- Is your team’s NFL season circling the drain? Spend your remaining fall weekends scrutinizing these draft-eligible QBs as their seasons heat up.
College football fans have had plenty of opportunities to watch the crop of quarterbacks that are expected to dominate this spring’s mock drafts and walk across the stage early in the proceedings of the 2019 NFL draft in Nashville.
While we are months away from even the combine, NFL fans whose teams are already out of the playoffs and are dreaming of next year may be ready to shift their attention to examining which of these prospects could become their next franchise centerpiece.
For those jumping into the college season just as it reaches its most dramatic stretch, here’s what you need to know about the most interesting signal callers who could find themselves near the top of this spring’s class.
Justin Herbert, Oregon
Measurables: 6'6", 230 pounds
2018 stats: 173 of 292 (59.2%), 2,333 yards, 22 TDs, six INTs
Why he’s on the NFL’s radar: Scouts have raved about Herbert’s arm and his prototypical NFL size. Whether he is sitting in the pocket or on the move, he can shred defenses with precision when he’s on. But the Eugene native will have a decision to make about returning for a senior season in which the Ducks could contend for the College Football Playoff.
Perfect for teams who... are in desperate need of a franchise quarterback and aren’t afraid to do some molding. Oregon plays in a spread offense that in the past might have extended Herbert’s development timeline but today might put him on a track similar to other breakout young QBs.
Highlight you need to see: At the 1:06 mark, watch Herbert fire a rope over the middle to pick up a third-and-14.
When to watch him: Nov. 10 vs. Utah (5:30 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network)
The Utes have one of the best defenses in the Pac-12 and can be expected to put pressure on the quarterback and force third-and-long situations. Herbert has only been sacked 12 times in 2018, a testament to his awareness and his mobility.
Drew Lock, Missouri
Measurables: 6'4", 225 pounds
2018 stats: 193 of 311 (62.3%), 2,394 yards, 19 TDs, six INTs
Why he’s on the NFL’s radar: After setting the SEC single-season touchdown mark with 44 in 2017, Lock has learned a more complex offensive system in his final college season and improved his completion percentage to 62.1%, a key area of growth scouts had earmarked.
Perfect for teams who... are ready to fall in love with some serious arm talent. The word gunslinger is being tossed around about Lock. He can be that, but there are signs he’s moved away from committing the mistakes that could get your team beat.
Highlight you need to see: At the 1:55 mark, given the luxury of a spotless pocket and unlimited time, Lock could have taken off for a run at any moment. Instead he picked out a receiver breaking open in the back of the end zone and put the ball where only he could catch it.
Circle this date: Nov. 17 at Tennessee (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
Missouri’s remaining schedule isn’t filled with elite teams, but any road contest in the SEC can be a trap. The Tigers will need one victory to become bowl eligible, so there’s a good chance Lock gets one final national TV showcase.
Will Grier, West Virginia
Measurables: 6'2", 221 pounds
2018 stats: 182 of 261 (69.7%), 2,618 yards, 28 TDs, 7 INTs
Why he’s on the NFL’s radar: Though there are questions about his arm strength depending on who you ask, Grier has performed at a high level each of his three seasons in college. A fairly accurate passer who flashes some moxie when he gets outside of the pocket, Grier lit the Texas defense up for 346 yards and three touchdowns in a comeback victory last Saturday. Grier was suspended for a positive PED test at Florida that opened the door for his transfer to West Virginia, so he might need to answer questions about his character, but as a fully settled-down father and a beloved figure in Morgantown, he has put considerable distance between himself and his Gainesville exit.
Perfect for teams who... can afford for a high- to mid-round pick to sit until he learns the intricacies of an NFL offense—only a few pro teams run high-flying attacks as wide open as West Virginia does. Grier has been known to throw for five touchdowns, but also can have four interception games as well.
Highlight you need to see: The game-winning touchdown against Texas (at the 3:50 mark below) speaks volumes about Grier’s feel for big moments.
Grier’s feet aren’t even set as he flings an accurate bomb to the receiver in the back of the end zone to get the Mountaineers in position to win the game—on a quarterback keeper Grier takes in himself.
Circle this date: Nov. 23 vs. Oklahoma (8 p.m., ESPN)
This represents the biggest stage Grier has gotten all year, and West Virginia’s best chance to beat the team that has owned the Big 12 for the past three years. While he isn’t facing an elite defense, he will be going toe-to-toe with fellow Heisman candidate Kyler Murray.
Start a free seven-day trial of SI TV today to watch a new feature on Grier’s family and football journey, along with other in-depth interviews and features on the biggest names in sports.
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Measurables: 6'3", 220 pounds
2018 stats: 242 of 347 (69.7%), 3,053 yards, 32 TDs, six INTs
Why he’s on the NFL’s radar: A departure from previous quarterbacks coached by Urban Meyer, Haskins is a classic dropback passer, with a strong arm and the ability to throw receivers open. In his first year as a starter, Haskins is tied for the FBS lead in touchdown passes through Week 10 and has six games with 300 or more yards passing. He also set school single game records for passing yards and attempts in a blowout loss to Purdue.
Perfect for teams who... need a pilot for vertical passing attack. Haskins’ athleticism could be questioned as he isn’t the fastest runner and sometimes will sit in the pocket, often at his detriment, until a receiver breaks open. But he has the arm to make that patience pay off, and his line has projected him well, as he has been sacked only 10 times.
Highlight you need to see: Head to the 4:00 mark of this montage to watch Haskins produce a big play in a big spot against Penn State:
One of the few times Haskins didn’t have a clean pocket, he stepped up and found receiver Binjimen Victor, who leaped to snag the pass and wound through the defense and into the end zone 47 yards later.
Circle this date: Nov. 24 vs. Michigan (Noon, FOX)
Haskins will face the nation’s best defense in Michigan, which is allowing quarterbacks to complete only 48% of their passes. The Game has Big Ten and playoff implications, and the Buckeyes have beaten Michigan in each of the last six seasons.
Ryan Finley, NC State
Measurables: 6'4", 215 pounds
2018 stats: 198 of 292 (67.8%), 2,490 yards, 16 TDs, six INTs
Why he’s on the NFL’s radar: Before the season began, Finley was rated the No. 1 QB in this year’s crop of quarterbacks by ESPN draft expert Todd McShay. His ability to make throws under pressure and his awareness in the pocket are traits that stands out.
Perfect for teams who... want a mature, smart, savvy signal-caller. Finley, who will turn 24 next month, has spent six seasons in college and is on his way to earning two master’s degrees. He seems to have moved past a serious ankle injury a few seasons ago and an alcohol-related arrest while he was at Boise State.
Highlight you need to see: At the 35-second mark below, Finley shows accuracy on the move, placing a ball between two defenders to pick up a fourth down.
Circle this date: Bowl game TBD
NC State’s next four opponents have a combined record of 9–25, so Finley shouldn’t have a problem putting up big numbers. You may have to wait until December to see him play another high-quality secondary.
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
Measurables: 6'4", 228 pounds
2018 stats: 209 of 347 (60.2%), 2,213 yards, 11 TDs, 10 INTs
Why he’s on the NFL’s radar: His numbers this season have been pretty pedestrian and it’s a concern that his passer rating gets worse as the game goes along, but Thorson shows good upside at the next level because of his serviceable arm, quick release and tons of experience—he’s the first Northwestern quarterback to start four season openers.
Perfect for teams who... are looking for a backup that could make a difference in relief. A West Coast offense that features a short passing attack would suit his skill set (he and Wildcats chains-mover Flynn Nagel have had quite a connection this year) until he shows the ability to consistently throw the ball downfield.
Highlight you need to see: The 1:49 mark of this video shows Thorson throwing into a tight window up the sideline and flashing his open-field athleticism in back-to-back highlights.
Circle this date: Nov. 10 at Iowa (3:30 p.m. ET, FOX)
The Wildcats control their destiny in the Big Ten West, and even though that won’t change if they lose to Iowa this weekend, they will be tested by a Hawkeyes team with a good defense that badly needs a win.
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Measurables: 6'2", 210 pounds
2018 stats: 160 of 264 (60.6%), 1,953 yards, 10 TDs, four INTs
Why he’s on the NFL’s radar: SI’s first mock draft of 2018 had Stidham going in the top 10. In the latest one, Stidham is nowhere to be found in Round 1, but with two games ahead against Georgia and Alabama’s stout defenses, he can still make up ground on the national stage.
Perfect for teams who... want versatile competitor who can be efficient in the right system. Stidham has piloted productive offenses at Baylor and at Auburn and has only thrown 12 interceptions in 743 career passing attempts, so he will take care of the ball and won’t lose the game.
Highlight you need to see: Check out the ball placement at the 10-second mark of this video on Stidham’s first touchdown pass of the year...
... and at the 3:27 mark of this video, Stidham’s most recent touchdown pass:
Circle this date: Nov. 24 at Alabama (3:30 p.m. ET, CBS)
The Crimson Tide’s defense is the ultimate litmus test for any quarterback, let alone Stidham, the leader of a rival Alabama will be looking for revenge against in its march to another playoff berth.
Tyree Jackson, Buffalo
Measurables: 6'7", 245 pounds
2018 stats: 159 of 280 (56.8%), 2,227 yards, 23 TDs, 8 INTs
Why he’s on the NFL’s radar: Just look at those measurables. The comparisons to Cam Newton on the basis of Jackson’s size alone will be obvious. He isn’t overly accurate with his big arm, but Jackson has led the Bulls to the top of the MAC at the helm of a high-powered offense. He can run the ball, too, although that part of his game has been dialed back the past two seasons. Jackson is one of the Group of Five’s most interesting prospects right now.
Perfect for teams who... are patient and willing to work with Jackson on his accuracy.
Highlight you need to see: His actual rushing yards may have dropped, but Jackson is dangerous with his legs behind the line of scrimmage.
Circle this date: Nov. 14 at Ohio (7 p.m. ET, ESPN2)
The stakes are simple for the Bulls: They will wrap up the MAC East with a victory over Ohio, who they have split the last eight games in the series.
Brett Rypien, Boise State
Measurables: 6'2", 200 pounds
2018 stats: 222 of 328 (67.7%), 2,779 yards, 24 TDs, six INTs
Why he’s on the NFL’s radar: The nephew of Super Bowl XXVI MVP Mark Rypien has an enticing pedigree and four years as a starter at Boise State for scouts to work with. He has 19 completions of 40 yards or more this season and has shown the ability to throw receivers open.
Perfect for teams who... value completion percentage—Rypien’s 67.7% clip on 328 throws so far this year compares favorably to many other high-volume QBs. His ability to process information and go through progressions helps him make the right decisions.
Highlight you need to see: Watch Rypien sit in the pocket and go through three receivers before hitting one on a beautifully run drag route.
Circle this date: Nov. 9 vs. Fresno State (10:15 p.m., ESPN2)
This weekend’s visitor presents the toughest test for Rypien to date. The Bulldogs sit first in the Mountain West in passing defense and second in total defense, have intercepted a league-high 15 passes and are the only team in the conference allowing an average passer rating less than 100.
Daniel Jones, Duke
Measurables: 6'5" 215 pounds
2018 stats: 135 of 218 (61.9%), 1,587 yards, 13 TDs, 5 INTs
Why he’s on the NFL’s radar: “He operates in the pocket and moves just like the Mannings,” an NFC executive told the MMQB earlier this year. “His feet are always moving.” The fact that Jones’s head coach is David Cutcliffe may have something to do with that comp.
Perfect for teams who... can take advantage of Jones’s ability to get rid of the ball quickly. A West Coast system may fit him well, although his career 60% completion rate could be a concern.
Highlight you need to see: Watch the opening drive of Duke’s road win over Northwestern for a glimpse of Jones at his most crisp.
Circle this date: Nov. 17 at Clemson
Every quarterback that has played Clemson this season has struggled, and this should be no exception. It will be interesting to see how Jones and his teammates respond if they get down a couple of scores.