College Football QB Power Rankings: Ranking all 130 starting quarterbacks for 2021

PFN’s inaugural College Football QB Power Rankings analyzes every team’s starting quarterback situation. Who is the best for the 2021 season?

College Football QB Power Rankings for 2021 | 56-69

There are extremely talented football players in this bracket, but due to poor performances, some take a tumble.

69) Cameron Friel | UNLV

Week 5 ranking: 123 (+54)

Don’t look now, but the Rebels have turned a corner and have won two straight. Head coach Marcus Arroyo’s team has finally broken through in Year 2 under his tutelage, and Cameron Friel is certainly a reason why. He isn’t the only factor (RB Charles Williams is critical, too), but Friel has played well enough in the past two games to win against New Mexico and Hawaii.

The best part about Friel’s play over the past two victories is that it seems sustainable. He’s taking what defenses present him and not forcing too much. Friel is completing passes at a high rate as well, as he currently has the Mountain West’s fourth-highest completion percentage among full-time starters. He’ll want to work on ball security and improving his touch on deeper passes, but Friel may be the go-to guy in the desert for years to come.

68) Taulia Tagovailoa | Maryland

Week 5 ranking: 29 (-39)

It’s been a far cry since Tagovailoa was lighting up inferior foes of Howard and Kent State. That’s not saying he hasn’t been good this season, but he’s been a drastically different quarterback once Big Ten play hit. Tagovailoa is first in the conference with 3,105 passing yards right now but also leads the conference with 10 interceptions.

Tagovailoa’s inconsistency has been evident as he averages over 10 yards per attempt against Indiana but then falters to just over 6 yards per attempt against Penn State. He’s a quarterback who needs to be in rhythm but when he is, as Schmidt says: bring a camera.

67) Emory Jones | Florida

Week 5 ranking: 73 (+6)

Emory Jones is fresh off a record-setting performance in which he threw for 6 touchdowns and ran for another score. He tallied a career-best 464 passing yards and scored a whopping 70 points. So why does he only move up six spots in our QB Power Rankings? Well, that’s because this performance was against Samford, and the only reason he had to play the entire game was that the Gators’ defense allowed 52 points.

Still, a win is a win, and you can’t fault Jones for performing at a high level against a team like Samford. Yet, it’s important not to overreact to this gaudy outing. Jones is still the quarterback who looked pedestrian against top defenses and the same player who lost to South Carolina in Week 10.

By all intents and purposes, Jones has had a great year while battling Anthony Richardson for control of the quarterback job. It hasn’t led to many victories, and Florida still needs one more win to clinch a bowl game, but Jones has proven to be quite the playmaker for the Gators in 2021.

66) Jayden de Laura | Washington State

Week 5 ranking: 90 (+24)

Currently leading the Pac-12 with 2,247 passing yards and 19 touchdowns, de Laura even got off to a slower start than his counterparts in 2021. He’s made just 8 starts this season while throwing for over 234 yards in every start since missing Week 4’s game against Utah. The growing pains have been there but de Laura has weathered them like a true veteran.

Considering the fact that he had to watch his former coach Nick Rolovich ousted in the way he was, that only speaks leadership to the player de Laura is and has become. He put up a valiant fight against BYU and even knocked off Arizona State in the back-to-back outings post his coach’s firing.

65) Ben Bryant | Eastern Michigan

Week 5 ranking: 40 (-25)

Bryant, a Cincinnati transfer, is leading the MAC in passing yards but the wins haven’t followed in conference play. They’re 6-4 but 3-3 in MAC play as they’ve not been able to maintain a consistent level of play so far this season. Bryant has thrown for 2,544 yards and 14 touchdowns but been plagued with 6 interceptions, most coming at ill-fated times.

He’s completing passes at a high rate as well (69.7%) and has 2 rushing touchdowns this year. Bryant has given the Eagles a chance to win as they’ve been in every game, save for the Wisconsin game that he didn’t even start. They’re all but out of the MAC race at this point but have clinched a bowl game so Bryant will have 3 more games to showcase his arm for next season.

64) Nick Nash, Nick Starkel | San Jose State

Week 5 ranking: 81 (+17)

With Nick Starkel returning to action the past two weeks, the Spartans are a win away from bowl eligibility. Nick Nash provided serviceable backup play in relief, winning games against New Mexico State, UNLV, and Wyoming. Still, he fell to Colorado State and San Diego State. San Jose State’s defense has done them no favors as of late, and Starkel will have to bring his A-game in what will likely be his final collegiate game against Fresno State in Week 13.

The long-traveled Starkel has thrown for 1,385 yards and 9 touchdowns in six contests this season. The former Texas A&M and Arkansas quarterback hasn’t lived up to expectations put forth this offseason after San Jose State won the Mountain West a year ago, but injuries certainly derailed him in 2021.

63) Darren Grainger | Georgia State

Week 5 ranking: 108 (+45)

Grainger has taken control of the Panthers’ offense and is setting new standards for the position. The Furman transfer has been lights out as a passer after pushing Auburn to the brink back in Week 4. He hasn’t thrown an interception since Week 5 while tossing 9 touchdowns in that span.

For the season, Grainger has thrown 14 touchdowns against just 3 interceptions and added 431 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Grainger has a big arm and can fit balls into all kinds of windows. He’ll test the deep waters with velocity but also has the ability to bring something off his passes for completions outside the numbers.

He’s rapidly ascending our College Football QB Rankings and winning games in the process. GSU has won four of their last five outings with Grainger at the helm, their lone loss coming by 4 points to Sun Belt leading Louisiana.

62) Christian Anderson | Army

Week 5 ranking: 36 (-26)

Anderson falls in these QB rankings mainly because of unavailability since Week 5. He’s played in just three games since then, and the Army offense has looked better because of him in the lineup. Since returning in Week 8, Army scored 56 points against Wake Forest and have knocked off Air Force and Bucknell by a combined score of 84-24.

Anderson has complete control over the Army option offense and has run for 473 yards and 6 touchdowns this season. His control over the option offense includes great reads on gives and pulls as well as some perfectly-timed pitches outside. What separates him from his counterparts on offense is his ability to punch it through the middle and take off for big gains when presented the option.

61) Tyler Van Dyke | Miami FL

Week 5 ranking: 68 (+7)

Of note here: When we ranked the Hurricanes signal-caller in Week 5, it was D’Eriq King and not Tyler Van Dyke who received the ranking. Van Dyke was trending to be much higher prior to throwing up a first-half dud against Florida State in Tallahassee in Week 11 as well. Still, Van Dyke entered the fold as a relative unknown compared to King and the highly-recruited Jake Garcia in the quarterback room. But he certainly didn’t play like a relative unknown.

Van Dyke outplayed Kenny Pickett back in Week 9 and looked like a world-beater at times against NC State and Georgia Tech. He’s shaken off the 3-interception performance against North Carolina well, and he’ll have to do the same with the loss to the Seminoles. Van Dyke’s 19 touchdown passes rank sixth while his 2,193 passing yards rank seventh in the conference.

60) Chandler Morris, Max Duggan | TCU

Week 5 ranking: 62 (+2)

Though Max Duggan is their guy, Chandler Morris is still the quarterback who beat Baylor for the Horned Frogs in 2021. He completed 29-of-41 for 461 yards and 2 touchdowns against the Bears in that game, but he followed that up with a laugher against Oklahoma State the following week. It remains to be seen if we’ll see Duggan again in what has turned out to be a lost season — and Gary Patterson’s last — for TCU.

Morris, however, instilled hope following that Baylor game. Conversely, Duggan doesn’t quite have a marquee victory to his credit, tossing just 104 yards and 1 touchdown in the win over Texas Tech and throwing 4 TDs in the loss to Oklahoma. If we’re being honest here, the one game against Baylor is enough to start Morris the rest of the way, even if he put forth the clunker against Oklahoma State.

59) Max Bortenschlager | FIU

Week 5 ranking: 106 (+47)

Arguably the best player on one of the bottom-tier teams in 2021, Max Bortenschlager has looked like the quarterback that was once a highly recruited player and a one-time Maryland signal-caller. He’s lit up defenses this season, mainly because he’s played from behind in just about every game, but also because he’s that talented.

Bortenschlager is currently third in the C-USA with 2,537 passing yards and fourth with 17 touchdowns. A pure pocket passer, he thrives when he’s clean from pressure and able to stand tall in the pocket.

As the going has gotten incredibly tough at FIU amid the scrutiny and impending departure of head coach Butch Davis, Bortenschlager has done his best to elevate his teammates. He’s a great leader in a tough time for the university, and it is time to give him his credit.

58) Dequan Finn | Toledo

Week 5 ranking: 75 (originally ranked as Carter Bradley)

A game away from bowl eligibility, the Rockets have found their man at quarterback. Finn has started the last four games for Toledo, going 2-2 but losing games to Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan by a combined 6 points. He’s thrown 11 touchdowns and just 1 interception while also adding 378 rushing yards and 8 rushing scores.

A dynamic dual-threat, the third-year “redshirt freshman” is looking to reach bowl eligibility and potentially challenge for second in the MAC West with two winnable games down the stretch.

57) Chance Nolan | Oregon State

Week 5 ranking: 66 (+9)

The Beavers are bowl-eligible with Chance Nolan behind center, but they have their sights set on bigger tasks. One such goal is eliminating archrival Oregon from the College Football Playoffs by defeating them in the regular-season finale. Nolan has been a varietal ball of chaos at quarterback this season, tossing multiple touchdowns in six games and 0 in three others.

Nolan ranks fifth in the Pac-12 with 2,016 passing yards, while he sits second with 16 passing touchdowns. He’s got a great arm and can drive on the football at a moment’s notice, squeezing tight-window shots at will. But he’ll miss defenders in coverage at other times.

Fortunately for Oregon State fans, the latter is something he can iron out over time, and the former is something that you either have or you don’t. Nolan has that it factor — and then some. The Beavs are in good hands.

56) N’Kosi Perry | FAU

Week 5 ranking: 77 (+21)

Many were skeptical of N’Kosi Perry’s ability to consistently lead a team to victories, but he’s done nothing but exceed expectations in 2021 with FAU. After three years with Miami (FL), Perry has looked the part of a former Power Five quarterback against Group of Five competition this season. He’s currently seventh in the C-USA with 2,230 yards but ranks fourth with 17 passing touchdowns. He’s always had a great arm, but he was very poor with his decision-making, and accuracy issues plagued his time at Miami.

Some of the poor decisions have followed him to Boca, but he’s been able to make up for them with plus-play elsewhere. Perry has run for 4 scores while limiting his interceptions. The move to FAU is exactly what his career needed, and he’s got the Owls one win away from a bowl game in 2021.

Cam Mellor is the Senior Director of the College Football/NFL Draft vertical for Pro Football Network. He is also the co-host of Between the Hashes, a college football and NFL draft podcast. You can find his writing here. Follow him on Twitter @CamMellor

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