Football is the epitome of a team sport, but signal-callers make the ultimate difference in the NFL. If you don’t have a quarterback, you’re not winning the Super Bowl. It’s as simple as that. A franchise QB moves the needle more than anything else. In the 2024 NFL Draft cycle, which passers might be up to the challenge? Let’s take a closer look.
Ranking the Top QBs in the 2024 NFL Draft
10) Jeff Sims, Nebraska
There’s always an element of projection involved with early NFL Draft rankings before the season. The summer months, in particular, allow for that projection, while the season itself divulges the true standing of each prospect. This is the time of year to acknowledge potential, and that’s why Nebraska’s Jeff Sims is on this list.
Sims toiled at Georgia Tech for several years, before making the move to Nebraska this offseason. With Matt Rhule and the Cornhuskers, he’ll have a chance to deliver on his early-round upside, if he can complete his game around that foundation. He’s a high-energy athlete at 6’4″, 219 pounds — a QB who’s built perfectly for the modern game.
9) Jordan Travis, Florida State
Early in his career, it wasn’t clear if Jordan Travis would earn an extended opportunity as the Seminoles’ starter. But a wave of growth in 2021 led to a breakout 2022 campaign, in which Travis completed 226 of 353 passes for 3,214 yards, 24 touchdowns, and five interceptions, while also adding 417 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground.
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At 6’1″, 201, Travis is undersized. He also doesn’t quite have elite arm strength, but he’s a game-changing running threat with enough pace to whip the ball into buckets outside the numbers. Travis can also adjust his shoulder alignment to add loft and precision on passes. Right now, he’s a mid-round sleeper who could move up boards down the line.
8) Cameron Ward, Washington State
Cameron Ward showed promise early in his career, first obliterating defenses with his arm at Incarnate Word. His elite production early in his career ultimately won him his starting opportunity at Washington State. Ward’s first year was up and down at times, but he enters his redshirt-junior season with legitimate NFL upside.
There’s still room for improvement and maturation for Ward, who passed for 3,231 yards, 23 scores, and nine interceptions in 2022. He can be volatile stylistically, and he’s still growing as a processor. But at 6’2″, 220 pounds, Ward has ideal size and short-area athleticism, with quantifiably elite arm elasticity and creative potential.
7) Spencer Rattler, South Carolina
Spencer Rattler had first-round aspirations as early as high school when he arrived at the collegiate level as a five-star recruit. After a 2020 season that saw him toss 28 TDs to just seven picks, he looked well on his way to top 32 capital. A regression and a transfer to South Carolina followed, but Rattler might be on the path to revitalizing his stock.
Rattler has legitimate arm talent and off-platform ability, and he turned things on down the line in 2022. In the final five games, Rattler completed 120 of 174 attempts (68.9%) for 1,389 yards, 13 scores, and just three interceptions. If he can sustain that strong play in 2023, he has the traits and gunslinger mentality to go early in the 2024 NFL Draft.
6) Quinn Ewers, Texas
There’s always a default level of excitement with five-star passers, but Quinn Ewers was one of the most anticipated QBs in recent years, even in that select group. His commitment to Ohio State ended up being short-lived, but after transferring to Texas, Ewers showed flashes of promise in 2022. He’s still a mixed bag, but 2023 could be his breakout season.
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It helps Ewers that he has a very strong weapons corps at his disposal with the Longhorns — led by potential 2024 first-round pick Xavier Worthy. But Ewers himself also has the natural talent to take the leap and be a Round 1 selection in his own right. He’s a fearless passer with a whip-like arm, and that fearlessness will be rewarded with further growth.
5) J.J. McCarthy, Michigan
The debate will continue to rage on, on whether Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy is simply a good college QB or a true NFL prospect with starting upside. There’s still plenty of work left to be done for McCarthy, but the tape shows a strong degree of potential if he can put together the final pieces in the 2023 campaign.
McCarthy’s play style is one that invites frequent fluctuation at this point, but his tools are easy to grow fond of. He separates himself from other quarterbacks as an athlete with his explosiveness, change of direction, and gliding mobility. He also has an extremely live arm, which he uses to heft passes through coverage and hit tight windows.
4) Bo Nix, Oregon
Bo Nix was an afterthought when he hit the transfer portal and joined the Oregon Ducks. His career at Auburn wasn’t without its gaffes, but with a change of scenery, Nix was able to play loose and build up his game in 2022.
The result? A 71.9 completion rate, 3,593 passing yards, 29 scores, and seven picks, with 510 yards and 14 additional TDs on the ground.
At 6’2″, 213 pounds, Nix is one of the most dynamic running and off-script QB threats at the college football level. He’s a twitchy short-area athlete with excellent creation capacity, and the arm strength and elasticity to generate velocity off-platform. Nix’s development on the operational side in 2022 is extremely exciting and alludes to early-round potential.
3) Michael Penix Jr., Washington
Sixth-year seniors don’t always compete for real estate in Round 1, but Washington’s Michael Penix Jr. can be that guy. After an up-and-down, injury-riddled tenure at Indiana, Penix broke out at Washington in Kalen DeBoer’s scheme. He threw for 4,641 yards, 31 scores, and eight picks, and the 2023 campaign could be just as prolific.
First and foremost, Penix has the necessary tools and the competitive toughness. He’ll sell out for major plays as a runner with his athleticism and resolve, but he also has a high-velocity left arm that can layer throws. Penix further separates himself with his processing ability and field vision. He’s able to anticipate windows and capitalize with precision.
2) Drake Maye, North Carolina
There are two quarterbacks separated from the rest when it comes to the 2024 NFL Draft right now: USC’s Caleb Williams and North Carolina’s Drake Maye. The season could bring any number of unexpected changes, but most evaluators expect this duo to be 1-2 at the position. The only question is this: Which order will they be in?
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Looking at the tape, Maye might have a bit more work to do than Williams on the operational side. He has room to refine his mechanics and hone his processing ability, but Maye has eye-catching twitch and mobility for his 6’4″, 220-pound frame. His arm might be even stronger than Williams’ — with the same velocity and torque off-platform.
Who Is the Best QB in the NFL Draft?
1) Caleb Williams, USC
Caleb Williams is the defending Heisman winner, after compiling 4,537 yards, 42 passing touchdowns, five interceptions, and 10 additional scores on the ground in 2022. His production checks out, and looking at the tape, there aren’t many arguments against him being the preliminary QB1 of the 2024 NFL Draft cycle.
It’s important never to anchor to a specific ranking, but Williams’ case is very strong. He’s not a perfect prospect yet and has room to grow before he reaches the tier of Trevor Lawrence and Andrew Luck. Nevertheless, Williams awes with his hyper-elite creative capacity and his composite arm talent. His competitive toughness is the cherry on top.
- Jalon Daniels, Kansas
- DJ Uiagalelei, Oregon State
- KJ Jefferson, Arkansas
- Michael Pratt, Tulane
- Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina
- Shedeur Sanders, Colorado
- Kyle McCord, Ohio State
- Jayden Daniels, LSU
- Sam Hartman, Notre Dame
- Theo Day, Northern Iowa