2024 NFL Draft: Ranking the late-round quarterbacks by starter potential

2T5X6R9 COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 28: South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) passes the ball during a college football game against the Texas A&M Aggies on October 28, 2023 at Kyle Field in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Icon Sportswire) (Icon Sportswire via AP Images)

Spencer Rattler is the best of the rest: Rattler was one of the best quarterbacks in college football and was even billed as a potential high first-round pick in 2020.

Joe Milton III offers enormous upside: Milton may have the biggest toolbox of any passer in this draft. His enormous frame, howitzer arm and sub-4.6 40-yard dash make him an incredibly intriguing prospect.

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The consensus among draft analysts is that there are six quarterbacks potentially worth a first-round selection in the 2024 NFL Draft. As with any position, though, there are sleepers who have starting potential.

In recent years, players like Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins and Brock Purdy have emerged from that group of sleepers and have enjoyed top-level success in the NFL.

Here, we’ll examine the “next tier” of quarterback options in order of their potential to start at the next level.

Familiarize yourself with the draft's top six quarterbacks by clicking below:

Caleb Williams | Drake Maye | Jayden Daniels
J.J. McCarthy | Bo Nix | Michael Penix Jr.

1. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina

Rattler was one of the best quarterbacks in college football and was even billed as a potential high first-round pick in 2020. The 2021 campaign didn’t go well for him, as he was benched in favor of Caleb Williams, but he still earned an 87.0 passing grade in limited work that season despite a precipitous drop in big-time throw rate.

By the end of his two years in South Carolina, Rattler had become a conservative passer who posted an excellent 2.2% turnover-worthy play rate but also just 12 big-time throws in his final season. He tops this list because of his stellar arm talent and the high-end play we saw at Oklahoma.

His production since then hasn’t been stellar since that time, but his game is the most translatable to the NFL.

2. Jordan Travis, Florida State

Simply put, Jordan Travis was one of the best quarterbacks in college football over the last three years. Among quarterbacks with at least 500 dropbacks in that span, Travis' 90.3 passing grade ranks 12th, while his 2.1% turnover-worthy play rate is good for 13th. He also put up the sixth-best passing grade into tight windows in that time.

The biggest question with the Florida State product is how his recent leg injury hampers his mobility, which is his greatest asset. He also needs to clean up his delivery so his accuracy will be a bit less random.

Still, Travis’ athleticism and intangibles are top-notch, and he could become a starter in due time, possibly in the mold of Tyrod Taylor.

3. Michael Pratt, Tulane

Pratt led Tulane out of the doldrums during his four years at the program, headlined by an epic Cotton Bowl victory over Caleb Williams and USC. He wasn’t asked to do too much, and 2022 was the only season in which he cracked 3,000 passing yards. He is reasonably athletic, though, and throws the ball with excellent touch.

Pratt’s footwork needs improvement, as he sometimes gets flat-footed in the pocket, leading to inconsistent mechanics. There will also be questions about his ability to carry a team consistently. His supporting cast — especially his offensive line — eroded in 2023, and his performance wasn’t as stellar as the year before. Pratt certainly has nice tools, and his experience under center is a plus. He could be a viable starting option after a bit of development.

4. Joe Milton III, Tennessee

Milton may have the biggest toolbox of any passer in this draft. His enormous frame, howitzer arm and sub-4.6 40-yard dash make him an incredibly intriguing prospect. There were times — specifically in 2022 in games against Clemson or the first half of his 2023 game against Alabama — when he looked like a potentially elite player.

The issue with Milton is consistency. Despite his incredible talent, he posted just a 71.0 passing grade this season, primarily due to his two 90.0-plus single-game grades in contests against UConn and Vanderbilt.

He is also scattershot with his accuracy and completed just 53.8% of his non-screen passes in 2023. Milton has enormous potential but a long way to go in his development.

Click here to see Joe Milton's 2024 NFL Draft profile!

5. Devin Leary, Kentucky

If Leary had entered the 2022 draft, he may have been the first quarterback selected. He was outstanding at NC State in 2021, earning an 85.1 passing grade with 35 passing touchdowns and five interceptions.

Opposing defenses figured him out in 2022, though, sitting back and forcing him to throw the ball underneath. Leary didn’t comply, forcing shots downfield and seeing a 25-point drop in his passing grade on 10-plus yard throws.

Leary transferred to Kentucky after a torn pectoral muscle prematurely ended his 2022 season. His supporting cast — other than RB Ray Davis — didn’t help him too much, but Leary still forced the ball downfield, recording a top-10 average depth of target among starting quarterbacks.

Like Milton, Leary shows flashes of being an excellent vertical passer. Perhaps an NFL coaching staff can reel in his arm talent and make him a viable option.

6. Carter Bradley, South Alabama

Two guys I thought of when watching Carter Bradley, son of longtime NFL coach Gus Bradley, were Mike White and Aidan O’Connell. Like those two, Bradley is a classically built pocket passer with good velocity and limited mobility. He put up a solid 76.0 passing grade in 2022, throwing 28 touchdowns in the process.

His underlying performance in 2023 was mostly the same outside of two horrendous outings against Tulane and Louisiana. His performance was also hindered because one of his top receivers, Devin Voisin, suffered a season-ending injury in Week 2.

Overall, he profiles as a backup who is unafraid to throw into tight windows and can start on a team with adequate pass protection. His lack of mobility limits his ceiling, though.

7. Austin Reed, Western Kentucky

Reed follows in the footsteps of Mike White and Bailey Zappe as a high-volume gunslinger who will get his chance in the NFL. He is built more like Zappe and tossed 71 touchdowns and 56 big-time throws during his two seasons at Western Kentucky — both top-five marks in the FBS during that span.

His primary issue is his penchant for putting the ball in danger underneath. Eleven of his turnover-worthy passes last season were on passes thrown less than 20 yards downfield. He sometimes doesn’t see linebackers cutting off intermediate windows, which can lead to game-changing mistakes.

Reed keeps firing despite some mistakes, though, and his fearless mentality will earn him a chance to play.

8. Sam Hartman, Notre Dame

At Wake Forest, Hartman was a high-level performer running a decidedly college offense. He transferred to Notre Dame in order to run a pro-style offense and got off to a nice start, throwing 14 touchdowns in his first five games. He was a bit more inconsistent over the final seven games but generally managed games well while surrounded by a terrific supporting cast.

His experience and leadership stand out, but his ability to win in obvious dropback situations will be in question due to his lack of arm strength. He struggled in non-play action situations against the better defenses on his schedule.

Hartman’s intangibles give him a chance to succeed, but he needs support from his team.

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9. Taulia Tagovailoa, Maryland

Tua Tagovailoa’s younger brother looked like one of the best young quarterbacks in college football in 2021. He recorded an elite 90.8 overall grade and racked up 27 big-time throws that year. He’s regressed over the past two seasons, though, with grades in the high 70s and 20 turnover-worthy plays each year.

Tagovailoa isn’t physically imposing, standing just 5-foot-11. He has adequate arm strength and athleticism to improvise and make big plays. His biggest weakness is his habit of bailing out of the pocket after deciphering his first read. He isn’t athletic enough to improvise too often, which means he will need to become a better field processor in order to make an NFL roster.

10. Kedon Slovis, BYU

Slovis bounced around the FBS as a five-year starter across three different schools. He had an excellent freshman year at USC in 2019, throwing 30 touchdown passes. He has a ton of experience and tested well at the combine despite decreased success on the field in recent years.

Slovis’s passing grade has dropped in each of the last four seasons, and he has more turnover-worthy plays (73) than big-time throws (72). His accuracy has also dropped precipitously since the start of his career, culminating in him completing less than 50% of his non-screen passes in 2023.

Slovis has athletic talent and prior success, so maybe a team can find the ingredients to rejuvenate his production.

Honorable mention: Jason Bean, Kansas

Bean has incredibly interesting traits and was productive—if a bit volatile—as Kansas’ backup quarterback. Over the last two seasons, he led the 2024 class in big-time throw rate and turnover-worthy play rate. He is also an outstanding athlete who ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at his pro day, which has been reflected in multiple long touchdown runs in his career.

If I had a comparison for Bean, it would probably be “if Ryan Fitzpatrick ran a 4.5-second 40.” His presence on a preseason roster would be entertaining at the very least, but his plus athleticism could intrigue teams looking for a developmental option.

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