bit of an upset for many. He is fun to watch but appears to play out of control then at the last moment will make magic happen. That’s all well and good in college but he’ll need to tighten the screws at the next level. His CPOE is not close to approaching elite territory yet, which is a concern when he’s being mentioned in the top 4 devy QBs. His game just feels a little unsustainable in the NFL from what I am seeing right now.
|QB7||School||First Year Eligible||CPOE||Y/A||TD/INT||Rush yards (yards/rush)|
|Trey Lance||North Dakota State||2021||7.3||9.7||28/0||1100 (6.5)|
This tier is made of 3 guys we have limited info on, but appear to have a tremendous ceiling. Lance was a 3 star recruit with a Boise State offer but chose to take his talents to FCS powerhouse NDSU. The Bison have funneled 2 straight QBs to the NFL, and I imagine that was a selling point on the recruiting trail. After redshirting behind Easton Stick, Lance torched the Missouri Valley conference to the tune of 2,786 passing yards, 1,100 passing yards, 42 total TDs and 0 interceptions. His throwing motion is a bit long at times but he’s got all the strength you need. On the ground, but he isn’t just getting what’s blocked on a QB Power, Lance shows true acceleration once in the second level. Daniel Jeremiah (NFL.com) is already on record pumping him up to potentially enter the NFL in 2021 and be chosen early. He is still free in most devy drafts, lock him up now before he gets national exposure against Oregon in week 1 next season.
|QB8||School||First Year Eligible||CPOE||Y/A||TD/INT||Rush yards (yards/rush)|
The QB1 for 247 in 2019 sat behind Jalen Hurts in year 1 but is poised to take over in 2020. Obviously this is a ranking on pedigree, situation and system but there appears to be no reason that Rattler won’t light it up for the Sooners in short order. Through grainy high school tape, I can see he has a quick release and is buttery smooth with his movements. Despite a “pro style” listing on the recruiting sites, I think he’s got some good running ability should he choose to utilize it. Rattler is a probable stud, and likely an early declare so you’ll only need to stash him for 2 years.
|QB9||School||First Year Eligible||CPOE||Y/A||TD/INT||Rush yards (yards/rush)|
Standing 5’11” and coming in at 197 pounds per 247, it’s going to be very difficult not to compare Young to the most recent undersized dual threat success story. But I just can’t help seeing Kyler Murray in his game. The biggest thing I look for in admittedly limited high school videos is arm strength and quickness of release, and he displays both. The rushing ability is legit and his movement pops even against obviously inferior high school defenders. I have him in the top 10 because I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility he sees starting time as a freshman, meaning he’ll have a chance to rise in short order.
|QB10||School||First Year Eligible||CPOE||Y/A||TD/INT||Rush yards (yards/rush)|
|Sam Ehlinger||Texas||2021 (Sr)||5.6||8.1||32/10||663 (4.1)|
Ehlinger strikes me as a good college QB with a limited NFL ceiling. The arm is live, with an extended motion but he throws a pretty ball with good placement. PFF had him at 61 scrambles in 2019, the most in the nation. He’s athletic but this isn’t Lamar Jackson so he will need to win more within the pocket at the NFL. Many big throws come where you can tell he’s just waiting for the primary read to open up and then let’s it fly. It’s certainly not a bad skill to deliver a ball like that, but the scenario doesn’t play out like that often at the next level.
Ones to Watch
Jamie Newman, Georgia – He gets a spot here with potential to be a 2020 riser after transferring to SEC power Georgia. Newman can make some waves with a playoff run in 2020 but so far his resume is not really in line with high level fantasy success. Now, we do have a precedent for a grad transfer QB making a leap in Russell Wilson who saw his Y/A jump 3 whole yards in his final season. Newman shows a nice arm with quality rushing ability and much of his struggles can be traced back to atrocious OL play at Wake Forest. He won’t have line issues at UGA but he will be tested against superior defenses.
Dillon Gabriel, UCF – The Knights have found quite a goldmine in Hawaii, recruiting 2 impressive talents to Orlando. Right off the bat, there are 2 negatives going against him: he’s undersized at 5’11” and doesn’t offer much on the ground. Despite those issues, he bust on to the scene as a true freshman with a strong 9.2 Y/A, 29 TDs to only 9 INT, and led UCF to a bowl win. He limits mistakes which is a huge boon for a young QB. I see a little too much length in his windup, although perhaps that can be tweaked along the way.
Dustin Crum, Kent St – Perusing my database, his numbers popped out for me and I had to double check the name. With an elite +11.2% CPOE, good 8.4 Y/A and 707 yards on the ground, Crum’s 2019 was quietly sensational. If you think it’s crazy to see this name here, PFF has my back ranking him the 9th best pro prospect (not counting 2020 rookies) of the 80 bowl QBs in 2019. Kent State’s competition is in question and the throwing motions is elongated, but Crum should certainly be on your radar. He started last season as a junior backup but will enter his senior year with NFL aspirations.
DJ Uiagalelei, Clemson – I’ll be honest, he’s on here sight unseen as 247’s QB2 in 2020 headed to QB factory Clemson University. We won’t get to see much as a true freshman as he’ll bide his time behind QB1 Trevor Lawrence but DJU smacks of Cam Newton. Impossibly big as a HS QB, he is already 6’5″ 240 pounds and can absolutely run when necessary. His arm is an absolute Howitzer, which is what you would imagine it might be attached to a body that size. If you draft him now, the wait will be a bit longer than anyone else on this list but will probably be worth it.
Jayden Daniels, Arizona State – The Sun Devils offense was a pleasant surprise in 2019 with Daniels leading a supporting cast of Eno Benjamin and Brandon Aiyuk. Just winning the starting job as a true freshman is impressive but when filtering for the true elites, Daniels still has a ways to go. He is the only player on this list to record a negative CPOE, and I thought we’d see some more zest in the running game. Many of his balls look like they popped off my sandwedge, flying up out of the frame even when only traveling 30 yards. Floaters aren’t bad for endzone fades but I saw too much of that from Daniels.
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