2024 NFL Draft Quarterback Rankings: Two QBs including Michael Penix Jr making the most of renewed opportunity in their new surroundings and three young guns look to join the elite as we take a look at #6-10.
2022 statistics: 13 games played, 362 completions on 554 attempts (65.3%) for 4,641 yards. 31 passing touchdowns, eight interceptions. 92 rushing yards with four scores.
The arm talent of Michael Penix is undeniable. He can challenge and stress defenses in ways that many of his peers cannot. Penix will dart balls between defenders, through traffic, and into tight windows, throwing balls that take your breath away. The big question is whether this can be sustained in the NFL.
Indeed, this swashbuckling style can sometimes lead to reckless mistakes, but there is every reason to think that he can take his game to the pros. Penix displays generally sound mechanics, which enable him to play with composure and deliberate variation to his touch and velocity. He is not a true dual threat, but he is able to throw off platform and on the run without a notable drop in accuracy.
Penix proved last year that he is also excellent pre-snap; from the reads that he makes to his confidence in changing protection calls and recognizing different coverages. All of this enabled him to take advantage to the tune of 4,641 passing yards, 31 touchdowns, and eight interceptions in 2022.
Year two in this scheme is on the horizon and alongside a deep returning receiver group, Penix could see his numbers go nuclear in 2023 in his quest to solidify his status as an early-round pick to match his position in these 2024 NFL Draft quarterback rankings.
2022 statistics: 13 games played, 250 completions on 392 attempts (63.8%) for 2,967 yards. 20 passing touchdowns, six interceptions. 699 rushing yards with 13 scores.
Excellent size, if a little lean, and reads the game well despite having only one full season as a starter under his belt; Leonard is the prospect that many are enamored by and expect to rise up the 2024 NFL Draft quarterback rankings. In fact, there are analysts out there who are already projecting Leonard as a first-round pick, well ahead of the 2024 NFL Draft.
Firstly, he is a real threat with his legs and possesses legitimate long speed as a runner. He combines this with real vision and agility and can weave through traffic at will. Leonard is always eager to run because he knows that he will be able to rip off huge gains, but this sometimes means that he is too eager to scramble and do it all by himself. Regardless of occasional ill-advised over-exuberance, this is a truly exciting aspect of his game that defenders must account for on every play.
The Blue Devil is an accurate passer and can deftly place the ball in between defenders at the second level. He proved in 2022 that he is able to drop the ball in a bucket when in scoring range and deliver precise lofted balls that only his receivers can snag. A high level of deep accuracy is also a standout facet of his game and he consistently leads his receivers downfield, showing an ability to deliver strikes that hit them perfectly in stride. He has a big enough arm to compete at the next level, but it cannot be described as a cannon.
Leonard displays good zip on passes underneath and the ability to adjust his arm angles effectively. He is a calm and composed presence at the line of scrimmage and makes it look like the game comes easily for him. This innate quality sometimes works to his detriment though as he can lock onto receivers and telegraph his passes somewhat.
It will be intriguing to see if defenders adapt to this in 2023 and if so, Leonard will face a higher degree of adversity than what he has done so far. This will only be good for his game though and if Leonard can add a layer of disguise and nuance to his game, then the sky is the limit.
2022 statistics: 14 games played, 208 completions on 322 attempts (64.6%) for 2,719 yards. 22 passing touchdowns, five interceptions. 306 yards rushing with five scores.
McCarthy has a decent arm and above-average rushing ability, without the upside of some of the other prospects ranked higher in these rankings. He can, however, be erratic at times.
The Wolverine has a crisp release and throws with a reasonable level of velocity. This is especially evident when targeting receivers in short and intermediate areas. He is able to adjust his arm angle well to find tight windows as chaos descends around him, highlighting his ability as a creator in short areas. Furthermore, when McCarthy is overwhelmed by unrelenting pressure, he has excellent escapability and is flexible enough to wriggle free of would-be tacklers, evading potential sacks.
This scrambling ability was clear to see in 2022 as McCarthy showed consistently that he can produce off-script plays with his feet, and is a confident runner with good vision. He has the toughness and contact balance required to pick up the hard yards when needed.
As mentioned, McCarthy does tend to be erratic from time to time. His ability as a runner and creator is a major plus point, but he often has to resort to these gifts due to a lack of feel in the pocket. To compound this, his deep accuracy and speed with which he diagnoses coverages hinder his overall game.
Having said this, 2022 was only his first year as a starter and so with time and reps, we should see McCarthy continue to grow and challenge the upper echelons of these 2024 NFL Draft quarterback rankings.
2022 statistics: 13 games played, 320 completions on 497 attempts (64.4%) for 3,232 yards. 23 passing touchdowns, nine interceptions. 58 rushing yards with five scores.
Ward certainly has a reasonable arm that allows him to make vertical plays but can be inconsistent with his accuracy. This could be because his mechanics look a little unorthodox and out of sync and can vary from play to play. This does help him as a creator, because he is able to adjust quickly and improvise, and adds an aura of unpredictability, but it may mean that he never becomes an effective pocket passer.
Irrespective of this, Ward can extend plays and elude pressure in the pocket and this is where he wins. He always looks to prioritize his downfield threats over taking off and running but holds potential as a scrambler. When he does have to move the chains himself, he is enough of a mover to be effective in short-yardage situations and can pick up crucial third downs with his legs.
Furthermore, his throwing accuracy when on the run is excellent, and he can make plays when off-platform and when defenders are crashing in on him from all directions. He does well to stand up to such pressure and plays bigger than his listed size.
The Cougar does not yet have years of experience against top-tier college opposition having been a transfer from Incarnate Word, but he will have modern-day NFL offensive talent evaluators intoxicated about what he could become. Some refinement in places without taking away his flair for the unexpected could see him make a successful leap into the pros one day.
2022 statistics: 13 games played, 294 completions on 409 attempts (71.9%) for 3,593 yards. 29 passing touchdowns, seven interceptions. 510 rushing yards with 14 scores.
Nix has had a career resurgence at Oregon and looked excellent in 2022 for the Ducks compared to his earlier years in the tougher SEC. His short and intermediate accuracy is excellent and plays with a real urgency and rhythm.
Having said that, concerns arise when he needs to improvise with his arm as he can telegraph balls and he begins to look a bit erratic when truly under pressure or no obvious receivers are waiting for him to deliver the ball. This may be indicative of the fact that he often has weapons available in acres of space thanks to the scheme, enabling him to deliver impressive-looking deep balls.
At the next level, this will not be as commonplace and questions remain as to whether he will be able to operate as effectively when forced to deliver the ball into tight windows on a more consistent basis.
Nix is a modest dual threat (irrespective of the 14 touchdowns on the ground) and a capable scrambler, but he is more powerful as a runner than he is elusive. This means that this will not be a key selling point of his game when comparing signal callers in this class. A mid-round pick is likely when all is said and done and he is not likely to rise too high up the 2024 NFL Draft quarterback rankings.