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2024 NFL Draft: 12 Quarterback Prospects to Watch

2024 NFL Draft: 12 Quarterback Prospects to Watch

With the college football season approaching, it’s time to take a deeper look at some of the top NFL Draft-eligible players at each position. This will help us assemble an early list of prospects to watch this fall.

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2024 NFL Draft: Quarterback Prospects to Watch

Below are 12 Draft-eligible quarterbacks who I’ll be keeping an eye on this coming season.

Quinn Ewers (Texas)

A former top recruit, Quinn Ewers, transferred to Texas after one season with the Buckeyes. He immediately stepped into the starting role last year and put together a decent first-year line. Yet, he’ll need to take a big step forward next season to establish himself as one of the Draft’s best quarterbacks. Ewers clearly has the raw arm talent teams look for, but decision-making, ball placement and consistency were sometimes lacking in 2022. With Arch Manning now pushing him for reps, look for Ewers to lean on Xavier Worthy, one of the most flexible receivers in the class, as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of former Steve Sarkisian products who went in the first round, such as Jake Locker, Tua Tagovailoa and Mac Jones.

KJ Jefferson (Arkansas)

One of the biggest-bodied passers in this year’s class, should he declare, the Razorbacks quarterback weighs in at over 240 pounds and is a true dual-threat who can barrel ahead and punish defenders when working the read option. He can maneuver in the pocket and buy time to throw or take advantage of open space to convert with his legs. Over the past two seasons, he’s averaged over 150 attempts on the ground (roughly half as many per season as passing attempts) and has shown the ability to protect the football and make sound decisions under pressure. He hasn’t had to rely on his arm quite as much as some of the other prospects in the class, and it’d be nice to see how he could shoulder a heavier load from the pocket this season.

Drake Maye (North Carolina)

A consensus is forming around Drake Maye as one of the top two Draft-eligible passers after he won the Tar Heels’ starting quarterback role last season, replacing Sam Howell and racking up over 5,000 total yards and 45 touchdowns (including 698 rushing yards and seven scores) in an incredible redshirt freshman campaign. Maye has prototypical size and a big arm, showing the ability to throw with velocity and accuracy down the field. Most importantly, he has the confidence to attempt throws into tight windows. Fundamentally speaking, he’s more advanced than usual for his age but could stand to transfer weight more consistently and can occasionally trust his arm too much, leading to some risky attempts. With last year’s offensive coordinator, Phil Longo, now bringing his air raid to Wisconsin, Chip Lindsey will be calling plays for North Carolina this year. Lindsey favors a relatively more balanced offensive attack, so it’ll be interesting to see how Maye adapts.

J.J. McCarthy (Michigan)

J.J. McCarthy took over as Michigan’s starter last season after displacing Cade McNamara, finishing with a 12-1 record and showing the ability to set up and get the ball out quickly on underneath throws. McCarthy did a good job of limiting interceptions and showing above-average zip and ball placement to facilitate yards after the catch. He’s athletic enough to escape the pocket and throw while rolling to his right or occasionally to carry the ball on designed runs. He was excellent off of play-action, mostly when executing package plays, but struggled with decision-making at times when his protection broke down and he was put under pressure. It’d be nice to see him climb the pocket more consistently to buy time and to know when to throw the ball away.

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Joe Milton III (Tennessee)

Arguably the most talented quarterback in the class, Joe Milton III, transferred from Michigan after losing the starting job to Cade McNamara early in the 2020 season. However, he ended up losing Tennessee’s starting job to Hendon Hooker after sustaining an injury early in 2021. Last year, he took over after Hooker tore his ACL, throwing 10 touchdowns without an interception. Josh Heupel’s system has been criticized for its simplicity at times, but there’s no doubt the Volunteers’ offense will provide plenty of chances for Milton III to show off his incredible arm talent on deep throws this year. Milton III’s upside is greater than Hooker’s, but he’ll have to adjust to the losses of offensive cornerstones like Darnell Wright, Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt.

Bo Nix (Oregon)

Bo Nix, a former five-star recruit, spent three seasons at Auburn before transferring to Oregon, where he enjoyed by far his most productive campaign. He passes with rhythm and throws a catchable ball with solid decision-making skills and arm talent, also adding some value as a runner. The Ducks’ offense featured a lot of high-percentage throws off of predetermined reads, with Nix showing his ability to get the ball out quickly and manage the game. Yet, it’d be nice to see him attacking defenses more consistently downfield, as just under two-thirds of his throws were to targets within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage last season, and a nearly identical number came over the middle of the field.

Michael Penix Jr. (Washington)

Michael Penix Jr., 23, spent four seasons at Indiana, two of those ending with torn ACLs, before transferring to Washington this past season. He enjoyed an excellent breakout campaign for the Huskies to put himself in consideration for one of the top quarterback slots in this year’s class, especially if some of the more high-profile underclassmen don’t declare. He still needs to be more consistent with his mechanics to improve ball placement, but he shows the ability to work through progressions, protect the football and attack downfield with touch and accuracy. These should draw the attention of NFL teams.

Spencer Rattler (South Carolina)

A five-star recruit, Spencer Rattler’s career at Oklahoma began auspiciously, but he struggled in his second season as the starter, losing the job to Caleb Williams. He eventually decided to transfer to South Carolina. Rattler’s been a proven winner in college, with a 23-7 career record, but he has yet to recapture the magic of the 2020 campaign, which made him a Heisman frontrunner. He offers a quick release, the ability to drop his arm angle if needed and an impressive zip to fit throws into windows. However, his decision-making with the ball has been questionable at times, so he’ll have to show a better ability to read defenses and manage risk this season to continue the process of rebuilding his Draft stock. More consistent play is also a must, with six of his 18 touchdowns last year coming against Tennessee.

Shedeur Sanders (Colorado)

Deion Sanders’ son followed him from Jackson St. to Colorado this offseason after leading the Tigers to a 21-3 record over the past two seasons and racking up 10 passing touchdowns in the process. He’s a bit shorter than ideal but plays with decisiveness, attacking defenses with high-percentage throws. Most of his throws came within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage, but he was a very efficient player on intermediate and deep throws, showing the ability to generate velocity with his weight transfer. Although Shedeur Sanders is a good athlete, he has a pass-first mentality, with just 157 rushing yards over his first two seasons in college. It’ll be interesting to see how he adjusts to the higher level of competition he’ll be playing against as a member of the Buffaloes.

Jordan Travis (Florida State)

Jordan Travis has spent the past four years with the Seminoles after transferring from Louisville and will be a 24-year-old rookie. The dual-threat quarterback started six games in 2020, nine in 2021 and all 13 last year, taking a big step forward each season. He’s a bit smaller than usual at 6’1″ but has impressive burst and speed as a runner, also showing the ability to throw with velocity while on the move. His velocity and aggressiveness as a passer have allowed him to successfully attack defenses further downfield than many of his peers in the class, working out of an offense that relies heavily on run-pass options. He can, however, rely a bit too heavily on his arm strength without establishing a solid foundation and transferring weight, leading to accuracy issues.

Cameron Ward (Washington State)

There were some rumors that Cameron Ward might consider entering the 2023 NFL Draft after one season at Washington State (he transferred after having spent two seasons with Incarnate Word). However, he opted to return to school and try to hone his game further. That’s probably for the best, as he can rely too heavily on his natural talent sometimes and needs to clean up his mechanics and improve his consistency. That said, few quarterbacks in the class have such easy arm talent, with the Cougars quarterback being able to alter arm angles and sling passes with a zip that stands out among his peers. Ward is also a legitimate dual threat who can escape pressure and pick up chunks with his legs.

Caleb Williams (USC)

Widely considered the frontrunner to be the first-overall pick in next year’s Draft, few quarterbacks at any level have Caleb Williams’ ability to elude defenders, buy time for his receivers and make plays by improvising. He won the starting job at Oklahoma from Rattler as a true freshman and then followed Lincoln Riley to the Trojans. At USC last year, he threw for 4,537 yards and 42 touchdowns, never throwing more than one interception in a game and getting better as the season progressed. Last season, Williams did an excellent job of executing off of play action and dissecting defenses when they blitzed him. With a similar junior campaign, he should fend off challenges from the other quarterbacks mentioned above and become the new face of an NFL franchise.

Notice any prospects I missed? Feel free to let me know on Twitter @draftexaminer!

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