Cimino: Ranking College Football’s Best 15 Quarterbacks

A lot goes into the ranking of quarterbacks in college football. These rankings are based off of talent, experience, winning, and some gut feelings. Here we go.

T-15. Charlie Brewer (Baylor)

T-15. Spencer Sanders (Oklahoma State)

14. Mac Jones (Alabama)

13. Bo Nix (Auburn)

12. Kyle Trask (Florida)

11. Kellen Mond (Texas A&M)

10. Sam Elingher (Texas)

9. Kedon Slovis (Southern California)

8. Brock Purdy (Iowa State)

7. KJ Costello (Mississippi State)

6. Sam Howell (North Carolina)

5. Tanner Morgan (Minnesota)

If I saw this name in a top 5 at the beginning of last season, I would’ve thought it was a joke. PJ Fleck gets a lot of credit for the Gophers recent success, but Morgan has been a key component. He put up big numbers in a conference that is built on defense. Morgan is just a junior, and he will be back in full force this season.

4. Ian Book (Notre Dame)

Ian Book catches a lot of heat, but really only because he plays for Notre Dame. The Irish are a very hated team, and that comes with major scrutiny for the quarterback. Book led the Irish to the playoff in his sophomore season and he threw for over 3000 yards, 34 TDs, and 6 picks last year. Book is a very good quarterback, and it is about time he gets some respect.

3. Jayden Daniels (Arizona State)

I might be a year early on Daniels in some people’s minds, but this kid is a stud. I don’t like to make long term predictions, but I’ll take Daniels as the next Russell Wilson at the next level. This kid has a big arm, he is quick, and he is CLUTCH. Daniels is only a sophomore, and at some point in the next couple years, he could have a Heisman in his trophy case.

2. Justin Fields (Ohio State)

I was a little hesitant before the beginning of last year when it came to Fields. I wanted to see more of his arm in action before buying in. After a year at Ohio State, Fields proved everyone wrong. He has tremendous arm talent and showed he knows how to win big games. The only reason he is behind Lawrence? Lawrence outplayed him when they faced off, but the gap is slim.

1. Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)

This seems like a no-brainer to me. Lawrence is a proven winner, has tremendous arm talent, and knows how to run his system. Lawrence continues to prove why he is one of the best QB prospects ever. He will be nothing short of spectacular this season.

Thomas: Top 10 College Football Quarterbacks for 2020

A few days ago, I analyzed ESPN’s top 10 quarterbacks, offering a few of my own criticisms, and hinted at my own rankings, which I will now share. Without ado, here are my Top 10 (and a few extra) college football quarterbacks for the 2020 season. 

Just Missed the Cut

13. Ian Book, Notre Dame 

12. Levi Lewis, Louisiana 

11. Jayden Daniels, Arizona State

The Top 10

10. Kyle Trask, Florida

Trask made headlines last season when he took over as the Florida starter, becoming his team’s starting signal-caller for the first time since early in his high school career. Kyle Trask boasted a few notable accomplishments, including being the only quarterback in the country to lead Joe Burrow in the second half. The Gators lost just twice, with the other defeat coming at the hands of Georgia, and Trask put up solid numbers, throwing for 25 touchdowns. He will be Florida’s rock in 2020, as the Gators hope to break through in the SEC, and maybe even take their shot at the College Football Playoff picture. 

9. Dillon Gabriel, UCF

We’re staying in the state of Florida for #9 as well. Gabriel was one of the most underrated QBs in the country, as there was quite literally nothing he would have been able to do that could have lived up to McKenzie Milton, the best signal-caller in UCF program history. Gabriel took over the starting job in the middle of Week 1, and he tossed for 3,653 yards, 29 touchdowns and just seven picks. He led the Knights to another double-digit win season, and Gabriel will be back in 2020.

8. Sam Howell, North Carolina

Cal Christoforo, when ranking the ACC quarterbacks for the upcoming season, put it pretty simply and accurately: Howell put up one of the best true freshman seasons in college football history. With 38 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and 3,641 passing yards, Howell has been pronounced the savior of the Tar Heels. UNC has been killing it on the recruiting front, and with two more years of Howell, they could be a prominent team, not just in the ACC, but on the national scale pretty soon. 

7. Dustin Crum, Kent State

ESPN had Crum ranked 8th, and I loved it. Kent State is a small program, and it could be easy for the Golden Flashes’ signal-caller to go unnoticed, but Crum is a great talent, and he could find himself playing on Sundays. (Remember a certain Kent State quarterback that became an elite slot receiver). 

6. Brady White, Memphis

I was stunned that White didn’t make it on ESPN’s list, as the Memphis quarterback led one of the most explosive offenses in the country. After squeaking out an ugly 15-10 victory over Ole Miss in the season opener, Memphis scored at least 28 points in every game. Most impressively, White and the Tigers rolled all over Penn State’s illustrious defense for 39 points in the Cotton Bowl. Despite the team loss, it was a very impressive performance from a quarterback who impressed all year long, tossing for over 4,000 yards and 33 touchdowns. Look out for Brady White and Memphis in 2020. 

5. Layne Hatcher, Arkansas State

The former Alabama quarterback transferred to Arkansas State after redshirting his freshman year, and in his first season as a starter, Hatcher was very efficient and led the Red Wolves to 28 points or more in all but two contests, with one of those being a road game at Georgia. Hatcher’s numbers may not be jawdropping, but he finished sixth last season in pass efficiency, and he was a very capable leader of the Arkansas State offense. I’m really high on this young QB, so keep an eye on him in the next season or two. 

4. Kedon Slovis, USC

I mean, you know it’s legit because this is coming from a Notre Dame fan. Slovis is the real deal, and as a freshman Slovis threw for a little more than 3500 yards, thirty touchdowns, and nine interceptions, leading USC to a three-win improvement in 2019. One of Slovis’s most impressive performances came in a road night game at Notre Dame. In a hostile environment, Slovis put up 27 points on a very strong Irish defense, nearly leading the Trojans to victory. He also put up 30 points on a top-10 Utah team that challenged for a Playoff berth until the Pac-12 championship game. Slovis is legit, and you heard it here…from an Irish fan…don’t make me say it again. 

3. Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

Not second?? I’ll be brief in my explanation as I’m sure you want to see who is second, and you may have already scrolled to that point. Anyways, Lawrence is obviously one of the top quarterbacks in the nation, but I’m ranking him third. He showed a little sloppiness last year early in ACC play, but he’s still dynamic. One of the best, but I wouldn’t say he’s 1 or 2. 

2.Tanner Morgan, Minnesota

Over Trevor Lawrence? Yes sir. Tanner Morgan simply did more with far less than Lawrence. All respect to Minnesota, but they are not Clemson, and they don’t have Clemson’s skill. Morgan led the Gophers, who most thought to be a middling Big 10 team, to the bring of the Big 10 championship and into the top 10. Morgan averaged more yards per game, had better pass efficiency, and competed in a much tougher conference. Clemson is an elite team who also has Trevor Lawrence. Minnesota is a great team because of Tanner Morgan.

1. Justin Fields, Ohio State
If you want proof of how good Fields is, look to the year before, when the Buckeyes were led by first round draft pick Dwayne Haskins under center. Under Haskins, the Buckeyes put together a solid campaign, winning the Rose Bowl, but they had several close calls, and they lost by 29 points to Purdue. Under Fields, the Buckeyes won six games by 40+ points, and only one opponent came within 20 points in the regular season. Fields is a dynamic dual-threat QB, and he simply elevates his team to an entirely new level.

Kirby Smart made J.K. Dobbins a draft-day steal

In the 2020 NFL Draft, with the 55th pick, deep into the second round, the Baltimore Ravens added to their lethal offense by grabbing a running back in J.K. Dobbins. While the title of ‘steal of the draft’ can go to a bevy of different players, Dobbins can most certainly stake his claim. Four years ago, in the 2016 NFL Draft, fellow Ohio State running back alumnus Ezekiel Elliot tore up the Big 10 and college football, and he was rewarded by being taken with the fourth overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys, where he has developed into one of the best backs in the NFL. So it makes sense that when a player at the same position, with better stats, from the same program, emerges four years later, he would also be a prized first round pick. Yet Dobbins slipped a stunning 51 slots past where the Baltimore Ravens happily snared the Ohio State product. 

So what caused Dobbins to slip so far, where he became one of the best second-round value picks, and one of the best selections of the draft overall? There’s a few reasons, but we can start by thanking Kirby Smart of Georgia. This may be a strange place to start, but there’s a good reason for it. Kirby Smart landed a talented quarterback recruit in Jacob Eason, who was impressive in his freshman year, although the Bulldogs struggled through a disappointing 8-5 season. When Eason went down with an injury in the opening game of his sophomore season, true freshman Jake Fromm took the reins. He beat Notre Dame on the road – the last team to beat the Irish in South Bend to this date – in his first career start, and he led Georgia to the national championship game, where they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Alabama. Fromm’s success led to Kirby Smart naming him the starter, and Eason transferring to Washington.

As Fromm began his sophomore campaign, he was pressured for the starting job by star freshman recruit Justin Fields. Despite the jaw-dropping talent and athleticism Fields brought to the table, Smart kept Jake Fromm as his quarterback, despite Fromm having eclipsed 200 passing yards just five times in fifteen game his freshman year. While Fromm had a good career with Georgia, he was rarely more than a game manager, as the Bulldogs’ ground-and-pound style took most of the pressure off his shoulders. He led Georgia to an 11-3 record, again only breaking the 200-yard mark five times, never making an impact in the ground game, and losing their biggest games of the year against LSU, Alabama, and Texas. In the process, Fromm fell to 0-4 in his collegiate career in games where he attempted more than 30 passes. He finished his career at Georgia 0-6 in such contests. Despite exhibiting the signs of a decent quarterback who could never carry a team, Smart continually stuck with Fromm, forcing Fields out of Athens. Fields transferred to Ohio State, where he instantly became a star. 

Despite the extremely talented Dobbins being a major part of the offense, it was Fields who ran the show in Columbus. Whereas Fromm rarely did much to carry Georgia, Fields eclipsed that 200-yard mark 10 times, and he also contributed to the rushing attack. In six games against ranked opponents, Fields garnered 300 all-purpose yards three times, and put up at least 260 yards five times. While Fields garnered all the headlines, Dobbins chugged away out of the backfield, putting up ridiculous numbers and going relatively unnoticed. With their rookie darling quarterback making all the headlines, Dobbins quietly torched opposing defenses. He kicked off the season with a pedestrian 91-yard performance, but he quickly turned it up a notch, with at least 120 rushing yards in six of his next seven contests. In all seven of those games, he averaged at least 6.5 yards per carry. 

Ohio State’s last four games came against highly ranked opponents in Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Clemson. In those four contests, Dobbins pounded out 157, 211, 172, and then 174 yards against some of the best run defenses in the country. With the lights at their brightest and the competition at its best, Dobbins elevated his game to a whole different level. While he was regarded as one of the better running backs in this year’s draft class, Dobbins never gained the pre-draft hype that Elliot did back in 2016. But his stats, across the board, were superior to the current Dallas star. Dobbins had nearly 200 more rushing yards, averaged more yards per game, and yards per carry. They were equal with 23 touchdowns, and that was with Dobbins being far from the focal piece of the offense. Elliot had quarterback Cardale Jones, an eventual fourth round pick who has yet to gain a permanent foothold in the NFL, leading the way, while Dobbins had a potential #1 overall pick in next year’s draft taking away from his stats. Meanwhile, fellow running backs Jonathan Taylor, who was the workhorse at Wisconsin, De’Andre Swift, the feature back in Athens who kept the pressure off of Jake Fromm, Cam Akers, who dealt with a horrific offensive line at Florida State, and Clyde Edwards-Hillaire out of LSU all were drafted ahead of Dobbins, who nearly slipped all the way into the third round. 

It was an absolute steal for the Ravens to pick up Dobbins, and Baltimore wasn’t even supposed to be searching for a running back. With dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram leading the ground game, the Ravens had little reason to add Dobbins to the offense, other than the fact that it was utterly ridiculous he was on the board still late. There’s such a thing as addressing needs to a fault, or overthinking a draft pick. A lot of teams showed that by passing up on a clear first-round talent in Dobbins. While I can see one, maybe two of the aforementioned backs going ahead of Dobbins, that four teams decided they needed a running back and didn’t go with an absolute stud out of one of the premier programs in the country is insane, and there’s going to be a lot of regretful teams when Dobbins becomes a star in Baltimore.
So the Ravens will thank all the teams that passed on Dobbins, and by extension, they’ll thank Kirby Smart, the man who forced Justin Fields out of town and into Columbus, where he overshadowed the biggest steal of the 2020 NFL Draft.