NFL Draft News & Analysis

One PFF stat to know for 10 of the top 2024 draft-eligible quarterbacks

2K5PK5D Baton Rouge, United States. 08th Oct, 2022. LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) looks to pass against the Tennessee Volunteers, Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Tennessee defeats LSU 40-13. (Kirk Meche/Image of Sport) Photo via Credit: Newscom/Alamy Live News

• LSU's Jayden Daniels avoids danger better than the rest: He finished 2022 with only three turnover-worthy plays on 505 dropbacks.

• North Carolina's Drake Maye is a big-time throw machine: The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder led the nation with 45 big-time throws in 2022, 10 more than the next-closest quarterback.

• Don't sleep on Duke's Riley Leonard: In addition to his arm talent, he was a top-10 quarterback in the Power Five in rushing grade last season.

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Caleb Williams, USC

Stat: 91.8 PFF Grade (1st in Power Five)

Williams would have been a top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft had he been eligible. Luckily for us college football fans, he is back for one more year.

The reigning Heisman Trophy winner was the best player in the country last season, leading all Power Five quarterbacks in PFF grade. It’s going to be tough for Williams to top what he did last year, ranking in the top 15 in big-time throw rate (6.0%), turnover-worthy play rate (1.8%) and adjusted completion rate (76.0%), but he certainly brings the talent and work ethic to pull it off.

Williams possesses elite-level arm strength combined with freakish athleticism, not to mention his leadership ability. He is already the betting favorite to be the first overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Read more: “I want to destroy you”: Caleb Williams is coming for much more than a second Heisman Trophy

Drake Maye, North Carolina

Stat: 45 Big-Time Throws (1st in FBS)

Drake Maye is essentially QB1b — not QB2 — for the 2024 NFL Draft right now. That’s how good these top two prospects are compared to everyone else. The gap between Williams and Drake might be closer than many realize, and there are even parts of Drake’s game that could translate better at the next level.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pounder led the nation with 45 big-time throws in 2022, 10 more than the next-closest quarterback. It wasn't just a matter of volume, either. Maye is one of seven Power Five quarterbacks over the past three seasons to finish with a big-time throw rate above 8.0%.

Bo Nix, Oregon

Stat: 82.3% Adjusted Completion Percentage (2nd in Power Five)

All Bo Nix needed was a change of scenery to become one of the best quarterbacks in college football. After struggling early on at Auburn, he transferred to Oregon and posted career-high numbers across the board.

Nix was in the Heisman discussion for most of last season and should be right back in that conversation this year. He is one of the most accurate passers in college football as well, placing second in the Power Five in adjusted completion percentage and making only eight turnover-worthy plays all season.

Michael Penix Jr., Washington

Stat: 1,320 Deep Passing Yards (4th in power Five)

Fully healthy in 2022 after enduring a ton of injuries in previous years, Michael Penix Jr. finished first in the Power Five in passing yards (4,641) and fourth in deep passing yards (20-plus-yard throws). He can thank his two top receivers — Rome Odunze and Jalen McMillan — for that, but he still has a cannon nonetheless.

There were rumors about Penix potentially declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft, but he ultimately chose to come back for another season with his top wideouts, who should once again serve as valuable downfield threats for an efficient Penix. Only Hendon Hooker managed a lower turnover-worthy play rate than Penix on deep throws in 2022 among Power Five quarterbacks.

Riley Leonard, Duke

Stat: 80.0 Rushing Grade (9th in Power Five)

Out of all the names on this list, Riley Leonard might be the least known. He is 6-foot-4 with a big arm and legit rushing ability. He is deceivingly fast, too. Leonard was one of 16 Power Five quarterbacks in 2022 with 20 runs of 10-plus yards, and his 13 rushing touchdowns ranked second.

Leonard is somewhat similar to Will Levis as a prospect with all the physical tools. If he can continue to take strides in this Duke offense, the draft hype will continue to grow.

Read more: Duke QB Riley Leonard is proving his biggest doubters wrong — even his own mother

Jordan Travis, Florida State

Stat: 91.7 PFF Grade (2nd in Power Five)

It may have taken him a few years, but Jordan Travis has morphed into one of the best quarterbacks in college football. He finished last season with the fourth-best PFF grade in the nation, and he was also the seventh-highest-graded Power Five quarterback under pressure (66.5).

Travis is also twitchy and quick, which allows him to break out of tackles and escape the pocket on any given play. His 8.0 rushing yards per attempt topped the charts among Power Five signal-callers, and his 3.4 yards after contact per attempt was a top-10 mark. If things go according to plan for Travis and the Seminoles this year, he’ll be at the Heisman ceremony drawing the attention of many NFL scouts.

Quinn Ewers, Texas

Stat: 8.6% Drop Rate (16th highest in Power Five)

Ewers, one of the best high school quarterback prospects we’ve ever seen, has yet to live up to that billing in college, although he has only one true season of play under his belt.

It didn’t help that Ewers experienced a high rate of dropped passes from his receivers in 2022. Texas receivers dropped 8.6% of his on-target passes last year, the eighth-highest rate in the nation among qualified quarterbacks. So, if anything, now is the time to buy low on Ewers; his numbers are only going to get better this year with the new receiving corps Texas has built — one that PFF's Max Chadwick has as the No. 2-ranked unit in college football.

Jayden Daniels, LSU

Stat: 0.6% Turnover-Worthy Play Rate (1st in FBS)

Daniels is easily the best runner among the top 2024 quarterback prospects, and he possesses a stronger arm than people give him credit for. Daniels also has a knack for protecting the football, recording a nation-leading 0.6% turnover-worthy play rate in 2022. Even on 505 dropbacks, he finished with only three turnover-worthy plays.

Daniels still needs to develop a lot as a passer and will have to get more comfortable playing in the pocket, but there is definitely a world where LSU wins the SEC in 2023 behind Daniels putting up Heisman-esque numbers.

KJ Jefferson, Arkansas

Stat: 41 Missed Tackles Forced (2nd in Power Five)

If you want to watch what looks like a linebacker playing quarterback, look no further than KJ Jefferson. He’s incredibly tough to bring down, which helps when scrambling with the football. He placed third in the nation among quarterbacks in forced missed tackles last year and was one of only four Power Five signal-callers to average more than four yards after contact on his rushing attempts.

But make no mistake, Jefferson throws a beautiful ball with a nice spiral and boasts good arm strength. He has an opportunity to do big things within a formidable Razorbacks offense in 2023.

J.J. McCarthy, Michigan

Stat: 10.7-Yard Average Depth of Target (T-10th in Power Five)

After earning the starting job a season ago, McCarthy looked great in his first few games for Michigan. But he tailed off in the second half of the season and made some head-scratching decisions down the stretch, racking up seven turnover-worthy plays across his final four games.

McCarthy still enters 2023 as one of the top quarterbacks in college football, and his success on downfield throws is a big piece of that. He finished 2022 with a 10.7-yard average depth of target while recording the eighth-lowest turnover-worthy play rate and the eighth-highest big-time throw rate among qualifying Power Five signal-callers. Look for head coach Jim Harbaugh to let him air it out this fall.

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