The 10 best QBs in college football right now
We are only a few weeks away from rivalry week and conference championship games, and between that and bowl season there are still plenty of opportunities for the nation’s quarterbacks to establish themselves among the best in their respective conferences and in the entire country.
But we have enough of a body of work to this point to have a good sense of the very best the nation has to offer at the QB position. Our weekly ranking of the top 10 QBs is once again led off by the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy:
1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals blew out Boston College this week, earning a 52-7 win. Jackson continued to pad his Heisman resume with seven total touchdowns, although he did the majority of his damage overall in the running game, racking up 188 yards on 13 carries. Still, however, his improvement as a thrower this season has been significant, as he ranks eighth nationally in deep adjusted completion rate at 50 percent, and his margin for error as a passer is far greater than most QBs given his excellence in the ground game. He leads all QBs with an absurdly good 97.8 rushing grade.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Sooners
While Mayfield’s Heisman chances certainly pale in comparison to those of Jackson, he continues to push Jackson for the No. 1 spot in these rankings, and he currently owns a higher overall grade: 93.9 (first in nation) to 92.7 (second). He had another very good outing in the Sooners’ win Thursday night over Iowa State, completing 25 of 33 aimed throws for 328 yards, four touchdowns, and zero interceptions. Mayfield has continued his excellent in the face of pressure this season, ranking first among Power-5 QBs with a passer rating of 99.9 when the opposing pass rush disrupts him, after ranking first among all QBs last season.
3. Jake Browning, Washington Huskies
The Huskies are one of the nation’s few remaining undefeated teams, and a legitimate contender to make the College Football Playoff, and Browning has been a huge reason for their success. He graded very well in UW’s blowout win over Cal this weekend, and he has been very consistent all season long. He currently ranks sixth among Power-5 QBs with a PFF grade of 84.1, and second among Power-5 QBs in deep adjusted completion rate. He also benefits from one of the country’s most electric wide receivers in John Ross, as evidenced on this play versus Cal:
4. Deshaun Watson, Clemson Tigers
We’ve had a tough time knowing where to rank Watson this season, as he hasn’t come close to playing at the elite level he reached last season during Clemson’s run to the national championship game. But he is coming off his highest PFF grade of the season in the Tigers’ win over Syracuse, and there’s still a lot to like in Watson’s game. He ranks fifth among Power-5 QBs with a PFF grade of 85.0, and on dropbacks of 2.6 seconds or longer (read: when Watson needs to make plays outside the confines of the normal offense), he ranks eighth nationally in passer rating. If he can continue to be efficient as a passer like he was against the Orange, and add more of the running ability he showed last season as the second-highest-graded runner among Power-5 QBs, and he’ll again push for the top spot on this list.
5. Greg Ward Jr., Houston Cougars
The Cougars had a bye week this week, and will be home vs. Tulane on Saturday before a critical Thursday home matchup with Louisville and Lamar Jackson on Nov. 17. Ward currently ranks in third place in PFF grades behind Jackson, who ranks second, with a score of 91.5, and his dual-threat ability will pose a major challenge for the Cardinals’ defense.
6. Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech Red Raiders
Mahomes drops a few spots in these rankings after earning a very poor grade in the Red Raiders’ loss to Texas this weekend. He still ranks third among Power-5 QBs in PFF grades at 90.2, but while he’s been excellent when given a clean pocket this season, his performance drops off quite a bit when faced with pressure. His passer rating goes from 123.2 to 76.2 – a much bigger drop-off than the 30-point college average. He’s a dynamic threat with his legs as well as his arm, but there are some imperfections to his game.
7. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State Cowboys
Rudolph made his debut on this list last week, after a start to the season that didn’t match his level of play from 2015, when he was one of the top-graded passing QBs in the nation. He then went out and posted his highest grade of the season in the Cowboys’ win over Kansas State, and he now ranks fourth among Power-5 QBs with a grade of 87.4. He leads the nation in passing yards recorded on throws of 20-plus yards downfield, with 1,142.
8. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina Tar Heels
Outside of one very poor performance in UNC’s rain-soaked loss to Virginia Tech, Trubisky has been excellent this season, his first as a starter. He has garnered some draft buzz, and is coming off a 329-yard, 1-touchdown performance in the Tar Heels’ blowout win over Georgia Tech. Perhaps most impressive has been his ability to handle pressure, as his completion rate on those dropbacks ranks first in the country.
9. Luke Falk, Washington State Cougars
Falk makes it onto this list this week after posting an excellent grade in the Cougars’ blowout win over Arizona. He has been consistently good all season long, however, with only one average grade to speak of (against UCLA). He currently ranks eighth in the Power-5 with an 81.4 overall grade, and ranks first nationally in adjusted completion rate, having thrown on-target on 81.1 percent of his passes.
10. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State Buckeyes
Despite the Buckeyes’ team success and Barrett’s impressive box-score statistics, we have hesitated to include him on his list due to his relatively average standing in PFF grades. The reason is that Barrett’s success is largely dependent upon his supporting cast and Ohio State’s offense, which emphasizes getting the ball in the hands of its playmakers quickly and not asking Barrett to challenge defenses with difficult downfield throws. But Barrett has been having a very productive season, and as of this week ranks 11th among Power-5 quarterbacks in PFF grades, at 78.7. He’s been efficient as a passer – particularly when under pressure, as he ranks first nationally in adjusted completion rate on pressured dropbacks — and very effective when running the ball, having rushed for 340 of his 630 yards (on 120 carries) after contact and forced 20 missed tackles in addition to scoring six touchdowns.