The college football regular season is nearly over and bowl season is just around the corner. It’s still early in the judging process, but it’s time to take a moment and talk about second-tier quarterbacks beyond Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s CJ Stroud and Kentucky’s Will Levis . The roster has already changed a lot since the start of the season and this is discussed at the end of the article.
1. Anthony Richardson, Florida
Richardson’s projection is the most volatile on the list because it is a work in progress. He has a large size, more mobility, and more arm strength, but he’s still learning to follow his progress and have the patience to take control when nothing else is available. Defenses are blitzing on 33.7% of surrenders, which ranks him No. 10 among quarterbacks with at least 200, to force him into a poor quick call.
When comparing the production and technical components of the position, other prospects rank more favorably right now, but few have the potential to be a long-term starter. Richardson may never make it, but his talent is enticing enough for a team to invest in a draft pick at the end of Day 1 and the start of Day 2. He could ultimately decide to return to Gainesville in the hope of becoming a top 5 quarterback.
2. Tanner McKee, Stanford
McKee is a tall, linearly built quarterback with average mobility. He’ll never be the focal point of a quarterback-designed offense, but he’s got enough jamming ability that defenses will respect him when the pocket collapses. The Stanford product has a good command of offense and thrives on quick decision-making where he carves defenses in short-to-medium games. McKee’s feeling of pressure in the pocket isn’t as natural as Young’s, for example. He’s ready to step into the pocket when the pressure comes off the edge, but any inside pressure causes him to look down rather than stay upright and find a late window. On-field accuracy, especially on the left sideline, has consistently been poor over the past few seasons.
He should be able to pick up an offense quickly in the NFL and that will add value to any team that considers him. There has been a story that he has no good talent around him. The Cardinal offensive line has allowed the eighth most sacks (38) this season — McKee contributed to that raw number as noted above — but the talent is very good.
3. Hendon Hooker, TN
Hooker’s season sadly ended when it was announced he suffered a torn ACL last week against South Carolina, but he led the Volunteers to their best season in some time. Virginia Tech’s one-time transfer has been effective with 27 touchdowns and two interceptions this season. The offense has traditionally asked him to do half-court reads, but Hooker’s confidence grew in Josh Heupel’s second year on offense. He throws with more touch and anticipation as evidenced by his 15 touchdown passes to receiver Jalin Hyatt this season; mainly on high profile targets.
Hooker was empowered to make adjustments at the line of scrimmage. He has shown strong leadership skills and resilience on an indirect path to reach this point. His age will be a talking point ahead of the draft – 25 in January – but how much will that really matter to talent evaluators? It wouldn’t be a surprise if he hung around the NFL for a long time as a starter and backup.
4. Michael Pratt, Tulane
Pratt has a good height for the position and average mobility. His 5:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is very good. The Florida native should have had a third interception against Kansas State, who was the only Power 5 opponent he faced this season, but the defender let him down. He shows the ability to do anything an NFL team would want but it’s inconsistent. He throws rhythmically and with touch at all three levels of the pitch. Pratt throws a clean, catchable ball. One of the biggest reasons for his interceptions this season has been not seeing the linebacker drop into coverage below. There is starting potential in this 6-foot-3 frame.
5. Jake Haener, Fresno State
Haener will likely never be a long-term starter in the NFL, but he’s a player who could hang around for several years as a starter and backup. He is a brave player who competed through injury. Washington’s transfer overcame significant turnover throughout his career. The California native throws with touch and precision at all levels of the court. Haener has the 10th-highest passer rating among quarterbacks with at least 200 dropouts, according to TruMedia.
At the start of the season, Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke, Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell and NC State’s Devin Leary would likely have had spots on the roster. South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler would have made the roster had he played the way he has against Tennessee all season. Finally, Oregon’s Bo Nix rising to a point of consideration is a development that couldn’t have been seen coming. Talent evaluators will likely give Nix the benefit of the doubt for his time at Auburn because of all the malfunctions in that program. Washington State’s Cam Ward is another who has high profile traits but hasn’t been able to pull it all together so far.