Lamar Jackson No. 1, followed by Mayfield and Ward Jr. in PFF QB ranking
Our No. 1 and No. 3 quarterbacks on this list go head-to-head this week, with Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Houston’s Greg Ward Jr. facing off on Thursday night. That game also has major College Football Playoff implications, as the Cardinals remain in the mix to make the final four.
Here is our updated ranking of the best QBs in college football:
1. Lamar Jackson, Louisville Cardinals
The Cardinals let Wake Forest hang around a lot longer than expected this week before running away with a 44-12 victory. Jackson was just OK as a passer, completing 14 of 22 aimed passes for 150 yards and a touchdown and connecting on only two of his six attempts 10-plus yards downfield. But he was once again excellent as a runner, recording 183 yards on 17 carries, including 68 yards after contact and three forced missed tackles (bringing his season total to an absurd 44). Only 35 of his 161 rush attempts and 393 of his 1,479 yards (and none of his 19 touchdowns) have come on scrambles this season – meaning that Jackson’s designed runs are fueling the Cards’ offensive success this year.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma Sooners
It’s getting harder and harder not to move Mayfield into the top spot on this list. He earned another good grade in the Sooners’ win over Baylor this weekend, and currently sits in the No. 1 spot in PFF quarterback grades at 94.6. He ranks in the top five nationally in passer rating when under pressure, when given a clean pocket, and on deep passes (he has been on target with 57.4 percent of attempts of 20-plus yards, the best rate in the country). Jackson’s brilliance as a runner and the relative weakness of a lot of Big 12 defenses are all that’s keeping us from moving Mayfield to No. 1, but he’ll have a chance to make a strong case this weekend against a very good West Virginia team.
3. Greg Ward Jr., Houston Cougars
Ward finished 2015 with the No. 1 rushing grade among all quarterbacks, but while he has again been effective as a runner this season – he has forced 32 missed tackles on his way to 567 yards and eight touchdowns – it’s his play as a passer that has him this high up on this list. He ranks second in PFF grades at 92.5, and his adjusted completion rate of 75.6 percent ranks 11th in the country. His matchup against Louisville and Jackson on Thursday should be excellent.
4. Deshaun Watson, Clemson Tigers
The Tigers suffered their first loss of the season in Week 11, as Pittsburgh drilled a game-winning field goal to win 43-42. Watson played very well overall in the game, but a couple of critical interceptions kept the Panthers in the game. This season hasn’t gone exactly to plan for Watson, who entered the season No. 1 on PFF’s 2017 NFL draft board, but he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the country who generally seems to be getting better as the season has gone on. His adjusted completion rate against Power-5 opponents ranks tied for fifth at 76.9 percent.
5. Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech Red Raiders
The Red Raiders came up just short in their 45-44 loss to Oklahoma State, but Mahomes continued his prolific season by throwing for 344 yards and three touchdowns after completing 34 of his 51 attempts. He ranks behind only Mayfield and Jackson with a PFF grade of 90.8, and has combined excellent efficiency as a thrower with his dynamic elusiveness both inside and outside the pocket.
6. Jake Browning, Washington Huskies
Browning moves down on this list after a very rough outing in Washington’s first loss of the season, a 26-13 home defeat at the hands of USC. His offensive line did him no favors, as Browning was under pressure on 23 of his 43 dropbacks, but Browning failed to rise to the occasion, earning a passer rating of just 28.9 when under pressure (6-of-16, 83 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT, 5 sacks). He is still one of the best QBs in the country, however, and will have a shot at redemption in upcoming games against Washington State and possibly the Pac-12 title game.
7. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State Cowboys
One of the highest-graded quarterbacks in college football a year ago, Rudolph has been on the rise as of late, and his 86.1 PFF grade ranks fifth among Power-5 quarterbacks. He threw for 395 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ win over Texas Tech, and appears poised to finish out strong as one of the best QBs in the country.
8. Luke Falk, Washington State Cougars
The Cougars crushed Cal with a 56-21 blowout on Saturday, and Falk was his typically efficient self, earning a 111.9 QB rating overall and destroying the Bears at the intermediate level, completing 9 of 12 passes between 10 and 19 yards downfield. Falk currently owns the No. 1 adjusted completion rate in the country at 80.5 percent, and he leads all Power-5 QBs in his passer rating on deep throws at 126.4. Washington had better get ready to deal with Falk and the WSU passing game in the Apple Cup later this month. Falk actually has a higher PFF grade currently than Browning, at 81.3 to 81.2.
9. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State Buckeyes
Barrett played very well in the Buckeyes’ 62-3 destruction of Maryland in Week 11, completing 3 of his 5 deep-ball attempts for 91 yards and a touchdown, while rushing for 53 yards and a pair of scores as well. As mentioned last week in including Barrett on this list for the first time, his box-score stats get propped up some by Ohio State’s offensive system and playmakers, but he deserves a lot of credit for how efficiently he operates the Buckeyes’ offense. His adjusted completion rate of TK versus Power-5 opponents is second in the nation to only Falk.
10. Sam Darnold, USC Trojans
We are giving Darnold the nod here this week over UNC’s Mitch Trubisky and Alabama’s Jalen Hurts on the strength of Darnold’s excellent performance in USC’s upset win over Washington. The Trojans have been a different team since Darnold took over as their starting QB in Week 4, going 6-1 during that span, while Darnold has ranked fifth in adjusted completion rate among Power-5 QBs during that span at 78.0 percent. He has benefited from excellent pass protection, and ranks fifth in passer rating from Week 4 on from a clean pocket.