The 2021 season is rapidly approaching, meaning it is time for our college football QB power rankings for the upcoming campaign. Although the coronavirus pandemic marred the 2020 season, it still had incredible highs from college football starting quarterbacks across the country.
Zach Wilson’s meteoric rise to the No. 2 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft caught most off guard. Trevor Lawrence stayed the course. Mac Jones showcased what the Alabama offense is capable of. Even Justin Fields proved he was more than a one-read quarterback. Furthermore, we got a glimpse of true-freshmen quarterbacks Bryce Young and D.J. Uiagalelei as the future signal-callers of perennial powerhouses Alabama and Clemson.
College football QB power rankings criteria
With the season’s start closing in, we dove headfirst into the data and film on all 130 starting quarterbacks at the FBS level. As a result, we developed a high-quality ranking system for each program’s situation. Statistics will be mentioned, but they were not the only deciding factor in where a player ranked. This list projects players to win some quarterback battles in college football this fall, leaving others open to the competition. There would undoubtedly be a butterfly effect in rankings should those projections be reneged by the football gods.
The film-watching portion of these rankings also dictated a heavy portion of the weight on where a player landed, as did injury history, head coach or offensive coordinator changes, roster turnover, and general quarterback mechanics all over the field.
It’s important to note that this list is not a projection towards a player’s NFL capabilities. Rather, it is a list of how each player should fare solely in college based on the skills they’ve shown at the collegiate level or, in some cases, back to their high school days.
College football starting QB power rankings for 2021 | 121-130
PFN’s FBS starting quarterback rankings, from 130 all the way down to No. 1.
130) Garrett Dzuro, Tyler Lytle | UMass
Look, no one wants to start a ranking list with the bottom of the barrel. Still, after the year that was 2020, the offseason is likely going to see UMass represented along the bottom of more than a few rankings. The caveat is that even when you’re ranked last on a list of 130 FBS QB rankings, you are still among the top percentage of quarterbacks at the college football level.
Lytle transferred in from Colorado after four seasons with the Buffaloes and may have an edge to get some early playing time based on his Power Five experience. Yet, he managed all of 7 pass attempts in four seasons with the Buffaloes.
Dzuro played most of his snaps against Liberty in UMass’ season finale a year ago. However, he completed below 50% of his passes and tossed an interception. He has yet to throw his first collegiate touchdown pass, and when that moment happens, we’ll celebrate it — it’ll be the Minutemen’s first touchdown since November 7, 2020.
129) Steven Krajewski, Jack Zergiotis | UConn
Having not played a snap in 2020 will certainly come back to bite a lot of the Huskies in 2021, none more important than their quarterback. If Krajewski wins the job after fall camp, he owns prototypical quarterback size at 6’4″, 200+ pounds. Additionally, he played well in one major appearance against UCF back in 2019. There was a slew of questionable decisions against UCF that season. But Krajewski looked good in the box score with 273 yards and 3 touchdown passes, albeit those scores came in garbage time.
The biggest issue with Krajewski is that game was essentially a college football career ago on September 28, 2019. As far as Zergiotis, he does have experience with 260 career pass attempts. Still, there are far too many bad throws to expect much more than a triple-digit rank in our college football QB power rankings until we see otherwise.
128) Brendon Lewis, J.T. Shrout | Colorado
Lewis is the odds-on favorite to win the job over Tennessee transfer J.T. Shrout. Last year’s starter Sam Noyer is now in Corvallis playing for Oregon State. Lewis couldn’t do enough to see more than 10 passes during his freshman year, all of which came in Colorado’s bowl game against Texas. The game was already out of hand, and Noyer threw 2 picks. Reports of Lewis’ inconsistency during camp in 2020 and his second year in Boulder have kept the conversation open for Shrout to potentially take the job at Colorado.
It should be stated that Lewis seems like he could be a player to rocket up these rankings if he can grasp the college game with extended reps in 2021. He built a pedigree from his days of throwing for over 12,000 yards at Melissa High School in Texas. All eyes are on head coach Karl Dorrell and Lewis if he wins the starting job this fall.
127) Luke Doty | South Carolina
All things considered, Doty played in what was one of the more unprecedented moments in college football last year. On top of playing through the pandemic, most of Doty’s season was after his head coach was fired, and the majority of the South Carolina team decided against finishing the rest of the year. He ended 2020 with a 60.6% completion percentage and 5.8 yards per attempt while throwing an interception in each of his three outings.
Making matters even worse, when he did use his athleticism as plays broke down, he was more liable with the football, fumbling 4 times. Ball security is a must for quarterbacks, and until Doty can prove he can keep possession, he’ll stay a bottom-tier quarterback on these rankings.
126) Jonah Jackson | New Mexico State
In two games against lesser competition a year ago, Johnson struggled. He proved his athleticism for his big frame at 6’3″, 235 by averaging 4.8 yards per rush and 2 touchdowns on just 11 carries. Regardless, he needs to watch his ball security as the Aggies open up a full 12-game schedule post-pandemic.
Johnson was a talented JUCO transfer from Fresno City Community College. Yet, he performed poorly in his first year’s worth of FBS action despite the lower level of competition New Mexico State faced (Tarleton State and Dixie State).
While at Fresno City, Johnson threw for nearly 2,000 yards and ran for another 254 yards and 6 scores. He’ll have to rely on that athletic ability and his skills on the ground as he adjusts to FBS-level defenses before he sees more than a three-digit spot on our college football QB power rankings.
125) Sam Kenerson, Justin Tomlin, James Graham | Georgia Southern
It appears to be a three-person race for the starting spot. Kenerson is set to battle it out with Tomlin and Georgia Tech transfer Graham. Although he hasn’t attempted a single pass in his collegiate career, Kenerson is a talented athlete with the ball in his hands with excellent arm strength to boot. The Georgia Southern offense isn’t built around great throwers, and until we know either is an upgrade over former QB Shai Werts in that regard, we’ll temper our expectations.
As an “athlete,” Kenerson was a three-star recruit out of the state of Louisiana in 2020 and held offers from a bevy of QB-run-friendly teams. Tomlin has thrown 52 passes in his career, completing just 23 with 3 picks and zero touchdowns. On the other hand, Graham has three years of experience at Georgia Tech. Although, his only nine starts came in 2019.
The trouble there is that he displayed a lack of all-around quarterback fundamentals and transferred to Southern rather than sit behind Jeff Sims in Atlanta. The Eagles have found their success with sub-average arm talents at QB in the past under head coach Chad Lunsford. So, the starter’s surge in the Sun Belt rankings shouldn’t surprise anyone if they succeed in 2021.
124) D’Wan Mathis, Re-al Mitchell | Temple
Mathis’ time at Georgia was nothing short of ugly. After completing 47.1% of his passes in his first start against Arkansas, Mathis followed up with a 30.8% completion rate against Florida, tossing 2 interceptions and averaging just 2.6 yards per attempt. In his three appearances for the Bulldogs in 2020, Mathis completed just 40% of his passes and averaged a paltry 3.0 yards per attempt. Those numbers were concerning for a Georgia quarterback, hence his exit from Athens.
Now, he’ll have to improve in all facets of quarterback play if he wants to live up to his recruiting prowess and beat out Mitchell as the starter. Mitchell was a big get for the Owls, transferring in from Iowa State a year ago. Unfortunately, he could not beat out former starter Anthony Russo for more than a trio of games.
In those contests, Mitchell completed just 50% of his attempts for 4.5 yards per attempt and 2 INTs. Either way, whoever wins this job will have to play markedly better before Temple competes in many games.
123) Colby Suits, Jeremy Hunt, Rhett Rodriguez | UL-Monroe
If Suits wins the job for the Warhawks, ULM fans can likely expect much of the same on the field from a season ago. However, it is unclear if the same off-field issues will follow Suits in 2021. After a disappointing 0-7 start, Suits went 0-of-3 with an interception against Georgia State in Week 10 before announcing he was opting out of the final three games and entering the transfer portal. He followed that up with another announcement, stating he would return with the new coaching staff at ULM.
Now, Suits hopes to lead a resurgence for the WarHawks in 2021. He’ll need to improve his accuracy to all levels of the field and become consistent this fall. Hunt finished the season with two starts and the majority of snaps against Georgia State after Suits exited. Hunt completed 70 of 129 passes for 742 yards, 6 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions for the season.
Most importantly, however, Hunt threw just 1 interception in his three games of major action. It gives pause to Suits’ projection to win the job. Then, there’s Rodriguez, who transferred in from Arizona and is the son of first-year offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez at ULM. Rodriguez has accounted for 1,154 career all-purpose yards in 11 games for the Wildcats between 2017-2020.
122) Max Bortenschlager, Kaylan Wiggins | FIU
Talk about a disappointing 2020 season for Bortenschlager after transferring from Maryland and waiting his turn. In just two starts and five total appearances, he completed 22 of 48 passes for just 284 yards and looked as erratic as ever with some of his decisions for the Golden Panthers.
During his first action with FIU, a couple of throws showcased the arm talent that sent him to a Power Five school in the first place. But the questionable decision-making that littered the rest of his 2020 campaign brings cause for concern.
It’s important to note that during his time at Maryland, Bortenschlager completed just barely over 50% of his passes and averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt in 2017. Wiggins started one game, finishing the season by completing 11 of 30 attempts for 81 yards and an interception. Bortenschlager, like most down on the bottom tier of our college football QB power rankings, will have to be consistent with his throws, decisions, and mechanics if he wants to keep his job in 2021.
121) Xavier Arline, Tai Lavatai | Navy
Pitting three triple-option quarterbacks against 127 passing-focused signal-callers is no easy task. However, it is done by looking more at the prowess of each triple-option QB on the ground with a small weight towards the aerial assault. That being said, Arline had 51 carries in his debut season with the Midshipmen. In an unfortunate series of events, he finished his first year with a 3-fumble performance against Army on national TV.
Arline has yet to score a touchdown on the ground and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry last season. Worse yet, he will be without Navy’s top four rushers from a season ago. Arline will have to have a better command of his reads and better ball security in 2021 to maintain any success. He’ll also have to battle it out with Lavatai, a two-sport star in high school but didn’t see any varsity action in 2020.