The quarterback play we saw in 2023 was special. Jayden Daniels, with 10.7 yards per play, was historically awesome. His 95.7 Total QBR was the second-best season by a quarterback in ESPN’s database, which dates back to 2004. Michael Penix Jr. and Bo Nix put on a show out west. Shedeur Sanders flexed on the national stage. Carson Beck handled ridiculous expectations with ease. Noah Fifita emerged, Brady Cook dazzled, and Caleb Williams added to his outrageous highlight reel almost by the series.

I’m anxious to see what kind of play we get in 2024. The upcoming class of quarterbacks that will be eligible for the NFL Draft is widely regarded as a weak one. And after the back-and-forth we got between Daniels, Nix, and Penix down the stretch last season, the bar is ridiculously high.

Superstars moved on. Which players fill the void?

In lieu of a “best quarterbacks” list you can find in 20 other places, the following will be a collection (in no particular order) of my favorite quarterbacks for the upcoming season. There’s a sliding scale here. It can be a result of talent coalescing with fit, it can be about sheer entertainment value, it can be about the journey said player took to get where they are, or it can just be about talent.

Preston Stone, SMU

If you’ve got a ticket on SMU to make the ACC title game (+550 at DraftKings) or even win the ACC title (+1600 at DraftKings) in 2024, I have 2 things to say. First, good one you. After an 11-3 season, don’t overlook a Mustangs team that is 11th nationally in returning production (per Bill Connelly). Second, you’re probably just as big of a fan of Stone as I am. He’s a driving force behind a darkhorse ACC threat. The Ponies were eighth in the country last year in scoring (38.7 points) and 11th in offensive explosiveness thanks in no small part to Stone. A 6-foot-1 passer from Dallas, Stone was a first-time starter in 2023 when he threw for 3,197 yards and 28 touchdowns. He was eighth nationally in 20-yard pass plays and only the 3 Heisman finalists had more 30-yard completions. Stone missed the final 2 games of SMU’s season with a broken fibula, but he was medically cleared in April, handled with caution during spring ball, and should be good to go once the new season begins.

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Shedeur Sanders, Colorado

Sanders is probably the best example in sports today of a “love him or hate him” player. There is no middle ground with the Rolex-flexing Colorado quarterback. People either view him as one of the best in the country at his position, or they can’t stand him and that paints their view of everything he does. I love Sanders. I love his game, I love his confidence, and I appreciate the way he conducted himself as his first season at the FBS level completely fell apart. Sanders set single-season CU records for completion percentage (69.3%) and passing (3,230 yards) before missing the final game of the year with a fracture in his back. He was sacked 52 times, pressured more, and yet never bemoaned a hapless offensive line. Sanders had the sixth-best passing grade in the country on throws of 20 yards or more (95.5), throwing 11 touchdowns to 1 interception. When kept clean, Sanders completed 76.5% of his throws for 2,423 yards and 18 touchdowns without an interception. His passing grade when kept clean was the third-best mark in the country, behind Jayden Daniels and Caleb Williams (per PFF). The extra noise doesn’t bother me; the greatest quarterbacks have to believe they’re the greatest quarterbacks. And Sanders puts on a heck of a show when Colorado lets him.

Related: As much as I like Sanders as a quarterback, I think under 5.5 is the way to approach Colorado this season. I wrote as much back in April, and a bet on the under now carries +125 odds at Caesars

Dillon Gabriel, Oregon

Gabriel is a sub-6-foot quarterback who has been doing it at the highest of levels since he entered the college game. He threw for 7,223 yards and 61 touchdowns in his first 2 seasons at Central Florida before a broken clavicle ended his third year prematurely. He transferred to Oklahoma and piloted a top-10 offense in 2023. Now, he’s at Oregon with the pieces around him to produce one of the better team offensive seasons of the modern era. Oregon averaged 7.8 yards per play and scored 44.2 points per game last year. They have an elite receiver room, an excellent running back rotation, and what has been one of the sport’s best offensive lines for several years running. Is Gabriel an upgrade on Bo Nix? That question will be asked but I’m not sure it’s important. Gabriel will give Oregon an excellent downfield passer, a veteran mind, and a proven playmaker. That’s more than enough to build on what Nix left for him. The fit between scheme and quarterback is perfect.

Byrum Brown, South Florida

Brown was a 3-star recruit from Rolesville (N.C.) High who sat outside the national top 1,000 recruits in 247Sports’ overall player rankings. He had 3 Division I offers. He was a record-breaking passer who led his team to a state championship appearance as a senior. According to The Daily Orangeschools didn’t believe Brown could make the necessary downfield throws to be successful at the D1 level. Fast-forward 2 seasons and Brown already owns 12 program records at South Florida. He’s been a starter for 15 games and is already sixth on USF’s all-time passing leaderboard. Brown and Jayden Daniels were the only 2 players in the country last season with at least 3,000 passing and at least 800 rushing yards. The deep ball is still a work in progress, but the 6-3 passer was instrumental in leading USF from a 1-win campaign in 2022 to a bowl appearance in 2023. He set a Raymond James Stadium record for passing yards with 435 in a game against Rice, and he went 31-for-38 with 357 yards passing, 100 yards rushing, and 5 touchdowns in a 59-50 loss to Memphis. In addition to a 1,000-yard receiver returning, Brown gets back his lead tailback and 4 of 5 starters on the offensive line. If there’s even a modest amount of growth throwing downfield, Brown becomes special. And even if there isn’t, this is the case of a quarterback being told he can’t and responding, “Watch me.” You love to see it.

Related: Brown could be a daily fantasy star this upcoming season, and you might be able to get some reduced numbers after the Bulls wrap up the nonconference on Sept. 21. If you’re not playing DFS, get signed up with Sleeper and get a deposit match up to $500.

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Joey Aguilar, Appalachian State

Aguilar is a 6-foot-3 senior who won the Sun Belt’s Newcomer of the Year award in 2023. He threw for 3,757 yards and 33 touchdowns while averaging more than 8 yards a pass. After spending 2 seasons at the junior college level and opening the year as the backup, Aguilar was forced into action because of an injury in the season opener and never looked back, starting the final 12 games while breaking single-season program records for touchdown passes, passing yardage, and total offense. He topped 250 yards through the air in 9 of his appearances and enters the 2024 campaign with his top 4 receivers and his top 2 tight ends all back. Tailback Nate Noel transferred to Missouri, so App State has even more of a reason to lean on the pass game, which could yield fireworks. Per PFF, Aguilar was one of only 7 quarterbacks last year with 20 big-time throws and 20 turnover-worthy plays. His 27 turnover-worthy plays were actually second among all QBs, though he only threw 10 picks, so he was playing with fire a little too often and hunting plays beyond the sticks. He can throw off-platform, will hang in to deliver a ball even with a defender running at him, will give you something in the ground game, and trusts his arm. I like a little gunslinger.

Cameron Ward, Miami

Former Oregon defensive lineman Brandon Dorlus said Ward was the most annoying quarterback he had to face. Dorlus likened the Washington State-turned-Miami quarterback’s style to backyard football. In a game against Oregon at home in Ward’s first season at the FBS level, he completed 37 of his 48 passes for 375 yards, constantly evading defenders and nearly pulling off an upset. After the Cougs dropped from the Power conference ranks, Ward left the Palouse this offseason for Coral Gables. It seemed as if Ward wanted to make the jump to the NFL, but he opted to withdraw from the draft and join the Hurricanes. Coach Mario Cristobal has described an intentional quarterback who plays with an edge, which would fall right in line with what I expect to see. At Miami, he’ll have a strong offensive line and one of the sport’s top running backs to work with. After operating within an all-pass-no-brakes offense at Washington State last season — second in pass attempts per game, fourth in yards per game — getting Ward a little more help should show us a better version of the passer. He’s a playmaker, capable of firing off balls from different arm angles and platforms, effective as a scrambler, and really productive when kept clean. So long as Miami doesn’t cage Ward, the offense might be fun this season for The U!

Garrett Greene, West Virginia

As the Mountaineers closed out the 2023 season with 3 consecutive wins, Greene was special. Over his final 3 games, he completed 60% of his passes while averaging 342 yards of total offense a game with 9 touchdowns and only 1 interception. By and large, Greene was too inconsistent as a passer last year, with 6 games under 55% through the air, but what he provides as a runner makes him a difference-maker. Greene ended the season 12th nationally in yards per play (8.0) and that was as a first-time starter. He generated some buzz at the Manning Passing Academy this summer and his coach told ESPN he expects a big year from the redshirt senior. Greene told ESPN’s Harry Lyles Jr. he tries to emulate Baker Mayfield and Johnny Manziel — 2 Heisman winners and some of the best showmen the college game has ever seen. “Something’s going to happen, whether it’s good or bad, something is going to happen,” Greene told ESPN. “I think I play with my hair on fire.”

Conner Weigman, Texas A&M

Weigman started the season on an absolute heater before a foot injury on Sept. 23 knocked him out for the rest of the year. Weigman only played in 3 full games, so the sample size is tiny, but he was on pace to throw for 3,636 yards and 32 touchdowns with a 70.5% completion rate and a 1.9% interception rate over a 12-game season. Any version of that for coach Mike Elko in his first year will have A&M in a good place. Weigman has some interesting pieces around him, so you just have to hope he looks like the same kind of player post-injury as he did pre-injury. He was fearless in the face of pressure and pushed downfield well. Weigman joined the program in 2022 and didn’t step on the field until the Aggies’ seventh game that year. Against Ole Miss on Oct. 29, 2022, he threw for 338 yards and 4 scores. We have yet to see him enjoy any degree of consistency since then. He’s a talent, and I’m hoping for a healthy year in 2024.