2023 NFL Draft: Ranking top quarterback prospects since 2020

New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow (9) against the Clemson Tigers in the College Football Playoff national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

• Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence complete Tier 1: The two No. 1 overall picks in the 2020 and 2021 NFL drafts, respectively, were in a league of their own as prospects.

• Ohio State and Alabama QB prospects fill Tier 2: Justin Fields, C.J. Stroud, Tua Tagovailoa and Bryce Young make up the second group as former and future top-10 picks.

• A clear down year for the 2022 class: Each of the top 2022 quarterbacks lands in Tier 5 after a pre-draft process during which the consensus was that it was a relatively weak group.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 mins

“Where would this group stack up against last year’s class?”

It's one of the questions we hear the most every draft season. And we’re going to answer it with quarterbacks. This is an exercise where we are stacking the pre-draft evaluations of this year's quarterback classes with the pre-draft evaluation of quarterbacks since 2020. Who they have become as pros might sway some opinions of their standing on the list, but it’s all supposed to be who they were as prospects before draft day.

TIER 1

Joe Burrow, LSU (2020 PFF Big Board Rank: 1)

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson (2021 PFF Big Board Rank: 1)

Tier 1 was pretty easy. After Burrow’s record-setting 2019 college football season, no one was touching him on the PFF big board that year. His confidence and control during that campaign were truly among the best we’ve ever seen, as evidenced by his 94.5 passing grade, 40 big-time throws and 81.9% adjusted completion percentage. Lawrence’s numbers weren’t as good, but, to some, his physical traits gave him an even higher ceiling. For as good as some of these other quarterbacks have been since being drafted, Burrow and Lawrence complete Tier 1 from a prospect perspective. 


TIER 2

Bryce Young, Alabama (2023 PFF Big Board Rank: 1)

Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama (2020 PFF Big Board Rank: 2)

Justin Fields, Ohio State (2021 PFF Big Board Rank: 3)

C.J. Stroud, Ohio State (2023 PFF Big Board Rank: 5)

All four of these quarterbacks present franchise-type ability. Young is seen as QB1 in this upcoming class. The only thing really holding him back from being in Tier 1 after back-to-back elite offensive grades in 2021 and 2022 are the concerns over his measurables as one of the smaller quarterbacks of the past 20 years. Tagovailoa was similar to Young in that both had incredible numbers as pocket passers in Alabama’s offense. As for the two Ohio State quarterbacks, Fields’ athletic ability was automatically going to make him a first-round player, but his improvement from the pocket in his final season of college ball vaulted him into the top 10. The same can be said for Stroud, who struggled with pressure during most of his time as a two-year starter but really improved in that area to close out his college career. All four players were and will be good bets to make with early picks.

They each posted back-to-back elite offensive grades in their final two seasons as starters in college, with Fields having the highest cumulative grade (94.1).


TIER 3

Zach Wilson, BYU (2021 PFF Big Board Rank: 2)

Will Levis, Kentucky (2023 PFF Big Board Rank: 4)

Anthony Richardson, Florida (2023 PFF Big Board Rank: 6)

Trey Lance, NDSU (2021 PFF Big Board Rank: 10)

Mac Jones, Alabama (2021 PFF Big Board Rank: 13)

Justin Herbert, Oregon (2020 PFF Big Board Rank: 30)

Tier 3 is sort of the “high ceiling, low floor and also Mac Jones” group. Wilson, Levis, Richardson, Lance and Herbert all have incredible arms, and because of this, none of them made it out of the top 10; it feels that trend will continue with Levis and Richardson in 2023. Each came with alluring, other-worldly physical gifts, but each also had their concerns. Herbert wasn’t really a takeover passer consistently, Lance barely had any starting experience, Wilson came from an offense that looked like a video game, while Levis and Richardson both struggled with ball placement and accuracy with those cannon arms. As for Jones, his skill set doesn’t really line up with the rest of the group, but as the 15th overall pick (and a player who got some hype for the top 3), and a player who finished the 2020 Alabama season with a 95.7 passing grade, it would feel disingenuous to bump him any lower than this, even with a lower trait ceiling.  


TIER 4

Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma (2020 PFF Big Board Rank: 65)

Jordan Love, Utah State (2020 PFF Big Board Rank: 76)

I’m anticipating people freaking out about Jalen Hurts being in Tier 4, but remember: This is a pre-draft ranking. I felt like Hurts was a late-first, early-second kind of bet to make, and that’s exactly where he went, as did Jordan Love. These were quarterbacks who you didn’t really want starting right away, but after some time as a backup, there was a path to feel confident about them at the helm. We’ve already seen that from Hurts (in the best way), and it sounds like we’re about to see the same with Love. Hurts was the higher-graded player of the two, earning a 92.1 overall mark with an 88.9 passing grade in his final season at Oklahoma. Love recorded a 71.7 overall grade with a 73.4 passing grade in his last year.


TIER 5

Malik Willis, Liberty (2022 PFF Big Board Rank: 30)

Sam Howell, North Carolina (2022 PFF Big Board Rank: 34)

Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati (2022 PFF Big Board Rank: 41)

Kenny Pickett, Pittsburgh (2022 PFF Big Board Rank: 42)

Kyle Trask, Florida (2021 Big Board Rank: 64)

Hendon Hooker, Tennessee (2023 PFF Big Board Rank: 91)

Tier 5 is a combination of the top quarterbacks from the 2022 class (it was seen as a down year for the position), plus Kyle Trask and Hendon Hooker. A healthy Hooker may have very well been a tier above this, earning an 88.4 grade as a Heisman candidate through most of the 2022 season. But with him getting hurt and now coming off major knee surgery, and with him being one of the older quarterback prospects, it’s hard to put him higher than this. Trask, the only second-round quarterback pick in 2021, played well in his final year as a starter at Florida. However, he had two elite offensive weapons in Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney to throw to, so he wasn’t seen as a guaranteed starter at the pro level — though he’ll get his shot to show that this offseason. As for the 2023 guy, each had traits to like, but each had their concerns. All of the signal-callers in this group had or have starter potential, but also some doubts about whether that would or will manifest.

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