We're just a few weeks away from the start of the 2021 college football season so it's a good time to remind you of the players you should be keeping an eye on this year. Here's our look at the top NFL quarterback prospects heading into the season.
1. Spencer Rattler, Oklahoma
Rattler may not be the most technically sound quarterback in college football, but he fits the modern NFL so well. He knows how to do damage outside the pocket like no other college quarterback. As PFF points out, Rattler was 53-of-76 for 830 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. Overall the redshirt sophomore completed 67.5 percent of his passes for 3,031 yards, with 28 touchdowns and seven interceptions over 11 games in his first season as a starter.
Rattler has franchise quarterback ability and should be ever better this year. At 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, size and durability might be the only question marks for him. NFL teams will certainly be monitoring his progress this season.
2. Sam Howell, North Carolina
Howell has been incredibly productive in his first two seasons at North Carolina, throwing for 7,227 yards, with 68 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He can move, make plays down the field and already carries himself like a franchise quarterback. Howell has a howitzer of an arm despite checking in at around 6-feet and 225 pounds. His deep-ball accuracy separates him from others and he doesn't mind sitting in the pocket waiting for a receiver to come open.
Howell will have to prove he can handle more pro concepts in 2021. North Carolina's offense relies heavily on RPOs and deep balls and he'll need to prove he can hit intermediate routes and make complex reads this season.
3. Kedon Slovis, USC
Slovis is all about accuracy, as he's completed 70.0 percent of his passes in two years at USC. A little shine came off his star in a shortened 2020 season, as he struggled with consistency. But the long layoff and lack of a full training camp could be to blame for his issues in 2020. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound junior doesn't have the strongest arm, but he can hit throws at all three levels and is typically excellent at reading coverages.
A lot of Slovis' future depends on improving his arm strength and continuing to display elite accuracy. If he can do that, he'll eventually hear his name called early on draft day. If not, he could be waiting a while.
4. JT Daniels, Georgia
Daniels looked really good in four games after transferring from USC to Georgia in 2020. He finished the season completing 67.2 percent of his passes for 1,231 yards, with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions. He enters 2021 as the unquestioned starter and leader of the Bulldogs. At 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds, he has the size and intangibles to be a franchise quarterback at the next level.
Daniels is a bit too reliant in unleashing deep passes though. He'll need to show a command of all three levels to improve his draft stock. But given his pedigree, he could wind up being the Mac Jones of the 2022 draft. A guy who has such a great season and shows such poise that NFL teams can't ignore him.
5. Malik Willis, Liberty
Willis might be the most entertaining player to watch on this list. Liberty's quarterback is Lamar Jackson-like in his running ability while still developing as a passer. Physically, he has every tool to succeed in the modern NFL, but needs to knock some of the rough edges off his game.
Willis completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 2,260 yards and 20 touchdowns against six interceptions in 2020 after transferring to Liberty from Auburn. He also rushed for 944 yards and 14 touchdowns. He has a cannon for an arm and can uncork throws that make you shake your head. His playmaking ability is unmatched in college football, and at 6-foot-1 and 215 pounds he has enough size to take some punishment.
If the redshirt junior can round out his game as a passer he could be the first quarterback selected in the 2022 NFL Draft.