Besides the big-name quarterbacks in college that will likely make headlines in 2024, are there any sleeper quarterbacks we should keep an eye on?
We are doing a deep dive. Not a deep, deep, deep dive, because I’m not that good. A deep, deep, deep dive gets you Ken Anderson from Augustana(IL) College and Dave Krieg from Milton College. Krieg can’t happen anymore, as Milton went out of business.
Before I get to 2024, let me remind you of some of the recent sleepers.
Tom Savage is one I missed. Watching him at Rutgers and Pitt, I did not see him becoming a pro quarterback. Credit to him for grinding it out for 3 years. Unfortunately, the thing he is known most for is being concussed so hard that he had frozen arms.
Joe Webb is the next. The former UAB QB switched to being a kick returner in the NFL, but due to the Minnesota Vikings injuries, got to switch back to quarterback. Webb lasted 10 years in the league, though he only threw 7 regular season passed in his last 8 years. He even started a playoff game when Christian Ponder was hurt in a season in which he did not throw a regular season pass. Let’s skip the part where he went 11-30 in that game.
Bruce Mathison is the Matt Cassel of my era. Playing for mighty Nebraska, or shall I say, riding the bench, he backed up quarterback Jeff Quinn in 1980 and Turner Gill in 1981-82. Somehow, after completing a whopping 14 passes in college, in 33 attempts, along with 47 carries, he got drafted in the now gone 10th round in 1983, getting a look with the San Diego Chargers. He managed to last 5 years, with his high water mark being 7 starts with a horrible 1985 Buffalo Bills(2-14) team that had Vince Ferragamo as the other starter. Note: Due to the USFL still being in operation, 1983 draft pick Jim Kelly would not play for the Bills until 1986.
Matt Cassel is another who didn’t start in college, yet had a wonderful career. First as a backup with the Patriots, then a starter with a playoff team in Kansas City, he kept the dream going longer than anyone expected. 14 years in the NFL for someone who threw, just like Mathison, 33 passes in college. He completed 20, so unlike Mathison, was over 50%.
So that brings us to the 2024 class. I will give you 3 names; one from a Power 5 school, one from a Group of 5 school, and finally, one from an FCS school.
Power 5: Quinn Ewers- Texas: Some people won’t consider Ewers as a sleeper. The truth is that Ewers has to strike while the iron is hot. Back in the day, Drew Henson had the hype, but could not beat out Tom Brady. In recent times, Spencer Rattler went from being projected as a first rounder to being on the bench behind Caleb Williams, who is now the presumptive #1 overall pick in 2024. With Arch manning around, the season will end with one of three things happening.
1.Ewers loses job to Manning and hits the transfer portal.
2.Ewers keeps Manning on the bench and he transfers.
3.Ewers leads the team to a BCS bowl and leaves while his stock is high.
As a reminder, he doesn’t have the Trevor Lawrence problem of having to come back for another year, as he is a third year sophomore. He should be drafted off the Alabama game alone, and if he can get to a BCS bowl, and stay healthy, he might even go before Drake Maye.
Group of 5: Grayson McCall- Coastal Carolina: The red flag comes from the fact that he put his name in the portal after his coach Jamey Chadwell left. We saw how Brian Brohm’s draft stock dropped when Bobby Petrino left Louisville to join the Atlanta Falcons. Unclear what effect a new staff will have on him. Best case scenario is that he rebounds like Jake Haener did when he entered the portal after his coach went to Washington.
McCall’s 2020 was his best season, and as a 4 year starter, he may become the best QB prospect to come out of Coastal. Tyler Thigpen spent some time as a backup, the 217th pick in his draft, McCall should go much higher.
FCS: Matthew Sluka- Holy Cross: Thank the hype surrounding UNH RB Dylan Laube for this. The UNH-Holy Cross game in 2022 opened up my eyes to Sluka, someone who had been succeeding in the shadows. Holy Cross had an undefeated regular season, led by Sluka, who had 2,489 yds passing and 1, 234 yds rushing. Obviously, the rushing won’t translate, as there are only a few(Lamar Jackson, Cam Newton) that keep relatively high rushing stats when they come to the NFL.
What he does look like is a better version of Jeff Driskel, someone who will be a career backup, and can run gimmick plays. I don’t see a position change, but Louisville’s Malik Cunningham is doing through that now, and has better stats. Note: Cunningham played 5 years at Louisville; Sluka will play 4 and be a 3 year starter, including this season.