College football experts rank the best signal callers.
Personalities and college football experts on SiriusXM College Sports Nation ranked the nation’s top 16 quarterbacks, running backs, coaching staffs, defenses, head coaches, mascots, stadiums, uniforms and fan bases and you can hear in-depth analysis on College Sports Nation, Ch. 84.
Among those taking part are former Alabama national championship quarterback Greg McElroy, former Miami and North Carolina head coach Butch Davis, College Football Hall of Famer Lou Holtz, hosts Chris Childers, Chris Carlin, Mark Packer, myself as well as producers Mike Garvin, Dan Bezilla and Regina Ham, in a collection of expert polls titled #SXMTop16.
Today, we take a look at the quarterbacks. Chime in with your rankings!
1. Deshaun Watson, Clemson
There's no real doubting who the best and most important player in college football will be in 2016. The Tigers quarterback was downright extraterrestrial in the postseason last fall and has Clemson poised for another run at the allusive national championship. He is as good a passer as he is a runner… and he’s a phenomenal athlete.
2. Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma
The only player in the nation who can give Watson a run for his money in the “MVP” department is Mayfield. The Sooners go as their emotional leader carries them. His backyard style is as fun to watch as anything in the game today. And he, too, is chasing a return trip to the College Football Playoff.
3. Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
It was a bumpy road getting to Oxford, but all Kelly did in his first season as the starter was set more than a dozen school records, including total yards (4,542), passing yards and touchdowns, completion percentage and passing efficiency. He led the Rebels to 10 wins for the first time since 2003 and just the second time since 1971.
4. J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
Obviously his numbers listed below were limited by Cardale Jones (and one bad off-the-field decision). But when he was on the field, he was just as good as he was during his record-setting freshman season. In case you forgot, Barrett did this in his first season: 2,834 passing yards, 34 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 938 rushing yards and 11 additional touchdowns and a berth in the Big Ten title game.
5. Brad Kaaya, Miami
This one takes some projecting and some deeper digging, but Kaaya has all of the skills of an elite signal caller. His supporting cast has been easily the worst of any name on this list and that has impacted his production. He can flat spin it and has a chance to blossom in a big way under Mark Richt.
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6. Greg Ward Jr., Houston
Ward has to stay healthy and become a more vocal leader but few players in the nation this side of Watson are more dynamic than the Cougars quarterback. Learning more how to play in the pocket could allow him to more even higher up this board.
7. Josh Rosen, UCLA
From a pure talent standpoint, no one in college football throws a better pass than Rosen. The numbers and wins are impressive for a true freshman last fall but his school-record consecutive passes without an interception (245) might be the most notable. The sky is the limit for Rosen and you can pencil him in as the No. 1 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.
8. Patrick Mahomes, Texas Tech
No returns to college football with more yards through the air last year than Kliff Kingsbury’s trigger man. He is more athletic than a traditional Air Raid quarterback and proved he could win games away from home with wins over Arkansas and Texas. And remember, someone forced Mayfield to leave Lubbock for reason.
9. Seth Russell, Baylor
Certainly, Russell’s surgically repaired neck has to be fully healthy for Russell to stay in the top 10 (heck, his backup might be worthy of a spot on this list). Losing Art Briles hurts but his supporting cast is still amongst the best in the nation. His numbers last year in just seven games were as good as most hope for in a full season.
10. Luke Falk, Washington State
No one threw (644) or completed (447) passes than Falk last year and no one returns to college football with more TD passes (38). His receiving corps is ridiculously talented and experienced and has Mike Leach calling plays.
11. Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
He will never be the pure passer like many of the rest of the names on this list but he is as smart as they come and can do a lot of things outside of the pocket. The Vols are poised to win the East for the first time in a decade because of his leadership and playmaking ability. If he can add the intermediate passing game to his arsenal, he could be unstoppable.
12. Lamar Jackson, Louisville
Most will only remember his huge performance against Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl (227 yards passing, 226 yards rushing) but that would be a mistake. He almost rushed for a 1,000 yards and turned an 0-3 record into an 8-2 finish when he was inserted into the starting line-up (eight starts). Oh, by the way, all of this as a true freshman. The sky is the limit if he can stay healthy and improve his passing ability.
13. DeShone Kizer, Notre Dame
If Kizer was assured the starting job, a case could be made that he is easily a top 10 quarterback. After the Irish lost starter Malik Zaire, the backup freshman showed poise beyond his years and nearly led Notre Dame to a College Football Playoff berth. This QB decision won’t be an easy one for Brian Kelly.
14. Jake Browning, Washington
Another true sophomore makes the list due to a remarkable freshman season. He started 12 of 13 games as a true freshman, becoming the first such player to start a season opener for the Huskies. Browning got better as the year went along and he has a phenomenal supporting cast back around him as the Pac-12 frontrunner.
15. Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State
Mike Gundy removed the redshirt from Rudolph late in the 2014 season and his young freshman into the starting lineup. He’s gone 12-3 since then and has proven to be one of the nation’s top passers. If he continues to improve, he could push Mayfield for best signal caller in the Big 12.
16. C.J. Beathard, Iowa
Fearless leader is what comes to mind when breaking down Beathard. But he’s also more athletic than given credit, takes care of the football and is a perfect fit for the Iowa program. He led his team to a 12-0 mark before stumbling late in the year. If he can improve his play against the better teams, Iowa could return to the Big Ten title game.
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