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 | 21-40

Counting down in chunks of 20 from here, these quarterbacks have largely been impressive through 12 weeks.

40) Will Levis | Kentucky

Week 5 ranking: 64 (+24)

Will Levis has exploded onto the scene this year with the Wildcats, throwing for 19 touchdowns to rank fifth in the SEC. His bizarre food takes aside (yes, we’re still talking about them), Levis has flashed some elite-level potential in 2021. He has terrific mechanics and an even better deep ball. His down-to-down accuracy still dips at times, as does his elevation of the players around him. But he can iron those issues out as he gets more accustomed to the offense.

Given that this is his first season as a full-time starting quarterback at the collegiate level, Levis’ rapid ascension is almost astounding. His 19 touchdowns are great, and even his 11 interceptions have been caused by some poor luck. As Kentucky keeps winning, which they should do against New Mexico State in Week 12, Levis should keep ascending.

39) Devin Leary | NC State

Week 5 ranking: 52 (+13)

Leary has been deadly accurate this season for the Wolfpack. He’s thrown 29 touchdowns and just 5 interceptions. Leary’s completing 65.5% of his passes and averaging 7.6 yards per attempt. He’s spreading the ball around to a bevy of receivers and has NC State sitting with a 7-3 record in mid-November.

The only time Leary has really struggled in 2021, is when he’s got quick pressure in his face and had to throw outside. He’s dominated over the middle of the field but his arm strength to the outside could be questioned. Fortunately for him and for NC State fans, he’s got a terrific offensive line in front of him, and he’s rarely been pressured. Leary is putting up career-high numbers across the board and should be considered one of the best ACC QBs in 2022 already.

38) Grant Wells | Marshall

Week 5 ranking: 27 (-11)

The owner of some of the best middle-of-the-field throws in the country, Grant Wells continues to impress despite leading the Conference USA in interceptions (12). He hasn’t quite made up for those mistakes enough to make a rise in our College QB Rankings, but his yardage totals indicate he’s ready to break through. The sophomore quarterback ranks second in the C-USA with 3,090 passing yards and ranks third in completion rate (66%).

Wells has elevated his game this season and throws with terrific anticipation. He’ll make for one excellent pro quarterback, but that’s at least one more year down the road. Until then, the Thundering Herd will hone in on winning the C-USA East with a regular-season finale against WKU set to determine the division. Wells vs. Bailey Zappe will be must-watch television.

37) Stetson Bennett | Georgia

Week 5 ranking: 21 (JT Daniels still qualified for a ranking)

When you talk about the Georgia Bulldogs this season, you don’t really have to bring up their quarterback. Sure, it’s a mistake not to talk about the player who’s averaging 10.9 yards per pass attempt, but it’s becoming more and more evident that the UGA offense could plug just about anyone in under center and see success. That’s not a knock on Stetson Bennett, but rather indicative of how great their entire team has been this season.

Still, when you isolate Bennett’s play, you notice a much more athletic player than he’s given credit for. He’s thrown 15 touchdowns against just 4 interceptions, and even though he ranks just 11th in total passing yards in the SEC, he’s actually thrown the fewest passes among the full-time starters. Bennett has also run the ball 35 times for 233 yards, displaying his underrated athleticism more often than not. Georgia doesn’t need Bennett to win them games, but he certainly won’t lose them any either.

36) Dustin Crum | Kent State

Week 5 ranking: 24 (-12)

Crum is once again putting up video-game-like numbers at Kent State. He’s thrown for 2,414 passing yards and 13 touchdowns against just 2 interceptions. Crum is just 208 passing yards away from setting a new career-high while he’s already set a new career-high with 8 rushing touchdowns.

A labored delivery sometimes draws his passes for defenders but it continues to work for him more often than not. In five years with the Golden Flashes, Crum has accumulated 6,625 career passing yards and 1,814 rushing yards. He’s a dynamic dual-threat who currently is playing some of his best football yet.

35) Dylan Hopkins | UAB

Week 5 ranking: 53 (+18)

You could tell that Dylan Hopkins was going to be special when he was inserted into the lineup for longtime Blazer QB Tyler Johnston III last season. Hopkins has a beautiful deep ball and is still progressing as he comes into his own at the collegiate level. He’s taken over for UAB this season, helping the Blazers to a 5-1 conference record.

Hopkins has a big arm and uses it very well. He’s a bit slow on the delivery, but it hasn’t seemed to matter as he leads C-USA QBs with 10.1 yards per pass attempt. All signs continue to trend upwards for Hopkins and UAB, and they’ll pose the biggest challenge to UTSA’s unbeaten streak when they meet in Week 12.

34) Logan Bonner | Utah State

Week 5 ranking: 38 (+4)

The college football world owes Logan Bonner and his head coach Blake Anderson a sincere thank you. Thank you for your service in returning great quarterback play to Utah State. If you hadn’t watched Bonner play football at Arkansas State, you were likely caught off guard with his Mountain West-leading 8.7 yards per attempt. Bonner is third in the conference with 2,749 passing yards and 25 touchdowns as he’s setting all new career-highs.

Without having to play in a two-quarterback system (as he did with Layne Hatcher at Arkansas State), Bonner has exploded onto the scene in the Moutain West. At 8-2, Utah State is a game away from clinching the MWC Mountain division, and Bonner is playing his best ball yet. He’s thrown for 4 touchdowns in three straight games, catching his stride with beautiful touch and accuracy.

I’ll be the first to say it if you haven’t already heard it: Thank you, Logan, for making Aggies football fun again.

33) Brett Gabbert | Miami OH

Week 5 ranking: 80 (+47)

The Redhawks are 5-5 overall, but 4-2 in conference play, and Gabbert is absolutely the reason for that. Currently, the younger Gabbert is completing 60.9% of his throws but averaging a conference-high 9.1 yards per attempt. Gabbert has thrown 18 touchdowns compared to just 3 interceptions and has added 123 rushing yards in 2021.

He’s played so well that the once two-QB system is now completely his it appears. Gabbert’s uptick in production has kept A.J. Mayer off the field since Miami’s Week 7 game against Akron. He’ll have to continue to outplay his counterpart in Dustin Crum to win the MAC East on Thanksgiving weekend.

32) Skylar Thompson | Kansas State

Week 5 ranking: 32 (no change)

What can a healthy Sklyar Thompson do for you? How about post the Big 12’s highest yards per pass attempt among full-time starters (9.6) and the conference’s second-best completion percentage (71.6%)? Thompson hasn’t quite been the decorated dual-threat that he was back in 2019, but he hasn’t had to be.

The longtime Wildcats quarterback has won four straight and has Kansas State at 7-3 overall this year. He’s been rocking defenses to bed with short passes before hitting big deep shots over the top. Thompson has showcased a much stronger pocket presence in 2021 and is going through his progressions better than ever. That’s led to victories and big games for RB Deuce Vaughn as Thompson works his way down to his checkdown for big gains after the catch.

31) Chase Brice | Appalachian State

Week 5 ranking: 39 (+8)

Brice has looked the part of a former ACC quarterback in the Sun Belt, dominating action more than he hasn’t. He’s delivering shot after shot for the Sun Belt East-leading Mountaineers. Brice leads the conference with 2,454 passing yards, completing passes at 64.4%. App State’s offense is perfect for Brice as he lulls defenses to sleep with underneath crossers and short flat dump-offs before he hits the deep shot over the middle of the field with ease.

Brice has a ton of arm talent and seems to have harnessed it with his new team. He’s added some escapability in the pocket to his awareness, taking just 8 sacks and rushing for a career-high 110 yards and 3 scores so far this season. Brice has App State poised for a berth in the Sun Belt Championship Game as 3,000 passing yards is his sights.

30) Spencer Sanders | Oklahoma State

Week 4 ranking: 16 (-14)

At one point this season, it felt like Spencer Sanders and the Oklahoma State offense was stuck in the mud. They couldn’t get rolling and were carried by their defense. Then, the Iowa State game happened. Sanders threw 3 touchdowns in the loss to the Cyclones, but it seemed to open up their offense. Sanders has thrown 8 of his 14 touchdown passes this season during or after the loss to Iowa State.

Oklahoma State’s offense has started to come alive, notably against Kansas and TCU. Sanders ranks fifth in the Big 12 with 1,758 passing yards and fourth with 14 passing touchdowns. Yet, it’s his control and pace over the offense that sees him stay in the top 30 of our QB rankings. He’s on pace to throw for 2,000 yards for the third consecutive season. A big game full of Bedlam looms as the Cowboys may potentially close out their regular season with the game against Oklahoma before playing the Sooners again in the Big 12 Championship Game.

29) Sam Howell | North Carolina

Week 5 ranking: 9 (-20)

The rollercoaster that is Sam Howell has had its ups and downs in 2021. Even the latest on Howell has him mulling his future and potentially even returning for his final season in Chapel Hill in 2022. While him ranking 29th here on our College QB Rankings may be a surprise, it’s actually still pretty high considering he’s thrown a career-high 8 interceptions this season.

Howell is, however, on pace to surpass 3,000 passing yards for the third straight season while he’s 8 touchdowns passes away from toppling 30 touchdown passes in each of his first three seasons at UNC. He may struggle to get there, however, as he’s actually been tasked with running the ball on designed carries more so than any other season. Howell currently has 152 carries for 717 yards and 9 touchdowns, his yardage total ranking as the sixth-most in the conference.

Howell has every throw in his arsenal and all sorts of tools at his disposal. If he continues to harness them down the stretch, it’d be no surprise to see him declare for the 2022 NFL Draft. But if he does struggle in any game, don’t be all that surprised if he did decide to return to UNC for one final go next year.

28) Levi Lewis | Louisiana

Lewis still doesn’t get the credit he deserves. He makes up part of the class of the Sun Belt this year and has for the better part of the past three years. Lewis has set the Louisiana record for career passing touchdowns as he keeps increasing his lead over now-second-place Jake Delhomme.

He has back-to-back-to-back seasons of at least 2,000 passing yards, that’s three straight years of 2,000+ passing yards. Lewis is also closing in on 1,000 career rushing yards, needing just 45 more yards on the ground to reach the feat. The lefty with the moves, Lewis is more than just a dual-threat, he’s a terrific, accurate down-to-down passer.

More respect is deserved for this man. The nation needs to take notice of one of the best quarterbacks in Sun Belt history: Levi Lewis.

27) Jayden Daniels | Arizona State

Week 5 ranking: 18 (-9)

Jayden Daniels hasn’t had to do too much for the Sun Devils in 2021. He currently ranks seventh in the Pac-12 in passing yards but just 11th with 8 passing touchdowns. That strategy of not having Daniels do too much has worked for ASU for the most part — until it didn’t. When backed into corners against BYU, Utah, and Washington State, it was ASU who found themselves switching game plans and having Daniels push the ball downfield.

It took him a few throws to acclimate himself to doing so, and by then, each game was largely out of reach. Still, Daniels has the Sun Devils at 7-3 and in second place in the Pac-12 South. His deep passes are things of beauty, and he can find his receivers open in space if given the chance. He’s not quite reached the heights of his 2019 campaign, but he’s also run the ball better and more frequently in 2021.

With his draft decision looming, Daniels will hope good fortune and a couple of Utah losses allow the Sun Devils to sneak into the Pac-12 Championship Game.

26) Brock Purdy | Iowa State

Week 5 ranking: 14 (-12)

Brock Purdy is who we thought he was — an incredibly gifted, athletic quarterback with a great arm who plays with receivers who fail to present much for him. He’s at his best when he’s kept clean from pressure, but also when the game is on the line. Purdy has excelled when forced to push the ball downfield in 2021.

He’s second in the Big 12 with 2,441 passing yards, and he leads the conference’s full-time starters with a 73.4% completion rate. Purdy is completing passes at a high rate, but his receivers aren’t generating much yardage after the catch. Things haven’t gone Iowa State’s way this year, but one thing is for sure — it hasn’t been all on Purdy, as he continually gives the Cyclones a chance to win games.

25) Caleb Williams | Oklahoma

Week 5 ranking: 11 (ranking belonged to Spencer Rattler)

Caleb Williams would have found himself much, much higher than where he does now had these rankings been done a week prior. In fact, No. 25 may even be a bit too high, with recency bias pulling him down even more. Williams was removed from his command of the Sooners’ offense in the second half against Baylor, but it didn’t matter as the Bears upset Oklahoma.

This team is Williams’ for the long haul, but his inconsistent play against Kansas and early on against Baylor gives pause for the immediate future. Williams is averaging the Big 12’s most yards per attempt at 10.4, and he’s also added 305 rushing yards and 5 scores on the ground this year.

24) Hank Bachmeier | Boise State

Week 5 ranking: 12 (-12)

Handsome Hank is setting all new career-highs in the passing game this season as he’s finally been able to stay relatively healthy. He’s completed 64.9% of his throws and ranks 17th in the country with 2,711 passing yards. Bachmeier is no stranger to the deep shot, and he continues to impress with his downfield passing ability.

Bachmeier slips a bit in our QB rankings, not necessarily due to his play, but mainly because of the ascension of others around the country. He continues to stand tall in the pocket and deliver shots despite some shaky pass protection this year. It’s safe to say that Bachmeier is the reason for the Broncos’ success this year.

23) Hendon Hooker | Tennessee

Week 5 ranking: 74 (+51)

Hendon Hooker has always had terrific talent both with his arm and his legs. He hadn’t fully harnessed it at Virginia Tech and hadn’t done so in our previous iteration of these College QB Rankings. Now, however, Hooker is comfortable in Josh Heupel’s system at Tennessee and has the Vols as the country’s top first-quarter offense.

Hooker is currently eighth in the SEC with 2,138 passing yards, but he’s third in the conference with 22 touchdowns. Among full-time SEC starters, only Matt Corral has fewer interceptions than Hooker. Also, Hooker has run for at least 356 yards in each of the past three seasons. This year, he’s put up 464 yards and 4 scores.

22) Phil Jurkovec | Boston College

Week 5 ranking: 85 (Dennis Grosel was ranked 85th, Jurkovec ranked 13 in our preseason rankings)

Phil Jurkovec has returned to form and returned to make the Eagles a challenge for their final opponents. Though his return was a little too late to challenge for the ACC Atlantic Division title, Jurkovec should present issues for their final two opponents in Florida State and Wake Forest.

After easing back into the lineup against Virginia Tech, Jurkovec threw for 310 yards on just 13 completions against Georgia Tech in Week 11. He hit his favorite target — Zay Flowers — on 2 touchdown tosses while rushing for 3 scores himself in the victory over the Yellow Jackets. Jurkovec’s return conjures up feelings of him declaring for the 2022 NFL Draft and utilizing these final games as a showcase of his ability.

If that latter part is actually the case, good luck to the Seminoles and Demon Deacons defenders who have to face him as the season ends.

21) Cam Rising | Utah

Week 5 ranking: 82 (+61)

Getting the dad joke out of the way early, it’s safe to say Cam Rising has lived up to his last name on these rankings. Rising to the top among his conference peers, Rising has actually surpassed all other Pac-12 quarterbacks on our College QB Rankings, giving him the Pac-12 title for this iteration.

Rising has been great since taking over for Charlie Brewer, throwing for 1,752 yards and 14 touchdowns. He’s taken care of the football very well and limited himself to just 2 interceptions. Making matters even worse for opponents is the fact that Utah’s offensive line is starting to gel. Rising is dominant when kept clean from pressure and allowed to hit his big receivers out on the perimeter.

Rising has also showcased a bit of an athletic side that was previously unknown. Through Week 11, Rising has recorded 321 rushing yards and 4 scores on the ground.

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