I corrected FOX Sports' ranking of the top 5 quarterbacks in FBS
I’m not that guy. I promise that I’m not that guy.
You know. The guy who comments on every rankings story and responds with a trash emoji.
I’m not that guy because I’m the other guy. Like, the guy who usually comes up with the rankings. Whether it’s ranking quarterbacks, coaches, teams or characters from The Office, I do a lot of ranking on this website.
So when I saw how FOX Sports’ panel of college football experts ranked their top 5 quarterbacks in college football going into 2020, I didn’t want to reply with a trash emoji. That’d be rude. The head-scratcher emoji was much more appropriate.
Am I wrong?
Here’s how the Big Noon Kickoff crew and CFB on FOX fans ranked their preseason top 5 QBs
Whose list do you agree with the most? pic.twitter.com/llLsmqmQzk
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) June 4, 2020
Sorry, Bo Nix fans. I don’t even think he’s a top-5 quarterback in the SEC. I definitely wouldn’t put him as a top-5 quarterback nationally like not 1, but 2 FOX Sports analysts did. And I’m also not about to say that someone like Spencer Rattler with 11 career pass attempts at the FBS level is worthy of the No. 4 spot heading into 2020.
So instead of just being that guy, I decided to be that other guy. You know. Rankings guy.
Here are my top 5 quarterbacks heading into 2020:
T5. Kyle Trask (Florida) and Tanner Morgan (Minnesota)
A tie?! What am I, a communist?
It’s a fair question. But no, I’m not a communist. I’m just someone who’s totally split on Trask and Morgan as a better quarterback. They have a lot of things to like and a similar “yeah, but” working against them (in terms of significance).
Let’s start with Trask.
With Trask, it’s the same thing I’ve been saying all offseason. What he did last year — a 25-7 TD-INT ratio in essentially 11-plus games (he only played in the 4th quarter vs. Kentucky) with 67% accuracy and 8.3 yards per attempt — was impressive. Darn impressive. To do that without consistently getting reps with the first-teamers was not easy. He deserves credit for that, as does Dan Mullen. The guy had multiple touchdown passes in every regular-season start and won a New Year’s 6 bowl, and he did so despite the fact that Florida’s offensive line was less than stellar.
Is his ceiling as high as Justin Fields or Trevor Lawrence? In my opinion, no. Trask is a willing runner, which Mullen showed he can work with, but he’s not going to bust loose for a 50-yard run like those guys, nor will he stretch the field so effortlessly. He might give way to Emory Jones in certain situations, as Florida fans know. But I love the potential of Trask returning with a full offseason with the first-teamers, which should include an improved offensive line and some talented skill-player weapons.
As for Morgan, not enough people are talking about him in the Heisman race. The fact that Morgan was only on 1 of the Fox Sports’ panel’s top-5 quarterbacks was a travesty. The list of quarterbacks who have finished a season with 10.2 yards per attempt and 66% accuracy are few and far between. Operating out of the run-pass option look, Morgan was lights out last year:
I’ve been studying the #Gophers RPOs from last season. All year, the execution was excellent. Tanner Morgan’s quick release and processing skills are a perfect fit for these looks.
When teams started to sit on these routes, Minnesota took vertical shots and mixed in play-action. pic.twitter.com/KrMZw63ppe
— Daniel House (@DanielHouseNFL) May 20, 2020
And the fact that he returns Rashod Bateman and that entire offensive line means that yeah, Morgan should be really good again.
So why do I have Morgan and Trask tied? Well, the “yeah, but” for Trask is that there could be some increase in the turnover department (PFF had him for 22 turnover-worthy passes). Take that for what it is. I’d be concerned about defenses being able to handle him a bit differently now that we have actual film on him. For Morgan, the big question mark is how he’ll operate without offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, who was poached by Penn State. It remains to be seen if he’ll be just as good of a system fit in 2020.
Still, though. Both are worthy of being top-5 signal-callers.
4. Sam Howell (UNC)
If I sound like a broken record with Howell, I’m sorry, but it needs to be said again. If a true freshman in 1990 put up a 38-7 TD-INT ratio, we would have talked about him like he was the second coming of Dan Marino. Howell is at his best when he can put some air under a ball thrown down the sideline (either one). I can’t help but think he’d be even closer to Fields and Lawrence if UNC had pulled off that upset of Clemson.
Regardless, Howell is the real deal. The way he finished the season was exactly what you’d hope to see from a true freshman. In the final 4 games vs. FBS competition, Howell totaled 1,370 passing yards, 13 touchdown passes and 2 interceptions on 139 attempts with 65% accuracy on 9.9 yards per attempt. He got over that midseason lull and bounced back in a big way (he had at least 3 TD passes in 7 of the final 8 games).
He’s not as efficient as the other quarterbacks on this list — only 2 Power 5 quarterbacks took more than the 36 sacks that Howell absorbed last season — but one would think that can improve entering Year 2 as a starter. He’ll be surrounded by an offense that ranks No. 9 in FBS in percentage of returning production. That bodes well. Very well.
If Howell can improve his accuracy in those intermediate routes and have the game slow down for him a little bit, there’s plenty of reason to believe he’ll be in the same discussion as Fields and Lawrence by season’s end.
3. Sam Ehlinger (Texas)
I know. I can’t believe he still has eligibility, either. I swear he took over for Colt McCoy.
Don’t bother comparing Ehlinger’s passing ability to the rest on this list. It’s not worth it. He’s not the No. 3 quarterback in America because of his arm. It’s the whole package. Last year, he improved in his third season as a starter. Ehlinger totaled 4,340 yards from scrimmage with 39 total touchdowns for a Texas offense that ranked No. 10 among Power 5 teams.
What’s nice about a quarterback like Ehlinger is that he gives Tom Herman flexibility. If they need him to carry the ball 15 times in a game and pick up tough yardage, he can do that. If they need him to throw the ball 40 times to Texas can win a shootout, he can do that, too.
He’s not Lawrence or Fields, but Ehlinger can still fit the ball into tight windows:
This is such a bigtime play by Sam Ehlinger. pic.twitter.com/EdP8yx8MNK
— Adam Lunt (@AdamLunt817) March 15, 2020
Ehlinger is a household name at this point, and as we know with guys who aren’t considered elite first-round prospects, that usually means they’re subject to more scrutiny than ever. But I’ll side with the 4 FOX Sports analysts who had Ehlinger at No. 3 in their rankings.
2. Justin Fields (Ohio State)
Flip a coin if you want. Any ranking that doesn’t have Fields and Lawrence ranked as their top 2 quarterbacks entering the season is worthy of a trash emoji. I’ll put Fields in this spot just because I think from an awareness standpoint, Lawrence has the edge. I saw Fields have some rather mediocre moments against quality defenses. If there’s one thing for him to improve in Year 2 as a starter, that’s it. I expect he will.
But man, Georgia fans will want to cover their eyes in 2020. Assuming there’s football to be played, Fields is once again going to be darn good. It’s still baffling to think that he was used as essentially a wildcat quarterback at Georgia. Everyone knew he could sling it, and that’s exactly what he showed last year. Not enough is made about the fact that he finished with 51 (!) total touchdowns and just 3 interceptions. That’s stupid.
There’s not a throw that he can’t make, and with another year in Ryan Day’s system, something tells me we’re gonna see Fields even more accurate than the 67% mark he was at last year. Another year with Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson will be pretty beneficial, too.
There’s a reason he’s such an obvious preseason Heisman favorite, though he and Lawrence aren’t smart bets for that value. Still, though. Nobody in the world would turn down the opportunity to have Fields run their offense.
Sorry, Georgia fans. I didn’t mean it like that!
1. Trevor Lawrence (Clemson)
I mean, the guy has 75 college touchdowns and the only time he lost a game was in the 2019 College Football Playoff National Championship to arguably the best team of all-time. I’d say Lawrence is pretty good.
Here’s the crazy thing about Lawrence. All the passing stuff is impressive. Don’t get me wrong. He makes every throw, he has poise in and out of the pocket, and he’s clutch. There’s a reason NFL scouts have been drooling over him for the past year and a half.
But the crazy thing about Lawrence was that he essentially did what Michael Jordan used to do. He took last offseason as an opportunity to add another wrinkle to his game (MJ was unstoppable after he added the post-up game). Lawrence as a freshman had the Baker Mayfield mobility. As in, he made plays well out of the pocket and he could occasionally pick up a first down on 3rd down with his legs. But he was never going to really make you pay for underestimating his mobility.
That was a totally different story in 2020. At 6-6, he racked up 563 rushing yards and he had a score with his legs in 9 games. That’s a true dual-threat quarterback. Everyone saw that when he ran away from Ohio State’s secondary in the Fiesta Bowl:
Trevor Lawrence: Highest rushing grade among returning QBs💨pic.twitter.com/cyudn8bTS0
— PFF College (@PFF_College) June 5, 2020
Think about that. Not only is Lawrence as polished of a passer as any quarterback in the country, he figured out how exactly he needs to move the chains with his legs, where he was more effective than Fields in 2019. You can’t go wrong with either quarterback.
I suppose FOX Sports at least got that right.