Where are the best quarterbacks? Listing the nation's top 10 for next season
Where are the best quarterbacks? Normally, playing on the best teams. There’s a close correlation in an era of zone-read running games and high-powered passing attacks.
And after a year dominated by running backs, quarterbacks may return to prominence in college football next season. Though star running backs Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette should be in the Heisman Trophy hunt, several quarterbacks should be top candidates.
Dual-threat junior Deshaun Watson of Clemson leads a strong corps of quarterbacks including prolific passers such as Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly, and a Big 12 trio of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Baylor’s Seth Russell and Texas Tech’s Patrick Mahomes II.
Here is a list of the top 10 quarterbacks coming back in 2016:
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson: As a passer, Watson has a strong, accurate arm, reads defenses well and makes good decisions. A dangerous runner, he’s a threat on planned runs, zone reads and scrambling. And he’s played well in big games, beating Notre Dame, Florida State and Oklahoma. Placing third in the Heisman Trophy voting as a sophomore, Watson led the Tigers to an ACC title and the College Football Playoff championship game, throwing for 4,104 yards and 35 touchdowns with a 67.8 completion percentage. He ran 1,105 yards and 12 TDs.
2. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State: The lone returner from Ohio State’s superstar trio, Barrett is a prototype Urban Meyer quarterback, a fast, powerful runner with a capable arm. Sitting behind Cordale Jones before taking over in the second half of the season, the 6-2, 225-pound Barrett threw for 992 yards and 11 TDs and ran for 682 yards and 11 TDs. Barrett guided Ohio State to 10 straight victories in 2014 before he suffered a broken ankle and was replaced by Jones in the Buckeyes’ postseason run to the national championship.
3. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss: The Clemson transfer led the Rebels to 10 victories, including an upset of Alabama in Tuscaloosa and a convincing Sugar Bowl victory over Oklahoma State. A good downfield passer, Kelly threw for 4,042 yards and 31 TDs. A good scrambler, he rushed for 500 yards and 10 TDs. Though he loses spectacular target Laquon Treadwell, Kelly has a talented group of receivers coming back.
4. Seth Russell, Baylor: The latest in a string of prolific Baylor passers, Russell threw for 2,104 yards and a spectacular 29 TDs in only seven games before he was sidelined by a serious neck injury. The 6-3, 220-pound Russell, who also ran for 420 yards and six TDs, announced he will return for his senior season.
5. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma: Beating out established starter Trevor Knight, the former walk-on at Texas Tech led the Sooners to the Big 12 title, throwing for 3,700 yards with an amazing 36 TDs and only seven interceptions. An expert leader of the Sooners’ fast-paced spread attack, Mayfield also ran for 405 yard and seven TDs. Mayfield will be without two of his top three receivers in 2015, including Sterling Sheperd, who caught 86 passes for 1,288 yards and 11 TDs.
6. Patrick Mahomes II, Texas Tech: An exciting scrambler and playmaker, Mahomes threw for a whopping 4,653 yards and 36 TDs while attempting almost 44 passes per game in the Red Raiders’ spread. An adept scrambler with amazing ability to keep plays alive, Mahomes ran for 456 yards and 10 TDs. His scrambling success against LSU was the highlight for Texas Tech in the Tigers’ easy victory.
7. Greg Ward Jr., Houston: A dual threat, the 5-11 Ward threw for 2,828 yards and 17 TDS and ran for 1,108 yards and 21 TDs while leading the Cougars to a 13-1 record, an AAC championship and a victory over Florida State in the Peach Bowl. Ward’s amazing running ability confounds opponents and creates big-play opportunities.
8. Luke Falk: Washington State: As a sophomore, Falk threw for 4,561 yards and 38 TDs in only 12 games with only eight interceptions. The wiry, 6-4 Falk guided the Cougars to a 9-4 season, including victories over Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA and a triumph over Miami in the snow at the Sun Bowl.
9. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State: Taking over the starting role from talented senior J.W. Walsh, the 6-foot-4 Rudolph threw for 3,770 yards and 21 TDs with 9 interceptions. With Rudolph playing a large majority of the snaps, the Cowboys won their first 10 games before finishing the season with losses to Baylor, Oklahoma and Ole Miss.
10. Brett Rypien, Boise State: The nephew of former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien, he burst onto the scene with a fantastic freshman season, throwing for 3,350 yards and and 20 TDs while leading the Broncos to a 9-4 season. The 6-2 Rypien broke most of former Boise star Kellen Moore’s Washington state records in high school.