Drake Maye and Caleb Williams are the top two quarterback prospects in the 2024 NFL Draft, but the position group is wide open behind them.
As we work past Week 12, what does the QB3 race look like? Who’s trending up, and who’s trending down?
2024 NFL Draft: J.J. McCarthy Losing His Grip on the QB3 Spot
For much of the 2023 campaign, Michigan QB J.J. McCarthy has had the inside track on the QB3 spot behind Maye and Williams.
McCarthy has the youth argument on his side, and he started the year incredibly hot while showing tangible growth on film — albeit against poor competition. Particularly inside the pocket, McCarthy looked more composed and more autonomous, and evaluators took notice.
There was also an asterisk, however — that McCarthy needed to sustain that level of play through to the season’s end, with tough matchups against Penn State and Ohio State looming large.
Now, with one game left on Michigan’s schedule, we can say definitively that McCarthy did not sustain that level of play.
Against Penn State, McCarthy’s imprint on the offense felt restricted, as he only threw eight passes on the day. McCarthy got a pass, however, due to the game script. Penn State’s offense failed to put pressure on the Wolverines, allowing Michigan to control the game.
Against a susceptible Maryland defense, however, McCarthy’s game continued to underwhelm. He wasn’t as sharp as he had been earlier in the year, forcing the issue on late throws and throwing an ugly interception in the red zone.
Michigan still won, but McCarthy completed just 12 of 23 passes for 141 yards and a pick. He hasn’t thrown a touchdown pass since Oct. 21, and his tape hasn’t held up late in the season.
Now, McCarthy’s game against Ohio State looms even larger — not just for Michigan’s playoff hopes but also for McCarthy’s own 2024 NFL Draft stock. Michigan will need McCarthy’s A-game to keep up with the Ohio State passing attack led by Marvin Harrison Jr.
The problem is, we haven’t seen McCarthy’s A-game for some time. And other QBs are entering the fold for the QB3 discussion.
Veterans Jayden Daniels, Bo Nix, and Michael Penix Jr. in Contention for QB3
Hot on his heels, McCarthy has three veteran quarterbacks who’ve all been playing at an extremely high level in the 2023 season. All three are different but equally as enticing as 2024 NFL Draft prospects.
Bo Nix is perhaps the hottest hand of that group. He came into Week 12 with 3,135 yards, 29 touchdowns, and just two interceptions on 77.7% completion, and he threw six touchdown passes in the first half alone against Arizona State this week.
Alongside Nix, fellow Heisman contender Jayden Daniels is another 2024 NFL Draft riser, with the hyper-elite creation capacity to potentially field early-round interest. He has almost 4,000 total yards and nearly 40 touchdowns on the year.
And then there’s Michael Penix Jr., the Washington Huskies’ gunslinger, who may be the best pocket passer of the Tier 2 QB group. He has 3,533 passing yards, 28 touchdowns, and seven picks to this point at the helm of a red-hot Kalen DeBoer offense.
MORE: 2024 NFL Draft Big Board
All three of these QBs fit different archetypes. Nix is the smooth, nimble ball handler and distributor with rare arm elasticity and accuracy. Daniels is a dynamic creator who can generate chunk plays downfield with his ball placement. And Penix is the coverage carver from the pocket — using his arm strength, vision, and poise to hit tight windows.
The bottom line is all three of these QBs have strong claims to the QB3 spot in the 2024 NFL Draft. And while McCarthy naturally has an edge on them as a surface-level prospect with his younger age, he’s done little to fend off the competition in recent weeks with his play.
If McCarthy’s struggles continue against Ohio State and he loses, missing out on a playoff berth in the process, there’s a chance that he could return to school for the 2025 NFL Draft cycle. He would join other potential returnees like Shedeur Sanders and Quinn Ewers in a bid to capitalize on a weaker class.
As it stands, Nix, Daniels, and Penix appear to have monopolized the QB spots in the 2024 NFL Draft behind Maye and Williams.
This isn’t to say McCarthy has lost the race — but the coming Ohio State game will be paramount for him to prove himself once and for all. If he doesn’t rise to the challenge, then he isn’t ready to leap.
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