College Football Draft Kit: Quarterbacks

College Football Draft Kit: Quarterbacks

This article is part of our College Football Draft Kit series.

College football season is right around the corner and we're rolling out our positional previews here at RotoWire. We kick things off at quarterback, where we're spoiled with a deep group of elite talent headlined by Liberty's Malik Willis. The Auburn transfer made a name for himself in 2020, averaging the most fantasy points per game among quarterbacks who played at least 10 games. He is often the first quarterback taken in drafts and sometimes goes first overall. However, the position is loaded behind Willis and our staff has the breakdown for the other top quarterbacks in the college football landscape. 

1.) Malik Willis,  Liberty

No quarterback who played a full season in 2020 averaged more fantasy points per game than Willis. He's not only a gifted passer who completed 64.2 percent of his passes at 8.5 YPA, but he can take games over with his legs, having rushed 141 times for 944 yards and 14 scores. Willis has the best fantasy skill set of any quarterback in the country and gets the added bonus of playing an extremely soft schedule. He is a slam-dunk pick at 1.1 who will be near the top of the leaderboard in fantasy production every single week. No need to overthink him. -John McKechnie

2.) Matt Corral, Mississippi

Entering 2020 it was unclear if it would be Corral or John Rhys Plumlee at the helm of the Lane Kiffin offense. Well, 3,337 passing yards, 506 rushing yards and 33 total touchdowns

College football season is right around the corner and we're rolling out our positional previews here at RotoWire. We kick things off at quarterback, where we're spoiled with a deep group of elite talent headlined by Liberty's Malik Willis. The Auburn transfer made a name for himself in 2020, averaging the most fantasy points per game among quarterbacks who played at least 10 games. He is often the first quarterback taken in drafts and sometimes goes first overall. However, the position is loaded behind Willis and our staff has the breakdown for the other top quarterbacks in the college football landscape. 

1.) Malik Willis,  Liberty

No quarterback who played a full season in 2020 averaged more fantasy points per game than Willis. He's not only a gifted passer who completed 64.2 percent of his passes at 8.5 YPA, but he can take games over with his legs, having rushed 141 times for 944 yards and 14 scores. Willis has the best fantasy skill set of any quarterback in the country and gets the added bonus of playing an extremely soft schedule. He is a slam-dunk pick at 1.1 who will be near the top of the leaderboard in fantasy production every single week. No need to overthink him. -John McKechnie

2.) Matt Corral, Mississippi

Entering 2020 it was unclear if it would be Corral or John Rhys Plumlee at the helm of the Lane Kiffin offense. Well, 3,337 passing yards, 506 rushing yards and 33 total touchdowns later, there's no doubt this is Corral's team. He's only getting better as a passer, and his athletic ability is maximized in this offense. Corral has a tough schedule playing the SEC West and loses WR Elijah Moore this year, but his skill set and experience within this fantasy-friendly offense keep his ceiling high and make him an elite quarterback option this season. -JM

3.) Sam Howell, North Carolina

Howell is a projected first-round pick in next year's NFL Draft, but how should you approach him in fantasy this year? His talent is known, but it will be put to the test in 2021. Gone are 49 percent of the receiving yards and 44 percent of the targets in Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome. And that's while defenses were also focusing on stopping Javonte Williams and Michael Carter out of the backfield. All four are gone, so it will be on Howell to make the most of UNC's inexperienced skill-position group. He faces more uncertainty than some of the other quarterbacks in this range, but his talent and projected passing volume keep him near the top of our ranks. -JM

4.) Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma

The quarterback in a Lincoln Riley offense is always a strong bet for fantasy, and Rattler is no exception. He took over in 2020 and produced 3,031 passing yards on a 67.5 percent completion rate, adding 28 passing touchdowns and six rushing scores. Rattler isn't an explosive runner (2.0 YPC) but he's a threat to punch it in occasionally and his impressive passing production picks up the rushing slack. He also has elite talent and depth at receiver. In a conference with shaky defenses abound, there's little argument against Rattler as a Top 5 fantasy quarterback. -JM

5.) Dustin Crum, Kent State

Crum only had four games to showcase his talents in 2020 due to the shortened MAC season, but he made the most of those opportunities, racking up 16 total touchdowns (four rushing) and 1,421 total yards in that span. That was an impressive encore to his breakout 2019 where he threw for 20 touchdowns and added 707 yards and six scores on the ground. He's the best dual-threat quarterback in the MAC and even though he loses top target Isaiah McKoy, Kent State brings back plenty of receiving talent, like speedster Ja'Shaun Poke, for Crum to continue dominating. -JM

6.) Desmond Ridder, Cincinnati  

Talented, experienced, dynamic are the words that come to mind when breaking down Ridder. He continues to improve, too, and now enters his senior year after a dominant 2020 in which he bumped his completion rate from 55.1 percent to 66.2 and his YPA from 6.7 to 8.2. Ridder was also maximized as a runner in the red zone with nine of his 12 rushing scores coming in that area. He gets the bulk of his pass-catchers back in the mix along with budding star running back Jerome Ford. Ridder has a high floor and the potential to be among the best fantasy producers in the nation. -JM

7.)  Brennan Armstrong, Virginia

Armstrong commands one of the more fantasy-friendly systems and has dual-threat ability worthy of your attention. Virginia ranked in the top 20 in plays per game and made the most of Armstrong's legs, running him 126 times in nine games. He turned those attempts into 552 yards and five touchdowns, and his passing production is also useful — 2,117 yards and 18 touchdowns. Virginia has struggled to find a steady running back, so Armstrong's role as a rusher appears safe. Armstrong is a consistent producer with top-12 upside. -JM

8.) Grayson McCall, Coastal Carolina

McCall did everything you could ask for out of a freshman last season, completing 68.8 percent of his passes for 2,486 yards and a 26:3 TD:INT while also running for 569 yards and seven scores over 11 games. He will no longer have CJ Marable flanking him but does return his two top receivers in Jaivon Heiligh and Isaiah Likely, who combined to account for half of the team's targets last season. Marable's departure could also forebode more passing and possibly more plays featuring McCall as a runner in 2021, so there's a lot to like heading into his sophomore season. -Chris Benzine

9.) Bryce Young, Alabama

The highly anticipated Young era is finally here after the former top-rated quarterback recruit sat behind Mac Jones last year. Young is different from Jones; he's smaller and more athletic at 6-foot and 194 pounds, with speed to burn defenses when the plays aren't open downfield. He also won't have the benefit of playing with DeVonta Smith or Jaylen Waddle, but Alabama always keeps its cupboard stocked with elite talent like John Metchie or freshman Agiye Hall. There's no reason to believe Young will be anything less than a smashing success right away in his starting tenure. -JM

10.) Carson Strong, Nevada

In terms of sheer talent, Strong may be the best Group of Five quarterback and one of the best in the country overall. His 2020 breakout had him finish seventh in the nation in passing yards per game (317.6) and he was one of just six quarterbacks to throw more than 25 touchdowns and fewer than five interceptions. Strong still has elite weapons, Romeo Doubs and Cole Turner, and the Nevada offense is extremely favorable for passing production with the sixth-highest pass-play rate in the nation. Strong can replicate, and possibly surpass, his numbers from last season. -JM

11.) D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson

Uiagalelei has big shoes to fill but his recruiting pedigree and significant action last season give Clemson fans and fantasy players a reason to buy in on the sophomore. The former five-star recruit started two games in 2020, throwing for 781 yards with four touchdowns and no picks, including a 400-yard performance at Notre Dame. Some of 2020's top producers are gone, but Clemson reloads at its skill positions with elite talent. Clemson's talent advantage every week in the ACC will make things easy for DJU, and his own talent makes him a worthy QB1 in drafts. -JM

12.) Preston Hutchinson, Eastern Michigan

The MAC's shortened season put a cap on what could have been a special year from Hutchinson, who accounted for 20 touchdowns in six games, with eight of them coming on the ground. That rushing production was a new addition for Hutchinson as he also finished with 206 rushing yards after entering the year with 25 career carries for minus-13 yards. If that rushing ability is here to stay, it makes him a true dual threat in fantasy, as he has also shown solid passing ability with a 66.3 completion rate and 8.3 YPA over his last two seasons (255 attempts). -JM

13.)  Jake Haener, Fresno State

Haener completed 64.7 percent of his 150 pass attempts for 2,021 yards and a 14:5 TD:INT over six games in a shortened 2020 campaign, which is particularly impressive as a transfer who likely dealt with limited offseason work due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He returns in 2021 with a full complement of returning pass-catchers, including a pair of potential stars in RB Ronnie Rivers and WR Jalen Cropper. Barring an unlikely deviation from the team's 55.7 passing percentage (14th in FBS) last season, he should have a strong follow-up campaign on tap. -CB

14.) Tyler Shough, Texas Tech

Shough provided one of the most surprising transfers in college football this offseason as he left Oregon after leading the Ducks to the Pac-12 title and throwing for 1,559 yards and 13 touchdowns in seven games. He has a chance to be a superstar at Texas Tech as he has up to three years of eligibility remaining and a potential future in the NFL. The Red Raiders had a decent passing offense in 2020 at 266.7 yards per game (33rd nationally) and a breakout receiver in Erik Ezukanma who flashed with 46 catches for 748 yards and six touchdowns on 79 targets. Shough and Ezukanma could establish a connection that takes the Big 12 by storm as it's not likely that Texas Tech stops anyone on the defensive end (108th ranked scoring defense in 2020). -Nick Grays

15.) Kedon Slovis, USC

Slovis' efficiency with the football last year (17:7 TD:INT, 67.0 completion percentage) didn't match his breakout 2019 campaign (30:9 TD:INT, 71.9 completion percentage), but his extrapolated numbers paced him for a bigger season overall. Thanks to USC's 60.3 passing percentage (fourth in FBS), he attempted 44 per game, which far exceeds his 32.7 average from 2019. Even with turnover at receiver, Slovis returns Drake London and picks up Tahj Washington and K.D. Nixon via the transfer portal. The third-year starter could be headed for his best season yet. -CB

16.) Malik Cunningham, Louisville

Cunningham is a third-year starter and is established as a reliable fantasy option. He is an accurate and effective passer who has completed 63.5 percent of his passes at 9.7 YPA with 42 touchdowns over the last two seasons. He also adds plenty of rushing production; his 609 rushing yards ranked third among quarterbacks in 2020. The question heading into 2021 is how he handles losing Tutu Atwell, Dez Fitzpatrick and Javian Hawkins to the NFL. Cunningham is talented enough to produce regardless of the supporting cast, but if no one steps up, it will impact his upside. -JM

17. ) D'Eriq King, Miami

King's torn ACL in the bowl game shouldn't prevent him from starting the season, but it raises questions about what he'll offer as a runner. The senior has been a top-tier producer in college fantasy since 2017, thanks in large part to his mobility as he's rushed for 1,903 yards and 32 touchdowns in that span. Even if King isn't torching on the ground, he can still be effective as a passer after completing 64 percent of his passes at 8.2 YPA in 2020. There's risk of King not providing the rushing numbers we're used to, but his track record keeps him as a Top 20 quarterback. -JM

18.) Phil Jurkovec, Boston College

 Jurkovec provided the Eagles with stability in his first season as a starter and looks poised to take a step forward in his second season. He completed a decent 61.0 percent of his throws while only throwing five interceptions to go against 17 touchdowns. He's not a liability with his legs either, scoring three times, an area of potential growth in 2021. We're accustomed to the Eagles being run-heavy, but there are serious questions in the backfield following the transfer of David Bailey. BC returns All-ACC receiver Zay Flowers and should get big-play option Kobay White back after missing last year. Jurkovec won't have tight end Hunter Long to fall back on, but with experience out wide, it makes sense for the offense to flow through its quarterback. And if he runs more to offset the inexperienced backfield, there's potential for a fantasy breakout. -Chris Bennett

19.) Clayton Tune, Houston

Though Tune loses top wideout Marquez Stevenson, he's still set up for a strong season. Tune has shown to be an effective runner over the last two seasons, racking up 497 yards and seven touchdowns on 138 attempts over 15 total games. He's also reasonably efficient as a passer (59.5 percent completion rate, 7.7 YPA) and the system sets him up for production with an up-tempo style (26th in plays per game) and pass-happy approach (51.8 pass play rate(32nd)). Even if Tune isn't dominating on a per-play basis, there will be enough passing and rushing volume to prop up his bottom line in terms of production. It also helps that he's entering his third year as a starter and draws an easy schedule (121st per Phil Steele). Tune may not be flashy, but there's enough going for him to make him a viable starter in 2QB formats. -JM

20.) Michael Penix, Indiana

The big question looming over Penix is his recovery from a late-season ACL injury. The expectation is that he'll be good to go for the opener, and if that is indeed the case, there's every reason to believe in another strong campaign from him. Penix averaged 25.3 fantasy points per game and his memorable, five-touchdown performance on the road against Ohio State showed he can be a difference-maker as a passer. He doesn't offer much as a rusher, having run just 18 times for 25 yards and a pair of scores over six games in 2020, but his passing ability and supporting cast at receiver sets him up for success once again in 2021. -JM

21.) Bailey Zappe, Western Kentucky

It's not often that an FCS transfer at a small program gets the type of buzz that Zappe is generating in the fantasy community. The former Houston Baptist signal-caller lit it up against FBS competition last season, throwing for 1,453 yards with a 12:1 TD:INT in three outings. At 6-2, 215, Zappe has the frame and arm strength to make the transition up to this level and have success, plus Western Kentucky added his former offensive coordinator to the staff, which should help him acclimate. Zappe can come in and be an impact fantasy quarterback right away. -JM

22.) Max Johnson, LSU

This is a recent development after fellow LSU quarterback Myles Brennan went out with an injury that will sideline indefinitely, which gives Johnson a clear path to the starting job. Johnson impressed down the stretch as a freshman in 2020, completing 48 of 87 passes for 674 yards, six touchdowns and a pick while adding two rushing scores in the final two games of the season – both of which were wins. Now that Johnson looks to be atop the LSU depth chart, he's positioned for success. He's talented in his own right and the system should be favorable towards the pass as new OC Jake Peetz comes from the Joe Brady coaching tree. It also helps that Johnson has one of the most talented receivers in the nation, Kayshon Boutte, at his disposal. Johnson is firmly in the QB2 range now that he seems to have the inside track to the starting job. -JM

23.) Drew Plitt, Ball State

Plitt is a highly experienced quarterback with two of the best receivers – Justin Hall and Yo'Heinz Tyler – in the MAC at his disposal. His efficiency stands out as he has completed at least 64 percent of his passes in each of his three years as the starter for Ball State and has a career 8.1 YPA. It also helps that Ball State is among the most up-tempo teams in the nation, ranking eighth in the nation in plays per game at 80.6. Plitt is the engine of the Ball State offense and has everything in place to turn in another highly productive campaign. -JM

24.) Dorian Thompson-Robinson

It was a shortened 2020 for DTR but he showed significant improvement in multiple areas. As a passer, Thompson-Robinson raised his completion rate from 59.7 to 65.2 and bumped his YPA by over half a yard. He was also even more effective as a runner, racking up a career-high 306 yards on 55 carries in just five games. Thompson-Robinson loses the versatile Demetric Felton from the offense but still has some talent around him, including a big-play threat in Greg Dulcic at tight end. The fourth-year starter has QB1 upside if everything clicks. -JM

25.) Dillon Gabriel, UCF

Gabriel ranked first in passing yards per game (357) and turned in a 32:4 TD:INT on 413 attempts, but a new offense complicates his outlook. Gus Malzahn's offenses at Auburn ranked in the top half of the FBS in passing yards per game just once in his last five years (2017). Malzahn should fit his scheme to the talent at UCF, but Gabriel's overall volume is likely to take a hit. He also loses three of his top targets from 2020. Gabriel has the talent to still produce, and the new scheme could boost his rushing, but it will be challenging for him to replicate his passing numbers. -JM

26.) Emory Jones, Florida

Jones will attempt to fill the big shoes left by Kyle Trask and lead the Gators as their new starting quarterback in 2021. Jones is a dual-threat quarterback who will look to impact the game just as much with his legs as with his arm. Jones has only played sporadically over the past three seasons, though he averaged over six yards per rush during the past two campaigns, and found the end zone six times on the ground in just 74 rushes over that span. Jones will be working with almost all new pass-catchers, as Kyle Pitts, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes left for the NFL. Jacob Copeland is the leading returning receiver and had just 23 grabs a season ago. It may take Jones some time to acclimate himself to starting in the SEC and developing a rapport with his receivers, but he should be dynamic. -Jesse Siegel

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ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Chris Bennett
Bennett covers baseball, college football and college basketball for RotoWire. Before turning to fantasy writing, he worked in scouting/player development for the Atlanta Braves and Montreal Expos. He's also a fan of the ACC.
Chris Benzine
Chris is a sports editor for various sports on the site and also a consistent contributor in the college sports arena.
Nick Grays
Grays covers college football for RotoWire by night and is a Financial Analyst by day.
John McKechnie
John is the 2016 and 2021 FSWA College Writer of the Year winner. He is a Maryland native and graduate of the University of Georgia. He's been writing for RotoWire since 2014.
Jesse Siegel
Siegel covers college football, college basketball and minor league baseball for RotoWire. He was named College Sports Writer of the Year by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
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