2024 NFL Draft: Previewing next year’s quarterback class

ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 2: Caleb Williams #13 of the USC Trojans throws against the Tulane Green Wave in the first half of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on January 2, 2023 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - JANUARY 2: Caleb Williams #13 of the USC Trojans throws against the Tulane Green Wave in the first half of the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on January 2, 2023 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ron Jenkins/Getty Images) /

Now that we are a few months separated from the 2023 NFL Draft, it’s time to look and see what next year’s draft has to offer. The 2024 NFL Draft features a plethora of elite players and appears to have one of the strongest classes of prospects in recent memory. When looking at specific positions, the quarterback class stands out as having the potential to be the best group of gunslingers we’ve seen since 2021. Let’s take a look at some of the top quarterback prospects in next year’s draft and see if the hype is real.

2024 NFL Draft: Previewing next year’s quarterback class

Caleb Williams, USC

Caleb Williams is the consensus top quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft and for a good reason. He is a great athlete with ridiculous arm strength who plays well under pressure and can create plays out of structure.

He started his college football career at Oklahoma in 2021. As a true freshman, he took over as the Sooners’ starting quarterback mid-season after Spencer Rattler had a shaky start to the season. Once he took over as the starter, he dominated his opponents as both a passer and runner and was legitimately one of the best quarterbacks in college football. That season, he had a PFF grade of 91.3, a mark that ranked top ten in the nation. This was the first sign that he was a star in the making.

Prior to the 2022 college football season, Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley left to become the head coach for USC, and Caleb Williams followed him in the transfer portal. Williams followed up his electric freshman season by playing even better in 2022. He was more accurate, better under pressure, a better deep ball thrower, and he took sacks less often. This led to him having a PFF grade of 91.6, which ranked top five in the nation.

Williams has been elite at two separate power five programs that just so happen to be two of the biggest programs in college football. Not only that, he has the traits that will make him an elite quarterback in the NFL, like arm strength, mobility, and staying calm under pressure. He isn’t perfect, though. He could be a little more accurate, and he isn’t quite elite at avoiding sacks. However, that’s not enough to keep him from being a top pick in the 2024 NFL Draft

If Caleb Williams continues to play at this level next season, he could be a generational prospect. It’s early to give him that title right now, but his play warrants that kind of praise.

Drake Maye, North Carolina

Drake Maye exploded onto the scene last season when he became one of the most productive dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation in his first year as North Carolina’s starting quarterback.

He displayed high-level physical tools like an incredibly strong arm and hyper-elite mobility, which would’ve made him an intriguing prospect on its own. However, he’s also a great passer who has many high-level traits in this area. For starters, he is a great deep ball thrower, and he’s very effective on intermediate throws. He’s also pretty solid against blitzes.

Like Caleb Williams, Drake Maye has some room to improve, though. He could be a bit more accurate, and he takes sacks at a decent rate. He also needs to improve under pressure if he wants to dethrone Williams as the top-ranked quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft.

I’ve been driving the Drake Maye hype train since September of last season, and I believe he has what it takes to be a star in the NFL. His rushing ability is special, and he has the physical tools to build upon what he’s shown as a passer. If he takes a big step forward and improves as a passer this season, he could be the number one pick in next year’s draft. He’s that good.

Quinn Ewers, Texas

Quinn Ewers is a bit of an unknown commodity at this point, and part of the reason why he has a lot of hype as a prospect is that he was the number-one recruit coming out of high school.

The reason I say that is because his production does not reflect a first-round pick at this point. In his first season as a starting quarterback last year, he completed just 58.1% of his passes, had a turnover-worthy play rate of 3.6%, and had a PFF grade of just 72.4. He also struggled under pressure and wasn’t very effective on intermediate throws.

These issues could be excused to some degree if Ewers had elite arm strength and was a game-breaking runner. However, he doesn’t, which is a massive issue.

This doesn’t mean there’s nothing to like about his game. He’s a pretty accurate passer, he is really good at avoiding sacks within the pocket, and he throws the ball with some nice touch. I also loved his film against Alabama last year and felt he looked like an NFL quarterback against the Crimson Tide. Unfortunately, he got hurt early in the game, so he wasn’t able to play against them for four quarters.

Quinn Ewers is a talented player with legitimate skill as a pocket passer. However, his statistical profile does not reflect a first-round pick, and he lacks the physical tools to overlook his worrisome production. He needs to have an incredible season this year to be a top quarterback prospect in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Michael Penix Jr., Washington

Michael Penix Jr. played for four seasons at Indiana before transferring to Washington prior to the 2022 season. With the Hoosiers, he was a fine quarterback, but definitely not an elite one. That changed once he became a Huskie, as he dominated the Pac-12 and was one of the more productive passers in the nation.

In 2022, Penix completed 65.3% of his passes and threw for 4,641 yards, 31 touchdowns, and eight interceptions. He threw more touchdowns that year than he did in four years at Indiana combined.

His statistical profile is a lot cleaner than I expected. He is extremely sack averse, he doesn’t hold onto the ball very long, and he is very effective when the pocket is clean and when he is blitzed.

There are some issues with is game, though. He has struggled with accuracy his entire collegiate career, he is below average under pressure, he doesn’t have amazing arm strength, and a lot of his production came on play-action passes last season. To make matters worse, he is an older prospect who will be almost 24 years old on draft night, and his rushing productivity is underwhelming.

Michael Penix Jr. is a fascinating prospect because he has some impressive qualities, but he also has some significant weaknesses. Since he doesn’t have strong physical tools, I’m not sure he’s worth a first-round pick at this point, but he could be a day-one selection if he takes another step forward in his development next season.

Bo Nix, Oregon

Bo Nix started his college football career at Auburn, where his father played quarterback in the 90s. He played for the Tigers for three seasons, and he struggled to find his footing as a passer, but he was always pretty productive as a runner. However, he transferred to Oregon prior to the 2022 season, and he took off with the Ducks, becoming one of the more productive dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation.

Last season, he completed 71.9% of his passes and threw for 29 touchdowns and seven interceptions while adding 510 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground. Prior to this season, he had never thrown for 20 touchdowns or completed more than 61% of his passes in a single season.

His 2022 season was a huge breakout in which he displayed great accuracy, high-level sack aversion, fantastic mobility, and comfortability playing under pressure. It took a while for him to realize his potential, but it finally happened.

While his production was great last season, there are reasons to believe it won’t translate. For starters, his average depth of target was extremely low at 7.4, which explains why his completion percentage jumped nearly 11%. He also had a lot of manufactured production, as 51% of his dropbacks were screens and play-action passes. That is a ridiculously high mark for a quarterback prospect.

The issues don’t stop there, as his production with clean pockets and on short and intermediate throws was underwhelming. These are major red flags, especially for an older prospect, and it makes his evaluation very tricky. Like Michael Penix Jr., there is a lot to like about Bo Nix. However, there are also major issues in his game that make it difficult to value him as a first-round pick right now.

Honorable mentions

Jordan Travis, Florida State

Jordan Travis is, in my opinion, the most underrated quarterback in the 2024 NFL Draft. Last season, he was phenomenal, recording 27 big-time throws, sporting a passer rating of 160.1, and rushing for 417 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had a PFF grade of 91.7, which ranked number one among power five quarterbacks.

Travis is a great decision-maker who limits turnover-worthy plays and evades sacks at a high level. He’s also a great deep ball thrower who is pretty good at handling pressure and blitzes. These are extremely valuable traits that make him an exciting prospect.

He does have some issues, though. His size and arm strength are not spectacular, and his accuracy needs to get better. He’s also an older prospect who didn’t have a PFF grade of 70+ until his fourth season. This means he may not have a super high ceiling, but the floor looks pretty good. I would not be surprised if Jordan Travis hears his name called on day one of the 2024 NFL Draft.

Joe Milton, Tennessee

Joe Milton is the wildcard of next year’s quarterback class. He has played five seasons of college football so far, making appearances for Michigan and Tennessee. However, he has struggled to get on the field, attempting just 296 passes in his entire collegiate career.

Last season he backed up Hendon Hooker for the Volunteers, and he played fairly well when Hooker went down with a torn ACL. He displayed elite arm strength and had ten big-time throws to just two turnover-worthy plays.

Although he hasn’t played much throughout his career, he has been fairly productive under pressure and as a runner. If this continues next season, he could be an intriguing prospect.

His issues are significant, though. For most of his college career, he has been an inaccurate passer who takes a ton of sacks and struggles on intermediate throws. While his arm strength is impressive, the fact that he hasn’t been a full-time starter consistently is potentially a sign that he isn’t a talented player with a high ceiling.

Joe Milton is slated to be Tennessee’s starting quarterback next season, and he’ll have a chance to become a serious NFL prospect with the potential to slide into the first round of the 2024 NFL Draft if he produces at a high level.