The 10 best QBs in college football right now
Who are the nation’s best quarterbacks, based not necessarily on NFL potential but instead solely on collegiate production? We ranked the top 10, which is again led off by the Heisman Trophy front-runner this week:
1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals
Some might look at the Cardinals’ near-upset loss to Virginia and Jackson’s 58.5 percent completion rate and determine that Jackson had a down game against the Cavaliers. But this was actually one of Jackson’s best passing performances of the season, with four of his 16 incompletions (excluding throwaways) coming on dropped passes, and him connecting on 11 of 20 pass attempts thrown 10 or more yards downfield, including the game-winning touchdown. And his 38 forced missed tackles as a runner on the season is just a ridiculously high total.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Sooners
We still have Mayfield behind Jackson in these rankings, but he’ll have the chance to pass him and re-enter the Heisman picture if he continues to play the way he has the last few weeks. Perhaps Mayfield’s best attribute is his ability to perform well when the opposing pass rush gets to him, ranking first among Power-5 QBs in passer rating under pressure.
3. Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Red Raiders are coming off a 27-24 win over TCU, and while their quarterback Mahomes hasn’t been perfect this season, he is one of the most electric playmakers in all of college football. When given a clean pocket from which to throw, he has earned the third-highest passer rating in the country, and his athleticism allows him to evade pressure and make plays when the pass rush does get to him (he is averaging an impressive 7.4 yards per carry on scrambles, including nine of his 12 forced missed tackles and four of his 10 touchdown runs).
4. Jake Browning, Washington Huskies
Browning wasn’t exceptional in Washington’s road win over Utah this weekend, but he was efficient enough – particularly at the intermediate level, where he was 6-of-8 for 87 yards and a touchdown – to lead the Huskies to a critical Pac-12 win. UW is right in the thick of the College Football Playoff race, and Browning is a huge reason why: He ranks fifth among QBs with at least 30 deep attempts in adjusted completion rate on 20-plus-yard throws, and has been effective throwing to all levels of the field.
5. Greg Ward Jr., Houston Cougars
Ward is still one of the country’s top running threats from the quarterback position, but it’s his improvement as a passer this season that has him in the top five of this list. He has seen his passing numbers increase in nearly all facets of the game, and he has been particularly devastating to opponents when they’ve chosen to blitz him – earning a 109.9 passer rating when the defense sends extra pass-rushers.
6. Deshaun Watson, Clemson Tigers
This is too low for Watson based on his potential and how he performed last season, and too high based on how he has performed this season. Watson did not have a great outing last week in the Tigers’ close win over Florida State, TK. Watson currently ranks just 24th in adjusted completion rate at 71.9 percent, and he has yet to establish himself as one of the country’s best running QBs this season, after ranking second to only Ward in rushing grade among quarterbacks a year ago.
7. Mitch Trubisky, North Carolina Tar Heels
Trubisky is beginning to gain some draft buzz after an impressive first half to his 2016 campaign. PFF had him pegged as a breakout candidate in the preseason, and he has delivered, ranking in the top 10 nationally in several key categories, including adjusted completion rate, passer rating on deep throws and accuracy rate under pressure. Outside of a very poor performance in a driving rain storm against Virginia Tech, Trubisky has been excellent this season.
8. Jalen Hurts, Alabama Crimson Tide
Hurts has stood out the most for his running ability so far, generating 430 yards and seven touchdowns on 65 carries and breaking nine tackles during his true freshman campaign. He can also produce with his arm, and his 120.1 passer rating from a clean pocket ranks 10th in the nation. One potential Achilles heel to watch for in this weekend’s mega-showdown with Alabama, however: his passer rating against pressure is 13.3 – the lowest mark in the nation.
9. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State Cowboys
This is Rudolph’s first appearance on this list in 2016, after ranking as the top-graded returning QB in passing grade entering the season. He had a couple of rough outings earlier in the year, but was simply outstanding in Oklahoma State’s upset win over West Virginia this weekend. He completed 26 of 32 aimed passes for 291 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions, and on the 13 (of a total 39) dropbacks when he was under pressure, Rudolph produced an excellent 136.2 passer rating.
10. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss Rebels
Kelly is coming off a very good performance in the Rebels’ loss to Auburn, and even though Ole Miss has had some struggles this season, and Kelly has had some ups and downs (he recorded poor grades in matchups with Florida State and Arkansas this season), he has still been one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in 2016. He has been at his best driving the ball to the intermediate level of the field, completing 53 of 83 passes between 10 and 19 yards downfield, for 913 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.