The Arizona native was once a highly coveted five-star recruit from the 2019 recruiting class, the 11th best recruit in the nation, according to 247Sports. He was also featured in a Netflix documentary titled QB1: Beyond the Lights, where he was followed around for his senior year of high school football.
Needless to say, expectations were incredibly high for Rattler when he arrived in Norman in 2019. And given the run of standout quarterback play from Oklahoma quarterbacks under Lincoln Riley, those expectations only increased.
Riley joined the program in 2015, first serving as offensive coordinator before taking over the head coaching job in 2017. And ever since his arrival, the Sooners’ starting quarterback has yet to rank lower than second in the FBS in PFF grade.
The first half-decade of Riley's tenure featured three seasons of Baker Mayfield, one year of Kyler Murray and one year of Jalen Hurts. All three now grace the NFL ranks as starting quarterbacks, and two of them, Mayfield and Murray, entered the league by way of the No. 1 overall pick. Between them, they piled up four Heisman Trophy nominations and two Heisman Trophy wins; the Sooners were crowned as Big 12 champions for five consecutive years, cracking a College Football Playoff spot no fewer than four times.
Rattler took over the starting job as a redshirt freshman in 2020 with the hope of continuing that stretch of dominance at the quarterback position. And while he fell short of leading the Sooners to the CFP, Rattler did keep the Big 12 title streak alive, and his 92.5 PFF grade — fourth in the FBS — measured up to the standards set by past OU signal-callers.
let's just give Spencer Rattler the Heisman now pic.twitter.com/NXojPc0QBx
— Anthony Treash (@PFF_Anthony) September 13, 2020
Still, if you were to canvas the college football landscape and ask about Rattler’s first season, the three most brought-up moments would be: 1.) The game-ending interception against Kansas State that sealed Oklahoma's first loss, 2.) The game-sealing interception against Iowa State that led to the program's second (and final) loss, and 3.) The brief benching against Texas that came after two early turnovers.
So, it’s no surprise to see that the consensus view on Rattler as an NFL prospect in 2022 is pretty bearish.
Since the conclusion of the 2021 NFL Draft, a variety of different outlets have released their early preview of the top prospects in the 2022 draft. Few see Rattler as a top pick; even fewer see him as the top quarterback in the class.
But I couldn’t disagree more. There’s a lot of football left to be played before we need to start in-depth conversations about the 2022 draft, but I would have no issue with saying that Rattler should be in the driver’s seat for that No. 1 overall pick 12 months from now. He is hands down the best returning player in college football for the 2021 season. And, quite honestly, I see a little bit of Texas Tech Patrick Mahomes in him.
Now, I’m not saying that Rattler will blossom into Mahomes 2.0 when his time comes to become an NFL quarterback. Instead, I'm saying that their college playstyles, and the sentiment around that playstyle, are similar.
It’s understandable why many aren’t entirely sold on Rattler as both a college quarterback and NFL prospect. There’s a lot of good, but also some ugly.